Category Archives: Podcasts

Podcasts

Here is the collection of my radio shows on the morning Beijing Hour program on EZFM, 91.5FM from CRI Radio

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Are Routine Dental X-rays Dangerous?

On this week’s “health headlines” podcast I discuss a provocative case-control study that suggests that the more dental x-rays people get (especially when under 10 years old), there is a higher risk of a common brain cancer called a meningioma. The American Cancer Society covered this issue quite well last week; here is an excerpt:

X-rays are a source of ionizing radiation, which is a potential risk factor for meningioma. Some of the participants in the study received their x-rays many years ago, when radiation exposure from dental x-rays was much higher than it is with new technology today.

Dental x-ray risk of meningiomaThe study has some drawbacks that make the link between dental x-rays and meningiomas far from certain. Perhaps most importantly, it relied on participants’ memories about their history of dental x-rays (rather than on dental records themselves). Such studies are subject to a phenomenon that scientists call “recall bias,” when people with a disease may be more likely to look for a cause. This might have caused the meningioma patients in the Cancer study to over-report the number of dental x-rays they received, which could have contributed to the findings. Because of this, the study results can only be considered suggestive of a possible link, and more rigorous studies would be needed to prove it.

Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society said, “We need more data before we can even begin to state there is a relationship between dental x-rays and these tumors. Until that research is done, the best advice we can give people is to get dental x-rays when they are necessary and only when they are necessary. The dose of radiation given in a bitewing or panoramic x-ray is lower today than it was two decades ago. Nonetheless, x-rays should be done only when necessary. This is true of all x-ray technology, and it’s the same advice experts would have given without this study.”

On its Web site, the American Dental Association responded to the study with a statement that said in part, “The ADA’s long-standing position is that dentists should order dental X-rays for patients only when necessary for diagnosis and treatment.” The statement also encouraged patients to talk to their dentists if they have questions about their dental treatment.

I think this is a very well-balanced summary of this research, and the take-home message is that almost no healthy person should be getting annual dental x-rays, as the risks likely outweigh the benefits. The American Dental Association’s official recommendations may call for repeat x-rays as frequent as 6 months in the rarer cases of people with severe cavities, but their 2006 review discusses how there’s very little evidence that healthy teeth benefit from routine annual x-rays.

Listen to Podcast
Click on the arrow below to listen to this podcast, or click here.
[podcast]http://bit.ly/HHwhUF?utm_source=MHBJ&utm_medium=Podcast&utm_campaign=April11[/podcast]

More Podcast Information

You can listen to all my previous podcasts at my podcast archive. You can always listen live to my radio interview each Wednesday around 7:35am Beijing time, on the Beijing Hour program on EZFM 91.5, which is broadcast from 7-8am every weekday by host Paul James. EZFM is the popular bilingual radio station on the China Radio International network, broadcasting here in Beijing and on multiple stations all over the world, as well as live online.

 

Popcorn is Healthier Than Fruit — And Other Crazy Headlines

Popcorn is Healthier Than Fruits and Vegetables

I’ve seen a lot of strange headlines for health articles, but last week I saw two that really stood out for sloppy journalism on top of shoddy research. The first was the Xinhua headline “Popcorn Healthier Than Fruit, Vegetables.” They discussed a research paper presented at a conference (not in a journal) which analyzed the nutritional value of popcorn:

One of the scientists behind the study, Dr. Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, explained that there are more of the antioxidant substances called polyphenols concentrated in popcorn than most fruits and vegetables. One reason is that popcorn only contains about 4 percent water while fruits and vegetables contain up to 90 percent water.

The researchers also find that the hulls of popcorn – the part that everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth – has been found to have the highest concentration of polyphenols and fibre. They are actually “nutritional gold nuggets,” according to Vinson.

“Popcorn may be the perfect snack food,” said Dr. Vinson. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain needed by an adult.

Vinson warned, however, that how the popcorn is prepared is the key to its healthiness. Air popped popcorn is the best, while microwave popcorn is much worse, as is popcorn made in pot full of oil, butter, and covered with sugar or salt.

