Diet is as important as exercise
A recent Appeal had an article on new research showing that two-thirds of America's 15 year olds don't get the minimum amount of exercise recommended by the government. A scientist on the study said the results "send a message to parents that it's important to teach their kids to balance computer time with more active pursuits, like walking the dog or shooting some hoops." That is certainly good advice, but it's important to understand that exercise also has to do with how our body manages its energy supply.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF, has spent his career studying how hormones and behavior interact to control energy balance. He challenges the widely held belief that obesity is simply a behavior, that you eat too much, exercise too little and if you get fat it's all your fault. Research that Lustig has done suggests that the kind of teen lethargy described in the new study is actually being caused by biochemical changes related to dietary composition.
Compared to previous generations, the food consumed by today's young people is saturated with sugar and devoid of fiber. As a result, many children now have high levels of insulin in their blood, the hormone that enables the body to store energy.
Dr. Lustig believes that the high insulin masks another hormone called leptin that controls energy balance, and the brain interprets that as a warning sign of imminent starvation. In response, hormones are secreted that boost the appetite for food and, ironically, deplete the appetite for voluntary exercise.
It's fine for parents to encourage their teens to spend less time on MySpace and more time on the basketball court, but that is not enough. It's equally important to teach them to eat a diet higher in fiber and lower in sugar. Since tastes in food and drink differ, there is no one right way to do that, but reading the Nutrition Facts on restaurant Web sites and food packages will help in making healthier choices.
For food, it's best to focus on the calories and fiber. When comparing two products, divide the calories by the grams of fiber to determine which product is more fiber-rich. For drinks, look at the sugar content and stay clear of sugared sodas, sweetened sports drinks and, yes, fruit juices, which concentrate the sugar and eliminate the fiber. Fruit is OK, because the small amount of sugar is more than compensated for by the abundance of fiber.
Can your system handle all the extra fiber? Yes. Our ancestors ate a minimum of 100 grams of fiber per day. Today the average American is lucky to get 10. Restore the fiber and your digestive enzymes will adjust. You will feel better, eat less and have more energy to exercise and get through the day without fatigue. It will also reduce your risk of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer. What better advice could parents give a lethargic teen (or themselves) than that?
BARBARA HOWE, M.S., R.D.
Good health care is available locally
I too must respond to Karen Woodmansee's letter regarding the state of medical care. Both my husband and I are lucky to have relatively good health. We see Dr. Steven Brown in Minden once or twice a year and get excellent care. This letter however is to sing the praises of Dr. Robert Fliegler in Carson City. He is the first concierge doctor in the area and he treated my Mother, Clare White, over the last year until her passing in April. He will see you at his office or make home visits 24 hours a day, seven days a week. My mother was rotating between Evergreen Rehabilitation Center, Sierra Place or the Carson-Tahoe hospital during that year and Dr. Fliegler was always there for her and for me. He answered any questions I might have, checked on her regularly without me asking, researched prescriptions for generics to decrease her cost and was very kind and caring to her.
SHERI L. BASHAW
Who's telling the truth on election?
Commentators and editors, left- and right-wing, seem to agree: lowering oil prices, lessening of inflation, and military success overseas all would help the Republican chances in November. At the same time, Democrats tell us that they are trying to lower oil prices, lessen inflation, and support military success overseas. That just doesn't make sense!