Category Archives: Health, Food and Body


A new book by Gary Taubes is making me ponder what I know about eating, weight and disease. In “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” Taubes asserts that there’s no scientific evidence that cholesterol and fat cause heart disease, or that overeating and laziness cause obesity. Nutrition, he says, purports to be a science but functions like a religion, where theories are not tested but become cemented into dogma.

The Eisenhower Paradox: Ike dieted after his heart attack, exercised and ate no fat, yet his cholesterol kept rising and he died of heart disease.

The book’s title is misleading, making it sound like a new diet fad. Barbara Ehrenreich says it might be called “The Great Low-Fat Diet Hoax.” Since the 50s, Taubes writes, scientists, the AMA, the surgeon general, the American Heart Assoc. and the USDA have urged Americans to eat less fat and lower their cholesterol to prevent heart disease. In fact, since the 60s, Americans have made an effort to eat less fat and there’s been a 30% reduction in high cholesterol levels, yet the incidence of heart disease has not gone down, and obesity and diabetes have risen at alarming rates. One in three Americans today is clinically obese.

Taubes advances the alternative hypothesis: that carbohydrates, especially starchy foods and sugar, are the cause and should be limited. But he acknowledges that there’s no scientific evidence yet to support that theory either.

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Published September 20, 2007 by Sara Davidson

It’s the moment of truth. Six glass jars have been sitting in my garage for three weeks. Like a mother hen, I’ve been watching them as the water inside turned cloudy and the cucumbers morphed from bright green to a yellowish pea color. Nervously, on the 21st day, I open the jar. Fzzzzzzzt! The brine bubbles and spurts – it’s alive! I pull out a pickle, take a bite and…. Glory to God! It’s the exact same taste as the dill pickles my Hungarian grandfather used to make, every year when I was growing up.

“Best pickle I ever tasted,” says my friend, Jenna Buffaloe

His pickles set the standard: crisp, tangy, juicy, spicy, a symphony of flavors, whereas all other pickles I’ve tasted have at most, two or three. Even pickles from delis on the lower East side of New York taste tepid by contrast with Grandpa Louie’s. His pickles were comfort food; every time someone in our family moved to a new home, one of us would bring a jar of pickles and set it in the kitchen. No house was a home without it. No holiday table was complete without a dish of pickles. But when my grandfather passed away in the 70’s, his pickles died with him.

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Published April 23, 2007 by Sara Davidson

For three weeks, I’ve been lying in bed with my head down and my legs elevated and ice packs on my calf. A hematoma—a pool of clotted blood from internal hemorrhaging—has taken over my leg. It’s the biggest hematoma—about 8” long and 3” wide—that my primary doctor, David Hibbard, has seen in his career, which is not the kind of record any sane person would want to set.

How the hell did this happen? I didn’t fall, have an accident or trauma to the leg. The doctors I’ve seen can only speculate on what started the bleeding, but I blame it on Robert Butler, MD, whom I interviewed for an article about the science of aging, that will be published in the N.Y. Times Magazine on May 6.

Robert Butler, MD, says you should take no fewer than 10,000 steps a day. Ha!

Butler, who’s 80 and remarkably lean and fit, has charm, charisma, and, according to one of his colleagues, “He knows everything.” He’s the kind of 80-year-old I’d like to hang out with or, better yet, be. He helped found the National Institute on Aging, won the Pulitzer prize and runs a think tank on aging in New York.

Every morning he clips on a step counter, a black device that sits on the waist band and counts every step you take. “You should take no fewer than 10,000 steps a day—roughly five miles,” he says, during our interview. “At the end of the day, I’ll check the counter and if I haven’t done enough, I’ll go for a mile walk.”

“That’s awesome,” says the young woman who’s videotaping the interview.

“I’ve never seen one,” I say.

Butler takes the step counter off his belt and hands it to me. “You now have one.”

I tell him I’m scared to find out how many steps I’m taking, and the first day I clip it on, my fears are confirmed. I’m taking less than 2,000. (Hey, I work at home, I’m a writer)

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