WBEZ | health http://www.wbez.org/tags/health Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What's the key to better school food? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BETTER SCHOOL FOOD.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the last decade, school districts around the nation have tried different formulas to reform student lunches. Some think the answer lies in salad bars. Others have tried all organic programs. Still others have put their bets on school gardens.</p><p>But one little known program out of Minnesota starts by simply removing seven unwanted ingredients.</p><p>&ldquo;We have no artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial preservatives, no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, no antibiotics or hormones in meats and no bleached flour,&rdquo; Jason Thunstrom said as he stood in the Jeans Elementary School lunchroom in West Suburban Willowbrook.</p><p>Thunstrom is President of the Life Time Fitness Foundation, which has provided 90 schools in four states with money to buy foods without the seven ingredients. The lunches end up looking a lot like what you&rsquo;d see in any other low income schools, just sourced from manufacturers who don&rsquo;t use artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives or trans fats and meat raised with antibiotics.&nbsp;</p><p>One of those food manufacturers is Bill Kurtis. Yes, the legendary anchorman. He has been selling grass-fed beef under his Tallgrass brand for years, but just recently got into the hot dog game. He was also at Jeans Elementary on a recent afternoon watching the debut of his hot dogs in a school cafeteria.</p><p>&ldquo;We put grassfed beef in and we took out nitrates ... and preservatives that you&rsquo;ll find in regular hot dogs,&quot; Kurtis said. &rdquo;And it&rsquo;s why your mother is a little afraid for you to have a regular diet of hot dogs.&quot;</p><p>Kurtis was speaking to a room of low-income third graders, who seemed unfamiliar with his work as a newscaster but highly appreciative of hot dog-making skills.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They taste really good,&rdquo; third-grader Renaya said.</p><p>Some of her classmates even appreciated the meal on its nutritional merits.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really good because I put ketchup on the hot dog and a bun is [whole] grain,&rdquo; third-grader Malcolm said.</p><p>Thunstrom says one of the students eating this hot dog, corn, carrot, apple and milk lunch was eating the millionth meal served in the Life Time funded program.&nbsp;</p><p>The whole idea was spawned, he says, by concern the company&rsquo;s CEO had over his own child entering school. When he heard about what was served in most American lunchrooms, he initially considered buying up the lunch program.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;But then reality set in, and he realized it would be an expensive proposition,&rdquo; Thunstrom remembered.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>So instead of buying the whole program, Life Time decided to do an experiment&mdash;to see what it would take to get those seven ingredients out of school food.</p><p>&ldquo;We started with one school in Minnesota just as a test to see if we could go in and look at their lunch and remove those seven items what might that cost,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We were surprised to find it was about 35 cents [per student meal] on average.&rdquo;</p><p>This first phase of the program involves serving better versions of lunchrooms standards like hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza. But Thunstrom says the longer term goal is to upgrade kitchens and support more cooking from scratch.&nbsp;</p><p>To this end, Life Time presented the school with a $10,000 check to upgrade its kitchen for more scratch cooking.</p><p>Still, the endgame isn&rsquo;t to keep writing unlimited checks. Thunstrom says that the ultimate goal is to get other funders, administrators, and eventually, the federal government to recognize the value of such a program and make it the norm.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d like this model to become known to government officials and school administrators,&rdquo; Thunstrom said. &ldquo;You know, to say &lsquo;it&rsquo;s America, enough&rsquo;s enough.&rsquo; We think it&rsquo;s worth investing in our kids an incremental 35 cents to at least get them on a healthy way of life journey at school. Then can we also [create] lesson planning and take-home material to help that bleed over into the home.&rdquo;</p><p>And he doesn&rsquo;t just mean the homes of corporate CEOs.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://wbez.org/podcasts">Chewing The Fat</a>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng </a>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 Whom do you trust when it comes to nutrition advice? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/FOOD SCORES_picmonkeyed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Whom do you trust when it comes to food and health advice?</p><p>This is the fundamental question underlying the latest food skirmish between health activists The Environmental Working Group and &ldquo;big food&rdquo; represented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, the EWG released its<a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores" target="_blank"> Food Scores</a> database rating 80,000 foods on a variety of criteria that encompass nutrition, ingredients and processing. Foods like <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=organic+kale" target="_blank">organic kale</a> score 1 (the best) while <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=flamin+hot+cheetos" target="_blank">Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto Puffs</a> get a 10 (the worst).</p><p>But today, the <a href="http://www.gmaonline.org/news-events/newsroom/grocery-manufacturers-association-statement-on-environmental-working-group/" target="_blank">GMA responded</a> by calling the Food Score database &ldquo;severely flawed&rdquo; and predicting it will &ldquo;only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy.&rdquo;</p><p>The GMA, which represents some of the biggest food manufacturers in the world, accused EWG of using &ldquo;isolated studies&rdquo; to penalize foods containing artificial sweeteners and added sugar. It further questioned the group&rsquo;s algorithm for weighing certain factors too heavily in its final scores.</p><p>The Association said that the best advice for health and nutrition comes from the Nutrition Facts Panel and the U.S. Department of Agriculture&#39;s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Critics, however, argue that it is those very guidelines--which, for decades, have emphasized fat reduction over sugar and carbohydrate restrictions--that have led to a in tripling in American obesity over the past 40 years.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Additionally, EWG says information on packaging is limited.