Friday, May 18, 2007
Fit Buddies update
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The CNN Fit Buddies have made it through Week 5 of our weight-loss and fitness challenge. Here's an update on their efforts to eat better and exercise more. Read about their successes and frustrations every Friday here on the Paging Dr. Gupta blog.

The Fit Buddies have lunch with their trainer: Robert Dothard
Ed Lavandera, CNN Correspondent:

If you're like me walking into a gym triggers a daunting, overwhelming feeling of confusion. Which machine do I use? Which weight exercise is the best? Am I using the right technique? Most personal trainers I talked to in the past didn't help untangle the confusion.

But I have developed a weight routine with our trainer, Robert Dothard, that is delivering inspiring results for me.

How you work out matters. Robert has taught me several interesting strategies to making my weight workout effective:

-- Work the biggest muscle groups and work down to smaller muscles. That means hit your back then chest, then shoulders, then triceps ad biceps and abdominal muscles.

-- Do your cardio routine AFTER you work with weights.

This routine is incredibly effective for those of you like me who have hectic, crazy lives and limited time to work out. I can do that weight routine and hit all those upper body muscle groups in 30 minutes.

I could not have imagined such a focused and effective routine when I walked into the gym with Robert a month ago.

The hard work is paying off I've lost 25 pounds so far.

Stacia Deshishku, CNN Domestic director of coverage:

What a week. I've been sick as a dog, but not able to really take a day off. I finally relented yesterday and visited the doctor. Ear infection! Oh was that what was causing that ringing?

My hellacious cold has sunk my energy to a subterranean level. Subsequently I made only one workout this week. I have felt so guilty and so I have been fighting that nagging negativism that lurks in the back of my mind sometimes. "What if I don't ever go back to the gym?"

The truth be told, Monday is going to be hard. I'm dreading it as much as I am looking forward to it because this is one of those things that has gotten me off track in the past. Stopping the workouts, if only for a week, more often than not turned into two weeks, then three, more gym.

This time the challenge is mental. I need to stop feeling so anxious about Monday's struggle and start looking forward to the chance to get back on track. I got some help today during the lunch I had with Eddie, Matt and Robert. They pumped me up and reinvigorated my challenge.

It made me realize the best part of this experience hasn't been the weight loss - it's been the bonding and camaraderie of the challenge alongside friends.

Matt Sloane, Medical producer:

You've been keeping up with my progress all along, so you know there are a few times I've slipped up (most notably, New Orleans). Overall though, I thought I was doing ok -- better than I ever had in previous attempts at losing weight. So last week, I decided to go weigh in - the first time since we started the program. I had lost 25 pounds!! Could it be that even with all of that falling off the wagon that I had actually lost 25 pounds?

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. After gloating in my success for about a week, a sneaking suspicion last night led me to try a few more scales, and much to my dismay, the number was MUCH smaller. As it turns out, I've lost about 6 pounds. Still a good start, but not even close to the great success I thought I'd had. For the record - I REALLY don't like scales!!

Regardless of the number, it's inspiration to keep going. I know now for sure that slip-ups do count and that missing workouts will have an effect on my success. Either way, I'm proud of my progress. Without a doubt, I've been making better food choices across the board, I know that I am capable of running and I'm finally of the mentality that a grueling workout is the best kind!

Robert Dothard, Fitness expert:

My job is like most: If you give your clients "positive" results, you are able to keep them as clients, in most cases.

Stacia, Matt, and Ed have all celebrated victories in the last few weeks, but ALL of their programs MUST change or the results could stop!

Many people who get great initial results with an exercise program will do a couple of things to kill their program. They will celebrate too much (bad eating, or start to skip workouts), or they continue to expect the same results.

The key is: take DIFFERENT action! I have encouraged all three of training "studs" to do the same thing once the positive results started - First CELEBRATE, then get back to work with a renewed focus, and a "Stacia" type of BRING IT ON attitude!

Ed's in Atlanta this week to get his program updated (I may have to up my liability insurance, because of what I have planned for him), and I have scheduled time to meet with Matt and Stacia's trainers as well.

The real news here is.. YOU can do it too! If you have been with us from the start, I hope this week finds you celebrating YOUR results; or if you are new to the "Fit Nation", don't worry. Just as Stacia, Matt and Ed have learned over the past few weeks, results are only going to start, when YOU do! Good luck and good health.

Washing off the E. Coli not so easy
As part of my investigation of food safety for this weekend's special, I really wanted to look into this whole idea of "triple washing" spinach. What does that really mean and is it effective? In order to best investigate this, we decided to do our own independent scientific testing. We actually took some E. coli 0157:h7 (the bad stuff) and placed it on a few spinach leaves.

