Arts & Entertainment

Furie, above sailing on her 26-foot boat that is moored at Manhasset Bay, is navigating the American Journal of Pathology toward new waters. Photo by Richard Furie

By Daniel Dunaief

Martha Furie has a job no other woman has held in the 122-year history of a highly regarded scientific periodical. A professor of pathology and molecular genetics and microbiology at Stony Brook University, Furie is the new editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Pathology, taking over the top editorial job at a journal where she has been a contributor since 1993.

Martha Furie. Photo by SBU

“As a woman, it is certainly gratifying to see an accomplished and capable woman such as Martha being chosen to lead the way,” said Kari Nejak-Bowen, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, in an email. “Seeing women such as [Furie] in positions of power and visibility will empower other female scientists to dream that they can accomplish similar goals.”

Richard Mitchell, a senior associate editor at the journal and a professor of pathology and health sciences and technology and vice chair for education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital also applauded the choice. Furie “was probably the very best person we could recruit for the job and is someone who has the energy and vision for leading us into the challenging future,” Mitchell said.

From 1986 through 2014 Furie ran a lab that focused on the study of the body’s immune response to infections from Lyme disease and tularemia, which is cause by a bacterium that is classified as a potential agent of bioterrorism. In 2014, she became the director of the Graduate Program in Genetics at Stony Brook.

Kenneth Shroyer, the chair of the Department of Pathology at SBU, described the periodical Furie starts leading in 2018 as the “top pathology journal.”

As she takes the helm of the journal, Furie plans to navigate the periodical toward more translational research. “The Journal has been very focused on understanding the basic mechanisms of disease,” she said. “Research in all areas is getting much more translational: The bench-to-bedside thinking is where funding agencies are focusing their efforts,” and it’s also where the periodical she now leads is heading.

The tagline for the journal, which Nejak-Bowen said helped pioneer the current understanding of cell death, used to be Cellular and Molecular Biology of Disease. Furie changed that to Discoveries in Basic and Translational Pathobiology.

Shroyer believes the new direction should help the journal compete and redefine its niche for a wider range of readers. While Furie is excited about the opportunity, she acknowledges the increasingly challenging nature of the business. “Scientific publishing is a tough area right now,” she said. “There are fewer people in research because funding has diminished,” while, at the same time, more journals are competing to highlight research discoveries.

She will try to raise the journal’s profile for research scientists. Furie plans on expanding the journal’s social media presence and will do more marketing, while working with expert associate editors and getting them more involved in soliciting submissions. She also plans to make collections of highly cited papers in targeted areas and intends to use these to market the journal to attendees at specialized conferences.

Furie will spend this month contacting each of the associate editors and will solicit suggestions for people who might like to join the publication. She will also seek ideas for the journal. Mitchell suggested that Furie would likely benefit from these interactions. She is a “very good listener and is thoughtful in the questions she asks,” he said. “She is very discerning in assimilating the answers she gets back.” Shroyer expressed confidence in Furie’s leadership, citing a string of accolades and accomplishments in an SBU career that began in 1986.

Above, Furie welcomes students and faculty to the graduate program’s retreat in 2016. Photo by Constance Brukin

Furie was the president of the American Society for Investigative Pathology from the middle of 2011 through the middle of 2012. She was also the recipient of the Robbins Distinguished Educator Award in 2017, which recognizes people whose contributions to education in pathology had an important impact at a regional, national or international level.

Furie and Nejak-Bowen co-organized and co-chaired the ASIP Scientific Sleuthing of Human Disease for High School Teachers and Students in April 2017. With this effort, Furie has already had some success in changing the direction and target audience of an ongoing program. The session, which provides high school teachers with concepts of human disease that they can incorporate into their classroom, now includes high school students.

“This has really revitalized the program, as the students are inquisitive and very engaged with the material,” Nejak-Bowen explained. Furie was “instrumental in encouraging this change in focus, and is passionate about building an improving this session every year.”

The opportunity Furie has as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pathology “continues her role as a national leader that she’s established,” Shroyer said.

Furie said she benefited from a diverse staff at Stony Brook, that included women like current Professor Emeritus Gail Habicht, when she first arrived. One of the best pieces of advice she received from Habicht was to understand that you can have a family and a successful career.