</p><p>&ldquo;When you think about healthy food, you have to think beyond the Nutrition Facts panel,&rdquo; said Renee Sharp, EWG&rsquo;s director of research. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t always tell the whole story. EWG&rsquo;s Food Scores shows that certain foods that we think are good for us may actually be much less so because they contain questionable food additives or toxic contaminants.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Tuesday, the Alliance for Food and Farming, a produce industry group, <a href="http://safefruitsandveggies.com/blog/ewg-gives-top-scores-produce" target="_blank">trumpeted the high ratings</a> the EWG gave to produce. It also noted that the EWG encourages consumers to eat plenty of fresh produce.</p><p>But the AFF, which represents both conventional and organic produce growers, once again called on EWG to stop its &ldquo;Dirty Dozen&rdquo; and &ldquo;Clean Fifteen&rdquo; lists. These popular lists rate produce based on pesticide residues as measured by the USDA, but the AFF finds them misleading.</p><p>&ldquo;If EWG doesn&rsquo;t stop, the AFF will happily remind consumers about the &lsquo;1&rsquo; scores and EWG&rsquo;s new consumption message every single time the &lsquo;dirty dozen&rsquo; list receives attention. Every single time.&rdquo;</p><p>So which organizations or agencies do you trust to provide balanced nutrition information? Tell us in the comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 Suspicion lingers over Ebola treatment http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/african food truck.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last Friday, Illinois health officials presented plans to deal with any future Ebola cases in the state. These include establishing a test lab, taking the temperature of some foreign travelers, and forming a task force aimed at better communication.</p><p>But a trip to a nearby West African lunch truck revealed that big communication gaps still remain in some parts of the city.&nbsp;</p><p>As the West African vendor served up plates of fufu and goat, he said that, so far, he hadn&rsquo;t seen any shortages in ingredients imported from Africa.&nbsp;<br /><br />But a customer standing in line thought the vendor was, instead, being asked about the safety of West African food.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Ebola cannot infect our food,&rdquo; said the cab driver who only wanted to be identified as Chris. &ldquo;Because our food is properly cooked. It is cooked to at least 90 degrees.&rdquo;</p><p>Chris continued by sharing his view on the true origin of Ebola.</p><p>&ldquo;That thing (Ebola) is a white man&rsquo;s disease,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They created it in a lab to kill us, and to make the pharmaceutical companies rich.&rdquo;</p><p>Within minutes, fellow cab drivers joined in the conversation, asking &ldquo;Why is it that the black man who came from Africa, he died? But the white man lived. We won&rsquo;t let anyone fool us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>While some of these views may seem extreme, they echo a larger question in the world health community about why an Ebola vaccine has been so long in coming.&nbsp;</p><p>Laurie Garrett is a Senior Fellow for Gobal Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She said market forces affect the development of these medications.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s so rare, and it occurs among very poor people, where is the financial market incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to get in there and commercialize it?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Indeed, until recently, that incentive has not existed. But it did get a big push last month when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $50 million to addressing Ebola.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, Garrett says there are other factors that have slowed progress on an Ebola vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you clinically test a vaccine against a disease that you cannot possibly ethically induce in your test subjects, and that occurs so rarely,&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Also, you don&rsquo;t really have a population that is routinely exposed in order to test how well the vaccine really works.&rdquo;</p><p>One Liberian-born, American professor offered up an answer to that question. He believes human trials have already begun...on unsuspecting Africans as part of a plan by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Delaware State plant pathologist detailed these suspicions in a letter that went viral last month in Liberia&rsquo;s largest daily paper, further fueling speculation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This and other factors have driven continuing suspicion about a racial component to the outbreak.<br /><br />&ldquo;The white woman who went to England: she was healed,&rdquo; Chris, the cab driver, noted. &ldquo;The nurse who went to Spain: She was healed. The white boy who who came to America. He was healed. But the black man who came to Texas, in America&mdash;in America he died.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, Illinois&rsquo; Director of Public Health LeMar Hasbrouck stressed that communication will be key in the Ebola fight. And that the new task force would have to: &ldquo;Coordinate public messaging so we are not giving different messages to different audiences, so we are all on the same page there.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ asked Hasbrouck&rsquo;s department how and if it planned to address some of the racially-based perceptions on Ebola. The department did not respond.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 Nutrition programs ditch whole milk http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/nutrition-programs-ditch-whole-milk-110929 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/school lunch (1).jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>Last school year, lunchrooms across the nation got a dietary makeover. New rules banished 2 percent and whole milk from the National School Lunch Program. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This month, Illinois&rsquo; Women Infant and Children feeding program followed suit by now offering skim and 1 percent almost exclusively.</p><p>&ldquo;This was a decision by the United States&rsquo; Department of Agriculture, who funds our program,&rdquo; says Stephanie Bess program director for Illinois WIC. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s designed to align our food packages with the messages that we provide to our participants. Since 1995, the dietary guidelines for Americans have recommended low-fat milk.&rdquo;</p><p>But critics say, 1995 was a long time ago, and that these guidelines have almost no scientific evidence to back them up.