Popcorn, in its air-popped form is healthy, but could never fully replace fruits and vegetables due to the other vitamins and nutrients found in them.

So the most important sentence comes at the very last, of course, after the attention-grabbing headline gets you to read the whole thing. I suppose the editing board is just doing their job — to attract readers. And in fact it is a provocative article which, due to the widespread coverage, may get more people to be healthier — but only if they eat air-popped popcorn as a replacement for more unhealthy snacks (such as Oreo cookies, which I confess to adore). And it only applies to air-popped popcorn with essentially no toppings, which sounds painfully, boringly “healthy”. As more balanced articles make clear, the vastly more palatable microwaved popcorns and enormous movie bags oozing with oil are deliciously unhealthy. It’s too bad that in Chinese movie theatres we don’t even get the choice to have lightly salted popcorn, as almost all only have strangely multicolored sweet popcorn.

The other crazy headline this week also comes from Xinhua, which blared that more frequently eating chocolate can help you lose weight. Unlike the above study, this one actually was published in an esteemed peer-reviewed journal — but the paper itself isn’t very robust, only being a cross-sectional questionnaire taken at one point in time. This study design makes it impossible to assess whether chocolate causes weight loss, only that it may be associated with weight loss. This statistical subtlety gets lost to most people, but the distinction is critical. In other words, eating chocolate more frequently possibly may be associated with being thinner but that doesn’t mean the chocolate did it. Worse, the study didn’t break down the results into types of chocolate, so we have no idea whether white, dark or milk was the factor — if there’s a factor at all.

It’s too bad about both of these headlines, as I actually love popcorn at home as a snack — with a tiny bit of oil and some seasoning. I also love dark chocolate and have blogged about this often — but only the dark chocolate is “heart healthy”, and only in small amounts. So the worst outcome for readers would be to eat more movie popcorn and scarf down some white chocolate easter bunnies.

I discuss both of these articles in the March 28 weekly podcast on CRI Radio’s Beijing Hour.

Click on the arrow below to listen to this podcast, or click here.
[podcast]http://bit.ly/HHvZNr?utm_source=MHBJ&utm_medium=Podcast&utm_campaign=March28[/podcast]

More Podcast Information

You can listen to all my previous podcasts at my podcast archive. You can always listen live to my radio interview each Wednesday around 7:35am Beijing time, on the Beijing Hour program on EZFM 91.5, which is broadcast from 7-8am every weekday by host Paul James. EZFM is the popular bilingual radio station on the China Radio International network, broadcasting here in Beijing and on multiple stations all over the world, as well as live online.

Red Meat: Not So Good For Your Heart. Here's More Proof

Red meat cow cardiac disease

A couple years ago I wrote a post discussing data showing how some red meats are bad for your heart; now a major new study again confirms this concept. This huge study from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data from 2 studies which followed 120,000 people over 20 years. They found that the more red meat people ate (especially processed meats) the more people died from heart disease. Here’s a nice summary from the very cool Meatless Mondays website:

…They discovered just one 3-ounce serving of red meat daily (about the size of a deck of playing cards) was associated with a 13% greater chance of dying over the course of the study. What’s more, participants who consumed daily servings of processed meats like hot dogs and bacon were at 20% higher risk of mortality. As the amount of meat consumed increased, so did the risk of death.

Conversely, replacing beef and pork with a serving of nuts, legumes, whole grains or low-fat dairy seemed to improve longevity. Nut consumption was linked to a 19% lower risk of dying during the study, whole grains with a 14% reduction, and beans and dairy with a 10% decrease in mortality.

“Any red meat you eat contributes to the risk,” An Pan, a postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study told the LA Times, “If you want to eat red meat, eat the unprocessed products, and reduce it to two or three servings a week,” he said. “That would have a huge impact on public health.”

