Using a shopping list may aid food desert residents

For residents of areas with limited access to healthy foods, also known as food deserts, multiple barriers exist that amplify the health risks of living in those areas. Likewise, risks for poor diet and being overweight or obese are also increased. Researchers from the RAND Corporation, however, found that use of a list when shopping among low-income, predominantly African-American participants living in a food desert was associated with a better-quality diet and lower weight. —> Read More

Study reveals why almost half of patients opt out of comprehensive cancer testing

Some at-risk patients opted out of comprehensive cancer gene screening when presented with the opportunity to be tested for the presence of genes linked to various cancers, according to a recent study led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Concern for uncertainty and potential distress were cited among the most common reasons to refuse testing. —> Read More

Mobile tracking application may help users meet vitamin D requirements

Adults in Canada are consistently deficient in dietary vitamin D, by nearly 400 international units per day on average. Coupled with low vitamin D synthesis from the sun during fall and winter at Canadian latitudes, tracking intake of vitamin D is vital for those lacking the nutrient. In an article in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers from the University of Guelph examined the validity of a mobile application for tracking vitamin D and calcium intake. —> Read More

Think Twice Before Getting Knee Surgery

During the 4,000-year history of medicine, doctors have done terrible things to patients. We gave them arsenic and mercury; we bled them; we made them vomit, and we gave them laxatives; we made them hot, and we made them cold. A lot of this was nonsense, sometimes dangerous and even deadly. You would expect that eventually patients would catch on and learn to avoid doctors, but most didn’t. Many got better despite the dreadful treatments and felt only gratitude.

The magic of medical success has always been, and, to a large extent, still is, the remarkable power of the placebo effect: getting better due to a tincture of time and the magical power of hopeful expectations. Many popular treatments are popular more because of placebo effect than because of any physiologic changes. Placebo is the best medicine ever invented.

The placebo effect is endlessly fascinating. We know that two pills produce a greater placebo effect than one, that brand-name pills work better than their generic equivalents, that expensive pills are more powerful, and that placebos work even when patients know they are placebos. And placebo injections work even better than placebo pills.

The study of the placebo effect in surgery has lagged far behind the study of its role in medicine, because doing placebo surgery is harder than giving a placebo pill. Yet there is every reason to believe that surgery is especially prone to placebo effects. The more dramatic the procedure, the more likely it raises hope of cure. “Quick, operate before the patient gets better” is one of those jokes that orthopedic surgeons tell among themselves, barely covering a hard truth: that a lot of elective surgery might be unnecessary or even harmful.

Dr. Teppo Jarvinen is the orthopedic surgeon best qualified to explain this issue. As the Jane and Aatos —> Read More

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