A Healthier U


Black is the new black in the culinary world right now. Black baked goods, ice creams, coffees, and lemonades are popping up on store shelves and in hip restaurants and all are getting their dark hues from the same source: activated charcoal.

Why are people ingesting a substance normally used to cook food instead of flavor it? Are there really that many people who have longed to lick the briquettes before putting them in the grill? Turns out the draw isn’t in the flavor or color of the charcoal, but in the promised health benefits. Foods with activated charcoal promise to help with digestive health, reduce cholesterol, and remove other impurities from the body. “There really isn’t any reliable evidence to support these claims,” said Amberly Johnson, Poison Information Specialist with the Utah Poison Control Center. “There hasn’t been any substantive research or large studies into these supposed benefits.”

What has been proven about activated charcoal is that it can be helpful in some instances of poisoning. The charcoal binds to the poison and keeps it from entering the blood stream. However, it is not always the best option. It should not be used unless the poison was recently ingested, and the patient is alert and aware. Also, it should not be used in cases where the poison in question is a liquid, a caustic agent, or a hydrocarbon like gasoline. “Activated charcoal should only be given in healthcare facilities,” Johnson said. “We do not recommend at home use of activated charcoal for poisonings.”

Poisons aren’t the only substances activated charcoal can bind to in the stomach. It can also bind to foods you have eaten blocking the absorption of nutrients and medications you may have taken reducing their effectiveness.  “If you are taking a medication that requires a certain dosage to be effective you may be putting yourself at risk,” said Johnson.

There are risks involved with taking activated charcoal aside from medication interactions. The most common side effect is constipation, which occurs when the charcoal enters the intestine and hardens. In more severe cases this could lead to bowel blockages, or perforation.

While foods with activated charcoal may seem promising, it is important to know the risks and realize that the real benefits are likely only for whoever is selling you the darkly alluring items. 


Health is more than just your physical condition. Keeping yourself healthy also depends on balancing your emotional health, social health, intellectual health and environmental health, along with your financial and spiritual life. On today’s Health MinuteDr. Kirtly Jones talks about why we should all think about our health in holistic terms.

Listen to the interview here.



Cortisol gets a bad rap. It’s blamed for anxiety, high blood pressure, stroke—you name it. But having a better understanding of this hormone’s function helps people realize that balancing this hormone—not eliminating it—is key to healthy living.

Click here to read the full story.

For more expert health news and information, click here.

A Healthier U


You may have heard that some diets recommend eating several small meals throughout the day instead of three larger meals. Some diets boast significant health benefits with eating smaller meals throughout the day. The International Society of Sports Nutrition published their position stand on meal frequency in 2011. Here are the findings:
appetizer mini burgers with tomatoes, lettuce and meat balls

  1. Body composition

Increased meal frequency does not play a significant role in decreasing body weight or improving body composition.  Studies of overweight and normal weight individuals found that calories consumed in one meal versus three or five meals did not make a difference in body composition.  At the end of the day, weight loss or weight gain depends entirely on caloric balance.

  1. Blood markers of health

Blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, and fasting glucose levels significantly decrease with increased meal consumption.  Additionally, serum insulin levels are decreased, which may decrease body fat deposition.

  1. Metabolism

Even though there is an increase in thermogenesis and fat utilization with the consumption of smaller, more frequent meals, increasing meal frequency does not statistically elevate resting metabolic rate.  However, additional calories are burned in the actual consumption and digestion of additional meals.

  1. Hunger or satiety

Increased meal frequency does decrease feelings of hunger and, consequently, may result in decreased calories consumed in subsequent meals.

  1. Protein metabolism

Protein content of meals is more important in preserving muscle mass than the number of meals consumed in a day.  Research suggests that skeletal muscle mass preservation is optimized at 20-30 grams of high quality protein or 10-15 grams of essential amino acids, per meal.  It is also important to spread protein consumption evenly throughout the day.


La Bounty, et al. (2011) International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 8:4.


Hitting the slopes over the holidays? Make sure you are taking steps to avoid injury while you ski — and once you get home for the day.

Learn more here.

lasikLately, it seems like ads for LASIK are popping up everywhere — DJs are talking about it on the radio and newscasters sing its praises, especially if they didn’t like wearing glasses on camera.  And it’s no wonder. The technology is incredibly precise, the operation is quick, and people are happy with the results. But still, it’s not for everybody, and not every “deal” is really a good value — we are talking your precious, one-of-a-kind eyes, after all. So before you jump in, make sure you look for a board-certified ophthalmologist who explains every consideration.

Click here to read the story.

For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.


A Healthier U

The DASH Eating Pattern
By Rebecca Moore, PEAK nutrition graduate student

Popular culture inundates Americans with new diets and eating trends every year. Many of these diets offer quick fixes and results that are too good to be true. But is there a diet style that is both healthy and maintainable? In working with clients and studying scientific nutrition data, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is one of the best.

Fresh ingredients for preparing roasted mixed vegetables on the table.

The DASH diet was developed in 1992. Marla Heller, who has a master’s degree and is a registered dietitian, founded the program. She is also the author of the three different books available for purchase through the official website. The books focus on “younger you,” “weight loss solution” and “action plan” respectively. There is also a cookbook to help clients prepare meals that follow the DASH guidelines.

This balanced dietary pattern was developed to reduce blood pressure, but has since been shown to also improve bone health, reduce serum LDL cholesterol levels, benefit brain health and improve mood. Because the diet is not restrictive in nature, it is maintainable.

The following table shows the recommended diet composition of the DASH program:

Whole grains                          7-8 servings daily
Fruits                          4-5 servings daily
Vegetables                          4-5 servings daily
Meat/poultry/fish                          <2 servings daily
Low-fat or fat-free dairy                          2-3 servings daily
Nuts/seeds/legumes                          4-5 servings weekly
Salt                          Restricted to a level that matches client goals
Fats and sweets                          Limited

Nutritional lifestyle modifications promoted by DASH coupled with regular exercise prove to be very helpful in weight maintenance and the aforementioned lowering of disease risk.


A new study shows intensive blood pressure management can significantly reduce the risk for heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Just how many people could be affected by the findings?

Read the full article here.

doctorNeed to see your doctor but don’t feel like an office visit? Many physicians are jumping on the trend of video chatting with patients to diagnose and write prescriptions for health concerns. Which kinds of problems do virtual visits work for and when do you still need to come to the office? Dr. Nathan Bexfield answers your questions in this podcast.

For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.