By Dr. Norman K. Brown
UTU medical consultant
Hold the ketchup. Did you know that ketchup contains fructose, a processed sugar? I’ll get back to this shortly.
Many of our common diseases are aggravated by — or even caused by — the way we live, especially how we eat, how much we exercise, and if we use tobacco.
Michelle Obama repeated what her daughters’ pediatrician said: “Your girls are carrying more body fat than is truly good for them.” She is now urging an improved diet for all Americans, and good for her.
A recent medical study determined that people who eat better quality diets (less meat, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread), have a lower body mass index (a measure of the waist compared to height), exercise regularly and do not smoke have a significantly lower incidence of heart disease, strokes and cancer, and live a longer life.
Medical studies document that table sugar and high-fructose sweeteners, such as are found in many processed foods, including ketchup and soft drinks, appear to play a role in triggering weight gain and the onset of diabetes as they create a continuing craving for more calories. My theory is that this is because the molecules in table sugar, and its chemical cousin, fructose, race right from your intestine to your blood stream.
Of course, we all receive a pleasant jolt of energy and optimism after eating sugar. If we burn it up in a workout quickly, then fine — our bodies won’t have so much work processing it, or turning the leftovers into fat. But the truth is most of us don’t burn up table sugar and high fructose sweeteners quickly in a workout.
Medical studies also document that if we reduce daily salt intake by one-half a teaspoon, we can reduce the incidence of strokes and heart attacks as much as restricting the intake of cholesterol (from meats) and tobacco products.
A lot of our salt, which can raise blood pressure, comes not only from the salt shaker, but also from processed foods, soft drinks including diet drinks, and restaurant meals. High blood pressure contributes to many body problems over time, as we all know.
We are surrounded by so much good tasting food, along with advertising to remind us, that we have to work very hard every day to improve the quality of our diet. It’s drudgery to improve our diets, but the result on improved health and a longer life span is good reason to eat what we need to stay healthy rather than what is fun to eat.
Yes, I hear you saying, “Okay, okay, if I do everything you are telling me, I will live to be 100, but I will be miserable.” Excellent. Now I have your attention.
Let’s make a deal: meet me half way. You become one-half perfect on this program of improving the quality of your diet, but also include some foods that are fun to eat. Strive for a life span of 85 years rather than 100. In doing so, I promise you will feel better in your mind and body on the way there. It’s not easy. I struggle every day to meet my own goals halfway.
Improving our life styles is hard work, but we can do it, and be happier for it over the long haul. I want UTU members to be in the front of this newly forming American parade, not bringing up the rear.
Please think about it. The life you save will be your own. And your loved ones will be grateful for your effort.

By Dr. Norman Brown
UTU Medical Consultant

I occasionally try to get a patient to “lighten up” about some aspect of his or her health by explaining, with a smile, that I spend half of my time encouraging patients to do something, and the other half of my time encouraging them not to do something else.

This split-personality approach especially applies to items we put into our mouths day in and day out. Take your vitamins. Don’t use Chinese toothpaste (which was found to contain traces of diethylene glycol, which more properly goes into your car’s radiator.)

What is a vitamin, anyway? We humans manufacture our energy and internal- construction needs from our diets — namely, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. However, in addition, we also need some 11 particular chemical molecules, which we are unable to make ourselves. These molecules are called vitamins, and if any of us go long enough without just one of these, a specific disease will develop.

Problems with our skin, bone, vision and blood production are just a few examples of vitamin-deficiency diseases. But these deficiency diseases are downright rare in the U.S., with so much good food available, often with vitamins added.

A broad diet, including fruits and vegetables, will include these vitamins most of the time. But, just to be sure, a daily multiple vitamin will more than cover our daily needs.

So, if a daily vitamin were good for us, wouldn’t two be better than one — or, maybe three? Current thinking is, “no.” Extra vitamins probably do not change our internal chemistry for the better — and, a few vitamins, those soluble in fat such as A, D, E and K, when taken in excess, can build up and hurt us.

Admittedly, there are a few uncommon conditions leading to poor absorption of a normal amount of a vitamin — B-12 would be an example — but, do I dare say it: ask your doctor if you are such a person.

Nutritional supplements have grown in popularity in America in recent years. There is a lot of advertising out there recommending supplements for improved strength, losing weight, better sex life and on and on.

How does one choose to take such products, or stay away from them?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with the responsibility of watching for harmful substances in these products, but it cannot cover the huge number of them, so please: if you do take one, study the labels and consider primarily reputable companies.

Imported products, especially herbs, may contain unknown ingredients, so be extra careful. Not long ago, I saw a woman complaining of abdominal pain. Her liver tests were abnormal. When she stopped taking an imported Chinese herb preparation, the symptoms and the liver tests resolved.

What do I do myself? Aw, come on. I don’t have to tell you, do I, really? Okay, okay: I take one daily multi-vitamin when my wife puts it on my place mat. She buys them with her own money.