Vol. 114 June 1, 2014 Much Ado About Nothing

June 1, 2014


“[In response to] an announcement from another U.S. infant formula manufacturer
about its plans to decrease the caloric density of some of its formula to 19 kcal/fl. oz,
Mead Johnson Nutrition (MUN) would like to assure youthat we have
NO plans to modify the density of our formulas from 20kcal/fl oz to 19 kcal/fl oz.”
-Mead Johnson news bulletin to pediatricians, April 1, 2014


My last two blogs discussed the evils of added sugar documented by the movie “Fed Up” and the possibility of an FDA ban of added trans fats in manufactured foods.  Both describe politically correct responses to the growing awareness of U.S. and global obesity rates and prevalence. We are urged to become ingredient list readers and to “buy healthier” as a defense against food corporations’ slick advertising and successful lobbying against transparent ingredient lists.

Abbott is the latest food corporation to claim to save us all from the scourge of infant obesity, all by reducing its Similac calories by  1 kcal/fl. oz.   Mead Johnson’s (Enfamil) rebuttal warns that reducing the formula calories means that infants would need to consume 1.5 more ounces per day to “meet their daily energy requirements during the first six months.”  All my kids have left more than that on their bibs  and chins every day, or as Stephen Colbert might say,  “Give me a f&*king break!”

Abbott’s stated reason for the formula change, already labeled by Abbott as “Innovative”, is to help decrease excessive infant weight gain by matching its formula content more closely to breast milk. In my increasingly skeptical (cynical) view Similac is merely adding new marketing buzz words to the current debate about what makes obese infants and do they become obese adults?

It is hard for me to get too excited about minimal formula calorie changes when I remember that one can of Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite contains more sugar than  100% of the total daily requirement of sugar as defined by the American Heart Association (36 g).  Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign against the super-size soda which contains 128g of sugar and the efforts to remove soda vending machines from schools even make some sense. One kcal/fl oz. or 1.5 more ounces of formula a day certainly pales by comparison on the spectrum of “sublime to ridiculous”.

One of the perks of being a pediatrician is being reminded daily about the flexibility, innate wisdom, and versatility of infants and toddlers. In a two-page  news announcement peppered with scientific journal citations the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition notes that ” the number of formulas choices have increased and the selection process is more complicated”.  It concludes in one of its more common-sense statements that “infants appear to eat to satisfy energy needs and will compensate for low food energy density … by increasing food intake.” Duh? More importantly,  “Neither parents nor pediatricians should assume that newer and more expensive products have health benefits for infants.”


Vol. 81 January 1, 2013 Happiness is Not a Warm Gun*

December 31, 2012


-Eileen Costello, MD, pediatrician Boston Globe 6/13/12

The discussion about gun control is not a rational one. “How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free? You can only shake your head and maybe cry a little.” Adam Gopnik July 7, 2012

As both sides relentlessly quote statistics, some good old satire and ridicule is needed to help us cut through all that smoke. Like something Stephen Colbert would do.
That’s it!
We need Stephen Colbert caressing his warm gun on TV while spouting NRA truisms to show us how ridiculous we are as a nation in controlling everything BUT guns.

“The United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?” (Michael Moore)

In the U.S. there are 98 guns per 100 people. In the U.K. there are 6 guns per 100. “If America’s real concern, as expressed by its Second Amendment, is that the British are coming, I think they got that one covered.” (Tabatha Southey, Vancouver B.C. Globe and Mail, 12/29/2012)

3000 people died in the September 11th attack. In response we started two long wars and built a vast Homeland Security Apparatus that cost us trillions of dollars. Since that time 275,000 Americans were killed by gunfire at home and our response has been weakened gun laws. (Doonesbury, Feb 13, 2011)

Better still. Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC money, if there is any left, could be aimed at the NRA.There is no BIG gun control lobby. Just several well-meaning small ones.Without a well-financed lobby the outlook for any gun control legislation is bleak in our current democracy.
How about a new NRA (“Now Reduce Arms”) or “NRA 2, the sequel” Super PAC for Colbert Nation?
Stephen could pull it off.

A few “fun facts” to throw out to your social network (includes old-fashioned cocktail parties):

The number of children and teenagers killed by guns in Massachusetts was double that killed in motor vehicle accidents during 2003 -2007 (CDC)

Many guns used in school shootings come from the shooters’ homes. (CDC)

The firearm suicide rates among children aged 5-14 was 8 times higher in the U.S. than in comparable high-income countries.

Children in the United States are 11 times more likely to be killed accidentally with a gun than children in other developed countries. On average, 38 children and teens are shot and 8 of them are killed every day in the United States from gun violence.

Guns in a home increase the risk of suicide. NO data supports successful defensive use of guns against homicide. “It appears that gun ownership is associated with a net increase in the risk of death for a typical household.”

Why not tax guns?
“Cigarettes should be $25 a pack to pay for the damage they cost”.  The CDC has estimated that the cost of smoking (estimated cost of smoking-related medical expenses and loss of productivity) exceeds $167 billion annually. The smoker paid approximately $5 a pack up front, but the additional cost of medical expenses and lost productivity is born by all of us taxpayers and anyone who buys health insurance. Raising the taxes on a pack of cigarettes so that they would cost $25 a pack could cover that.
Could they do those calculations for the medical costs, lost productivity, AND  costs of criminal prosecution/civil litigation for gun-related deaths?

“Things NOT to do”:
Put armed guards in schools – “3 COPS SHOT IN POLICE STATION BY ARRESTEE” –  a New Jersey headline December 29, 2012
Increase mental health screening – “The government has no business knowing that you have a dozen AR-158s” says the NRA in defense of the right to privacy. “Why then would the NRA suggest that the government needs to know if your Aunt Jean is arachnophobic?”, says Tabath Southey, Vancouver Globe

In half of my lifetime our culture has moved from arguing that sometimes it was “better to not wear a seat belt in case there was a car fire” to having my grandchildren remind me that I shouldn’t start the car until MY seat belt is buckled.

No ONE law accomplished that, and it happened despite critics and opposition from big time lobbyists. Why can’t we do the same for gun control?

Other sources:
Violence Policy Center, CDC,  and Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
*Apologies to The Beatles, The White Album

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