“You might not be able to do it to the same standard of perfection you did before you had children, but you can have a meaningful career and raise successful children and be happy doing both,” recalled Furie, who has two sons, Jon and Dan, and a 10-month-old grandson Tyler, who lives in Bedford, New York. She is married to Richard Furie, the chief of the Division of Rheumatology at Northwell Health, whom she met in a physics class at Cornell over 45 years ago.

Nejak-Bowen said Furie “leads by example when it comes to work/life balance.” Nejak-Bowen urges women scientists to find a mentor who can offer advice through all stages of a career. She has long considered Furie “a friend, mentor and inspiration.”

Based on Furie’s track record, Shroyer is confident in her continued success and anticipates that the journal will “thrive under her direction.”

From left, Nick Jonas, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart star in the new ‘Jumanji’ reboot. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

By Heidi Sutton

After a 21-year absence, the African drums are back and beating stronger than ever. Fresh, original and exciting, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” rightfully topped the charts last weekend as king of the mountain, bumping “Insidious” to second and “Star Wars” to third.

Directed by Jake Kasdan (“Bad Teacher,” “Sex Tape,”) “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is based on the 1981 children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. While many theorize the film is a remake of the original 1995 classic starring Robin Williams, it is actually a sequel that has been adapted for modern audiences where the creepy board game finds new unsuspecting players to terrorize. That was Kasdan’s goal from the beginning, reaffirmed in a recent interview with Forbes Magazine. “I loved the original movie, and [this new film] was a really cool extension of that, but it was vital to us that it stands on its own and be its own thing.”

This time around, instead of the jungle and all its creatures coming to town and creating havoc (remember the monkeys?), the four main characters are sucked into the game and have to overcome many obstacles to be able to come back home.

From left, Alex Wolff , Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman and Morgan Turner play four teens that fall prey to ‘Jumanji,’ now in the form of a video game. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

The year is 2016 and “Jumanji” has transformed itself into a video game, the only way it can attract its next victims (“who plays board games anymore?”). Sitting innocently on a shelf in a high school storage room, it peaks the interest of four students of Brantford High School who find it while serving detention for the afternoon. (Think “Breakfast Club.”) There’s Spencer Gilpin, self-proclaimed nerd; jock Anthony “Fridge” Johnson; popular girl Bethany Walker; and shy bookworm Martha Kaply. When each teenager chooses an avatar to start the game, they are teleported to a dangerous jungle and become the characters they have chosen.

Spencer is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone, played by the 6-foot 5-inch Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; Fridge is the short zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart); Martha is a martial arts expert, Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan); and Bethany is an overweight, middle-aged cartographer named Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black). Black’s performance as a 16-year-old girl is brilliant.

The group soon realizes that they are in a video game, and each has just three lives. If they lose all three, they will die for real. Their mission is to steal the Jaguar’s Eye from big-game hunter, Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), return it to its rightful owner and win the game.

One of the funniest moments throughout the film is the special skills and weaknesses attributed to the avatars. While Gillan’s character weakness is venom and Black’s weakness is endurance, Hart’s weakness is strength, speed and cake, and instantly self-implodes when he takes a bite. On the other hand, The Rock has no weaknesses, only a “smoldering charisma,” which he utilizes quite often.

As the movie progresses, the avatars lose lifeline after lifeline, dying in various ways and then dropping from the sky for another try. When things start to look grim, they bump into Alex (Nick Jonas), a boy from their town who has been lost in the jungle for 20 years. Can the five combine their skills to overcome the game’s magical power and return home?

Filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where “Jurassic World” was also filmed, the movie is visually stunning and the special effects are top notch. With a great script, adventure, action packed and funny as tech, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is now playing in area theaters.

Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and some language.

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Staci Rosenberg-Simons introduces calendar model Beatrice Halperin. Photo from Gurwin Jewish

Two U.S. Army veterans (one of whom liberated the first concentration camp discovered at the close of World War II), a Holocaust survivor, a former vice president of the New York Mets wearing his 1986 World Series ring, two centenarians and nine additional seniors, aged 75 to 105, each took turns arriving on a celebrity red carpet on Dec. 20 to celebrate their participation in the L’dor V’dor From Generation to Generation 2018 calendar. This is the sixth annual calendar featuring the residents of Gurwin Jewish–Fay J. Lindner Assisted Living in Commack.