</p><p>Dr. David Ludwig directs the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children&rsquo;s Hospital. He wants to see better science behind the program decisions.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems to make sense that if we just got rid of the saturated fat in milk there could be health benefits and there would be weight loss and lower cardiovascular disease risk factors,&rdquo; Ludwig says. &ldquo;Unfortunately, there is virtually no evidence that reducing fat in milk will have any health benefits at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, <a href="http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1704826">Ludwig wrote an editorial</a> with Harvard&rsquo;s Public Health chief Walter Willett warning officials against low-fat school milk. They represent a growing group of scientists and doctors who say the low-fat dietary guidelines run counter to public health.</p><p>USDA representatives declined to be interviewed for this story, but offered a written statement saying the recommendations came from &ldquo;experts in health, nutrition, school food service, and economics.&rdquo;</p><p>Bess of Illinois WIC tried to explain the agency&rsquo;s rationale.</p><p>&ldquo;As a registered dietician, I am looking at the diet as a whole, which is what we do at WIC,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Milk is one component of that and this is more than a calorie issue. This is about saturated fat.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, as many point out, <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/17/study-questions-fat-and-heart-disease-link/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_r=0">analyses</a> from Harvard and Cambridge University researchers now suggest that saturated fat is not to blame for heart disease. Instead, it&rsquo;s carbohydrates that appear to be the villain. In fact, new <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/videos/news/Low_Fat_090214-1.html">government</a> research suggests a high-fat, low-carb diet is much more effective for weight loss than a low-fat diet.</p><p>Last year, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine looked at 10,700 children and<a href="http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-study-children-drinking-low-fat-milk-gain-similar-amount-weight-those-drinking-whole"> found that those who drank skim and one percent milk </a>were much more likely to be overweight and obese than those who drank 2 percent or whole milk. In fact, children who started at normal weight and drank low-fat milks were 57 percent more likely to become overweight than those who drank higher fat milks.</p><p>Nina Tiecholz wrote <a href="http://www.thebigfatsurprise.com/">&ldquo;The Big Fat Surprise.&rdquo;</a> It charts the rise of obesity in the US as citizens followed government advice to cut fat, especially saturated fat, in their diet. She said she was heartbroken by the news on WIC.</p><p>&ldquo;To me it&rsquo;s devastating because without the fat in milk you cannot digest the fat soluble vitamins A and D,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They are essential and without them you can&rsquo;t absorb the minerals in milk. So milk is much less nutritious when you take out the fat.&rdquo;</p><p>Ludwig notes that these low-fat milks lose flavor along with those calories.</p><p>&ldquo;And there&rsquo;s the tendency to replace those calories with sugar like chocolate milk and that trade off is not good for children&rsquo;s health,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Indeed, today skim chocolate milk is the No. 1 beverage served in the federal lunch program. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Milk that&rsquo;s high in sugar and low in fat is the worst possible kind of beverage you could be serving them,&rdquo; Teicholz says, noting the lower nutrition absorption and adding, &ldquo;Sugar triggers the release of insulin, which is the king of all hormones for making you fat.&rdquo;</p><p>USDA officials, however, disagree. They say the added sugar is worth it if it gets kids to drink the milk.</p><p>&ldquo;Studies have shown consistently over the country that if you take out that option [for chocolate milk] even though it&rsquo;s non-fat, the milk consumption goes down,&rdquo; says USDA undersecretary Concannon.</p><p>And while the American Heart Association doesn&rsquo;t support sugary school milk, it does support the the switch to low-fat white milk in WIC. Still, the heart association&rsquo;s Mark Peysakhovich says they&rsquo;re also open to considering any new data the move might bring. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to study the effects of low fat milk on this population,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s part of what&rsquo;s so exciting about this move.&rdquo;</p><p>To find out if the USDA will also considered the new data, you won&#39;t have to wait long. New dietary guidelines are due out in 2015.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter, and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/nutrition-programs-ditch-whole-milk-110929 Is it time for the 'Immigrant Diet'? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/it-time-immigrant-diet-110723 <p><p>At a little Asian grocery store on Chicago&rsquo;s north side, Douglas Cheok studies the produce as he shuffles down the aisles. The Malaysian-born communications consultant, carefully selects small amounts of ginger, garlic, leafy greens, and soba noodles.</p><p>Then he stops at a shelf lined with fermented bean curd.</p><p>&ldquo;This salted bean curd soaked in vinegar and oil adds a more solid taste to the noodle soup or whatever you cook,&rdquo; he says sharing an Asian secret to inexpensive flavor. &nbsp;</p><p>Cheok adds the pungent curd to his cart, grabs a few fresh shrimp and heads to the check out line to buy groceries. It all costs less than $15 but he says it will last well over a week.</p><p>Once back in the kitchen, Cheok chops, minces, boils and stir fries his ingredients into a large feast of soup, greens and noodles. In the process, he demonstrates what might hold the key to affordable nutrition for all.</p><p>At least that&rsquo;s the working hunch of public health professor Adam Drewnowski, who is researching folks who upend conventional wisdom by achieving high levels of nutrition on tiny budgets.</p><p>Drewnowski stumbled upon the phenomenon last year when he was examining data on nutrient dense foods. Much of it is fairly expensive, but there were a few exceptions. Among a small group of Mexican American adults Drewnowski found consumers who were achieving high levels of nutrition at a low cost.</p><p>&ldquo;So maybe the secret is being able to transform those real foods, the raw ingredients which can be obtained cheaply at ethnic markets, into tasty meals&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Maybe, if you know how to cook them and transform then you&rsquo;re going to be OK.