Eric Reinhart | Why The F.D.A. Should Move Birth Control Over the Counter – The New York Times

Dr. Reinhart is a political anthropologist and physician at Northwestern University.

“An advisory panel at the Food and Drug Administration this month unanimously recommended that a contraceptive pill, Opill, be made available over the counter. The F.D.A. will decide this summer whether to follow this recommendation‌ — if it does, the United States will join over 100 other countries that have already approved oral contraceptives for use without a prescription. ‌

This development, which health experts widely agree could greatly affect public health for a nation in which nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, comes three decades later than many people once expected.

At a 1992 conference on birth control, an official on the F.D.A.’s fertility and maternal health drugs advisory committee, Philip Corfman, noted that the birth control pill is safer than aspirin, which is available over the counter. The F.D.A. subsequently announced plans to convene a hearing to consider moving oral contraceptives over-the-counter. It was believed that this would greatly expand access to birth control by bypassing doctors, to whom millions of Americans then — as still now — had little access. But, as the historian Heather Munro Prescott has recounted, the hearing was canceled at least partly because of criticism from what might seem a surprising cohort: the nation’s leading feminist patient advocacy organizations.

Dr. Prescott reported that the program director of the National Women’s Health Network at the time, Cindy Pearson, said that a “birth control prescription is the poor woman’s ticket to health care.” Advocates for women’s health were concerned that if birth control were made available over the counter, then insurance might stop paying for it and impose new financial barriers to access.”

Are Greens Powders Good for You? What Experts Say About ‘Superfood Powders’ – The New York Times

“. . . . For the most part, your body can handle these excess nutrients, said Dr. Gerard Mullin, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine who specializes in gastroenterology. Your kidneys will break down and dispose of most of them, he said. But certain vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E and K, can cause harmful effects if they reach high enough levels, he added — though this is rare.

As for supplemental probiotics, there isn’t clear evidence that already healthy people will become healthier by taking them regularly, Dr. Nestle said. And prebiotic supplements might encourage regular bowel movements and promote gut health, she added, but similarly, the science on their necessity for most people is far from settled.” . . .

10 Nutrition Myths Experts Wish Would Die – The New York Times

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Soy milk can raise the risk of breast cancer. Fat-free foods are healthier than high-fat foods. Vegans and vegetarians are deficient in protein. Some false ideas about nutrition seem to linger in American culture like a terrible song stuck in your head.

So to set the record straight, we asked 10 of the top nutrition experts in the United States a simple question: What is one nutrition myth you wish would go away — and why? Here’s what they said.

“Despite the enduring belief that “fresh is best,” research has found that frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

“They can also be a money saver and an easy way to make sure there are always fruits and vegetables available at home,” said Sara Bleich, the outgoing director of nutrition security and health equity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a professor of public health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. One caveat: Some canned, frozen and dried varieties contain sneaky ingredients like added sugars, saturated fats and sodium, Dr. Bleich said, so be sure to read nutrition labels and opt for products that keep those ingredients to a minimum.”

Maia Szalavitz | This Is What Neuroscientists and Philosophers Understand About Addiction – The New York Times

Ms. Szalavitz is a contributing Opinion writer who covers addiction and public policy.

“When I was arrested and charged with possession with intent to sell cocaine in 1986, I was addicted to both coke and heroin. Although I was facing a 15 years-to-life sentence, the first thing I did after my parents bailed me out and held a family meeting was to find and secretly inject some prescription opioids that I knew the police hadn’t confiscated.

I knew that doing this further jeopardized my life prospects and my relationships with everyone I cared about. I knew it made no sense. But I didn’t believe that I could cope in any other way. Until I finally recognized that I needed treatment and began recovery in 1988 — with the prospect of that lengthy sentence under New York’s draconian Rockefeller laws still occluding my future — I didn’t think I had any real choice.

Was my brain hijacked by drugs — or was I willfully choosing to risk it all for a few hours of selfish pleasure? What makes people continue taking drugs like street fentanyl, which put them at daily risk of death?

These questions are at the heart of drug policy and the way we view and treat addiction. But simplistic answers have stymied efforts to ameliorate drug use disorders and reduce stigma.”