From left, Gurwin President & CEO Stuart B. Almer with Halperin and Michael Letter, administrator & COO, Gurwin Jewish–Fay J. Lindner Residences. Photo from Gurwin Jewish

Rather than depicting adorable pets, hunky firemen or dreamy vacation spots, the annual Gurwin calendar showcases residents displaying the beauty of age and their wisdom. Residents were chosen for their unique personal story and their active involvement in daily life at Gurwin. The calendar was photographed over two days earlier this year, in a professional celebrity-style photo shoot that included hair and makeup.

“Gurwin’s unique calendar honors the wonderful residents of our assisted living community,” said Stuart B. Almer, president and CEO of the Gurwin family of health care services. “The sage advice from the ‘Greatest Generation’ contained in its pages is made all the more meaningful because of their rich life experiences.”

The celebration included many members of the calendar models’ families. Among them was Beatrice Halperin, 101, who was joined by three generations of her family for a unique four-generation family photo. Her advice: “Just Dance!”

“We are so thrilled to recognize the vitality and vibrancy of our seniors, who inspire us on a daily basis,” said Staci Rosenberg-Simons, director of community relations at Gurwin’s assisted living facility. “The portraits are stunning, and their words of advice resonate with all who read them.” The calendar is available free of charge at www.gurwin.org. For more information, call 631-715-2562.

COMEBACK KID Times Beacon Record News Media freelance photographer Bob Savage captured this image of a bald eagle sitting on a PSEG pole in Greenlawn on Dec. 7. There have been more and more local sightings of the majestic bird as of late, a sign, according to scientists, that Long Island’s water quality is improving. Want to learn more? Join the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society for a free screening of the nature documentary, “American Eagle,” at Cold Spring Harbor Library on Wednesday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

 

Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star as a husband and wife who consider shrinking themselves in order to simplify their lives. Photo courtesy of Venice Film Festival

By Michael Tessler

Several months ago I stumbled upon the trailer for “Downsizing” and its concept really struck me as something special. In an era of reboots and sequels it was so refreshing to hear an idea I’d never heard before. Judging from the trailer, the film appeared to be a fun-sized science fiction comedy perfect for families during the holiday season. What was delivered, however, was something entirely different for better or worse, I’m still not quite sure, and it’s definitely not kid friendly.

Here’s what you need to know: With the global population swelling, scientists in Norway discover a formula that shrinks people to miniature size. In the years that follow, communities begin popping up around the world that allow “downsized” individuals to live like kings in idealistic domed neighborhoods. Since everything is smaller, it is significantly cheaper … allowing people who’d otherwise be poor or in the middle class to enjoy life in massive mansions with the most expensive foods and goods at their pint-sized disposal.

Udo Kier, Matt Damon and Christoph Waltz in a scene from ‘Downsizing’

Directed by Alexander Payne, the story follows occupational therapist Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), your generic middle-class man who is forced to live in his childhood home after his mother gets sick. He and his wife, played by SNL alumni Kristen Wiig, attend a high school reunion where they discover that two of their old friends have downsized. After having them over for dinner, they make a trip to visit one of these pint-sized communities. Ultimately the couple decides to move forward with being downsized, selling their home, possessions, and planning to enjoy life as millionaires in the idealistic Leisureland Estates.

Separated by gender, Damon’s character undergoes the procedure first. It hilariously involves the shaving of his eyebrows and facial hair, among other things. He awakes as a small person, about 6 inches tall, and is shocked to discover that his wife has backed out at the very last minute, leaving him alone in a small, small world.

From there the story flashes forward and takes a few unexpected turns as we are introduced to eccentric millionaire Dusan Mirkovic, played by the enormously talented and multifaceted Christoph Waltz (“Inglorious Bastards,” “Django Unchained”) and, among the most unanticipated turns, the introduction of Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese civil rights activist who gets downsized by her government as punishment for staging a series of protests. In the process she loses her leg and lives in the slums outside Leisureland working as a maid. Portrayed by the lovable Hong Chau, this character adds an exciting dimension to the story.

The cast also includes brief but memorable appearances by the likes of Margo Martindale, Jason Sudeikis, Udo Kier, Laura Dern, Niecy Nash, Kerri Kenney and Neil Patrick Harris.

