Spicing Up Diet May Be Healthier Than You Think

New research shows certain antioxidants may reduce the negative effects of high fat meals.  Researchers at Penn State compared two meals. One meal used about two tablespoons of antioxidant spices and the other did not. Dr. Sheila West, associate professor of biobehavioral health and nutritional sciences at Penn State, says they found less of the fat ended up in the blood stream of those eating the spiced meal.

West says they found a reduced absorption of triglycerides in those eating the spiced meal, plus a positive effect on insulin in the blood compared to those who ate the meal without the spices.

The spices and herbs used were rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika.

West says the herbs and spices were spread among the three items in the meal. The meal consisted of a dessert, bread and chicken curry.

 West says the spices and herbs were selected because a previous study indicated when you add spices to ground beef and grill it, you produce less of the cancer-causing oxidative stress markers in the meat.  When people eat it, there are less of those chemicals in the blood.

West says the research is in its infancy, so they want to do more investigation. She wants to look at individual herbs and spices to see what the major contributor is, and what the right “dose” would be.

West says the early research shows it wouldn’t hurt to spice up your diet, because unlike some other antioxidants, these spices add little in the way of calories to your diet.

The McCormick Science Institute and the National Institutes of Health supported the work.


Parents Reminded About Vaccine Changes

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month and state health officials are reminding parents there are some new requirements for school children.      Heather Stafford, director of the Division of Immunizations, says students in the seventh grade, or age 11 to 12, will now need a TDAP, or Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis booster and a meningococcal conjugate vaccine.  

Stafford says students in all grades need to be sure they’ve had three doses of Hepatitis B vaccine and a second dose of the mumps and chicken pox vaccines.

Stafford says there’s a “grace” period.  She says they allow an eight month provisional period for students to become compliant.

Stafford says if you have health  insurance, work with your family physician or pediatrician to make sure school children are up-to-date. For those who lack sufficient insurance, there are state health centers where  children can be vaccinated at no cost.

Stafford says there are many vaccine-preventable diseases and parents of pre-schoolers and infants should make sure they’re up-to-date on their immunizations. Adults should also be current on all of their shots. Some to consider for children and adults include the rotavirus vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine for infants and adults and a vaccine to protect older adults from shingles. One type of meningitis vaccine, Menactra, has now been approved for use in children as young as 9 months. Influenza vaccines are recommended for everyone age 6 months and up.

Adults who need to get a tetanus booster should are now being advised to consider the TDAP instead.  Stafford says this helps prevent the spread of pertussis.

To learn more about vaccines, go to or   

State Insurance Department Plans Forums on Health Insurance Exchanges

Health Insurance exchanges are a key part of the federal Health Care Reform Law.  Pennsylvania is in the process of deciding if it wants to develop its own, or leave it up to the federal government.

Operating its own Health Insurance Exchange, a one stop shopping opportunity for people and businesses looking for health insurance, would allow the state to design something that meets the needs of Pennsylvanians.  But Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine says there are strings attached, such as the costs and the  long term requirements on the state in operating that exchange.

He says the federal government picks up some of the costs as the outset. However, the costs are eventually up to the state to cover if it runs its own exchange. If the federal government runs the exchange, Consedine says the costs are covered by the federal government.  However, a state based exchange would be tailored to the unique aspects of the state’s marketplace.

Consedine says the State Insurance Department is holding a series of forums to hear what the public thinks will make sense for Pennsylvania.  The forums will be held on Tuesday, August 9th at the Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh/Monroeville Convention Center, on August 11th at the Crowne Plaza Liberty Convention Center in King of Prussia and on August 23rd at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey in Harrisburg.

You can pre-register at  You can also comment on line if you can’t attend any of the three hearings.

Consedine says if Pennsylvania does not have a state-based exchange ready or at least in the planning stages by 2013 under the current federal law, at that point the federal government would start to look at possibly operating the exchange for Pennsylvania.

He adds they are still awaiting a significant amount of guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services and the federal government in terms of the specifics of health care reform.  He says that includes the exchange design and the minimum benefit plan that would need to be offered as part of the exchange.

