Friday, April 29, 2011

Hydrogen Peroxide and Pimple Experiment

From previous experiences, I knew that applying coconut oil to my face would cause acne, but I just had to ignore that lesson, didn't I?  Well, the result was worse than expected; by Monday I had a humongous pimple on my nose.  Ahhh!!  It's probably one of the largest (if not the largest) pimples I've ever had.  Anyway, I immediately went to the toothpaste trick and then the baking soda scrub (more of a preventative aid than a treatment).  Though both methods were helping, the shrinking was an extremely gradual process.  I needed the monstrosity gone by Friday for an event I was to attend.  There had to be a faster method, right? ....

Well, after perusing the Web I came across one interesting reality.  Reducing the bacteria involved in acne can speed up the shrinking process.  Benzoyl peroxide was recommended (which I've tried in the past but had little success with from what I can recall).  Rather than go purchase another product with this compound, I decided to use what was already in my cabinet - hydrogen peroxide.  Well, what'd you know.  The pimple shrunk so fast overnight. I'm impressed!


Short Series: Remnants of PJ-ism

This will be a short series on my attempt to finish a few remaining products from my 'product junkie' (PJ) days.

product junkie /ˈprädəkt ˈjəNGkē/ Noun
A person with an obsessive habit of purchasing and collecting products, particularly hair products.  

Today's remaining product: Kinky Curl Custard (KCC).

I actually like this product but do not really have a need for it in my regimen ... hence why it's got to go.  It's been sitting in my cabinet for over a year (maybe a year and a half?) and is on the verge of going bad.  That being said, it's the first on my "to finish" list.

Finishing strategy: Mix KCC with my homemade shea butter mix to create a super DUPER moisturizer and twisting/twistout custard in one!  I'm so loving the end result.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guest Commentary: Communities in Crisis - Harmful Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Michael Toscani, PharmD
Project Director
Jefferson School of Population Health

The prescription drug abuse problem in the United States has reached enormous proportions, notably in our teenage population. Unintentional drug overdose death rates have risen steadily since 1970 and have increased roughly five-fold since 1990. According to National Vital Statistics, the death rate in 1970 was 1.23 per 100,000, and by 2007 it had risen to 9.18 per 100,000. A 2008 survey found that 61% of teens feel that prescription drugs are easier to obtain than illegal drugs.

Many teens (40%) believe that prescription drugs, even if they are not prescribed by a physician, are much safer to use than illegal drugs, and almost a third believe that it is okay to use prescription drugs without a physician’s prescription. A recent report from the NIH indicated that the trial use of opioids by individuals by 12th grade has risen to 4.7% for Oxycontin (oxycodone) and 9.7% for Vicodin (hydrocodone). Most teens (58%) say they obtain their prescription meds from their family’s medicine cabinet, and 42% say that these medications are widely available.

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many educational sessions on this topic over the past several years observing views from law enforcement, pain management and addiction specialists, and students in a designated recovery high school and their principal. Some of the key take away messages from these programs include:

1. Lock your meds in a limited access area and keep an inventory of the products.
2. You can dispose of unused medications by flushing them down the toilet.
3. Never let anyone use a medication that has not been prescribed for them.
4. Addiction is a neurobiologic disease. Once high risk individuals come in contact with an addictive substance, they are driven to seek that “high” at all costs to them and their families. There are several assessment tools that can be used to predict risk of drug abuse, such as the ORT (Opioid Risk Tool).
5. Most students begin their habit with gateway products such as marijuana and/or alcohol, progressing to Rx products and, at times, to more potent or potentially dangerous illicit substances.
6. Parents should have discussions with their children about these risks and if a problem surfaces, seek immediate treatment from professional sources.
7. Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease, but there is hope for recovery from treatment centers, recovery high schools and programs, and support groups.
8. Health professionals and law enforcement can play critical roles in reducing misuse and abuse of prescription medications and serve as key educational resources for the community.

Stay informed on this public health issue !!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Protective Styling with Short Wigs

Summer is months away, but we can still plan for it, yes?  Short, cropped hairstyles are creeping in this season and will still be in during the hot months.  Check out the video below showing a super cute and sleek short wig.  Hmm, a possible summer protective style? :o)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alcohol consumption, gender, and type 2 diabetes: Strange … but true

Let me start this post with a warning about spirits (hard liquor). Taken on an empty stomach, they cause an acute suppression of liver glycogenesis. In other words, your liver becomes acutely insulin resistant for a while. How long? It depends on how much you drink; possibly as long as a few hours. So it is not a very good idea to consume them immediately before eating carbohydrate-rich foods, natural or not, or as part of sweet drinks. You may end up with near diabetic blood sugar levels, even if your liver is insulin sensitive under normal circumstances.

The other day I was thinking about this, and the title of this article caught my attention: Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. This article is available here in full text. In it, Kao and colleagues show us a very interesting table (Table 4), relating alcohol consumption in men and women with incidence of type 2 diabetes. I charted the data from Model 3 in that table, and here is what I got:

I used the data from Model 3 because it adjusted for a lot of things: age, race, education, family history of diabetes, body mass index, waist/hip ratio, physical activity, total energy intake, smoking history, history of hypertension, fasting serum insulin, and fasting serum glucose. Whoa! As you can see, Model 3 even adjusted for preexisting insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism.

So, according to the charts, the more women drink, the lower is the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even if they drink more than 21 drinks per week. For men, the sweet spot is 7-14 drinks per week; after 21 drinks per week the risk goes up significantly.

