All posts by Nicole Kell

Are Fat-Free and Sugar-Free Sweets Healthy?

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Nicole Kell

Especially when the holiday season is in full swing, many people tend to grab sugar-free and fat-free candies off of the shelves in hopes of being healthy and limiting weight gain. However, sugar-free and fat-free sweets may not be particularly good for you.

Sugar-free candies use artificial sweeteners that have fewer calories than regular sugar, but they still have substantial calories. For instance, a regular Oreo contains 54 calories, while a sugar-free Oreo contains 50 calories. Also, high levels of citric acid are present in most sugar-free candies, which is the main cause of cavities and tooth decay.  On a more serious note, refined carbs cause an increased chance of diabetes and heart disease. Refined carbs are simple carbohydrates that have been processed and thus lack all bran, fiber, and nutrients. This includes white breads and pastas, sweet desserts, and most processed cereals. Sugar-free candy can still raise blood sugar because of the sugar alcohol chemically altered and derived from sugars in plant products. Sugar alcohols contain fewer calories than white sugar, this these calories are not as easily absorbed and digested. So if you insist on eating sugar-free products, you should do so as thoughtfully as you would any other sugar-laden treat.

And sugar-free does not mean fat-free. Candies that contain artificial sweeteners usually have high levels of saturated fat, which causes an increase of cholesterol in the arteries. This increases the risks of heart disease and strokes. 

It is helpful to read nutrition labels when choosing food to eat. It is important to focus on being mindful and controlling portion size when eating meals and snacks. Another healthy choice is to focus on  snacks that contain fiber and protein and mix it with something sweet. For example, many enjoy chocolate covered strawberries or apples and peanut butter. There are options to explore that will satisfy your sweet cravings, while also being mindful of health and balance.


Do Emergency Room Visits Increase During a Full Moon?

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Nicole Kell

Many clinicians believe there may be more emergency room visits during a full moon. Some refer to this phenomena as “full moon madness”.  World Journal of Surgery published the results of a survey in 2011 that found “more than 40% of medical staff believe that lunar phases can affect human behavior, even though most studies find no direct correlation between the full moon and hospital admission rates.”

These types of false associations are a common consequence of the human mind’s skill at rationalization and pattern formation. It is why humans invented science: we need objective measurement to be sure we are not fooling ourselves or being fooled by others. This association has been addressed in several published studies, with the majority, and in particular those with better data, showing no association.

Do Sit-Ups and Crunches Give You a Six-Pack?

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Nicole Kell

Many people’s dream body involves having visibly defined abdominal muscles, commonly referred to as a “six pack”. There are many misconceptions about how to achieve this goal. Doing hundreds of sit-ups daily is not enough. It is said that, “abs are made in the kitchen.” With a healthy layer of body fat it may not be possible to see abs even when they are toned. You need very low body fat to be able to see definition of the abdominal muscles.  

Science says that you should eat less calories than you burn to lose fat. In order to do so, some recommend specific changes such as cutting back on sugar, simple carbs (breads, pastries, soft drinks), fried food, and alcohol while increasing consumption of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (nuts, avocado, eggs, salamon), and lean proteins.  No particular diet is demonstrated to be more effect than simply eating fewer calories than you burn. 

It is estimated that men must get body fat down to 6-9% for men and 16-19% for women of total body weight to be able to see abdominal muscle definition.  That’s a difficult level to reach, and dropping much lower than that can be unhealthy.  

In addition to very low body fat, theories state that it helps to strengthen the core muscles such as the transverse abdominal, the internal obliques, and the erector spinae. These muscles lie deep within your core and–so the theory goes–must be strong in order to see that six-pack. The best exercises for your core are compound exercises that engage every muscle in your core such as planks, deadlifts, overhead presses, and squats. Sit-ups and crunches only target a few muscle groups. Whether or not you can see definition in your abs, core muscles limit back pain and improve  balance and flexibility.