We are grateful for our readers, what we learn from other health care journalists, and for those whose passion is delivering care to those in need.
We hope you enjoy this long holiday weekend, and thought you might enjoy reading some of the excellent articles we recommend below.
I could have chosen any number of news organizations that reported on this important investigation. The key is the perspective article in the journal PLoS Biology upon which the news stories were based.
The Times led its piece with this:
“The sugar industry funded animal research in the 1960s that looked into the effects of sugar consumption on cardiovascular health — and then buried the data when it suggested that sugar could be harmful, according to newly released historical documents. … The report’s authors say it builds on evidence that the sugar industry has long tried to mislead the public and protect its economic interests by suppressing worrisome research, a tactic used by the tobacco industry.”
Other news organizations referred to the report as a “bombshell”….”what the industry knew but didn’t tell us”…”how Big Sugar killed a 1968 study that pointed to a heart disease link”…”sugar industry has covered up the truth for 50 years.”
Ms. Chen offers herself up as guinea pig and tour guide down what looks like the scientifically-proven rabbit hole of consumer/home genetic-testing kits. In her case, she’s heavy into Fitbit bracelets, smart scales, and running watches … but light on motivation or follow through … when it comes to reaching her goal of running a marathon.
Then she encounters Helix, a Silicon Valley startup that promises it can recommend the best foods and exercises “to reach your full potential” … all based on your DNA. She thinks she’s found the answer and adds:
“In a society obsessed with optimizing ourselves, it follows that figuring out the ‘nature’ part of the ‘nature vs. nurture’ equation can give us that extra competitive edge.”
But what she discovers, $300 later, is that “Helix is genetics for entertainment.” This includes using your DNA profile to help you burn fat better, figure out your caffeine and sleep type, and pick the right wine based on your DNA-proven taste preferences. The Helix mission: “to empower every person to improve their life through DNA.”
It’s engaging and clever first-person reporting as she takes us back through the history of DNA sequencing, right up to the fact vs. fiction of today’s boom in consumer genomics.
By the end of this thoroughly enjoyable read she has you back down another rabbit hole wondering about pop science, astrology, and why it is that some of us remain convinced that our DNA will help us change our behavior … or, our fate.
Fat-shaming is bad, fat-shaming kids is perhaps worse, and fat-shaming kids in the pediatrician’s office is indefensible. Pediatrician and New York Times columnist Perri Klass writes about how doctors should advise kids with excess weight — and their families. Language is important: Avoid the words “fat” and “obese” in favor of neutral words such as “weight” and “body mass index.”
Klass reminds all of us not to forget that there’s an emotional aspect at play and that most kids who are overweight have been bullied or teased. The story is full of terrible examples of shaming by family members and others. It’s also full of good advice and compassion for doctors and parents alike, including keeping the focus on healthy behaviors and not on weight goals like fitting into that pair of pants.