A drink is defined as: a 4-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce bottle or can of beer, or a 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor. The amounts of ethanol vary, with more in hard liquor: 4 ounces of wine = 10.8 g of ethanol, 12 ounces of beer = 13.2 g of ethanol, and 1.5 ounces of spirits = 15.1 g of ethanol.

Initially I thought that these results were due to measurement error, particularly because the study relies on questionnaires. But I did some digging and checking, and now think they are not. In fact, there are plausible explanations for them. Here is what I think, and it has to do with a fundamental difference between men and women – sex hormones.

In men, alcohol consumption, particularly in large quantities, suppresses testosterone production. And testosterone levels are inversely associated with diabetes in men. Heavy alcohol consumption also increases estrogen production in men, which is not good news either.

In women, alcohol consumption, particularly in large quantities, increases estrogen production. And estrogen levels are (you guessed it) inversely associated with diabetes in women. Unnatural suppression of testosterone levels in women is not good either, as this hormone also plays important roles in women; e.g., it influences mood and bone density.

What if we were to disregard the possible negative health effects of suppressing testosterone production in women; should women start downing 21 drinks or more per week? The answer is “no”, because alcohol consumption, particularly in large quantities, increases the risk of breast cancer in women. So, for women, alcohol consumption in moderation may also provide overall health benefits, as it does for men; but for different reasons.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A National Quality Strategy---FINALLY

For persons like me, the recent debut of the National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care, and the subsequent release of the Partnership for Patients, is an amazing confluence of events with roots deep in the quality and safety movement. The National Strategy, released in late March 2011 calls for sweeping changes in the current system that would promote three core goals--Better Care, Healthy Communities and Affordable Care. It would implement upwards of 65 new quality measures and hold providers accountable for these measures with a host of financial incentives and disincentives.

The National Strategy has deep roots in the IOM Reports "To Err is Human" and "Crossing the Quality Chasm". With Dr Berwick at the helm of CMS, himself a co author of both aforementioned IOM reports, it is no wonder that the national strategy reflects many of Berwicks long held ( and laudable) views. To me, it is as if the Triple Aim, of IHI fame, is now, to some extent, national policy. I am excited about seeing the Triple Aim literally coming to life as the law of the land!!!

The Partnership for Patients, which debuted on April 12th, is a follow up political rallying cry to energize the movement even further. It calls for a pledge of support for the goals in the Strategy. It also serves as the vehicle for a new round of financial support for this work, to the tune of about $1billion. Already, major national provider groups are gearing up to attempt to garner some of this support.

Naysayers might balk at all of this but not me. I see a bright future ahead when national policies are finally focusing on some of the work that our school, and many other organizations, have been focused on for years. I think we will see many more providers express interest in the quality and safety movement and as a result, lives will be saved and costs will be moderated. I am excited to be leading our School of Population at such a watershed time in our history. DAVID NASH

Monday, April 18, 2011

3in6: Almost Halfway

See "3in6 Challenge" details here.

Alright, ladies!  We are almost halfway through the challenge.  This coming weekend, I'll take out these twists and put in another set.  You know the routine.  :o)  As the summer approaches, I'll switch from wearing twists every 4-ish weeks to wearing them every 2-ish weeks ... maybe 3.  My washes will be upped from biweekly to weekly.

In other news, my hair broke my 1-year-old trusty black jaw clip today.  :o(  Fortunately, my new Ficcare accessories arrived just in time for the rescue.  :o)  (I'll give a review of the Ficcare clips - purchased by me as a belated birthday gift - in the weeks to come.)

How are you ladies gearing up for the final half of the challenge?  How do you wear your protective styles as they age?
{Ficcare clips from}

Youtube: Veggie and Apple Smoothie

Spinach, celery, carrots, apples, garlic, and ginger .... then apple juice, rice milk, or coconut water ...

Low bone mineral content in older Eskimos: Meat-eating or shrinking?

Mazess & Mather (1974) is probably the most widely cited article summarizing evidence that bone mineral content in older North Alaskan Eskimos was lower (10 to 15 percent) than that of United States whites. Their finding has been widely attributed to the diet of the Eskimos, which is very high in animal protein. Here is what they say:

“The sample consisted of 217 children, 89 adults, and 107 elderly (over 50 years). Eskimo children had a lower bone mineral content than United States whites by 5 to 10% but this was consistent with their smaller body and bone size. Young Eskimo adults (20 to 39 years) of both sexes were similar to whites, but after age 40 the Eskimos of both sexes had a deficit of from 10 to 15% relative to white standards.”

Note that their findings refer strictly to Eskimos older than 40, not Eskimo children or even young adults. If a diet very high in animal protein were to cause significant bone loss, one would expect that diet to cause significant bone loss in children and young adults as well. Not only in those older than 40.

So what may be the actual reason behind this reduced bone mineral content in older Eskimos?

Let me make a small digression here. If you want to meet quite a few anthropologists who are conducting, or have conducted, field research with isolated or semi-isolated hunter-gatherers, you should consider attending the annual Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) conference. I have attended this conference in the past, several times, as a presenter. That gave me the opportunity to listen to some very interesting presentations and poster sessions, and talk with many anthropologists.