Visually, this film is stunning, especially in its ability to make you thoroughly believe in these downsized communities. Where this film flops is its inability to figure out what it wants to be and accomplish. “Downsizing” has the perfect cast to get the job done, but the screenplay doesn’t quite deliver. It has some very funny moments though, to the point where belly aching laughter was heard throughout the theater on various occasions. It also has some serious undertones about purpose and conserving the world we live in. By the end of the film, however, I didn’t quite feel the story was neatly tied up … and the writer’s vision fell a little flat.

In an effort to achieve too much, “Downsizing” misses the mark. Forgetting its own lesson in the process, that bigger isn’t always better. Though certainly entertaining, I’d give “Downsizing” a generous 6/10.

Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use, “Downsizing” is now playing in local theaters.

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

By Barbara Beltrami

Doesn’t polenta, simply a mixture of corn meal and liquid, sound so much better than corn mush or grits? Actually, they’re all the same thing. While the mush or grits may be just as delicious, their names still suggest a bowl of well, glop; polenta, on the other hand, sounds as if it could be an operatic aria, an Italian race car or expensive designer label. At the very least, it suggests interesting savory continental fare.

A staple in northern Italy, polenta is to that region what pasta is to southern Italy and it’s just as simple to cook. You basically combine water, broth or milk with a five-to-one ratio of liquid to cornmeal, stir it and let it absorb enough water to make it tender, and then serve it up with pretty much anything you would serve with pasta, potatoes or rice. It is particularly good with any dish that has lots of sauce or gravy that it can soak up.

Some people like polenta loose and creamy like porridge or mashed potatoes for a hearty accompaniment or main dish; others like it drier and firmer so it can be sliced, then grilled, toasted or baked. The firmer one makes a terrific base for anything from breakfast to canapés. Have leftovers? Even if originally creamy and loose, polenta will become firm when refrigerated. To make it creamy again, just add some liquid when you reheat it.

Basic Polenta

Basic Polenta

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

5 cups water, milk or chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup medium cornmeal

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS: Pour the liquid into a large sturdy saucepan over high heat; whisk in cornmeal. Stirring frequently with a long wooden spoon, bring mixture to a boil. Continue cooking and frequently stirring until it begins to pop or spit; reduce heat to low and stir and scrape bottom of pan to keep it from sticking or scorching. When it is thickened and starts to pull away from pan, about 45 minutes, it is done. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in olive oil or butter. Serve immediately with sauce, gravy or grated cheese or transfer to bowl or container, cover and chill until set. When ready to serve, cut into pieces; toast or grill; then add any canapé topping or spread you desire.

Creamy Polenta with Three Cheeses

Creamy Polenta with Three Cheeses

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups milk

2 cups water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1⁄₃ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1⁄₃ cup shredded fontina cheese

1⁄₃ cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: Prepare basic polenta (above) according to instructions but use 3 cups milk and 2 cups water. When polenta is done, remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheeses while it is hot enough to melt them. Serve immediately with pot roast, stew, chili, tomato sauce or on its own with a crunchy green salad.

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

Polenta with Sauteed Mushrooms

 

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 recipe for basic polenta, chilled and cut into 2-inch by 2-inch squares, toasted or grilled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

12 ounces fresh baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons dry white wine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Melt butter with olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and parsley and cook until onion is opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms. garlic, wine, and sage and cook, stirring a few times, over medium low heat until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar, salt and pepper, stir, and remove from heat. Spoon over toasted polenta squares and serve hot or warm with wine or cocktails.

Above, the flowering quince is one member of the rose family that deer avoid. Stock photo

By Kyrnan Harvey

Previously, I have suggested a good many options for plants that possess presence in the winter landscape, that can be fully relied on not to be browsed by deer, and that can thus be employed to establish the bones of a garden.

Come spring, what flowering shrubs likewise won’t be ruined by the unpredictable predations of the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus? What can be planted, without worry, that is fully exposed to their perambulations at dawn and at dusk?

First off, let’s appreciate our native spicebush, Lindera benzoin, the swelling flower buds of which are most conspicuous in the sunlight of the first warm days of March. As true a harbinger of spring as snowdrops (truer actually, because snowdrops often open on warm days in the dead of winter), these are large shrubs that populate the understory of our woods and will seed themselves into your propitious beds and borders. Swallowtail butterfly larvae feed on their leaves, which turn bright yellow in fall, and the berries on female plants are an important food source for migratory birds. Scratch the stem or crush the leaves and you will know it’s a spicebush by the delightful scent of grapefruit.

