November 1, 2014

The Feel-Good Report

A soapy savior

Eczema, frankly, is awful. It’s awful itchy. It’s awful looking. And, most of all, it’s awful to treat. Prescription creams can help, but they’re expensive and inconvenient. Luckily, there are other approaches, like the inexpensive, seemingly ordinary salt soap created and sold by Naples Soap Co. Only, it’s far from ordinary.

Made from a shea-butter base, Naples Soap Co.’s salt soap ($14 for a two-pack) is imbued with fine-grain sea salt that exfoliates troubled skin without irritating maladies like eczema or psoriasis. After the skin is exfoliated, the shea-butter base moisturizes the depleted skin. Basically, it strips away dead skin cells and then replenishes what’s underneath. “It’s basic skin care steps with only one product,” says Naples Soap Co. founder and owner Deanna Kelly, a former nurse.

The product, though simple, has become popular with many local eczema sufferers. One devoted customer drives 90 minutes each way to procure the salt soap. Men use it, too, as a rich lather in place of sulfate-heavy, petroleum-based shaving creams, Kelly says. Naples Soap Co. has opened four Southwest Florida locations in two years—with a fifth on the way in Fort Myers’ River District. 

 

Friendly bragger

Is using social media about keeping up with friends? Or about those friends rubbing their perfect lives in your face? According to a study reported on in the Los Angeles Times, it’s the latter. In a survey of 400 women performed by Eversave, an Internet discount company, 85 percent of respondents said that their friends use Facebook mostly to brag, complain or opine on politics.

This follows another study featured in the Times and published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, showing that women who post lots of pictures on social networking sites base their self-worth on appearance and use these sites to get attention. But it’s OK. Social networking—along with this whole Interwebs thing—is probably a
fad anyway.

 

Low-fat doesn’t mean good health

Advertising, if Mad Men has taught us anything, is all about the slogan. It’s no wonder, then, that people flock to supposedly “low-fat” menus. But be careful of the contents of this particular packaging strategy, warn Harvard School of Public Health nutrition experts. A panel of the school’s faculty at the World of Healthy Flavors Conference explained that although low-fat offerings might have curb appeal, such diets are often bursting with sodium and carbohydrates derived from low-fat products like white flour, rice, refined snacks and sugar-filled liquids. A better alternative, they say, are foods low in trans fats. Your move, Don Draper.

 

Protein makes perfect

Dr. Robert O’Leary’s father needed treatment on a rotator cuff that was missing three of its four tendons. But with Dad unwilling to go under the knife and cortisone shots too risky for multiple treatments, the rehabilitation physician turned to an innovative new procedure. He found it in platelet-rich plasma.

PRP involves the drawing of 20 to 60 cubic centimeters of blood from the patient. The doctor then places the sample in a centrifuge that spins the blood at 3,000 rpm. This separates the blood into white blood cells, red blood cells, plasma and protein. Everything but the protein-enriched blood is tossed away. That protein, now about five to 10 ccs, is injected back into the patient—at 700 percent potency. O’Leary uses an ultrasound during the injection to make sure that he’s hitting the exact spot.

“It’s your blood, so it can’t be toxic,” says O’Leary, who has offices in Naples and Bonita Springs. PRP, he says, provides, “an internal matrix. It lays down new tissue, new bone, new cartilage.” In short, it heals most traumas—whether it’s joint, muscle, tendon or cartilage related.

O’Leary stops short of calling PRP a miracle treatment, but points out that in his two-plus years of performing it, it has worked about 90 percent of the time—and it’s never produced an adverse reaction. Unfortunately, it’s not yet covered by insurance companies, and can run anywhere from $500–$1,500 per treatment. Still, as O’Leary points out, “It’s so nice to have another option.”

 

Perfection remains beyond grasp

I have two brothers. Both are in far better shape than I am. However, neither employs the same exercise. One, a runner, just finished the Boston Marathon in three hours and 16 minutes. The other, a body builder, looks like he drinks human growth hormones with every meal. Their different approaches to fitness confuse me. For a week, I lift weights. The next, I’m running. Mostly, I watch TV.

But their debate is a common one, and aims to answer the most sought-after question in fitness: Which single exercise is the best? The New York Times recently tried to answer this Holy Grail of exercise enigmas by polling fitness experts around the world. Here’s what a few told the Times:

•  Martin Gibala, chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, recommended the burpee. It involves falling face first to the ground, pushing yourself back up to a standing position and jumping in the air. He says it helps muscle growth and endurance. The downside? “It’s hard to imagine most people enjoying … or sticking with it for long.”

• Hiroshi Nose, professor of sports medical sciences at Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, touted a brisk walk, referring to evidence that it can raise aerobic power and leg muscles by 20 percent. The downside? The Times questions the mental or physical appeal of walking to those already using strenuous working outs.

• Stuart Phillips, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, points to the squat, for its “activation” of the muscles in the buttocks, back and legs. The downside? Again, the Times points out that an “all-squat” regimen would be “boring” and “undignified.” 

Alas, it seems that there’s no one, perfect exercise. Put them all together, however, and you’ve got a good starting point.

 

Social means smarter

As a canine lover, it’s my pleasure to type the following sentence: Dogs, it’s been scientifically proven, are smarter than cats. This is because they are more social, says a new study featured on AARP.org. This report, published originally in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that highly social animals have, over the centuries, developed larger brains. This, researchers postulate, is because the demands of socialization require one’s intellect to grow. Although it’s still debated whether larger brains actually mean larger smarts, this new research does reinforce the idea that having interaction with a large group of friends—we’re talking about humans now—wards off dementia.