Often anthropologists will tell you that, as hunter-gatherers age, they sort of “shrink”. They lose lean body mass, frequently to the point of becoming quite frail in as early as their 60s and 70s. They tend to gain body fat, but not to the point of becoming obese, with that fat replacing lean body mass yet not forming major visceral deposits. Degenerative diseases are not a big problem when you “shrink” in this way; bigger problems are  accidents (e.g., falls) and opportunistic infections. Often older hunter-gatherers have low blood pressure, no sign of diabetes or cancer, and no heart disease. Still, they frequently die younger than one would expect in the absence of degenerative diseases.

A problem normally faced by older hunter-gatherers is poor nutrition, which is both partially caused and compounded by lack of exercise. Hunter-gatherers usually perceive the Western idea of exercise as plain stupidity. If older hunter-gatherers can get youngsters in their prime to do physically demanding work for them, they typically will not do it themselves. Appetite seems to be negatively affected, leading to poor nutrition; dehydration often is a problem as well.

Now, we know from this post that animal protein consumption does not lead to bone loss. In fact, it seems to increase bone mineral content. But there is something that decreases bone mineral content, as well as muscle mass, like nothing else – lack of physical activity. And there is something that increases bone mineral content, as well as muscle mass, in a significant way – vigorous weight-bearing exercise.

Take a look at the figure below, which I already discussed on a previous post. It shows a clear pattern of benign ventricular hypertrophy in Eskimos aged 30-39. That goes down dramatically after age 40. Remember what Mazess & Mather (1974) said in their article: “… after age 40 the Eskimos of both sexes had a deficit of from 10 to 15% relative to white standards”.

Benign ventricular hypertrophy is also known as athlete's heart, because it is common among athletes, and caused by vigorous physical activity. A prevalence of ventricular hypertrophy at a relatively young age, and declining with age, would suggest benign hypertrophy. The opposite would suggest pathological hypertrophy, which is normally induced by obesity and chronic hypertension.

So there you have it. The reason older Eskimos were found to have lower bone mineral content after 40 is likely not due to their diet.  It is likely due to the same reasons why they "shrink", and also in part because they "shrink". Not only does physical activity decrease dramatically as Eskimos age, but so does lean body mass.

Obese Westerners tend to have higher bone density on average, because they frequently have to carry their own excess body weight around, which can be seen as a form of weight-bearing exercise. They pay the price by having a higher incidence of degenerative diseases, which probably end up killing them earlier, on average, than osteoporosis complications.


Mazess R.B., & Mather, W.W. (1974). Bone mineral content of North Alaskan Eskimos. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 27(9), 916-925.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Commentary: Celebrating National Public Health Week

Jeffrey Brenner, MD

By Rob Simmons, DrPH, MPH, MCHES, CPH
Program Director, Master of Public Health (MPH) Program
Jefferson School of Population Health

This past week Thomas Jefferson University’s School of Population Health, in cooperation with the Jefferson Medical College, Department of Family & Community Medicine, and the Jefferson Center for Inter Professional Education (JCIPE) celebrated National Public Health Week with a lunchtime symposium entitled, “Reinventing Health in One of America’s Poorest Communities: Camden, New Jersey.”

The program featured the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, a non-profit organization committed to improving the quality, capacity, and accessibility of health care to vulnerable populations in an effort to improve their health status and reduce healthcare costs. Serving one of America’s poorest communities, the Coalition's work is dependent on creating complex collaborations amongst three highly competitive hospitals, two local Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), and small private physician practices in Camden. Through the Coalition, local stakeholders are working together to build an integrated health delivery model to provide better care for Camden City residents. The group receives funding from local and national organizations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Their efforts have received national recognition through a feature article on January 24, 2011 in the New Yorker by Dr. Atul Gawande.

The presenting team included Jeffrey Brenner, MD, Executive and Medical Director, Kathy Jackson, MSN, Nurse Practitioner, Ana Aningalan, MSW, Social Worker, Kelly Craig, MSW, Social Worker and Director of Care Management Initiatives and Jessica Cordero, Community Health Worker. After an overview by Dr. Brenner of the Camden community and the healthcare issues and barriers facing Camden residents, the team discussed a couple of complex case studies and addressed questions from the audience of 175 population health and health care professionals and students.

Overall response to the symposium was excellent. Participants look forward to additional professional development opportunities provided by Jefferson and next year’s National Public Health Week symposium.

Chapt. III: Maintenance After Highlighting

Previous Posts:
Chemically Highlight Natural Hair?
Chapt. II: Precautions When Highlighting


It's been about 5 months since highlighting my hair.  In terms of maintenance, in all honesty, I haven't had to change my regimen.  (It's the same prepoo, wash, deep condition, seal, and twist.)  What I will emphasize is that 1) your hair's condition prior to highlighting + 2) the precautions taken during the process seem to be more important than anything else.  After highlighting, don't slack on your hair care routine.  Some people also benefit from increased protein conditioning.  :o)

Loo's Lip Balm Mix

It's that time of year again!  

I ran out of my homemade body butter so this weekend I went to mixing.  Instead of doing the usual body butter mix, I whipped up a simple body oil (recipe coming soon) and lip balm.  (By the way, my body butters/oils are more like ankle-knee-elbow butters/oils; I use Kiss My Face Lavender Shea Lotion on the rest of my body.)

For the lip balm recipe, I used:
• 2 parts shea butter
• 1 part grapeseed oil
• 1 part (or less) honey
• (a few drops for color) burgundy lip gloss

The instructions: Soften the shea butter by melting it only slightly in a pot on the stove.  (If your shea butter is already soft, there is no need to melt it.)  Mix in the grapeseed oil then follow with the honey.  Lastly add a few drops of lip gloss (or lipstick) for color.  (This prior step is optional.)  Allow the mix to set, and that's it!  You have your lip balm.