Now let us praise forsythia, very common, and for good reason: they survive neglect, drought and shade. Their long arching stems root in, and thus spread, as their tips reach the soil. Prune them soon after flowering and leave them to themselves for the next 12 months. In other words, don’t let the landscapers buzz them in August. April 1 is when forsythia typically start flowering. In 2017 they were nearly two weeks late, as winter lasted right through March. Their ubiquity detracts from their appeal, but they should be utilized for their strong color in a still-gray landscape, for their durability in tough locations and for being … reliably deer proof.

Flowering with the forsythias are the PJM rhododendrons, precociously in shades of lavender-pink. Their leaves, mahogany-plum in winter, are aromatic when crushed and thus avoided by deer, unlike the glorious rhodies of May. I planted three in the late fall of 2015. One was promptly browsed, but not at all the last two years so I can, not without reservations, recommend them. Their shock of hot pink is surely a highlight of the year.

Grow flowering quince, Chaenomeles, in an obscure corner, in a location that is sunny but not prominent. The stunning flower colors — unusual tints of orange, watermelon-pink and peachy coral-pink — present such a jolt of pleasure that their messy tangled mass of stems can be forgiven. It will light up a forsaken location and a single cut spray will transform a room. Flowering quince (or Japanese quince, as distinguished from the quince used for jellies, Cydonia) is a classic subject for ikebana and a recurring motif in Asian art. I saw ‘Double-Take Orange’ and Double-Take Pink at Home Depot last April and ‘Cameo’ has been available at garden centers in recent years.

Lastly, for the purposes of this article on early spring flowering shrubs that are deer proof, or at least nearly so, there are the lilacs. They are all delightfully perfumed, of course. There are many varieties of the old-fashioned lilacs (Syringa vulgaris and S. × hyacinthiflora), flowering around Mother’s Day and for many a Proustian madeleine to their childhoods. Less well known, but also readily available, is the later flowering, smaller-leaved, broader-than-tall, S. meyeri ‘Palibin.’ It does not get gaunt and leggy, nor is it prone to mildew. This is truly one of the 10-best flowering shrubs to include in a garden, deer or no deer.

By mid-May the bridalwreath spirea, the Koreanspice viburnum and the Warminster broom are in full bloom and are assiduously avoided by deer. But there is a long winter ahead. In the meantime, email horticultural questions to kyrnanh@yahoo.com for possible inclusion in this column.

Kyrnan Harvey is a horticulturist and garden designer residing in East Setauket. For more information, visit www.boskygarden.com.

Goldie
Goldie

MEET GOLDIE! Celebrate the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Dog and adopt Goldie today. She may bring you luck! Isn’t she adorable? Just look at those hazel eyes and pink nose? And you can’t even see her tail because she’s wagging it so fast! Goldie is a supersweet, 1-year-old golden retriever mix who loves everyone she meets! Rescued from a high kill shelter in Texas where she was scheduled to be euthanized, this sweetheart is now safe at Kent Animal Shelter.

Goldie would make an awesome family dog as she is great with kids and seems to like other dogs as well! Won’t you drop by and say hello? Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. For more information on Goldie and other adoptable pets at Kent, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731.

UPDATE: Goldie has been adopted!

The path to improved health: Your body needs vitamins and minerals, known as micronutrients, to nourish and keep it healthy and to reduce risk for chronic diseases. Getting them through food ensures that your body can absorb them properly.
Increasing food quality makes a difference

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Hunger is only one reason we eat. There are many psychological and physiological factors that influence our eating behavior, including addictions, lack of sleep, stress, environment, hormones and others. This can make weight management or weight loss for the majority who are overweight or obese — approximately 75 percent of the U.S. adult population — very difficult to achieve (1).

Since calorie counts have been required on some municipalities’ menus, we would expect that consumers would be making better choices. Unfortunately, studies of the results have been mostly abysmal. Nutrition labeling either doesn’t alter behavior or encourages higher calorie purchases, according to most studies (2, 3).