Which Fats Are the Right Ones? – Consumer Reports

Good fats vs. bad

The good

With all the confusing news about fats, you might think it’s easier to steer clear of them altogether. Not so. The good fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, can actually help reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. And you may be surprised as to what’s considered a good fat. For example, monounsaturated fat, the healthiest fat, is found at higher levels in:

  • Olive, canola, and other vegetable oils
  • Nuts like almonds and peanuts (including peanut butter)
  • Avocados (including guacamole)

Polyunsaturated fats are also important to your diet, especially those that contain omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s), which may decrease your risk of coronary artery disease, may protect against irregular heartbeats, and help lower blood pressure. Polyunsaturated fats are found at higher levels in:

  • Salmon, trout, and herring (high in omega-3s)
  • Soybean and corn oils
  • Walnuts and sunflower seeds

Though the better fats are a necessary part of your diet, they still have the same amount of calories as the bad fats and should also be eaten in moderation. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that fats (mostly unsaturated) make up 25 to 35 percent of your daily diet-but only 7 percent of those should be fats on the “bad” list.

The bad

Bad fats (saturated and trans fats) have that reputation for good reason. They can raise your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Saturated fats come mostly from animal sources and include meats, cheeses, butter, and some plant oils like coconut and palm oil. Unless your doctor has told you to steer clear of saturated fats altogether, the AHA’s recommended 7 percent-if you eat approximately 2,000 calories a day, that’s only 140 calories or 16 grams-is a good guide. Consult with your doctor or the AHA’s My Fats Translator to calculate the right fat ratio for your body type and level of exercise.

Trans fats rarely occur naturally, are mostly manufactured by food companies to preserve foods and add texture and taste to them, and have no nutritional value. Baked goods, pie crusts, cookies, crackers, margarine, and shortening may contain trans fats; try to avoid them by reading product labels.

One of the most popular trans-fat culprits is french fries made in deep fryers at fast-food restaurants. Though many fast-food restaurant chains have eliminated trans fat, and some cities like New York and states like California have or will soon ban them altogether, beware of “trans-free” restaurants. They may still purchase fries and other foods previously fried in trans fat. It’s best to be wary of restaurant-fried foods since they pack a lot of calories, no matter what they’re fried in.

Source: Which Fats Are the Right Ones? – Consumer Reports

Mark O’Connell | What Is the Plastic in Our Bodies Doing to Us? – The New York Times

Mr. O’Connell is the author, most recently, of “Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back.”


“There is plastic in our bodies; it’s in our lungs and our bowels and in the blood that pulses through us. We can’t see it, and we can’t feel it, but it is there. It is there in the water we drink and the food we eat, and even in the air that we breathe. We don’t know, yet, what it’s doing to us, because we have only quite recently become aware of its presence; but since we have learned of it, it has become a source of profound and multifarious cultural anxiety.

Maybe it’s nothing; maybe it’s fine. Maybe this jumble of fragments — bits of water bottles, tires, polystyrene packaging, microbeads from cosmetics — is washing through us and causing no particular harm. But even if that were true, there would still remain the psychological impact of the knowledge that there is plastic in our flesh. This knowledge registers, in some vague way, as apocalyptic; it has the feel of a backhanded divine vengeance, sly and poetically appropriate. Maybe this has been our fate all along, to achieve final communion with our own garbage.”

What Are The Best Drinks To Lower Cholesterol? –

Can what you drink affect your cholesterol?

“You may know that certain foods can affect the cholesterol in your body, but did you know that what you drink can also affect it? This is because beverages can also contain ingredients that increase your cholesterol, such as sugars and fats. Increased cholesterol is a condition medically known as hyperlipidemia or dyslipidemia (high or imbalanced levels of lipids in the blood).

However, just like foods, some drinks can help to lower your cholesterol. Reducing your cholesterol is important as it is thought that a 1% reduction in ‘bad’ cholesterol is linked with a 1% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD),¹ while a 1% reduction in total cholesterol can reduce the risk of CVD by up to 3%.

Additionally, a 2-3% increase in ‘good’ cholesterol reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease² by 2-4%.

But firstly, it’s important to understand what is ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the molecule that carries cholesterol from the liver through the bloodstream to the cells.

While it is a crucial molecule in the body, too much of it can build up in the arteries and increase the risk of atherosclerosis (narrowing and stiffening of vessels), cardiovascular disease, and stroke — hence it is labeled as the “bad” cholesterol.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered to be the “good” cholesterol. This cholesterol picks up the LDL and transports it to the liver, where it is removed from the body. Having high levels of HDL is beneficial as it helps to decrease the build-up of the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Other kinds of lipoprotein molecules are considered ‘bad’ cholesterol: very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL). These are ‘bad’ cholesterols for the same reason as LDL. However, they are less commonly discussed.

