Oct 12 2010

Fat, Obese, Overweight, Chunky or Husky-What’s In A Name? Graehm Gray

I am back, my friends after a brief respite. Since my last column, I have had many long hours to read the papers, journals and listen to the chatter. So I guess that means I am ready to resume my ranting. Are you ready? Well, this week’s column pertains to those derogatory and disparaging names that we hear all the time: terms like fat, obese, and overweight. That’s right, I am taking this time to discuss the categories that most of us feel we fit into. Many research studies point out that we don’t appropriately categorize our own body type. And in fact we don’t do it for our children either. Many overweight people consider themselves in the normal weight range. Individuals that are obese and even morbidly obese consider themselves a “bit overweight.” So is being fat the new “normal”? What really is in a name? When was the last time you looked at your child and felt he or she was “obese,” or even “overweight?” And certainly we never would call our kids fat! Or have anyone call them fat for that matter! Do we as parents look at ourselves or our children based on the BMI scale? I don't think so. I can recall my mom calling me “chunky.” That didn’t make me feel any better, ...

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Sep 20 2010

Medical Clearance for Student Athletes-Add an ECG and Echo!:Graehm Gray

I usually write about childhood obesity issues, nutrition or fitness but I want to make a slight departure and discuss an issue that I feel very passionate about: Medical clearance of student athletes. Maybe the timing of this article is due to news of several student athletes in various sports, from running to football, collapsing and dying on the field, either from seizures or heart problems. It’s not a new story. Children in school sponsored sports programs have been dying every year, all over this country.  Sometimes it’s a headline in the “Local” section of your daily newspaper or on your local market television news show. Sometimes it makes it to the network morning shows as a segment. It’s even discussed and debated on a national level by heart specialists and sport medicine specialists. The American Heart Association has even gone on record by saying that the current clearance guidelines are inadequate. But what has been done?Nothing. There is no consensus on the proper way to screen a child that will enter a sports program. Where are we now? Up to this point, most public and private schools require students that want to enter a sports program to have a medical exam or a Pre-participation Physical Examination. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the pre-participation physical exam (PPE) is an important step toward safe participation ...

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Sep 17 2010

The Case of the Unhealthy Salad: Graehm Gray

Dateline September 2010, probably between breakfast and dinnertime and somewhere in the United States, someone sitting at home or possibly in his or her car, or even at a restaurant, maybe even a fast food restaurant, is eating a salad. Yes, that’s right a salad, with lots of those colorful shades of greens, yellows, reds and oranges. Comfortably sitting there looking down into the bowl of leafy and crunchy plant foods, those healthy types are almost a bit arrogant thinking of the great choice they made and how healthy they are by eating this group of foods. It’s a likely story that takes place thousands of times a day, all over the world.  Are they wrong? Could this be one of the biggest hoaxes played on the masses? Could a salad actually be worse than a hamburger sandwich? I have heard the terms “sneaky salad,” “killer salad,” and “diet killer” all applied to these supposedly natural, plant based menu items. They are on television, radio and the internet. They are in the newspaper. Get used to hearing these names. They are like celebrities-with their images plastered on huge posters. These salads have gone viral! Every health food conscious person will consider a salad either for lunch or dinner as a main course or supporting side dish. So what’s wrong with this? First, let’s not be so quick to blame these defenseless veggies. ...

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Sep 06 2010

Graehm Gray: How To Solve Childhood Obesity-Part One

I read an article recently that indicated the incidence of childhood obesity in the kindergarten population of most cities is still high. How can this be? There has been a dramatic change in the constituents of the diets-notably the elimination of transfats, the switch to low fat dairy products, the elimination of sweetened drinks and candies from school vending machines, the increased postings of nutritional information and the restriction on salt. So how can the majority of our kids still be obese and overweight? Okay-let’s break this down. In some school systems, besides the dietary changes, there is a push for more exercise time. As noted previously in this column, there is even a push to change recess into a structured exercise program.  That’s important since a healthy child is one that has a balance of good nutrition and physical fitness. Adding more nutrition and fitness education into the curriculum from pre-school through middle school is also showing positive effects (Dr. Gary D. Foster-Director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, Philadelphia-June 27th, The New England Journal of Medicine). So why are our kids still over weight? Well, as we all know, our kids spend only a portion of their day at school-between six to eight hours. The rest of the afternoon and evening is devoted ...

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Aug 28 2010

Graehm Gray: A Survival Guide for the Late Night TV Food Commercials

I think that I have had enough! Yes, my friends, I am throwing in the towel. I was staying up late, watching some of my favorite reruns of NCIS, Law and Order and James Bond when the munchies hit. You all know what I am talking about. Those feelings that strike, out of no where-“I’ve got to have something! Anything. I’m hungry. At least I think I am. Maybe I am. Not really but I want something to eat.” Where do these sensations come from? Who is that talking in my head? I had a good dinner just three hours earlier. Sure, could be the carbohydrates being digested and the insulin levels rising. Scientifically that makes sense. As your food digests and is broken down into tiny matter, the individual elements like fats, proteins and sugars are released and start to travel. The sugar level rising triggers a release of insulin from your pancreas. Subsequently, the insulin manages to get the sugar back into the cells and lowers the levels. But the insulin levels remain high. This may trigger additional reactions which include hunger. So there, I rationalized my late night eating. Wait a minute. Let’s get back to the reason for this article-those attractive and seductive food commercials, those DQ Blizzards, those new dark chocolate peanut butter cups, those new crust Domino’s Pizzas, those five dollar Subway sandwiches, it’s ...

