Consumer Health Digest #11-22

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 21, 2011

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Inaccuracies found in restaurant caloric labeling. Researchers who used bomb calorimetry to measure the energy (caloric) content of food items in restaurants in three states last year have found significant differences between measured and stated amounts. Of 269 items, 50 (19%) contained at least 100 calories per portion more than the stated caloric contents. Of the 10% with the highest difference in the initial sampling, 13 of 17 were available for a second sampling. In the first analysis, these foods averaged 289 calories per portion more than the stated contents; in the second analysis, they averaged 258 calories per portion. Foods with relatively low stated caloric content—the most appropriate choices for individuals trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain—contained more calories than stated, whereas foods with high stated caloric content contained fewer calories than stated. [Urban LE and others. Accuracy of stated energy contents of restaurant foods. JAMA 306:287-293, 2011] Last year, the same research team found similar variability between measured and labeled caloric contents of food sold by restaurants and supermarkets. [Urban LE and others. The accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy, commercially prepared foods. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 110:116-123, 2010] The researchers believe that inaccurate caloric labeling has the potential to interfere with individual efforts to prevent or treat obesity.

Offbeat psychologist imprisoned, loses license. Julian B. Metter, Ph.D., a psychologist who practiced in State College, Pennsylvania, is now serving a 5-month prison sentence for Medicare billing fraud. Documents in the case indicate that he pleaded guilty after being charged with billing Medicare for more than $50,000 for approximately 200 psychotherapy sessions at his office in Centre County on dates when he was not in Centre County and could not have met with and treated patients. In addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered him to serve two years of supervised release and pay restitution of $13,423 to the agency that administers Medicare. In 2009, following the plea, he entered a consent agreement and order with the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology under which he permanently surrendered his psychology license. The consent agreement indicates that the board had evidence that he displayed " gross incompetence, negligence or misconduct" and "provided services outside the scope of his license to practice psychology," both generally and in his management of two families. The oddball treatments he offered include craniosacral therapy, neurotherapy, quantum energy rebalancing, thymus stimulation, and about 20 others. One of the family members is suing Metter for malpractice.

National Academy Press books available free in PDF format. The National Academies Press— publisher for the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council—has announced that PDF versions of 4,000 current books and all future books will be downloadable to anyone free of charge from its Web site. NAP's mission is to disseminate the institutions' content as widely as possible while maintaining financial sustainability. To that end, NAP began offering free content online in 1994, but its screen display made reading the books this way cumbersome. Printed books will continue to be available for purchase through the NAP website and traditional channels. Books published before the PDF format was available will not be covered by the new policy. PDF versions can be obtained by finding the book's page and clicking the "Download Free PDF" button on the left side of the page. Many of NAP's titles are related to food, nutrition, health, and health care. Its series on Reference Dietary Intakes (RDIs) provides detailed information on human nutrient needs and how they are determined.

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This page was posted on July 21, 2011.