For other lip balm recipes, check this earlier post.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beef meatballs, with no spaghetti

There are pizza restaurants, whose specialty is pizza, even though they usually have a few side dishes. Not healthy enough?

Well, don’t despair, there are meatball restaurants too. I know of at least one, The Meatball Shop, on 84 Stanton Street, in New York City.

Finally a restaurant that elevates the "lowly" meatball to its well deserved place!

Meatballs are delicious, easy to prepare, and you can use quite a variety of meats to do them. Below is a simple recipe. We used ground grass-fed beef, not because of omega-6 concerns (see this post), but because of the different taste.

- Prepare some dry seasoning powder by mixing sea salt, parsley, garlic power, chili powder, and a small amount of cayenne pepper.
- Thoroughly mix 1 pound of ground beef, one or two eggs, and the seasoning powder.
- Make about 10 meatballs, and place them in a frying pan with a small amount of water (see picture below).
- Cover the pan and cook on low fire for about 1 hour.

There is no need for any oil in the pan. On a low fire the small amount of water at the bottom will heat up, circulate, and essentially steam the meatballs. The water will also prevent the meatballs from sticking to the pan. Some moisture will also be released by the meat.

Part of the fat from the meat will be released and accumulate at the bottom of the pan. If you add tomato sauce and mix, the fat will become part of the resulting red sauce. This sauce will add moisture back to the dish, as the meatballs sometimes get a bit dry from the cooking.

Five meatballs of the type that we used (about 15 percent fat) will have about 57 g of protein and 32 g of fat; the latter mostly saturated and monounsaturated (both healthy). They will also be a good source of vitamins B12 and B6, niacin, zinc, selenium, and phosphorus.

Add a fruit or a sweet potato as a side dish to 3-5 meatballs and you have a delicious and nutritious meal that may eve impress some people!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Office for National Statistics Consultation on Well-Being...

On Thursday 7th April, I took part in a consultation event with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) at Bolton University called; Are the Best Things in Life Free? A Public Discussion and Debate. Alongside fellow panelists Dr John Howarth – (Expert on wellbeing), Gillian Halliwell – (Manager of £17m Big Lottery Wellbeing Projects), Reverend Canon Mike Williams – (Spirituality and Wellbeing) and Rachel Burke – (Bolton Lads and Girls Club), I took the position that creativity, culture and the arts have a significant part to play in the ‘well-being’ agenda. This event gave each of us the opportunity to make a ‘pitch’ for our area of interest and, we hope, influence the ONS.

The event was chaired by Carole Truman, Professor of Health and Community Studies at Bolton University, and an opening address on the ONS consultation process was given by Stephen Hicks, Assistant Deputy Director of the Measuring National Wellbeing programme, Office for National Statistics.

Whilst I’ll make brief reference to them, I can’t aim to cover all the speakers’ contributions here, but want to give a taste of what I crammed into my far-too-brief 5 minute overview; some of the questions raised and some thoughts that didn’t have time to be aired.
An exhausted Clive tries in vain to keep his fellow panellists riveted.
It was significant that Stephen opened the session by framing well-being as being more than the subjective ‘happiness’ that seems to be the flavor of the month, and he gave a definition of the ‘dynamic’ nature of wellbeing that would be typified in the new economics foundation definition;

‘Well-being is most usefully thought of as the dynamic process that gives people a sense of how their lives are going, through the interaction between their circumstances, activities and psychological resources or ‘mental capital.’1
He went on to outline the coalition governments commitment to better understand of well-being and how it can be ‘measured’, expressing a clear understanding that subjective measurements of well-being fall outside the traditional ‘market model’. John Howarth talked about the intensity of work and family commitments and its impact on work/life balance. Gillian talked eloquently about the importance of personal resources in dealing with the stresses of life and the importance of positive social relationships.

Mike talked about faith communities as being ‘gold-mines’ of resources for community well-being; a point I’d agree with, but in my opinion he over-egged the point that well-being and spirituality are inseparable and can only be achieved through a belief in God. For me his comments about the ‘myth of the happy poor’ could warrant a full debate in itself, particularly when one considers the doctrine of some organised religion that places an emphasis on suffering in this life to gain eternal salvation. Rachel gave a full and rounded picture of the very real impact of the work of youth work and sporting activity on the well-being on children and young people as an investment in tomorrow’s citizens.

For my part, I used a number of stories in an attempt to paint a picture of how the arts/cultural engagement can impact on individuals and communities, by opening up new opportunities and offering a means of transformation. Here I’ll make reference to the points I made, and some I didn’t have opportunity to expand on.

Because this was a public event, I spelt out some clear messages: that this agenda went beyond murals on hospital corridors and that I was not a therapist, but grew as an artist within a tradition of community and participatory arts.

I shared the story of a man marginalised by learning disabilities in a long-stay hospital I worked at in the 1980’s, and how the arts enabled him not only to express his individualism, but impose some order on his chaotic life. For me, this was a significant stage in my understanding of the transformative impact of the arts.

Making sense of this individual story in relationship to wider community impact, I shared research findings from the Invest to Save: Arts in Health Project2 which illustrated not only the reduction in symptoms of ill-health, depression and anxiety in the participants of robust arts/health projects; but the increased well-being, evidenced through environmental mastery, autonomy and social connectedness. In fact, much of what are commonly referred to as the 5 Ways to Well-being3.