Dr. Dean Ornish, a UC San Francisco researcher and author of an editorial that accompanied the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, agrees, suggesting that red meat lovers can reduce their risk by cutting meat one day a week. “Something as simple as a Meatless Monday can help,” he said. “Even small changes can make a difference”

I discuss this article on my March 14th weekly radio interview on EZFM’s Beijing Hour. Paul and I also discuss a Xinhua news report discussing the lastest campaign to decrease the massive overuse of antibiotics in Chinese hospitals.

Click on the arrow below to listen to this podcast, or click here.
[podcast]http://66.147.244.109/~myfamio6/myhealthbeijing/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/031407_CUT.mp3[/podcast]

More Podcast Information

You can listen to all my previous podcasts at my podcast archive. You can always listen live to my radio interview each Wednesday around 7:35am Beijing time, on the Beijing Hour program on EZFM 91.5, which is broadcast from 7-8am every weekday by host Paul James. EZFM is the popular bilingual radio station on the China Radio International network, broadcasting here in Beijing and on multiple stations all over the world, as well as live online.

There’s a Good Reason You Can’t Lose Weight: Your Hormones Won’t Let You

obesity leptin ghrelinObesity is a major health crisis all over the world now, and it’s clear both to patients and to doctors that losing weight — and keeping it off — is incredibly difficult. Unfortunately there’s growing evidence why this is so: when you diet, your body’s hormones go into a permanent “fasting” state which never really reset after the ideal weight is achieved. The balance of hormones leptin and ghrelin basically make a dieter feel permanently hungry, and over 90% of dieters regain the weight they had shed, returning to their “new normal”. What this means for most people is twofold:

  • they shouldn’t beat themselves up for not losing weight because it’s biologically difficult;
  • it’s so much better never to be obese in the first place, as once you’ve gained the weight you’ll have major troubles losing it.

This provocative idea now has some serious research,  including one study covered here by one of Gina Kolata’s many excellent articles on obesity in the New York Times. She also had an outstanding, moving article called The Fat Trap last year which I highly recommend for anyone concerned about their weight. I discuss this concept on my March 8th radio discussion on EZFM; you can click on the links below to listen.

In this podcast we also discuss a Xinhua article discussing yet another study linking air pollution to cancers; this large study focused on diesel fumes causing lung cancers in miners in the US. Diesel pollution is a major issue here in China as well, so the health implications are all too relevant for us.

Click on the arrow below to listen to this podcast, or click here.
[podcast]http://66.147.244.109/~myfamio6/myhealthbeijing/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/030707_CUT.mp3[/podcast]

More Podcast Information

You can listen to all my previous podcasts at my podcast archive. You can always listen live to my radio interview each Wednesday around 7:35am Beijing time, on the Beijing Hour program on EZFM 91.5, which is broadcast from 7-8am every weekday by host Paul James. EZFM is the popular bilingual radio station on the China Radio International network, broadcasting here in Beijing and on multiple stations all over the world, as well as live online.

Coffee Can Lower Diabetes Risk: Podcast

Click on the arrow below to listen to this podcast, or click here.
[podcast]http://66.147.244.109/~myfamio6/myhealthbeijing/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/022907_CUT.mp3[/podcast]

Coffee prevents diabetesCoffee addicts should rejoice at today’s news: another study shows a link between drinking coffee and lowered risk of developing diabetes. This effect has been shown in many good studies, and the best data shows how each added cup can lower risk by 7%. The good news is that decaf coffee has the same benefit;  so I would much prefer people drink a few cups of decaf over caffeinated.

I discuss this issue on this week’s podcast on EZFM’s Beijing Hour; you can listen by clicking on the links above. We also discuss another good study which shows how more citrus in your diet can lower your risk of stroke 19%. But which citrus, and in what form, is best? Listen and find out…

More Podcast Information

You can listen to all my previous podcasts at the podcast archive. You can always listen live to my radio interview each Wednesday around 7:35am Beijing time, on the Beijing Hour program on EZFM 91.5, which is broadcast from 7-8am every weekday by host Paul James. EZFM is the popular bilingual radio station on the China Radio International network, broadcasting here in Beijing and on multiple stations all over the world, as well as live online.