Now, keep in mind, it takes only about 100 organisms to make you sick, even fewer if you're young, old or already ill. We took carefully measured samples of spinach leaves, "inoculated" them with E. coli 0157 and then tried to wash off the dangerous bacteria. Not washing the spinach at all left around 12,000 bacterial colonies, which could include as many as 24,000 microorganisms. (Watch: We test different washing techniques against E. Coli)

Now, with tap water, which is what most people probably use, the number of organisms was reduced to about 3,700. A vigorous wash with tap water left 2,900.

The commercial wash left around 6,000 organisms, even worse than tap water alone.

Chlorine plus the commercial wash left around 2,300.

But remember, any of these amounts will make you sick.

So, clearly washing the produce alone at home isn't enough, and the commercial washes during the packaging don't seem to be adequate either. In my CNN Special Investigations Unit Danger: Poisoned Food hour this weekend (8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday), you will see that we came up some other alternatives. But, I am eager to hear what you do to clean your fruits and vegetables. What do you think would work to make our produce safer?

Editor's Note: Please include your name, city and state when responding.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
A face behind the spinach scare
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent

Over the past several months, we have been working on a one-hour special about food safety. I have to say, it has been one of the most eye-opening stories on which I have worked. As a general rule, when we go to the grocery story, we have a simple expectation. We expect what we purchase will be safe to eat, especially when it comes to healthy foods like spinach. As most everyone knows, that is not always the case. Over the last decade, there have been 22 major outbreaks of E.coli 0157:h7 in produce, and the most recent one in spinach last October killed at least three people and made more than 200 very sick.

If you're like most people, these numbers may not mean a whole lot to you. As a journalist, though, I thought it was important to introduce you to just one of the faces behind those numbers. Ashley Armstrong is from Indiana. Just 2 years old, she was cute, spunky and in constant motion. Always running around the house, sometimes giggling at the top of her lungs, she reminded me of my own daughter. On a fall day, she, her adorable sister and two parents sat down to a healthy dinner, including a spinach salad. Within a week, three members of the family became sick. Soon, it became clear that Ashley had been hit the hardest. For a long time, her parents thought the illness would just pass. It didn't and Ashley was soon diagnosed with kidney failure and brain swelling. Doctors were trying everything possible to save their life. It took a while, but they figured out that she had been infected with E.coli 0157:h7 and its deadly toxin was systematically shutting down her body. I remember her father looking at me misty-eyed and saying, "Fathers are supposed to protect their daughters... in this case, there was nothing I could do." The culprit was a green, leafy piece of spinach.

I took Ashley's story with me when I was given unfettered access to the chiefs at the FDA. They sat down with me and told me that, for the most part, food is safe in this country. Fair enough, but what about Ashley? Was the food any safer this year as compared to last? They really couldn't say for sure and beyond that, they told me something even more alarming: They weren't even sure exactly how to make the produce any safer. One FDA chief just called it bad luck.

What do you think? Do you believe it is just bad luck and that we should accept a few deaths and illnesses every year from our food? Or, do we as a society say this is important-- I don't ever want to worry about the safety of my food and we should do whatever it takes to see to that?

For the rest of Ashley's story and an exclusive look at food safety from farm to fork, watch "Danger: Poisoned Food" this Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Are women responsible for obesity among children?
Women have been blamed for many of the world's problems since Eve in the Garden of Eden. But when I heard women were being blamed for childhood obesity, I was more than skeptical. The theory is that when American women started to enter the workforce en masse in the 1970s and '80s, kids started getting fatter. (Watch video)

Lew Fuller of the Obesity Society, a scientific society that studies the topic, says it's not that women shouldn't go to work, it just means that when women did go to work there was no one home to make balanced meals and make sure the kids got out and exercised.

Some of the working mothers we talked to acknowledged that their haste can make make for bigger waists. They said they were often too tired after working all day to make a meal for their kids and ended up picking up fast food. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, when children and teens eat fast food, they consume more calories, fat, carbohydrates, sugars and sugary beverages.

Does that mean that Mom is to blame for the 16 percent of American children that are overweight? (That's three times the number of kids that were overweight in 1980.)

Not so fast, according to Kathryn Thomas of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "At it's very simplest, our kids are taking in a lot more calories than they are burning off. There are a lot of reasons for that. It's not just because they aren't eating as many dinners at home," she says. Thomas recommends all members of American families take a close look at their eating and exercise habits. "We need to get physical education back into schools. We need to get the junk food out of schools. We need to make communities safer for kids to walk and bike and play," says Thomas.

