Friday, June 22, 2007
Fit Buddies enter the home stretch
The CNN Fit Buddies have made it through another week in their 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. And join the Fit Buddies by accepting the Fit Nation Challenge (details here).

Ed Lavandera, CNN Dallas correspondent

It's been the worst week of all for me.

I've been reporting from small towns along the Texas-Mexico border, crossing onto the Mexican side, working about 16 hours a day. Tex-Mex restaurants at every turn. I've worked out only one time. The hotel gym is terrible. And even when I could work out, I've just been exhausted.

I won't waste more time beating myself up over it. We have one week left in the Fit Nation program and I remind myself that I've come a long way since April. The encouraging sign for me is I miss my intense workouts. I'm eager to get back on the bike and to the gym.

There used to be a late-night sports show on CNN called "Calling All Sports." (If you remember this, you are a true CNN fan!) The host, Vince Cellini, used to end the show with a rapid-fire call-in segment. He used to scream at viewers "FINISH UP STRONG!" I loved it! That's a good rally cry for me as I head into another challenging week and the last days of our "Fit Nation" program.

Of course, the end of "Fit Nation" is really only the beginning for me.

Matt Sloane, Medical news producer

I had a vision last week of what I could look like 50 pounds lighter. My dad told me before we went on vacation that he was on a diet and that he planned to eat well and walk a lot while we were away. My first thought was, "Dad's been heavy for a long time, and he's been on a countless diets... we'll see how this works."

But when we met him at the hotel in Bermuda, my jaw hit the floor!! We started at the same weight, though he started his diet a few months before I did. The transformation was ASTOUNDING -- he lost 50 pounds!

He looks healthy, he had more energy, he ate less, had no desire to waste calories on alcohol, and he walked a ton every day. He actually looks like one of those "skinny guys."

If that, along with the thought of getting into a tuxedo in the somewhat distant future doesn't keep me going after this program is over, I don't know what will.

I've lost somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds now (scale issues making it tough to pin down an exact number), but my goal is to look like him. (Minus the gray hair of course!)

Stacia Deshishku, Director of coverage, CNN/US

I'm feeling really melancholy. I'm not ready for Fit Nation to end. Will I stick with it? Will I cheat? I feel it's simply too soon to "check out" of my fitness rehab!

What an experience this has been. Emotionally and physically. I have done more than I thought I could, faced demons I didn't know I had and learned what does and doesn't work for me. I've also met and talked with scores of people about fitness. My participation in this program and its visibility have given me a forum to talk about my challenges. Simultaneously it has given colleagues an invitation to talk to me about their struggles, share tips and become fitness buddies, if only vicariously!

As I reshape my body, I also need to reshape my thinking. This isn't an end, rather, just the beginning. I certainly hope my original fit buddies, as well as the ones I have added along the way, will continue on this journey with me!

Robert Dothard, Fit Buddies trainer

When I run, I sprint at the end. When I weight train, I drop the weight I am lifting by 10-20 percent, and I finish by doing as many reps as I can.

The Fit Buddies are in the homestretch, and I want them to "kick it" into high gear, but not for THEM -- for YOU! Allow me to explain.

In my 20+ years as a trainer, I have learned what makers of infomercials have known for years: Testimonials WORK! It is a formula: Have enough people talk about a product or service in a positive way, put it in front of people a few "hundred" times, and a good percentage will give it a try. Well my product is fitness advice and accountability, and the Fit Buddies' testimony is ongoing, but the jury is already in on the results: POSITIVE!

So if you have been waiting, I submit CNN's Fit Nation 2007 as my favorite infomercial. I believe if you invest the TIME and EFFORT, YOUR fitness results will also be POSITIVE, and ongoing!!!

Good luck and good health.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Hand sanitizer risks
The first time I read about the dangers of hand sanitizer, I thought it was a joke. There was a widely circulating story about a child eating or drinking hand sanitizer and becoming deathly ill. C'mon, you're thinking. That is an Internet hoax.

Well, not so fast. While there hasn't been a single documented case of a child dying from it, there have been some pretty frightening stories. Parents, like myself, should at a minimum be aware of what is in hand sanitizer. Flip that bottle over and you are likely to see that it's 62 percent ethyl alcohol. That is also known as ethanol. It is also the same stuff in wine, beer and Jack Daniels. That's right: A little 2-ounce bottle = 4 shots of vodka.

The New England Journal of Medicine first warned of cases of people ingesting hand sanitizer a few months ago. Now according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the country's 61 poison centers are getting more calls about it. There were nearly 12,000 cases last year, up from 2005. Already, this year, there have been about 6,600 cases.

As a father of a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old, I know just about everything goes from hand to mouth. And, hand sanitizer can smell especially appetizing! If you look at a 1-year old child weighing about 22 pounds, a squirt of sanitizer is like your child drinking a sip of a mixed drink. So, is it time we start locking up the hand sanitizer and treating it as a poison? How do you keep your kids safe from these seemingly harmless substances?

