Daily Archives: May 20, 2010

New research touts the benefits of marriage on health

Tara Parker-Pope, of the New York Times, recently did an excellent analysis on the topic of the effects of marriage on health. Parker-Pope reports, “Contemporary studies … have shown that married people are less likely to get pneumonia, have surgery, develop cancer, or have heart attacks.”

I wrote quite a bit about this phenomena in my book 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy.  Now, a group of Swedish researchers has found that being married at midlife is also associated with a lower risk for dementia.

Indeed, Parker-Pope writes, “for many years, studies like these have influenced both politics and policy, fueling national marriage-promotion efforts, like the Healthy Marriage Initiative of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

From 2006 to 2010, the program received $150 million annually to spend on projects like ‘divorce reduction’ efforts and often cited the health benefits of marrying and staying married.”

Yet, “while it’s clear that marriage is profoundly connected to health and well-being, new research is increasingly presenting a more nuanced view of the so-called marriage advantage.”

She concludes her comprehensive column sayhing, “… (the) research shows that some level of relationship stress is inevitable in even the happiest marriages. The important thing … is to use those moments of stress as an opportunity to repair the relationship rather than to damage it.”

In other words, “It can be so uncomfortable, even in the best marriages, to have an ongoing disagreement …  but when your marital relationship is the key relationship in your life, a disagreement is really a signal to try to fix something.”

If you’re interested in improving your health, consider reading 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. You can get a signed copy here.

Also, if you’re interested in improving the health of your marriage, consider reading, with your spouse, my and Barb’s book, His Brain, Her Brain: How divinely designed differences can strengthen your marriage. You can get a copy, autographed by us both, here.

Raw milk advocates and health officials step up dispute

In the past, I’ve blogged about the potential dangers (including a few fatalities) from consuming or giving your children raw (unpasteurized) milk. Recently USA Today carried a reasonable review of the topic:

Maybe you can’t cry over spilled milk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have big fights if it’s unpasteurized.

To a small but dedicated community, it’s “raw milk,” a life-giving, vitamin and enzyme-rich miracle cure for asthma, gastrointestinal disorders and multiple other illnesses.

The viewpoint, championed in the past decade by the Weston A. Price Foundation, which follows the nutritional teachings of a mid-century Ohio dentist, has gained a life of its own on the Internet.

To public health officials and state departments of agriculture, unpasteurized milk can be a dangerous, germ-ridden drink that is especially hazardous to children and their immature immune systems.

An outbreak of campylobacter tied to unpasteurized milk in Middlebury, Ind. sickened at least 20 people in March in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana, according to the state departments of health.

New website launching

The latest round in this dispute at the intersection of food, alternative health and anti-government activism took place this week, first with a national conference of pro-raw-milk advocates in Wisconsin on Saturday followed by today’s launch of a well-financed website warning of raw milk’s risks.

The Madison, Wis., symposium featured more than a dozen speakers, including Fresno, Calif., dairyman Mark McAfee, delivering the keynote titled “Raw milk as medicine Proudly violating FDA drug laws.”

Emily Matthews, a supporter of raw milk and a registered nurse, keeps a cow so her family can produce its own raw milk in Schleswig, Wis.

Selling unpasteurized milk except at the farm is illegal in the state. She doesn’t believe unpasteurized milk is dangerous, especially if it comes from cows fed on grass rather than corn.

“I have seen more kids directly harmed by vaccines,” she says. “I’ve never seen anybody whose kids were harmed by raw milk.”

Most states disagree.

Retail sale of unpasteurized milk is legal in only 10 states and banned in another 10. In the rest it is legal only at the farm, via “cow-share” (when people buy shares in a cow so they’re drinking their own milk), according to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

The Food and Drug Administration simply wants to protect the public from disease, says John Sheehan, director of FDA’s division of plant and dairy food safety.

Unpasteurized milk is unsafe, a view held not only by the FDA but also by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Virtually every scientific association there is is saying exactly what we do, which is that raw milk can contain pathogens and it shouldn’t be consumed,” he says.

Milk can be contaminated with pathogens such as salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli O157:H7 carried in manure via unclean udders or milking equipment, Sheehan says.

Pasteurization, which was invented in the 19th century and has been common in the USA since the 1920s, is the process of heating milk to at least 161 degrees F for at least 15 seconds to kill pathogens.

It’s that heating raw milk advocates object to, as they feel it destroys health-giving vitamins, enzymes and organisms.

The Real Raw Milk Facts site, launched today, was created by more than a dozen scientists and health educators. It’s meant to carefully lay out the research on raw milk, without being as dogmatic as government sites that just tell people not to drink it.

But the site is not to be confused with similar ones, some several years old, such as www.raw-milk-facts.com, www.realmilk.com, www.rawmilktruth.com and www.rawmilk.org, all hosted by advocates of raw milk.

‘Granola tea-partiers’

The site gets funding from a surprising source: Seattle-based food-safety lawyer Bill Marler, who made his fortune suing food producers.

He has underwritten the $20,000 cost, even though it might cost him business if fewer people get sick. “Raw milk is where the right and left come back together. It’s an intersection for the ‘back to nature’ and the ‘don’t tread on me,’ people — they’re the granola tea-partiers,” he says.

What might be most convincing to those trying to decide about raw milk are the videos on the new site of three children and two adults hospitalized by illnesses linked to drinking unpasteurized milk.