So weight management begins in the home, with Mom and Dad. But it continues at school and in the community. And instead of pointing fingers at working Moms, maybe we should be looking in the mirror. What do you think?

For more on this and other diet and fitness information, check out Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Fit Nation segment every Friday on "American Morning." Also, sign up for the Fit Nation Challenge - click here for details.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Bono takes on the world's toughest issues
Watch online-only, uncut interview with U2's Bono
I spent part of this morning with Bono. Well, not really. He is in Berlin, Germany, and I am in Atlanta, Georgia, but we chatted for about 20 minutes about everything going on in his world. (Watch uncut exclusive interview)

Most of his attention is now focused not so much on fronting U2, but rather fronting another organization he started called DATA -- Debt, Aids, Trade and Africa. In some ways, it is a watchdog organization to hold leaders of the G8, the world's leading industrialized nations, accountable for the promises regarding Africa.

As Bono told me, it really is a case of good news and bad news. Here are a couple of examples. In 2002, only 1 percent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa who needed lifesaving AIDS medications received them; today the number is closer 28 percent. Also, for the first time, debt relief and cancellation are starting to occur and as a result more money and resources can be dedicated to the very poor. Bono likes to focus on the good stories because they remind us that some of these problems are fixable and also in the vital interest of our nation.

To be fair, the United States is doing more than ever before. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which is supposed to be $15 billion over five years, is the largest commitment, if the dollars all come through. There have also been private endeavors including the Red campaign, which raises money through the sale of red merchandise and which Bono says has produced $25 million in the last quarter for the Global Fund. It is directly helping organizations buy more pills for the sick.

During the interview, Bono was very candid. He said it was hard to fly around on private jets to attend lavish parties and also watch someone die for lack of two pills. He reminded us that "we don't have to ask God for a blessing, but rather just go where the poor and misfortunate are, because God is already there."

I also asked him about Bono fatigue. "I am Bono," he replied "and I'm sick of Bono." Truth is, though, a lot of people aren't. They listen to him because he is passionate, because he has the ear of presidential candidates and prime ministers and well, because he is a rock star. Does Bono's message resonate with you and does he make a difference?

Editors Note: Download the "Paging Dr. Gupta" podcast each week at or on iTunes.

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Monday, May 14, 2007
Cultural barriers to mental health
About this time a month ago, I was rushing to catch a plane to Roanoke, Virginia. Just an hour before, sitting in the CNN newsroom and pecking away on the keyboard, I heard a collective gasp. 20 dead at Virginia Tech. Next thing I knew, my colleague Elizabeth Cohen and I were driving through the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, toward one of the most heartbreaking stories we had ever covered.

That sadness came back during a visit to Houston last week. Elizabeth and I were working on a story about Asian-Americans and mental health. Plans were already in the works to investigate this topic when Virginia Tech happened. Elizabeth and I learned a lot about the cultural barriers surrounding simply talking about mental health. For example, in many Asian languages, there is no word for "depression." According to researchers, Doctors Albert Yeung and Raymond Kam, the term "mental disorder" is frequently translated in Chinese as jing shen bing which in the mind of most Chinese means "craziness." You can find out more about what we learned Wednesday night on "Paula Zahn Now."

But here's a little bit of what you won't hear. Consider it the "producer's cut." After the interviews were over, Stu, our photographer, and I went to shoot additional material at a Korean-American senior center. Sitting around long tables, about 60 seniors were watching a PowerPoint presentation. Even though the conversation was in Korean, the topic was obvious. Images of brains and sad looking people filled the screen. They were talking about depression.

As Stu took pictures, a very sweet woman offered us a handmade gift of jongie jupgi, Korean origami. She had folded paper in the shape of a swan. They were absolutely mesmerizing. Pictures shot and birds in hand, we started to leave. But before we could, the president of the group said he wanted to make a statement. Speaking on behalf of the senior center, he wanted to extend deepest condolences to the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre and announce that his group had raised money for the victims' families. This distinguished and proud man worried the actions of Seung-Hui Cho reflected badly on all Koreans. The real issue, he went on to say, was the lack of mental health services and gun control.

Walking out of the center, I was struck by what we had just witnessed, and as the days pass, I am still thinking about it. As a white woman, no one would ever expect me to defend my sex or race for the violent actions of someone like Jeffery Dahmer or Aileen Wuornos. But from terror to terrorists, minority communities are often expected to apologize when someone of the same race or group commits a heinous crime. Why do you think this is? Also, I know it's only been a month since the Virginia Tech tragedy, but do you think the country is any closer to investing more in mental health services and research?
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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