Sometimes, LDL, VLDL, and IDL are grouped together and called non-HDL cholesterol. It is thought that non-HDL cholesterol is a better indicator of cardiovascular disease than LDL alone.

Another type of lipid is triglyceride. Higher levels of triglycerides are also significantly associated with a higher risk of CVD.”

Source: What Are The Best Drinks To Lower Cholesterol?

The Mediterranean Diet Really Is That Good for You. Here’s Why. – Dani Blum – The New York Times


“In the 1950s, researchers from across the globe embarked on a sweeping and ambitious study. For decades, they scrutinized the diets and lifestyles of thousands of middle-aged men living in the United States, Europe and Japan and then examined how those characteristics affected their risks of developing cardiovascular disease.

The Seven Countries Study, as it later became known, famously found associations between saturated fats, cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease. But the researchers also reported another notable result: Those who lived in and around the Mediterranean — in countries like Italy, Greece and Croatia — had lower rates of cardiovascular disease than participants who lived elsewhere. Their diets, rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean proteins and healthy fats, seemed to have a protective effect.

Since then, the Mediterranean diet has become the bedrock of heart-healthy eating, with well-studied health benefits including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

“It’s one of a small number of diets that has research to back it up,” said Dr. Sean Heffron, a preventive cardiologist at NYU Langone Health. “It isn’t a diet that was cooked up in the mind of some person to generate money. It’s something that was developed over time, by millions of people, because it actually tastes good. And it just happens to be healthy.” “

Will One Moldy Berry Ruin the Rest? – The New York Times

“Q: If I open a box of berries and one berry is moldy, do I need to throw out the whole box?

Fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries are among America’s favorite fruits, but their goodness can be fleeting. Within a few days of bringing them home from the farmer’s market or grocery store, it’s common to find that some gray or white fuzz has staked a claim to a berry or two, prompting many to wonder: Are the rest safe to eat?

Food safety experts say that while you shouldn’t eat berries that are obviously moldy, those without visible signs of the spores are fine to eat. And luckily, unlike other food safety concerns that may be invisible to the naked eye, berries with mold growth are easy to spot, said Benjamin Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. (Botanically minded readers may note that many fruits commonly known as berries, including strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, aren’t true berries, but we will describe them as such for the sake of simplicity.)

If his basket or clamshell is tainted by one or two moldy berries, “I don’t throw out the whole thing,” Dr. Chapman said. Instead, he tosses the moldy ones and carefully inspects adjoining berries for fuzz, which often appears around a bruise or the site of stem attachment. With the rest, he tries to eat them soon, because lingering mold spores may spread and develop more fuzz in a day or two.

Molds are a type of fungi that, when viewed under a microscope, often “look like skinny mushrooms,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They grow threadlike roots that invade the interior of the food, and tiny stalks topped with spores on the surface. Certain types of molds produce toxins that can be harmful if eaten, and in some people, molds can trigger allergic reactions, Dr. Chapman said.”

Estimating the Environmental Impact of Certain Prostate Cancer Procedures < Urology

“Yale-led study examines the potential environmental benefits of more carefully selecting patients for prostate biopsy in a way that can also spare low-yield and potentially harmful procedures.

Yale School of Medicine Associate Professor of Urology Michael Leapman, MD, MHS, and coauthors across seven other U.S. institutions estimated the environmental impacts of prostate magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] and prostate biopsy, procedures that are part of the diagnostic process for patients with known or suspected prostate cancer. Overall, they estimate that performing both an MRI and biopsy is similar to going on a “round-trip flight from London to Paris,” in terms of energy used, staff travel, and supply production. Their research, using cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment methodology, was published in the January issue of the journal European Urology.

Study investigators say the overarching message is that sustainability efforts should be aligned with patient interests and evidence-based care. “We continue to see many medical and diagnostic procedures being used more often than recommended by clinical guidelines – increasing health care costs and in some cases, directly harming patients,” says Leapman. “A dimension that has been less well studied is the environmental impact of care that is already considered low-value or unnecessary. In this analysis, we estimate the carbon footprint of a prostate biopsy, then extrapolate the potential environmental benefits of adopting various evidence-based approaches,” continues Leapman, who specializes in the treatment of patients with prostate and genitourinary cancers and serves as clinical leader of the Prostate & Urologic Cancers Program at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital.”

Source: Estimating the Environmental Impact of Certain Prostate Cancer Procedures < Urology