I discussed the range of questionnaires used, but emphasised the importance of story in making wider sense of this work and talked briefly about the importance of the arts/health community getting better at telling a richer story, of how we create value. I wanted to stress the importance of both longitudinal studies in the field, as well as embracing some of the ideas posited by John Knell and Matthew Taylor around Contingent Value and Social Return on Investment4; a point I later laboured with Stephen, and one that should be taken seriously by the ONS and the coalition government. These are areas that I would be keen to explore with partners in the field.

I spent some time equating the reported rise in anti-depressant prescribing in England over the last four years by over 40%, with consumerism and the pathologising of our day-to-day anxieties and worries, in our bid to be ‘happy’, and as Pascal Bruckner observes, “unhappiness is not only unhappiness, it is worse yet, a failure to be happy.'5

Whilst the World Health Organisation tell us that over the next 20 years, depression will become the single biggest burden on society6, I see some of the social and economic issues affecting society, married with our blind faith in well-marketed pharmacology, as contributing to high levels of social disconnectedness and isolation.

Previous editor of the BMJ, Richard Smith comments, ‘More and more of life’s inevitable processes and difficulties—birth, sexuality, ageing, unhappiness, tiredness, and loneliness —are being medicalised, and we are growing the budget of health care to tackle them. But medicine cannot solve these problems, and…I believe…that the humanities can help us with a problem as pressing as that of attitudes to death (and) climate change. Scientists have long identified the problem, but we have failed to act effectively– largely, I believe, through our evolutionary flaws of selfishness and lack of imagination.7

I did find time to describe yet another story of people whose lives had been turned around through organizations like START in Salford8, that not only give people a sense of community and pride, but through challenging art experiences give opportunity make informed choices and flourish.

If time had allowed, I would share some of the remarkable work that I’m engaged in with Derbyshire Community Health Services, where we have evidenced astounding changes in the lives of people affected by dementia; where again, engaged in challenging art activity and not soporific reminiscence, we have evidence sentience in a number of people, who’s prognosis is in itself, the biggest discriminator. On the basis of this early work, we are embarking on an action research process to better understand this remarkable affect of the arts. And this work is not about finding a magic-bullet cure, but is focused on the quality of our existence in our later years.

Darren Browett
It is here we must strive to develop more than statistical analysis of our findings and marry the numerical data with real stories to affect cultural change in the way we perceive aging and dying, and how we care for growing numbers of people affected by dementia.

It seems that the backlash to current NHS reforms has encouraged the coalition government to enter a ‘listening exercise’, and I hope that the arts are seen as a valuable way of exploring issues around health, education and well-being. We know that the arts contribute hugely to the UK economy and according to a DCMS report in 2008 the creative industries employ 2 million people in Britain and contribute £60 billion to the economy each year, 7.3 percent of UK GDP.9

Sceptics of the arts/health agenda still call for a cold measurement of impact, holding up the Randomised Controlled Trial as the ‘gold standard’. Stephen and the panel seemed to agree that measuring well-being is far more subtle than this, and I illustrated how the figures can be manipulated, citing an article in the BMJ that showed drugs manufacturer Pfizer, chose to hold back back 74% of patient data from the clinical trials of the antidepressant Reboxetine, that showed that it is, ‘overall an ineffective and potentially harming antidepressant’.10 As Jonah Lehrer in Proust was a Neuroscientist quips, ‘…measurement is always imperfect, and explanations are easy to invent.’11

I’m not going to suggest that it’s wrong to attempt to measure well-being, or indeed the way that the arts may, or may not, contribute to this agenda. I’d go so far to say that statistics, and what we can garner from mass observations, are incredibly useful to society and knowledge. What I’d like to do though, is raise the level of this debate and the profile of our work. We observe that the arts connect people; encourage activity, learning and imagination, and through active engagement with high quality arts experiences, there is the potential to impact on public good and civic society.

The participatory arts offer us potential to flourish as humans and I urge us all to think less about illness, and disease and more about salutogenesis; the focusing on the factors that create health and well-being. I suggest to you that the arts offer us all, a way of making sense of the world, communicating our aspirations and facilitating change.

Please feed your comments into the Office for National Statistics, Measurement of National Well-Being @

5. Perpertual Euphoria: On The Duty To Be Happy, By Pascal Bruckner

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Healthy Hair Feature: NowIamnappy

1) Are you natural, relaxed, texlaxed, or transitioning? (And how long?)
I'm natural and on June 20, I will be 3 years natural.

2) What mistakes have you made in your hair care journey?
I've made a few mistakes. Early on I learned the importance of protective styles but one winter, I thought I would be cute and wear my fro for the whole winter. By spring my ends were rough and breaking and I had to trim my hair almost 2 inches . My other mistake I made was going to the hair salon to get my hair straightened. Right from the start there were warning signs that the experience wasn't going to be good but somehow I let her not only blow dry my hair and rip through my ends, but press it and then use a curling iron on it. Not to mention she cut my BSL hair to APL because she wanted to make it even, something I did not ask her for because I never wear my hair straight. In the end, the press was gorgeous but when it came time to wash my hair I had severe heat damage in some areas. I trimmed those right away and went directly into protective styling. I'm happy to say 6 months later I gained those 3 inches she cut of, and my hair is thriving again.