One of them is Kalee Prue, 29, who got E. coli O157:H7 from the first bottle of unpasteurized milk she ever drank, in 2008. Her son, who was still nursing, had skin problems, and she had read online that raw milk might help.

Prue, of East Hampton, Conn., was in the hospital for 33 days and now has kidney damage and can’t have more children.

Prue still believes people should take their health into their own hands but says “there are many ways of getting similar benefits” without drinking raw milk.

“I would tell them to research it more … and make sure they understand the risks, because they’re real, not just statistics.”

Unexpected Consequences of Twitter, Facebook, and the Self-Esteem Movement?

Here’s an interesting story that I’ve excerpted from an article, “Twitter and YouTube: Unexpected Consequences of the Self-Esteem Movement?” published in the Psychiatric Times.

To Americans over 30, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are buzzwords that lack much meaning. But to those born between 1982 and 2001—often referred to as “millennials” or “Generation Y”—they are a part of everyday life.

For the uninitiated, these Web sites are used for social networking and communication. They are also places where individuals can post pictures and news about themselves and express their opinions on everything from music to movies to politics.

Some sites, such as YouTube, allow individuals to post videos of themselves, often creating enough “buzz” to drive hundreds and even thousands of viewers; in some instances, these videos create instant media stars—such as the Obama imitator.

Although baby boomers and members of “Generation X” are signing up for these sites, it is the youth market that drives their appeal. While on the surface, they are touted as venues for networking and communication, they may, ultimately, be eroding real relationships and social contacts much as e-mail, instant messaging and “texting” have replaced cards, letters, and phone calls.

This technology may be interfering with the normal development of a generation, prolonging the “normal” narcissism of adolescence and preventing the establishment of mature relationships.

Rather than learning critical lessons about emotional sensitivity to others and reciprocity in relationships, our youth are creating alternate, solipsistic realities where they are the focus of attention. Those who do not agree are simply excluded from their inner circle.

Thus, these technological advances may be fostering a sense of isolation, alienation, and (at worst) promoting a tendency toward narcissism that may ultimately lead to an increase in violence and aggression.

What makes such sites appealing to “millennials”?

Web pages posted on social networking sites tend to be filled with photographs and writings expressing the opinions of the individual. In some cases, they are examples of exhibitionism at its most extreme.

Yet, the number of videos uploaded to YouTube and “tweets” sent on Twitter increase exponentially by the day.

The prevailing assumption is that everyone has something to say that is worthy of the attention of the masses.

This is a generation screaming for attention and recognition, seeking their promised “15 minutes of fame.” And millennials often go to great lengths to get it, posting suggestive and downright salacious photos of themselves or uploading outrageous videos.

The reward for bad behavior is, it seems, instant fame as measured by “hits,” “views,” and “followers.”

If this trend continues, fueled even more by technology, the implications are disturbing.

Narcissism, at its most malignant, fosters lack of empathy, poor impulse control, and frank aggression when insult or threat is perceived, particularly in the context of social rejection.

It is the most extreme narcissistic individuals who tend to be the most dangerous.

While it can be argued that any perceived increases are small, at best, they cannot be minimized. Small changes on a bell curve are most apparent, not at the average, but at the extremes. Therefore, even small increases over time will foster the development of greater numbers at the far end of the curve.

The rise of social networking sites is indeed a disturbing trend that may be continuing to fuel the narcissism of a generation becoming more desperate than ever to maintain their fragile self-esteem. By investing more and more time and energy in a virtual world where they can maintain their sense of importance and specialness, they risk even more disappointment when confronted with the harsh realities of life.

Relationships become shallower and more fleeting; self-interest exceeds the common good. The costs of narcissism, then, are paid by the society at large.

And since millennials equate their very existence with their self-image, they may react aggressively to protect it.

Anything that threatens their ability to maintain their false sense of self is considered a threat to life itself.

As such, the dangerousness of the millennial generation may yet be actualized.

My friend, Christian Psychiatrist, Todd M Clements, MD, commented about the article on the Christian Medical Association website:

The amount of time that Americans are spending on social networking Websites is overwhelming and steadily growing. More than one-third of all Internet use today is devoted to social networking on sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and My Space.

While touted as networks for relationship building they may ultimately be eroding real relationships. This technology can prolong the “normal” narcissism of adolescence, preventing the establishment of mature relationships.

These homepages are filled with empty-talk, self-absorption and even frank exhibitionism.

People rate their popularity, or stature in life, by the sheer number of followers they attract on their website. Recent studies of college students found that those who spent the most time on these networking sites scored much higher on narcissistic scales.

They also rated themselves as isolated and very lonely.

While networking Websites, like Facebook, can allow us to re-connect with old classmates, or keep up with the daily life of friends who live far off, they can also squander valuable time.

Several pastors broached this subject recently, in a meeting I attended, as they relayed their experience in counseling congregation members who have marriages on the brink due to “excessive facebooking.” In most cases it was the wife who was consumed by this from early evening until wee hours of the morning.

Our psychiatry office now receives daily calls for help from exasperated spouses or parents.

Studies at Oxford University have shown that Twitter is the perfect model of intermittent variable reward, which is the strongest addictive pattern.

Unfortunately computer screen interactions don’t build empathy, mutual gratification, or a realistic sense of self. They can bring self-gratification and pleasure, particularly at first, but in the end leave you more lonely, and isolated.

The Apostle Paul reminds in 1 Corinthians 16:3 to be on our guard—and do everything out of love.”