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Douglas Cheok show how he cooks healthy on a budget</strong></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XKVFUFgUWUM" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Drewnowski is the Director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington and he&rsquo;ll be looking at a different sample of data later this year from Seattle. There he also expects to find Asian immigrants like Cheok.</p><p>So what is it about these immigrants that allows them to pull off this feat? &nbsp;</p><p>The folks at Oldways believe it&rsquo;s about sticking to traditional diets. OldWays is a nutrition non-profit aimed at improving health through heritage. And it urges folks to adopt many of the healthful tenets of Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian diets. This month they are launching classes on the African Heritage diet as well. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Traditional diets are not expensive diets,&rdquo; says Oldways president Sara Baer-Sinnott. &ldquo;The longer that immigrants are here in the US and become acculturated, the less likely they are to continue their traditional way of eating and therefore their health statistics decline. They become more obese. They have more hypertension. They are overweight. And by following traditional diets, it&rsquo;s not a very expensive way to eat and it&rsquo;s a healthier way to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>These diets can be especially affordable in cities like Chicago with abundant, low-cost ethnic grocers. While limes can cost 50 cents apiece at mainstream stores, they can often be 12 for a dollar at ethnic grocers.</p><p>Kenny Moore is a produce buyer for Pete&rsquo;s Fresh Market which serves heavily ethnic communities. He says that he&rsquo;s able to offer bargain prices because he sells such a large volume.</p><p>&ldquo;On a whole Hispanics and Asians do buy a lot of produce and so it helps our volume and our buying,&rdquo; Moore says. &ldquo;They like cooking and use a lot of herbs and vegetables to do so.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ethnic%20grocer%202.jpg" title="Ethnic grocery stores can offer incredible deals on produce because they sell so much of it, store reps say. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>The situation in these ethnic neighborhoods would appear to be a public health professional&rsquo;s dream: affordable, accessible produce and lots of folks who know how to cook it. So does that automatically equal great health? Not always. &nbsp;</p><p>While Asian-Americans suffer less obesity than the general population, Latinos check in with more. In fact, 6th grade Latino boys suffer from the highest childhood obesity levels in the nation, despite generally robust access to fresh produce. &nbsp;</p><p>Public health researchers are still trying to sort it out why this happens.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;</strong>There are plenty of grocery stores in the neighborhood but buying healthy food. It gets tricky,&rdquo; says Erica Rangel a coordinator for <a href="http://enlacechicago.org/">Enlace, a health and education non-profit</a> in the Little Village neighborhood.</p><p>She recently gathered a group of women enrolled in an Enlace healthy gardening program to talk to about what&rsquo;s contributing to poor health in their community.</p><p>Graciela Contreras is a school lunch lady, gardener and grandmother who suffers from diabetes. Ironically, she blames some of the health problems in her community on traditional Mexican foods.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re used to the way we were taught to eat by our parents in Mexico &mdash; to eat tacos and enchiladas all that,&rdquo; she says in Spanish. &ldquo;That comes with more fat. So we are teaching our children and grandchildren to be healthier by eating vegetables. I steam the vegetables now.&rdquo;</p><p>Rangel believes the health issues have more to do with genetic factors, assimilation and little time for scratch cooking.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s easier when you&rsquo;re trying to feed a family and you feel that pressure to just buy in bulk things with higher sodium that are processed foods,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You find it everywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>The other ladies offered similar sentiments. But I also chatted with local 6th grader Victor Marquez. While he doesn&rsquo;t have a weight problem, he says he know a lot of boys who do.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they&rsquo;d have a problem if they ate good food but they eat bad foods,&rdquo; Marquez says. <strong>&ldquo;</strong>They eat junk like frozen stuff, chips, pizza, candy chocolates, lollipops, whatever.&rdquo;</p><p>But what about the fresh fruit stands that operate on nearly every block in Little Village? Don&rsquo;t his pals buy their fresh cups of mangoes, corn, melon and pineapple?</p><p>&ldquo;I always see kids get the chicharrones and the raspados and those aren&rsquo;t good because they&rsquo;re like ink,&rdquo; he says &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Those chicharrones are deep fried artificial pork rinds and the raspados are snow cones drenched in inky sugar syrup. One vendor told me they&rsquo;re her No. 1 seller with kids.</p><p>But there may be hope for these kids off the street and back in the home. Drewnowski has some new research coming out that suggests the longer folks spend cooking, the better they eat. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That certainly seems to be true for Douglas Cheok.</p><p>Back in his kitchen, he&rsquo;s chopping vegetables and boiling water for his stir fried greens and shrimp noodle soup. In less than an hour he&rsquo;s turned out enough dishes to last him all week. &nbsp;</p><p>As Cheok finally sits down to his his meal of shrimp soup and tofu with greens, he shares a startling secret.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know how to cook before I came to the States,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;In Malaysia eating out was cheap so I didn&rsquo;t have to cook.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, the retiree says that if he can learn to cook, &ldquo;Anyone can learn. You don&rsquo;t need a college degree to know how to cook. But it is always good to know how to cook.&rdquo;</p><p>And it might not hurt to live near an ethnic grocery store.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/it-time-immigrant-diet-110723 Chicago’s top chefs join Ald. Ed Burke to urge limits on antibiotic use http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-top-chefs-join-ald-ed-burke-urge-limits-antibiotic-use-110406 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BURKE-photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When you see a gathering of white coated chefs around Chicago it&rsquo;s usually as part of a food festival or some gala dinner. But Tuesday morning some of the city&rsquo;s top cooks and restaurateurs gathered at City Hall to voice their concerns about public health and the way animals are raised in this country.