Does this mean we are doomed to acquiesce to temptation? Actually, no: It is not solely about will power. Changing diet composition is more important.

What can be done to improve the situation? In my clinical experience, increasing the quality of food has a tremendous impact. Foods that are the most micronutrient dense, such as plant-based foods, rather than those that are solely focused on macronutrient density, such as protein, carbohydrates and fats, tend to be the most satisfying. In a week to a few months, one of the first things patients notice is a significant reduction in their cravings. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at the evidence.

Effect of refined carbohydrates

By this point, many of us know that refined carbohydrates are not beneficial. Well, there is a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard of studies, with results that show refined carbohydrates may cause food addiction (4). There are certain sections of the brain involved in cravings and reward that are affected by high-glycemic (sugar) foods, as shown by MRI scans of participants.

The participants consumed a 500-calorie shake with either a high-glycemic index or with a low-glycemic index. The participants were blinded (unaware) as to which type they were drinking. The ones who drank the high-glycemic shake had higher levels of glucose in their blood initially, followed by a significant decline in glucose levels and increased hunger four hours later. In fact, the region of the brain that is related to addiction, the nucleus accumbens, showed a spike in activity with the high-glycemic intake.

According to the authors, this effect may occur regardless of the number or quantity of calories consumed. Granted, this was a very small study, but it was well designed. High-glycemic foods include carbohydrates, such as white flour, sugar and white potatoes. The conclusion: Everyone, but especially those trying to lose weight, should avoid refined carbohydrates. The composition of calories matters.

Comparing macronutrients

We tend to focus on macronutrients when looking at diets. These include protein, carbohydrates and fats, but are these the elements that have the most impact on weight loss? In a RCT, when comparing different macronutrient combinations, there was very little difference among groups, nor was there much success in helping obese patients reduce their weight (5, 6). In fact, only 15 percent of patients achieved a 10 percent reduction in weight after two years.

The four different macronutrient diet combinations involved an overall calorie restriction. In addition, each combination had either high protein, high fat; average protein, high fat; high protein, low fat; or low protein, low fat. Carbohydrates ranged from low to moderate (35 percent) in the first group to high (65 percent) in the last group. This was another relatively well-designed study, involving 811 participants with an average BMI of 33 kg/m², which is defined as obesity (at least 30 kg/m²). Again, focusing primarily on macronutrient levels and calorie counts did very little to improve results.

Impact of obesity

In an epidemiological study looking at National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, results demonstrate that those who are overweight and obese tend to be lacking in micronutrients (7). The authors surmise that it may have to do with the change in metabolic activity associated with more fat tissue. These micronutrients include carotenoids, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, as well as vitamin B12, folate and vitamins C, E and D.

However, it does not mean this population should take supplements to make up for the lack of micronutrients. Quite the contrary, micronutrients from supplements are not the same as those from foods. Overweight and obese patients may need some supplements, but first find out if your levels are low, and then see if changing your diet might raise these levels. With a few exceptions, such as vitamin D and potentially B12, most micronutrient levels can be raised without supplementation. Please ask your doctor.

Steroid levels

It may seem like there are numerous factors influencing weight loss, but the good news is that once people lose weight, they may be able to continue to keep the weight off. In a prospective (forward-looking) study, results show that once obese patients lose the weight, the levels of cortisol metabolite excretion decreases significantly (8).

Why is this important? Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, which means it raises the level of glucose and is involved in mediating visceral or belly fat. This type of fat has been thought to coat internal organs, such as the liver, and result in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Decreasing the level of cortisol metabolite may also result in a lower propensity toward insulin resistance and may decrease the risk of cardiovascular mortality. This is an encouraging preliminary, yet small, study involving women.

Therefore, controlling or losing weight is not solely about willpower. Don’t use the calories on a menu as your sole criteria to determine what to eat; even if you choose lower calories, it may not get you to your goal. While calories may have an impact, the nutrient density of the food may be more important. Thus, those foods high in micronutrients may also play a significant role in reducing cravings, ultimately helping to manage weight.