3) What is your current HEALTHY HAIR routine?
Currently I am in a hair challenge to grow my hair to BSL in 6 months, so my hair mainly stays in protective styles. I shampoo my hair bimonthly and cowash once per week followed by a weekly deep condition. After detangling in the shower I put my hair in big twists and air dry. Once dry I style my hair into an updo which lasts all week until its time to wash again. I do however sometimes allow myself to wear my hair down on the weekends, its not always fun to keep my hair locked away.

4) Do you have a HEALTHY BODY routine? If so, what is it?
I'm actually just getting back into being healthy again, I recently moved and allowed myself to slip a little. But, I'm going to back to exercising 3x a week drinking 8-10 glasses of water and day and incorporating more raw foods into my diet. My main problem is sugar so I'm trying to eliminate all candy from my diet once again.

5) Do you have any advice for those seeking healthy tresses?
I would definitely say patience is the key and really learning what your hair needs. For me I use all natural products and very few commercial lines. I prefer to mix my own products and stick with things like aloe vera, shea butter, and oils. Also its so important to do protective styles when your looking to grow out your hair. Some people dont like they way their hair looks in twists or braids, but there's so many styles out there that you can do to protect in your ends besides the usual and thats why I started a fotki and youtube to help people looking for simple protective styles/updos.

NowIamnappy can be found at:

News, Views and Opportunities...

Health Innovation Challenge Fund (UK)
The Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust are inviting proposals from organisations and research groups seeking to draw on funding from the Health Innovation Challenge Fund to further the development of innovative healthcare products, technologies and interventions, and to facilitate their development for the benefit of patients in the NHS and beyond. The theme for this funding round is Smart Surgery: Innovative technologies or interventions to reduce, replace or refine invasive surgical procedures. Up to £10 million is available to organisations such as NHS organisations (including NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts), and equivalent UK authorities; universities, and research institutes and not-for profit organisations; start-up companies founded to capture and develop intellectual property of relevance to healthcare; and biotechnology, pharmaceutical, bioinformatics, engineering or other companies; etc that will deliver ‘Smart Surgery’ solutions that will translate into safe and cost-effective practice into the NHS. The deadline for submitting preliminary applications is 5pm on the 28th April 2011. For more information visit: Fund/index.htm

Artist to work with Arts for Health group for Culture Shops
The Arts for Health service are looking to run two eight week creative courses. The courses run weekly for two hour sessions. The artists will need to have experience of working with adults suffering with mental health difficulties. The artist would work with the Arts for Health group to produce work which would then be exhibited as part of the Blackpool Culture shop programme, whereby work is displayed in an empty shop in Blackpool. The first course would be April- June 2011 and second course to be June-August 2011. Details at:
Arthur and Martha

An Interesting Project to Watch
Arthur and Martha engagement project with older people in St.Helens.
Over the course of this week the Arthur and Martha are working in diverse settings such as the local health centre, library and bingo group... These initial pilot taster sessions will shape how we move forward from this period and develop the activity. As well as delivering the project Arthur and Martha will be blogging about the work and I thought you would be interested in being kept up to date on how the project is progressing.
The link to the blog can be found here:

Knowledge Lives Everywhere
Arts and Health week 2 - 8 June 2011
Do you work with arts and health? Are you an individual or an organisation with something to contribute to the new FACT exhibition Knowledge Lives Everywhere? Throughout this exhibition there are themed weeks being held in Gallery 2, programmed by FACT collaborators and guests. We would like to hear from you if you work within arts and health and have a film you would like to screen (or suggest a topical film), give a talk, do a performance or wish to have a change of scene and hold a meeting in the space! Do you have any burning issues surrounding arts and health you wish to communicate to the world via a webcast? We will try and accommodate your content and ideas. Please use this opportunity to put the spotlight on arts and health during an exciting exhibition which celebrates all things creative and collaborative! We look forward to hearing from you. If you are interested in taking part please contact Angy or Kat on 0151 707 4416 or  

Reading for Wellbeing: The Reader Organisation’s Second National Conference
Tuesday 17th May 2011
Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, Wirral
“Get Into Reading helps patients suffering from depression in terms of: their social well-being, by increasing personal confidence and reducing social isolation; their mental well-being, by improving powers of concentration and fostering an interest in new learning or new ways of understanding; their emotional and psychological well-being, by increasing self-awareness and enhancing the ability to articulate profound issues of self and being.”
‘Therapeutic Benefits of Reading in Relation to Depression’, Billington et al., 2011
Further details at

Music & wellbeing: Making Music Conference
10 – 11 September 2011, Glasgow
The impact and application of music to improve mental, physical and social wellbeing has many advocates and well-established initiatives demonstrating positive impact. Making Music will be looking at programmes taking place across the UK and the opportunities these create for voluntary music.

Arts in Health – a new prognosis
In this article, our friend and colleague Mike White looks at how the arts community can adapt and respond to changes in healthcare provision and organisation. In recent years the arts in health field has acquired the expertise to address a wide spectrum of medical, health and social care issues. It has the resilience and resourcefulness to weather the impending health service reforms in an era of austerity. But it will need to adapt conceptually and in delivery to healthcare environments in which patient choice, GP commissioning power and a new public health workforce are the drivers of change.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Commentary: Actuarial Efforts in Cost Control

Rob Lieberthal, PhD
Faculty, Jefferson School of Population Health

Readers of this blog are familiar with my efforts to get members of the Society of Actuaries more engaged in population health. I have also been getting more involved with the Casualty Actuarial Society, which focuses on property and casualty insurance. The casualty actuaries participate in several lines of business that involve healthcare: workers’ compensation insurance, medical malpractice, and auto insurance.