</p><p>They were there to support a non-binding City Council resolution to support long-stalled Congressional bills on antibiotics. Known as <a href="http://www.louise.house.gov/the-preservation-of-antibiotics-for-medical-treatment-act">PAMPTA </a>and PARA, they would stop American farmers from using certain classes of antibiotics on healthy animals. The practice is meant to promote growth and prevent disease.</p><p>The world&rsquo;s leading health authorities believe that overuse of antibiotics in hospital and farm settings is leading to the rise of &ldquo;superbugs&rdquo;, or bacterial infections that can no longer be cured with antibiotics.</p><p>Long-time Chicago restaurateur and co-founder of the <a href="http://buygreenchicago.org/">Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition</a> Ina Pinkney introduced the long list of scientists and doctors who would speak at the finance committee hearing on the resolution later that day.</p><p>But she also shared a personal story of a friend who recently gave birth to twins.</p><p>&ldquo;One baby went home and the other one was sick and they found MRSA in her nose as a nine-day-old,&rdquo; Pinkney said. &ldquo;Then you have to say that things are not OK.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports</a> that over 2 million Americans are infected by so-called superbugs each year and and more than 23,000 die.</p><p>&ldquo;The antibiotic issue is just out of control,&rdquo; said Dan <a href="https://www.sopraffina.com/dolce/homepage.htm">Rosenthal, whose restaurant group </a>owns seven Chicago eateries including Sopraffina and Ciccheti.</p><p>&ldquo;We are creating, in our industrial meat complex, the perfect environment to create antibiotic resistant bacteria...They are found in our meat and water supply and system and what happens is we get to a situation where antibiotics are no longer effective.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Rosenthal is so concerned over the issue that since 2012, he&#39;s sourced all 800,000 pounds of meat he serves in his restaurants each year from farms who don&rsquo;t use antibiotics on their healthy animals.</p><p>It was also Rosenthal who, last April, urged Alderman Ed Burke to introduce the proposed resolution to the City Council.</p><p>If passed tomorrow, the resolution can&rsquo;t force Congress to do anything, but Burke says it can &ldquo;call the attention of the Illinois delegation to what we believe is an important public health initiative.&rdquo;</p><p>But the measures face considerable opposition. The biggest players in the livestock industry have long resisted any mandatory restrictions.</p><p>&quot;We are opposed to those bills because we really believe they are out of date with the current Food and Drug Administration regulatory activities,&rdquo; said Illinois Pork Producer Association spokesman Tim Maier, who is based in Springfield.</p><p>He&#39;s referring to recent voluntary guidelines that prohibit using antibiotics to make animals grow faster. But preventative uses are still in a gray area and critics say the situation is much too grave to solve with voluntary guidelines. They further argue that the government doesn&rsquo;t collect enough data to know if any farmers are choosing to comply. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>But while health activists cite the rise of antibiotic resistant infections and antibiotic resistant bacteria on supermarket meat as as threat to public health, Maier says it&#39;s the restrictions proposed in the legislation that would cause a threat.</p><p>&ldquo;We think they would actually harm animal health and by extension food safety by limiting the antibiotics that are available for farmers to use when they want to treat their animals,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Denmark, which is one of the largest pork producers in the world, banned the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock in 2000. The move required some adjustments and saw some outbreaks of disease, but within a decade the World Health Organization &ldquo;found that the ban reduced human health risk without significantly harming animal health or farmers&#39; incomes,&rdquo; according to the<a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2010/11/01/avoiding-antibiotic-resistance-denmarks-ban-on-growth-promoting-antibiotics-in-food-animals"> Pew Charitable Trust</a>.</p><p>So why are chefs and restaurateurs involved in this legislative discussion?</p><p>&ldquo;Because they understand that a meat supply that produces killer bacteria along with the meat is an unsustainable system and it has to be changed,&rdquo; said Rosenthal. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why these chefs are standing up for meat raised in a sustainable fashion without antibiotics to provide a better source of supply of meat both at the restaurant level and in the grocery store.&quot;</p><p>At grocery stores like <a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/animal-welfare-standards">Whole Foods Market, </a>meat raised without antibiotics has served the baseline standards for a few years. Jared Donisvitch oversees the butcher counter at the store&rsquo;s Lincoln Park location, where, he says, the antibiotic issue on shoppers minds.</p><p>&ldquo;It comes up fairly often with our interactions with customers,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and so we are a well-trained group here and try to help customers with any questions they have on that.&rdquo;</p><p>Representative Louise Slaughter of New York State is Congress&rsquo; only microbiologist and the sponsor of PAMPTA. Last week, she sent a letter to the Chicago City Council, saying &ldquo;It is only through local, grassroots efforts like yours that we will make a difference in public health on a national level.&quot;</p><p>If the City Council resolution passes this week, Chicago would join the ranks of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Seattle and others. But even if all the cities in the nation adopt such resolutions, they can&rsquo;t pass an act of Congress.</p><p>Still, Susan Vaughn Grooters of <a href="http://www.keepantibioticsworking.com/">Keep Antibiotics Working</a>, a nationwide coalition that aims to pass legislation to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, says the local resolutions add a new voice to the usual Congressional debates. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If we could get the groundswell from city councils across the nation to help support the federal legislation it could really help what&rsquo;s happening in DC now,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s essential that they hear from other people, not just inside the beltway in DC.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Burke also notes that municipal resolutions have played a part in creating national momentum on issues in the past. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;One issue that comes to mind is the effort we undertook a number of years ago to ban trans fats from food products,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Now you can&rsquo;t walk down the aisles of the grocery store without seeing notations on boxes, &lsquo;no trans fats&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>The City Council is expected to vote on the resolution Wednesday afternoon.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-top-chefs-join-ald-ed-burke-urge-limits-antibiotic-use-110406 Chicagoans living longer than ever before, but racial gap remains http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-living-longer-ever-racial-gap-remains-110334 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Morality.png" alt="" /><p><p>The average Chicago resident now lives to be nearly 78 years old, seven years longer than the local population lived just twenty years ago. A <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdph/statistics_and_reports/LifeExpectancyinChicago1990-2010.pdf" target="_blank">new report</a> from the Chicago Department of Public Health shows that life expectancy in Chicago grew twice as fast as the national average.</p><p>But an existing disparity between the life expectancy rate of white and black residents was stubbornly persistent. Black residents die younger than white residents by about seven years, a slightly narrower gap than in 1990. And the divide between black and white males didn&rsquo;t budge at all.</p><p><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdph/auto_generated/cdph_leadership.html" target="_blank">Dr. Bechara Choucair</a> is the health department&rsquo;s commissioner. He said public policy helped increase the average Chicagoan&rsquo;s life span; now, he hopes good policy will help to slim the racial gap.</p><p>Choucair pointed to a mammography program in Roseland, a largely black community. &ldquo;We catch breast cancer early, we link them to care early, so they don&rsquo;t have to die much younger than what they&rsquo;re suppose to,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The greatest contributor to the discrepancy between black and white females was heart disease and cancer. For black males it was heart disease and homicide.</p><p>Hispanic residents live longest, at an average lifespan of just under 85 years. Foreign-born Hispanics live longer than native-born Hispanics by five-and-a-half years.&nbsp;</p><p>LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH IN 1990</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="400" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2%3E%3E1+from+1gUKKGSQ-6aI4MsddfPJ4RNA3M3vqBDF-zGztOd2t&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.83100107293211&amp;lng=-87.76920435742187&amp;t=1&amp;z=10&amp;l=col2%3E%3E1&amp;y=8&amp;tmplt=9&amp;hml=KML" width="600"></iframe></p><p>LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH IN 2010</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="400" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2%3E%3E1+from+1gUKKGSQ-6aI4MsddfPJ4RNA3M3vqBDF-zGztOd2t&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.81667382886748&amp;lng=-87.721139171875&amp;t=1&amp;z=10&amp;l=col2%3E%3E1&amp;y=5&amp;tmplt=6&amp;hml=KML" width="600"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 12:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-living-longer-ever-racial-gap-remains-110334 Grilled meats serve up dangerous compounds, but you can avoid some http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/grilled-meats-serve-dangerous-compounds-you-can-avoid-some-110214 <p><p>For many, Memorial Day weekend means it&rsquo;s finally time to bust out two things: the white shoes and blackened meats.&nbsp;</p><p>American dads may take pride in their cross-hatch grill marks, but those juicy, charred slabs of meat are coming under incresing scrutiny for the dangerous compounds they develop when protein meets dry blazing heat.</p><p>These include heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and advanced glycation end products or HCAs, PAHs and AGEs.</p><p>Peter Guengerich is a biochemistry professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He&rsquo;s been studying HCAs and PAHs for 25 years, and he says that, on their own, the compounds aren&#39;t all that dangerous.</p><p>&ldquo;But our bodies have enzyme systems that convert these into reactive compounds,&rdquo; Guengerich said. &ldquo;Things that get stuck irreversibly on your DNA and can cause mutations and potentially cancer, most commonly colon cancer.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s important to note that this has little to do with charcoal vs. gas or other fuels.</p><p>Dr Jaime Uribarri of Mount Sinai Medical Center says what matters are the AGEs &mdash; the crispy, browned, tasty bits that form on the outside of grilled meat and other foods.&nbsp; In the kitchen they&rsquo;re considered flavor, but in most medical labs, Uribarri says, they&rsquo;re linked to inflammation that causes &ldquo;diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, dementia and essentially most of the chronic medical conditions of modern times.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, recent Mount Sinai research shows that mice fed a diet high in AGEs &mdash; similar to a Western diet &mdash; developed marked cognitive decline and precursors to Alzheimers disease and diabetes. Those fed a low-AGE diet were free of those conditions.&nbsp;</p><p>So does this mean an end to the all-American cookout?&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If it is something done only once a year it may not be that bad,&rdquo; Uribarri says.</p><p>Only once a year?</p><p>Professor Guengerich won&rsquo;t go that far, but he does urge moderation.</p><p>&ldquo;Well basically if you only eat these things occasionally, [I&rsquo;m] probably not too concerned,&rdquo; the biochemist said. &ldquo;But if you are making a habit of eating these things every other day, grilled at high temperatures, you probably should think about it a little bit more.&rdquo;</p><p>But before you put away the Weber you should know there are lots of ways to cut down on these compounds at your barbecue.</p><p>To reduce the AGE&rsquo;s, Uribarri suggests a few things.</p><p>&ldquo;Make sure the meat is not left for very long periods of time on the grill,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Whenever possible, the meat should be marinated or freshened with juices during the cooking. And simultaneously, eat a lot of fruits vegetables and things that will kind of antagonize the bad effects of these compounds.&rdquo;</p><p>These would include antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, pomegranates and cherries &mdash; one Michigan butcher even blends them into his burger meat.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/blueberries.jpg" title="Eating antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, cherries and pomegranates with grilled foods may help reduce the harmful effects of grilling byproducts. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG) " /></div><p>Studies also show that marination in wine, vinegar or lemon juice can lower the meat&rsquo;s pH and cut way down on the formation of AGE and HCA. Another study shows that rubbing meat with fresh rosemary can cut HCA development most entirely.</p><p>Guengerich says you should also cover your grill with foil to avoid carcinogenic flare ups that produce PAHs on the surface.</p><p>&ldquo;And if you are particularly concerned you can preheat [the meat] in a microwave and get the juice out,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Then take it out and put it on the grill and you&rsquo;ll actually reduce your exposure by about 90 percent and you won&rsquo;t lose that much in the way of taste either.&rdquo;</p><p>Then there&rsquo;s the low-tech method of simply scraping off what Guengerich calls &quot;the black crud&quot; from the outside of your food. Those grill marks are rich in these carcinogenic compounds.<br /><br />Fans of cole slaw, broccoli and Brussels sprouts may also have more leeway. One study found that regular consumption of these cruciferous vegetables can help clear DNA damage wrought by the grilling process.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>And finally, Uribarri suggests simply swapping the dry high heat cooking for gentler water based methods most of the time.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;So take for example a piece of meat,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You put it on the grill to cook for half an hour, you generate so many AGEs. Then you take the same piece of meat, but now you put it under a lot of water to cook as a stew, you generate much much fewer. &ldquo;&nbsp;</p><p>This may be effective, but will anyone really want to come over to your house this summer for a burger boil?</p><p>Wiviott doesn&rsquo;t think so.<br /><br />&ldquo;No one wants to eat nine ounces of poached chicken or turkey breast,&rdquo; the pitmaster of Barn &amp; Company says.</p><p>&quot;Conversely, if you grill it and you have texture and crunch and flavor and salt and fat, that&rsquo;s when something really tastes good.&quot;</p><p>Wiviott is the author of &ldquo;Low and Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in FIve Easy Lessons.&rdquo; And he finds&nbsp; it hard to swallow all the recent science deriding his favorite foods.</p><p>&quot;In my lifetime, I&rsquo;ve seen coffee be not good for you; now it&rsquo;s good for you. Red wine not good for you; now it&rsquo;s good for you.&nbsp; Butter, pig fat. Margarine was good for you and now it&rsquo;s not,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I mean, since the cavemen started cooking, people have cooked their meat over an open fire and we&rsquo;re still around. So I can&rsquo;t imagine that it&rsquo;s all that bad for you&hellip;.Plus, it&rsquo;s absolutely delicious.&quot;</p><p>So does this mean you have to choose between boiled meat or colon cancer? Between long life and a char-striped hot dog?</p><p>&ldquo;Well it is a carcinogen,&rdquo; Guengerich says. &ldquo;But I don&rsquo;t want people to have a guilty conscience or feel like they are going to get cancer tomorrow. Just be moderate about your consumption of anything. Grilled foods included.&quot;</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Farmers-market-cabbage.jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can help clear DNA damage from byproducts of grilled meats. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG) " /></div><p><strong>Tips for Reducing Grilled Food Dangers</strong></p><p>If you don&rsquo;t want to give up grilling meat all together, experts say, there are several ways to reduce the formation and your consumption of heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and advanced glycation end products. Here are some of them:</p><ul><li>Pre-cook your meat in a pot of water, a low-temperature oven or microwave before finishing briefly on the grill.</li><li>Cover grill with foil to reduce drips and flare ups, which produce PAHs, or consider wrapping your meat in foil before placing it on the grill.&nbsp;</li><li>Marinate meat with vinegar, lemon juice or wine for at least 10 minutes before grilling. This can alter its pH, thus reducing the formation of AGEs during cooking.</li><li>Rub your meat with rosemary or other antioxidant rich fresh herbs before cooking.</li><li>Before eating, scrape off the carcinogenic &ldquo;black crud&rdquo; that may develop on meat or other foods during grilling.</li><li>Remove browned and blackened chicken skin before eating.</li><li>Eat cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables on a regular basis to provide your body with sulforaphane, which has been known to help clear DNA damaging compounds more quickly.</li><li>Eat antioxidant rich, deeply colored fruits and vegetables with your grilled meats to help counter the effects of the compounds.&nbsp;</li><li>Consider a weenie boil rather than a weenie roast. You will produce many fewer AGEs in the process.&nbsp;</li></ul></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 21 May 2014 11:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/grilled-meats-serve-dangerous-compounds-you-can-avoid-some-110214 Chicago man loses 200 pounds to give back to Little Village http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/chicago-man-loses-200-pounds-give-back-little-village-109972 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/storycorps.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Miguel Blancarte, Jr. is a proud resident of Chicago&#39;s Little Village neighborhood. A first generation college graduate from Brown University, he now works at a law firm specializing in immigration.</p><p>Miguel says the one thing he&rsquo;s always struggled with is his weight. It wasn&rsquo;t until his doctor warned him that he wouldn&rsquo;t live past his mid-40s that he knew something had to change:</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly the thought of losing anything more than 30 pounds was just not a reality to me,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But Miguel managed to lose not just 30, but 200 pounds in all. He then ran his first ever 5k race to to raise money for Enlace, the local community center that provides health and social services in Little Village.</p><p>To hear how he lost all that weight so he could give back to his community, check out the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer.</em><br />&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/chicago-man-loses-200-pounds-give-back-little-village-109972 Returning to work after a brain injury http://www.wbez.org/news/returning-work-after-brain-injury-109237 <p><p>Concussions in the<a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/concussion-watch/"> National Football League (NFL)</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/opinion/sunday/war-wounds.html?