How much sugar is safe?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City caused a controversy when he tried to ban the sale of sugary drinks more than 16 ounces.

Thus the “Big Gulp” rebellion was born, and the ban was later overturned by the courts. Yet the rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity remain out of control in the United States.

More than 24 million Americans older than 20 years old have diabetes. Another 78 million have pre-diabetes with blood glucose levels higher than they should be — the start of glucose intolerance.

And down the road, this may lead to life-threatening heart disease — the No. 1 killer of adults — which also is linked to obesity affecting more than 80 million Americans.

Much of the obesity epidemic has been blamed on unhealthy eating and poor nutrition. Refined sugar has been identified as a source of excess calories.

According to the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, almost 50 percent of sugar in the diets of Americans comes from sugary drinks and sweetened fruit drinks. Continue reading

Picky eaters

Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman

Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman

“Help!  My child will only eat chicken nuggets and pasta.”  Sound familiar?  For families with young children mealtimes can be a struggle.  Here are a few tips to help with your picky eaters

  1. Give your child (limited) choices.  For example, “Do you want apple or pear slices for snack?  Should we make carrots or broccoli to go with dinner?”  Food struggles often are a normal part of a child’s development of independence.  One of the first things we have control over is what goes in our mouths.  Try to give your child some control and this may help reduce mealtime anxiety.  Try having your child help you pick out healthy foods at the grocery store as well.
  2. Offer new foods with an old favorite.  Encourage your child to try new things but do not be disappointed and do not punish when he or she spits them out.  It often takes numerous exposures to foods with particular colors, tastes or textures before a child will be accepting of them.  Remember also – some things we just won’t like no matter how much we try them.  I have always hated brussel sprouts, and that will probably never change.  It is often difficult to tell at first is a child has a strong dislike for something or is merely averse to trying the new food.  If your child makes a face at one of your favorite dishes don’t insist he or she eat it all as this may lead to gagging or lead to a battle of wills.  However don’t nix it yet from the recipe book as repeated exposure may lead to acceptance. Continue reading

Take control of children’s diet if BMI is high

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Having just completed the holiday season with all the wide variety of delicious foods and having made our resolutions, many of us are thinking about diets.

As we all know, obesity is now a very common problem for Americans and for American children.

The Endocrine Society issued some guidelines about obesity in the Sept. 9, 2008, online issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Body Mass Index is a reliable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens. It is calculated using accurate measures of your child’s height and weight.

For you to calculate your child’s BMI, visit and they will have a calculator for you.

The guidelines are as follows: Continue reading

Science advances in hair growth hopeful

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

“I’ll buy you Rogaine, when you start losing all your hair, sew on patches for all your tears” sang Ingrid Michaelson in “The Way I Am,” as losing hair is an inevitable sign of growing old.

But a significant advance may lead to a treatment for hair loss that is much better than the creams, drugs and hair transplants available today.

The clinical term for hair loss is alopecia, which has many causes, including damage to the hair follicles, fungal infections, stress, genetics, illnesses, malnutrition, some medications and autoimmune disorders.

While it is not exclusive to males, 60 percent of hair loss sufferers are men. Men often experience male pattern baldness, a thinning or complete loss of hair at the hairline and at the top of the head. Women experience diffuse hair loss with a gradual loss of hair on the top of the head but little change in the hairline.

Current drugs minoxidil and finasteride stimulate the regrowth of hair. The effects of both drugs last only as long as the medicines are used. Hair transplants involve surgically moving hairs from an area of thick growth to the bald areas of the scalp. While most people attain 60 percent of new hair growth, the cost ranges from $4,000 to $15,000.

A new treatment approach involves removing a smaller patch of scalp with abundant hair. The cells from the area are grown in culture in the lab to increase their numbers.

The cells are then injected back into the scalp’s bald areas. The study focused on a group of cells called dermal papillae from which hair follicles arise.

These cells can reprogram surrounding cells to form hair follicles. Until this study, culturing dermal papillae cells caused them to lose the ability to form hair follicles.

Scientists in this study resorted to an old technique of culturing cells in which a drop containing about 3,000 cells is suspended from the lid of a petri plate.

The lid is then flipped over onto the base of the plate, leaving the cells hanging from the lid. As the cells drift down to the bottom of the drop, the contact they have with one another appears to be critical in allowing the cells to retain their ability to grow hair follicles when transplanted.

They proved this by injecting the cultured dermal papillae cells into human foreskins grafted onto mice. Since human foreskins do not grow hair, they reasoned that if hair grew on that skin, it is likely to work in the scalp. Sure enough, hairs sprouted from five of the seven areas into which the dermal papillae cells were injected.

But much work remains. The hairs that have been grown at present are rather small. The scientists also determined that these transplanted cells only expressed some of the genes normally active in hair follicles. They are trying to find conditions that will activate all the genes necessary to grow more and better hair.