I am used to thinking of medical costs as being in our control as long as we are willing to make hard choices. Researchers have identified countless examples of high and low value medical care. I also know that there is a strong emotional component to medical care. Large employers just don’t want to say no to low value (cost-ineffective) care that their employees want and that other employers are willing to pay for. In my mind, cost control can occur as long as we can change peoples’ attitudes about medical care—a tall order to be sure!

The casualty actuaries I have worked with create models with the assumption that medical spending growth is out of their control—they take the level and growth of spending for any condition as a given. Medical spending growth is a result of outside factors. For example, as standards of care change, a workers’ compensation insurer may have to provide benefits that meet the current standard of medical care, even if it is much more expensive than care that was available at the time the policy was written, an effect called “social inflation.” Casualty actuaries often work on lines of insurance where insurers will be paying claims in 2014 for a contract written in 2011. The long tail of claims means that casualty actuaries have always worried about uncertainty regarding future spending even if they couldn’t affect it.

Casualty actuaries are now realizing that they have a part to play in bending the cost curve. The Casualty Actuarial Society is engaging in research to figure out how to deal with the cost curve problem through a new Health Economics Working Party. The current goal is to educate their members, but the long-term goal is to “…address behavioral issues of casualty carriers in response to U.S. health care reform.”

The working group is still in its early stages, and I am excited about this new actuarial endeavor. Widespread experimentation in different approaches is the best way to find the solution to our vexing cost curve problem. Local efforts, such as the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and the Special Care Center of Atlantic City, NJ, are examples of different people trying to lead by trying something new. Casualty actuaries have a unique expertise and they manage insured populations that may not have had access to innovative models of care in the past. The decision by casualty actuaries to become more actively involved in health reform is a change for the better.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Simple Homemade Hair Gel Recipes

- water
- flax seeds
Recipe and Instructions

- flax seeds
- water
- almond oil or jojoba oil
- lavender essential oil
Recipe and Instructions

- aloe vera plant
Extraction Instructions
Video tutorial

- aloe vera gel (purchased or extracted)
- jojoba oil
Recipe and Instructions

- organic gelatin (unflavored)
- warm water
Recipe and Instructions

Do you have a special recipe?  Please share in the comment section.

"Soul" Food Mondays || Addressing Low Self Esteem

Addressing low self esteem. Part I.

"You'll naturally have better self esteem as a by-product of living well."  A major part of "living well" involves fulfilling eight core human needs, according to the articles below:

The need to look after your body (e.g., eat well, care for you hair and nails)
The need for meaning, purpose and goals (e.g., set a goal to pay down debt)
The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves (e.g., God, nature)
The need for creativity and stimulation (e.g., paint, exercise, learn to knit)
The need for intimacy and connection to others (e.g., friends, your pet)
The need for a sense of control (e.g., spring cleaning)
The need for a sense of status and recognition from others (e.g., recognition that you are a daughter, mother, sister, and/or friend)
The need for a sense of safety and security

For more insight on addressing low self esteem, I encourage you to read this article.  (Sorry about the format.)

For more on the core human needs, read this article.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The China Study II: Carbohydrates, fat, calories, insulin, and obesity

The “great blogosphere debate” rages on regarding the effects of carbohydrates and insulin on health. A lot of action has been happening recently on Peter’s blog, with knowledgeable folks chiming in, such as Peter himself, Dr. Harris, Dr. B.G. (my sista from anotha mista), John, Nigel, CarbSane, Gunther G., Ed, and many others.

I like to see open debate among people who hold different views consistently, are willing to back them up with at least some evidence, and keep on challenging each other’s views. It is very unlikely that any one person holds the whole truth regarding health matters. Unfortunately this type of debate also confuses a lot of people, particularly those blog lurkers who want to get all of their health information from one single source.

Part of that “great blogosphere debate” debate hinges on the effect of low or high carbohydrate dieting on total calorie consumption. Well, let us see what the China Study II data can tell us about that, and about a few other things.

WarpPLS was used to do the analyses below. For other China Study analyses, many using WarpPLS as well as HealthCorrelator for Excel, click here. For the dataset used here, visit the HealthCorrelator for Excel site and check under the sample datasets area.

The two graphs below show the relationships between various foods, carbohydrates as a percentage of total calories, and total calorie consumption. A basic linear analysis was employed here. As carbohydrates as a percentage of total calories go up, the diet generally becomes a high carbohydrate diet. As it goes down, we see a move to the low carbohydrate end of the scale.

The left parts of the two graphs above are very similar. They tell us that wheat flour consumption is very strongly and negatively associated with rice consumption; i.e., wheat flour displaces rice. They tell us that fruit consumption is positively associated with rice consumption. They also tell us that high wheat flour consumption is strongly and positively associated with being on a high carbohydrate diet.

Neither rice nor fruit consumption has a statistically significant influence on whether the diet is high or low in carbohydrates, with rice having some effect and fruit practically none. But wheat flour consumption does. Increases in wheat flour consumption lead to a clear move toward the high carbohydrate diet end of the scale.