_r=0">military</a> have received a lot of attention lately. But traumatic brain injury is a much larger issue, affecting at least <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/mtbi/mtbireport.pdf">1.5 million Americans</a> each year.</p><p>As the impact of brain injuries becomes clearer, some experts say they are noticing a pattern. Many people with brain injuries are struggling in their efforts to return to work <a href="http://www.brainline.org/content/2008/10/fact-sheet-series-job-accommodations-people-brain-injuries-0.html">or get the accommodations</a> from their employers to deal with the aftermath.</p><p>Carey Gelfand lives in Glencoe, Ill., one of Chicago&rsquo;s North Shore suburbs. In 2006, she was working at an art consulting company. She traveled with her boss to New York City to attend an art expo. She was wearing a pair of flat-bottom cowboy boots when the temperature dropped and the rain-slicked streets froze over.</p><p>&ldquo;My feet went out from under me and my head just hit the pavement,&rdquo; said Gelfand.</p><p>Gelfand did what many of us do when we get embarrassed after a fall, she stood up and brushed herself off, declaring, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m fine, I&rsquo;m fine&hellip;&rdquo; &nbsp;She kept walking with her colleagues and then boarded a bus. &ldquo;And I looked out the window and I was thinking, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m here, but I&rsquo;m not,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Gelfand.&nbsp;</p><p>When she returned to Illinois, she began forgetting crucial details. She missed an appointment with an important client and could not concentrate at work. By most afternoons she was exhausted, and sometimes she would get terrible headaches.</p><p>&ldquo;My boss was wanting to take jobs away from me. I was very diminished in my position. I was just so frustrated and I had such poor sense of self,&rdquo; said Gelfand.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Concusions%20Work_GelfandPhoto.jpg" style="float: right; height: 193px; width: 210px;" title="The brain injury Carey Gelfand survived seven years ago still impacts her today. (Photo courtesy of Carey Gelfand)" />Dr. <a href="http://doctors.rush.edu/directory/profile.asp?setsize=10&amp;pict_id=0006610">James Young</a> specializes in rehabilitation neurology at Chicago&rsquo;s Rush University Medical Center. He said people like Gelfand do not always seek medical attention after a brain injury, because they do not understand how serious it can be. He said a brain injury can be serious even if the victim maintained consciousness.</div><p>Young added it is important after a brain injury see a neurologist who can administer the proper tests. Not doing so means it could be weeks or years before the injury is diagnosed.</p><p>&ldquo;People get fired from their jobs,&rdquo; said Young. &ldquo;They do worse in school. And their world starts to disintegrate, and they think it couldn&#39;t be related to this simple injury.&rdquo;</p><p>When Gelfand finally did see a doctor, weeks after her injury, he showed her a spot where her brain had bled.</p><p>&ldquo;They tell you to rest. Well, good luck,&rdquo; said Gelfand. &ldquo;You know, I couldn&rsquo;t really take time off from my job, because if I did, I&rsquo;d lose the project. I didn&rsquo;t want to risk having any losses when I was doing it, because I really wanted to come across as if I was competent.&rdquo;</p><p>The stigma of brain injury stops some employees from asking for accommodations. &ldquo;Your brain is you,&rdquo; said Gelfand. &ldquo;It is literally, in your head.&rdquo;</p><p>When employees do ask for workplace adjustments to deal with head injuries, they can be turned down. Young sometimes calls employers to advocate for his patients.</p><p>&ldquo;To sit there and say I just want them to work for four hours a day for two weeks&hellip; you would think I was asking for the world,&rdquo; Young said. He called this a double standard when compared to other injuries or illnesses, adding, &ldquo;If a person has a flu, and takes five days off, we accept that.&rdquo;</p><p>Young says one reason it&rsquo;s hard to get accommodations for a brain injury is because it&#39;s hidden. &ldquo;People who&rsquo;ve been in car accidents or who are assaulted [and get a brain injury], they said (I) wish I lost my arm so you could see my injury,&rdquo; said Young. &nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.athleticmed.com/staff-member/dr-morgan-wolin-psy-d/">Morgan Wolin</a>, a Chicago psychologist, says the invisibility of a brain injury can make human resources (HR) departments suspicious.</p><p>&ldquo;When you see these very vital, smart individuals and all of sudden they are aren&#39;t feeling normal, [and they have trouble with] attention spans and headaches, we start assigning they are malingering,&rdquo; said Wolin. &ldquo;And I think that is going to be the big problem understanding head injuries.&rdquo;</p><p>Wolin says she has seen her patients lose jobs. A<a href="http://www.biausa.org/tbims-abstracts/income-and-employment-status-one-year-after-brain-injury?A=SearchResult&amp;SearchID=7372036&amp;ObjectID=2758761&amp;ObjectType=35"> small study found people&#39;s incomes dropped an average of 50 percent after a brain injury and unemployment increased by more than 400</a> percent.</p><p><a href="http://www.faegrebd.com/stacey-smiricky">Stacey Smiricky</a> is an employment lawyer at the firm <a href="http://www.faegrebd.com/index.aspx">Faegre Baker Daniels.</a> She says most HR departments are understanding. But figuring out a reasonable accommodation is also the employee&rsquo;s responsibility.</p><p>&ldquo;They have to come to the party. You have to bring some suggestions of your own. You have to meet with the employer and say this might work,&rdquo; said Smiricky.</p><p>Wolin works with both athletes and non-athletes. She says sports teams have developed <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/return_to_play.html">&ldquo;back to play rules,&rdquo;</a> a plan for when and how someone can play again after an injury. She hopes he model will trickle down to HR departments.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we are in... one of those &lsquo;ah ha!&rsquo; [moments]. We know better now. But, if we know better, will we do better? Will human resources say, &lsquo;Okay concussions are a real thing, lets take it more seriously?&rsquo;&rdquo; asked Wolin.</p><p>Wolin says it is an exciting and scary moment, because we are realizing how much more we need to learn. That is especially true for a particular group: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/work/few-studies-explore-unique-impacts-brain-injuries-women-109257">our second story, women with brain injurie</a>s.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p><p><em>Clarification: A previous version of this story mischaracterized Gelfand&#39;s start date at her job. She had worked at the company for years before her injury. </em></p></p> Mon, 25 Nov 2013 09:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/returning-work-after-brain-injury-109237