Professors Norbert Herzog and David Niesel are biomedical scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Learn more at

Slow down in fast-paced electronic world

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The ancient Chinese sage Lao Tsu espoused a philosophy of quietude, noninterference, being centered in the moment and understanding how things work.

As opposed to our contemporary go-go society, he observed that inactivity often could accomplish what busyness cannot, for example, how a muddy pool is best cleared by just letting it settle.

I got to thinking about the health-promoting attitudes of Lao Tsu after a couple of conversations at a friend’s 70th birthday party.

One gentleman, a marine biologist, shared his hobbies. One was growing bonsai trees and another breeding a unique line of blue colored gold fish favored by his wife.

Each of these required immense patience, gentle guidance and noninterference. In 2008, Hurricane Ike wiped out his 30- or 40-year-old bonsai trees along with his breeding tanks of carefully developed blue gold fish.

Still, he appeared remarkably serene and philosophical, a man content and at peace.

Another friend at the party was the CEO of a successful nonprofit. She shared how she often felt overwhelmed by an unending tide of more than 400 emails daily. Continue reading

The tau of dementia

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

All it takes is the instantaneous crash of an oncoming car.

The heavy blow of a linebacker’s tackle. The explosion of a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. All these instances and more can cause traumatic brain injury (TBI). It used to be considered a one-time event, but its long-lasting impairments make it more of a chronic disease.

Sadly, there are no cures for TBI and each person experiences them in their own way. Just as each person is different, no two brain injuries are exactly alike. This makes it a very challenging condition to study and to treat.

A silent injury, the damage of TBI is not outwardly visible, unlike a broken arm or an amputated leg. Some people have been accused of faking a brain injury, and some denied medical assistance because their injury is undetectable.

Others think they are fine, but their reaction times are slower and they may have trouble with memory, focus, attention, and motor skills. Even a mild concussion can produce these effects. Continue reading

School-age children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Many parents don’t realize that their child may not be getting enough sleep every night.

Most people feel that eight hours a night is plenty of sleep for a school-age child.

However, children between 5 and 12 years old need about 9 to 12 hours of sleep every night.

Sleep is important for children because it has an effect on their mental and physical well-being, and the hormone that stimulates growth is released while a child sleeps.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation in children include:

• Moodiness and irritability

• Tendency to ‘explode’ or have tantrums

• Over-activity or hyperactive behavior

• Reluctance to get out of bed or overly groggy in the morning

Some suggestions for making sure that your child sleeps enough are: Continue reading

Make New Year’s Resolutions to stop smoking

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

As we approach the New Year and begin to think about our resolutions, it is time to learn about the concept of third-hand smoke and its harmful effects.

Everyone has experienced third-hand smoke. It is when you step into an elevator and it smells as if someone has just lit up a cigarette but there is no one there.

Third-hand smoke is tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette has been extinguished.

Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, has recently published this new aspect of the dangers of cigarette smoking in Pediatrics, a respected pediatric journal.

According to the study, a large number of people, particularly smokers, have no idea that third-hand smoke, a mixture of toxins that linger in carpets, sofas, clothes and other materials hours and even days after the cigarette is put out, is a health hazard for infants and children. Continue reading

The skinny on sugar substitutes

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Here is a sweet story. Sort of. Do you know the difference between artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes?

One tastes good and the other doesn’t?

Not quite. Artificial sweeteners have improved over the years from the early days of cyclamate. Overall, sugar substitutes are anything used as a sweetener other than table sugar (what is chemically called sucrose).

Artificial sweeteners include sugar alcohols like xylitol, which you find in sugarless gum, and natural products like maple syrup and molasses. They also include the pink, blue and yellow packets found on restaurant tables across the country. Aspartame is found in Equal, saccharin in Sweet N’ Low and sucralose in Splenda. Artificial sweeteners can also be “natural” like the recently launched Stevia products, which include Truvia. Most artificial types are known to be more intense sweeteners than natural sugar. One down side of some of these products is the aftertaste that follows. Continue reading

Patience is healthy for you

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well” — quote from an 8-year-old.

The good book says, “Love is patient, Love is kind….”

What is it about being patient that elevates it right up there between love and kindness?

Perhaps, like me, you occasionally have problems with being patient. This can even happen with those closest to us, those we know and love so well. At these moments, we may feel deflated, considering ourselves spiritual failures. Though we aspire to the stars of generosity and love, a simple domestic moment of impatience can ground us in the humility of how challenging it is to be patient and kind

And how about patience with strangers? This is where the virtue of being patient really is, well, a virtue. Rather than road rage at a slow or sloppy driver, rather than tapping your foot and glaring at your watch because of a new checkout clerk handling a fussy customer, rather than yelling at your kid to hurry up to get ready for school for the umpteenth time … perhaps patience is the solution.

Patience is healthy for you, you know. It is the antidote to stress. When we are patient, we give up on our own timetable and respect that of others, of the universe, of divine order, of the cosmic clock of events beyond our immediate control. Continue reading