If you have any questions, you can call the American Association of Poison Control Centers Poison Help Line 1-800-222-1222. You'll be connected to your local poison control center.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Does SPF provide a false sense of security?
Last week I blogged on the results of an informal poll of my friends and family regarding their use of sunscreen to illustrate the importance of skin protection for people of all skin types and colors. But, if you're like me and have never worn sunscreen, then the letters SPF probably mean nothing to you. Hey, even if you have slathered on sunscreen, SPF and all the numbers can still be very confusing. Does SPF stop you from getting skin cancer? Or does it provide a false sense of security?

For help on answering these questions and others, I spoke with Dr. Jodi Ganz, an Atlanta, Georgia, dermatologist. Here's what I learned.

The "Sun Protection Factor" or SPF is a rating system used by the Food and Drug Administration to express how much sun exposure your skin can receive before burning. This burning baseline differs per skin color, with fairer-skinned people tending to burn more quickly than those with darker complexions. The number you see on sunscreen labels (15, 45, 80, etc.), means the SPF value, or the protection against sunburn, is increased. The higher the number, the more the protection. But, it doesn't protect against everything! Which leads me to the next point...

Wearing SPF lotions, creams, and even clothing does not mean you can entirely avoid the sun's damaging UV rays, and therefore does not stop you from getting skin cancers. So if that's the case, how do we explain the more than 100,000 over-the-counter SPF products currently on the market? Well, the FDA believes prevention is the best solution. The products don't eliminate your risk, they minimize them. And if you take into consideration research from the American Cancer Society showing melanoma causes nearly 80 percent of all skin cancer deaths, then perhaps prevention is not a bad idea.

Dr. Ganz, says SPF protection provides a false sense of security if you're not informed. Knowing the options and their limitations means you're giving yourself one more line of defense. For instance, your SPF is effective only as long as the lotion remains on. Heavy sweat and spending time in the water can weaken the sunscreen and re-applications are important. In theory it should take longer to burn with an SPF 60, than with an SPF 30. But, how much longer depends on how fast a person burns in the first place. With that said, if you'd like to learn more, check out the article Separating Sunscreen Fact from Fiction on

I'm curious-- what is your skin type and what SPF sunscreen do you use? Have you changed your "sunning" habits in recent years? Why?
Monday, June 18, 2007
Climate change and diminishing desert resources
The dwindling water supply at Lake Chad, Chad
"The white man will brings us water. Only, the white man has power."

I sat there stunned as I listened to the words of 45-year-old Maloum Mahamat. He's the chief of a tiny fishing village on the shores of what is left of Lake Chad in Central Africa. Mahamat is possibly the last in a long line of generations of fishermen. I press him on what can be done to help his people adapt to the receding water. He has two answers. The white man will come fix it and God will do what he must. In the 10 days our team spent following the shorelines of what's left of Lake Chad, we heard those two responses time and time again.

Whether it's on television or words, the story of Lake Chad is tough to tell. In the 1960s, Lake Chad was one of the world's largest lakes. At its greatest levels in modern history, it was as if the entire state of Vermont was covered in water -- simply enormous. Today, Lake Chad is one-tenth of its former size. Yes, it's shrunk by 90 percent in the last 40 years. The lake has always been shallow. Even at its deepest, it never measured more than 30 feet deep. Now its greatest depths measure only 3 feet to 6 feet.

The waters are receding and are becoming shallower. There are fewer fish in species, number and size. Fishermen need to adapt and find new ways to make a living. Less water means less vegetation. Less vegetation creates more sand dunes. Sand dunes lead to even less precipitation. It's an interconnected cycle. Tragically, as populations increase and resources become scarce, more people rely on the lake for sustenance than ever before, even as it has less and less to offer.

So, why is all this happening? The United Nations Environment Programme says that about half of the lake's decrease is attributable to human water use such as inefficient damming and irrigation methods. The other half of the shrinkage is due to shifting climate patterns. Anada Tiega of the Lake Chad Basin Commission blames climate change for 50 to 75 percent of the water's disappearance.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I, along with our crew, traveled to Africa to find out just how much of the lake's disappearance was due to climate change and global warming. It's definitely hard to discern.

The truth is that Lake Chad has waxed and waned before. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the lake has probably dried out about a half-dozen times in the last 1,000 years. Scientists are confident that Lake Chad's waters will one day return, but that day probably will not be in this lifetime.

What effect do you think climate change has had on Lake Chad, if any? If Lake Chad naturally disappears and returns over geological time, does it matter what we do in the present. Do you believe in or care about climate change whether the effects are felt in Africa or elsewhere? Do you want to learn more about climate change, global warming and human health?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from Lake Chad on climate change and the shrinking resources of the desert, tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," 10 p.m. ET
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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