New Report says Adult Obesity Rates are not Declining

A new report shows no improvement in  adult obesity rates in states across the country in the past year. Sixteen states saw increases in their rates according to the report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Twelve states now have obesity rates over 30%.

Pennsylvania’s adult obesity rate of 28.5% placed it 19th nationwide. The report says the state’s rate has increased 76% in the last 15 years. The report reviewed statistics from 1995 to 2010.   The state was tied for 13th in 1995 at 16.2%.

The report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011”  says the obesity epidemic continues to be highest in the south.  Mississippi had the highest adult obesity rate for the seventh year in a row at 34.4%. The lowest rate, 19.8%, was in Colorado, the only state with a rate under 20 percent.

Dwayne Proctor, director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation childhood obesity team, says the rates are increasing over much of the United States in spite of all of the policy activity, media attention to the issue and efforts people are making.  He says they’re hoping to see results from those efforts soon. He says they’re optimistic they can reverse this epidemic.

Proctor says adult obesity is a very complicated problem.  He says the environments in which we live are affecting our ability to be physically active and to have access to healthy fresh foods and affordable fruits and vegetables.  He says the best way to shift the environment is to focus on policies that can bring grocery stores to areas that do not have them and can develop safe places for children to play and exercise.      He says Pennsylvania has been making policy efforts, including adding farm-to-school programs.

Proctor says if the country can make improvements in adult obesity rates, we could lower health care costs.  Obesity is linked to diabetes, high blood pressure  and other health problems.

Don’t Pick up a Tick Hitchhiker this Summer

Spring and early summer are times of year when the ticks that transmit Lyme disease tend to be most active. Health officials are reminding people to be vigilant when they’re outdoors.    

Dr. Stephen Ostroff, acting Pennsylvania Physician General, Pennsylvania Department of Health, says the deer tick is tiny, and people may not notice it right away. He says in order for the infection to be transmitted, the tick has to be attached for at least 24 hours.  Dr. Ostroff says that’s why it’s important to do a tick check after you’ve been outdoors.  He says taking a shower or bath can also help reduce the likelihood of exposure to Lyme disease, because the soap and water may wash the ticks off before they can attach.  

While hiking and camping can put you at risk for contact with the deer tick, Dr. Ostroff says most Lyme disease tends to occur in the areas around people’s homes, especially those that abut forest locations.

Dr. Ostroff says it’s best to wear long sleeves and long pants whenever possible, avoid areas with high grass and brush and use a repellent.  Some studies indicate light-colored clothing does not attract the ticks as much as darker clothing.

Dr. Ostroff says 90% of all of the Lyme disease in this country occurs along the Eastern Seaboard, especially in Eastern Pennsylvania.  He says Pennsylvania is one of the high incidence Lyme disease locations in the United States.

Symptoms of Lyme disease most often include a bulls-eye rash.  However, some people may not detect the rash or in some cases it may not be present. Dr. Ostroff says anyone who develops such a rash, or develops unexplained symptoms of fever, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain, should contact their doctor and indicate they may have been in an area where ticks are located.

Untreated, Lyme disease can lead to arthritis, heart and neurological problems.

May is Lyme disease Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick borne illness in the United States.


First Lady Susan Corbett and Governor Tom Corbett

Governor Tom Corbett is out of the hospital

Governor Tom Corbett is out of the hospital, two days after surgery for a nagging back problem. The Governor was released this morning from Allegheny General Hospital. Orthopedic specialists Dr. Mark Fye and Dr. Patrick DeMeo treated him Monday for spinal stenosis. The condition results in compressed nerves and leads to persistent pain.

The Governor told reporters as he left the hospital this morning that he had been in pain while walking for the last 6, 7 or 8 months. He says it started bothering him during the last two campaigns, and he decided he couldn’t put the procedure off any longer. A smiling Corbett told reporters the first thing up Tuesday, walking around, not to feel pain going down both legs, he’s very thankful for the surgeons and staff. He says the hospital has treated him very well.

The Governor will work from his Pittsburgh area home as he recuperates, and he expects to return to Harrisburg on Monday.

His office says the 61-year-old Republican underwent a series of medical tests in preparation for the surgery and is otherwise considered to be in excellent health.