References: (1) www.cdc.gov. (2) Am J Pub Health 2013 Sep 1;103(9):1604-1609. (3) Am J Prev Med.2011 Oct;41(4):434–438. (4) Am J Clin Nutr Online 2013;Jun 26. (5) N Engl J Med 2009 Feb 26;360:859. (6) N Engl J Med 2009 Feb 26;360:923. (7) Medscape General Medicine. 2006;8(4):59. (8) Clin Endocrinol.2013;78(5):700-705.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

A letter to the editor of your local newspaper will reach members of the public as well as your legislator.

By Nancy Marr

As we debated whether or not to support a New York State constitutional convention on Election Day, we considered the only other way change is possible — through the state legislature itself. If our legislators do not choose to make the changes, change cannot happen.

One example is the New York State election system. For many years, the League of Women Voters and other “good government” groups have worked together to convince legislators that our election system needs major improvements. Concern about the very low number of New Yorkers who actually vote has led us to lobby to remove some of the roadblocks to registering and voting.

Although there are no charges of voter suppression in our state, the state constitution prohibits early voting and stipulates that you can change your party designation only prior to the previous year’s election. Access to absentee ballots is very limited. The state requires that we have a full-face ballot, resulting in a ballot that is difficult to read. Counties cannot make any of these changes, so we have turned to the state legislature for action, with no results.

What is the most effective way to bring about change? The Legislature can change these constitutional roadblocks but will have to pass the legislation in two consecutive years and then present it to the voters for approval. To advocate for change, we have to start with our individual assembly member or senator regarding one important issue, for instance, a no-excuse absentee ballot.

How can we convince our legislators to support legislation to allow state residents to vote by absentee ballot without requiring a specific reason? Currently voters must state that they will be out of the county, that they are ill or disabled, are in a veterans hospital, in jail or prison or that they are primary caretakers of a person who is ill or disabled. If you believe that it would benefit all voters if they could vote by absentee ballot for any reason — if they are busy on Election Day, or if they have no transportation — how can you communicate this most effectively?

If we hope to see a change enacted this year, we will have to reach our state legislators by March (or earlier) in order to have the issue considered in the April budget. Start by locating your assembly member or senator and his or her contact details. Check in the league’s Directory of Public Officials at http://www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org/files/DPO2017_3.pdf or go to the website of the Board of Elections at www.suffolkvotes.com to identify your district and legislators.

Call to make an appointment at your legislator’s local office. Explain who you are or who you represent (if you belong to an organization you will be representing) and explain that you want to discuss no-excuse absentee voting because you think it will increase the turnout in your district (which is also your legislator’s district). Try to arrange for two or three persons who agree with you to attend as well. Including a young person can add a new perspective to your presentation.

Before you visit, find out about the legislator: voting record, committee assignments and leadership positions in the legislature, and any bills he or she sponsored that you support. (This information is available on legislators’ websites.) Decide with your companions what you will say, and who will say it. It is helpful for one of the visitors to agree to be the leader or spokesperson, another to be the recorder, and the others to have specific points to add.

Introduce yourselves to the legislator and present your concern about the low turnout in the voting district. Give any statistics that you have to back up your concern. If the legislator is not equally concerned, you and your colleagues may want to talk about why you think it is important that people feel involved in election issues.

Be sure to watch the clock. Knowing ahead how much time the legislator has agreed to spend with you, the leader should allot an appropriate amount of time for each issue and keep everyone on the subject. Record the legislator’s response. If you anticipate printing any part of the interview, you are obligated to get the legislator’s permission and specific conditions under which it may be printed.

Be sure and write a follow-up thank you after the visit. This gives you the opportunity to underscore some of the points made or answer any questions you were asked.

Other ways to express yourselves to legislators are by phone, letter or social media. A letter to the editor of your local newspaper will reach members of the public as well as your legislator. Rallies often are effective ways to make your opinions known and to show support for them. You may be able to arrange a public information meeting to discuss the issue and its significance. Invite your legislator to speak. Even if not concerned about low voter turnout, you could invite him or her to speak along with a representative who would present the opposite point of view.

Maximum impact results from many constituents visiting and communicating with their legislators. Many factors will affect the legislator’s response. Those who are now in office may be reluctant to expand the voting base to the benefit of possible opponents. New York State has representatives from counties that differ widely in their goals and interests. Upstate and downstate representatives are often in opposition because they face different challenges. In a later article we will discuss the political dilemma posed by the downstate/upstate differences and the differences between members of the same party in New York State government.

Nancy Marr is first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

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