In so many ways we’re richer than ever before. But even for highly educated and well-off folks like us physicians, sometimes we’re poorer in other areas of life than were previous generations or than are people in other countries.

This month saw publication of a couple studies that highlight what can go wrong in a busy life.

First, BMJ Open published a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control that found astonishingly high rates of consumption of “ultra-processed” foods in the US. Ultra-processed foods were defined as “industrial formulations which, besides salt, sugar, oils and fats include substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations.” Yuck!

So how bad is it? Among the sample of 9317 individuals, ultra-processed foods accounted for 57.9% of all calories and for 89.7% of added sugars. Only 28% of calories came from unprocessed or lightly processed foods. (

So, what can a busy person do to improve one’s diet? First, know that maintaining a healthier diet is possible. In this study, the lowest quintile (bottom 20%) of participants consumed fewer than 30% of their calories from these ultra-processed foods. Additionally, it also has been previously found that both Canadians and the British, who are rather culturally similar to us, consume much lower quantities of these types of unhealthy food.

My advice to healthier eating is to develop a small number of simple rules and then follow them through the use of developed habits and rules. One great approach is Michael Pollan’s succinct advice to “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” Mr. Pollan lays out the details of this advice in his 2009 book called Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.

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My own advice to myself is: Avoid fast carbs, bad oils, and processed food.

I tell patients, family, or friends that if they could make one change to improve their diet – and drop weight – it would be to avoid sodas and other ‘fast carb’ drinks, including fruit juices. BTW, drinking fruit juice is very different in terms of glycemic load than is eating whole fruits.

A second study just published in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine highlights to risks of overwork. Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study that evaluated 1926 working individuals and found a dose-response relationship between number of hours worked weekly over 45 hours and incidence of cardiovascular disease: “Compared with working 45  hours per week, working an additional 10  hours per week or more for at least 10 years increased CVD risk by at least 16%.” Among those who worked 75 hours a week, their risk of developing CVD was double on average compared to the group who worked at most 45 hours a week. (

Maybe we should work less and cook more. 😉

I’m off to get some lunch. Given what I just wrote, I’d better get kale – just kale and water.

Until next time,

Dr. Jack


Today’s Quotes

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
– John Muir

“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.”
– Patti Digh