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Aug 23 2010

Graehm Gray: Structured vs. Unstructured Time-The New Battleground

My friends, we are back to school. Summer has come to an end and the fall school schedule quickly approaches. In many parts of the country, school has either started or is about to today! That’s right, those yellow Thomas school buses will be crowding the streets. The slow speed school zones are in force and kids are crossing the streets-so watch out!  Lunches and snacks are being prepared at home. Please make them healthy! After school activities are being scheduled. And parents, the driving begins again! OMG! Another season is upon us. It seems that this summer went quicker than most. I guess it was because it was filled with so many activities. There was barely enough time to enjoy the peaceful time off the road. Oh well, here we go again. So I begin my new season with another issue that has caught many by surprise as we all go back to school-there is a new push to eliminate “unstructured” playtime-also called recess and morph it into structured time-like physical exercise (PE).  The reason-from the “more exercise time will help stop childhood obesity” side-is just that. These advocates feel that our children need to burn off more calories in a structured exercise program to balance the calories/food being consumed. There is a good point there-balance. Remember as I have said in many articles, the calories-as food that are consumed must ...

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Aug 11 2010

Graehm Gray: Can We Positively Influence Our Children’s Eating Patterns? Yes We Can!!!

This seems like a no brainer-but I will ask you anyway-when we take our kids to the supermarket-how many times do they chose a particular item on the basis of their prior knowledge of the brand and or characters on the packaging? Dah! As my daughter would politely say. Of course they do. Kids are sponges for the thousands of advertisements they hear, see and read. I hear my daughter reciting those ads in the car with her friends when I take them to dance class. They laugh about the ads. But it shows that these ads stick. And when they go into an environment like a market or mall, these colorful, sometimes celebrity driven, musical and rhythmic ads have their way of influencing their shopping decisions and eating decisions.  So it is not unusual to discover that ads can influence even a younger age group-which we know spends a lot of time in front of the TV and are starting to spend even more time on the computer. Even at the age of three, kids food choices are being manipulated by what they are viewing-which is then is passed along to the purchasing selection by their parents. A study from 2007, Effect of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Taste Preference, demonstrated that, “By the early age of 3 to 5 years, low-income preschool children preferred the tastes of foods ...

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Aug 07 2010

Graehm Gray: Burning Calories By Walking! PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IS NOT A ONE SUIT FITS ALL!

How many times do we say, “I need to exercise,” in any given day. Okay, maybe not say it out loud but think it. A hundred, a thousand, more? We all say it-mostly after a big meal. Sometimes we get the motivation and go into the gym at the end of the day or maybe an evening run for a few miles-and it feels great. But how many times do you think about taking a long walk to get your metabolism moving? Probably less than 5 % of all of our exercise thoughts focus on walking. Most of us think that walking can’t burn off as many calories as running. And that’s correct. Usually we burn about 100 calories for every mile we walk. Now if you run, maybe at a pace of 6 miles an hour, you may burn off 150 calories for that same mile. That’s really pretty close. In fact several studies (the original concept from Dr. Hatano in Japan-circa 1965) have revealed that walking 10,000 steps daily was equivalent to walking approximately 5 miles. And, if you walked 10,000 steps, these studies (D. Basset-University of Tennessee, C. Tudor-Locke- Walking Behavior Laboratory, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA) showed that you were able to reduce your body fat, control diabetes and reduce waist to hips ratios. So there it is, walking, preferably a long walk at ...

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Jul 31 2010

Graehm Gray: Eating Less Makes Your Immune System Stronger!

Okay, so I guess all of you that have been reading my columns know by now that my emphasis is on eating less. Cut down on the portion sizes. Yes, to some, diet is a four letter word. Let's talk lifestyle! Eating less and exercising will help you maintain a healthy weight, improves the quality of your health and is anti-aging. As I explained in prior columns, calorie restriction (CR)-the term used for  low calorie meal plans, has been associated with many benefits. Both in human experiments and in animal research, the data has been confirmed-CR subjects outlive their normal and over fed counterparts. Researchers in Japan discovered that short term calorie restriction can improve the performance of the heart. Now comes further research showing that low calorie meal plans can actually enhance the immune response. What? Eating less can make my immune system stronger? Well, Simin Nikbin Meydani, Director at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University studied 46 overweight men and women, 20 to 40 years old and had them consume either a 30% or 10% calorie restricted diet for six months. The results: “short-term calorie restriction for six months in humans improves the function of T-cells*.” That means, our immune systems can improve with less food consumed. What is your immune system? Well, its the system of your body that ...

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Jul 23 2010

Graehm Gray: Coffee For Kids-You Can’t Be Serious!

First, I want to thank tennis great John McEnroe for allowing me to use one of his famous lines when he was questioning a call from a judge at one of his professional tennis tournaments. I always wanted to use it in one of my articles, so thanks John. But in all seriousness, this issue of caffeine for kids is getting out of control. Yes I am aware that it is the young adults, teens and preteens that are becoming the “fastest growing group of coffee drinkers” according to the National Coffee Association. Even prime time television shows actors drinking caffeine drinks- the character “Abby Sciuto”, played by actress Pauley Perrette, is a forensic scientist in one of my favorite shows-NCIS (CBS), drinks a huge plastic cup called a “Caf-Pow” given to her as a reward for her amazing ability to come up with answers to puzzling clues using an array of technology and science. I do think she drinks way too much of it! Yes I am aware that in America alone, close to 500 million cups of coffee are consumed each and every day, with coffee drinkers drinking an average of 2.6 cups per day. The total caffeine intake per day for coffee drinkers is an astounding 363.5mg!!! In the United States, 80% of all adults consume caffeine on a daily basis-and the average daily consumption of caffeine ...

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