People may find the above results odd, but they should realize that white glutinous rice is only 20 percent carbohydrate, whereas wheat flour products are usually 50 percent carbohydrate or more. Someone consuming 400 g of white rice per day, and no other carbohydrates, will be consuming only 80 g of carbohydrates per day. Someone consuming 400 g of wheat flour products will be consuming 200 g of carbohydrates per day or more.

Fruits generally have much less carbohydrate than white rice, even very sweet fruits. For example, an apple is about 12 percent carbohydrate.

There is a measure that reflects the above differences somewhat. That measure is the glycemic load of a food; not to be confused with the glycemic index.

The right parts of the graphs above tell us something else. They tell us that the percentage of carbohydrates in one’s diet is strongly associated with total calorie consumption, and that this is not the case with percentage of fat in one’s diet.

Given the above, one may be interested in looking at the contribution of individual foods to total calorie consumption. The graph below focuses on that. The results take nonlinearity into consideration; they were generated using the Warp3 algorithm option of WarpPLS.

As you can see, wheat flour consumption is more strongly associated with total calories than rice; both associations being positive. Animal food consumption is negatively associated, somewhat weakly but statistically significantly, with total calories. Let me repeat for emphasis: negatively associated. This means that, as animal food consumption goes up, total calories consumed go down.

These results may seem paradoxical, but keep in mind that animal foods displace wheat flour in this dataset. Note that I am not saying that wheat flour consumption is a confounder; it is controlled for in the model above.

What does this all mean?

Increases in both wheat flour and rice consumption lead to increases in total caloric intake in this dataset. Wheat has a stronger effect. One plausible mechanism for this is abnormally high blood glucose elevations promoting abnormally high insulin responses. Refined carbohydrate-rich foods are particularly good at raising blood glucose fast and keeping it elevated, because they usually contain a lot of easily digestible carbohydrates. The amounts here are significantly higher than anything our body is “designed” to handle.

In normoglycemic folks, that could lead to a “lite” version of reactive hypoglycemia, leading to hunger again after a few hours following food consumption. Insulin drives calories, as fat, into adipocytes. It also keeps those calories there. If insulin is abnormally elevated for longer than it should be, one becomes hungry while storing fat; the fat that should have been released to meet the energy needs of the body. Over time, more calories are consumed; and they add up.

The above interpretation is consistent with the result that the percentage of fat in one’s diet has a statistically non-significant effect on total calorie consumption. That association, although non-significant, is negative. Again, this looks paradoxical, but in this sample animal fat displaces wheat flour.

Moreover, fat leads to no insulin response. If it comes from animals foods, fat is satiating not only because so much in our body is made of fat and/or requires fat to run properly; but also because animal fat contains micronutrients, and helps with the absorption of those micronutrients.

Fats from oils, even the healthy ones like coconut oil, just do not have the latter properties to the same extent as unprocessed fats from animal foods. Think slow-cooking meat with some water, making it release its fat, and then consuming all that fat as a sauce together with the meat.

In the absence of industrialized foods, typically we feel hungry for those foods that contain nutrients that our body needs at a particular point in time. This is a subconscious mechanism, which I believe relies in part on past experience; the reason why we have “acquired tastes”.

Incidentally, fructose leads to no insulin response either. Fructose is naturally found mostly in fruits, in relatively small amounts when compared with industrial foods rich in refined sugars.

And no, the pancreas does not get “tired” from secreting insulin.

The more refined a carbohydrate-rich food is, the more carbohydrates it tends to pack per unit of weight. Carbohydrates also contribute calories; about 4 calories per g. Thus more carbohydrates should translate into more calories.

If someone consumes 50 g of carbohydrates per day in excess of caloric needs, that will translate into about 22.2 g of body fat being stored. Over a month, that will be approximately 666.7 g. Over a year, that will be 8 kg, or 17.6 lbs. Over 5 years, that will be 40 kg, or 88 lbs. This is only from carbohydrates; it does not consider other macronutrients.

There is no need to resort to the “tired pancreas” theory of late-onset insulin resistance to explain obesity in this context. Insulin resistance is, more often than not, a direct result of obesity. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common type of diabetes; and most type 2 diabetics become obese or overweight before they become diabetic. There is clearly a genetic effect here as well, which seems to moderate the relationship between body fat gain and liver as well as pancreas dysfunction.

It is not that hard to become obese consuming refined carbohydrate-rich foods. It seems to be much harder to become obese consuming animal foods, or fruits.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Hair Marketplace - Remy Hair Collective!

Check out Remy Hair Collective where users can buy and sell hair and hair products among themselves. There is no cost to participate.

Friday, April 1, 2011

3in6: Ending Month #2

See "3in6 Challenge" details here.

Wow, ladies!  That was fast.  We have concluded the second month of the challenge.  

I just put in my third set of twists for the challenge - medium twists to be exact.  It felt so good taking the old, over-frizzed set down and "pampering" myself with this new set.  The plan is to wear these twists for 3-4 weeks.  

As for the rest of the challenge guidelines: I restocked on One-A-Day multivitamins, carrots, and spinach.  I also bought broccoli.  To be honest, I'm not really a fruit person, but I'll try to buy some bananas later today.

How was month #2 for you ladies?  What kinds of fruits and vegetables have you been eating?

Omega-3 & Depression

It has been a while since I've written a soul-related post.  The following may be of interest to anyone with depression.  Of course, please consult with your doctor before stopping any medications or making any other changes to your routine.

"Emerging research suggests [omega-3 supplements] may be effective for people with mild depression or as an adjuvant to medication [1]."

1.  HEALTH SOURCE (2008)