There is a remarkable book by the late Oliver Sacks MD, called Musicophelia, which describes the importance of music in the life of each human. In fact, it is known that people with dementia who cannot recall the date or time, or fail to recognize their sons and daughters, respond to music. It might be tunes from their era or just songs that everyone knows and sings at parties. There is a fundamental part of the brain that recalls melodies. Some people get chills down their spine when listening to music (90% of us) and that is because music engages the parts of the brain involved in paying attention, making predictions and updating memory (Stanford Medicine 2015). Musical experience strengthens many of the same areas of the brain that are impaired in individuals with language and learning difficulties. Music therapy and appreciation of music have distinct medical benefits for everyone. In fact, if you play an instrument it is known that musicians have superior working memory compared to non-musicians (PLOS One 2015).

Is Barbeque in the summer safe from a health standpoint?

BBQ can burn away years of your life according to some investigators. Chemicals called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons form when you cook muscle meat over a roaring BBQ fire. This applies to pork, fish, beef or poultry which are cooked at high temperatures. This increases your risk of cancer. The good news is that various epidemiologists disagree with the statement that BBQ is bad for your health. So, until someone does a double blinded epidemiological study on the overall health of eating burgers from the grill in the middle of summer versus veggie burgers over the same grill, enjoy!

This story is undoubtably like the one I did on HLN on acrylics in coffee as a cause of cancer. It seems that miniscule amounts of acrylics (cancer causing chemicals) were present in the roasting process of coffee and someone felt the need to bring that to our attention. The overall risk of drinking coffee and getting cancer is virtually non-existent, so enjoy that too.

Is tea good or bad for you?

People in China have been drinking tea for 3000 years an it was a medicinal drug in the Shang dynasty. In the 16th century tea came west (Marco Polo) and it became the drink of the very wealthy. After WWII tea bags became fashionable and tea became a popular drink. The concern is that heavy metals found in acidic or alkaline soil can leach into tea. Environmental pollutants like fluoride and aluminum can also pose health risks. Pollutants like lead, arsenic and cadmium come from fossil fuels and since china burns 47% of the world’s coal and is a top producer of tea, it’s a concern in china.

All in all, tea is very healthy for you. Green and white teas have anti-cancer effects through their anti-oxidants called catechin. Green tea might result in a little weight loss, decrease fasting sugar levels in diabetics, and because tea contains caffeine (30-90mg per cup) drinking four cups a day can help with depression.

What is the reason I have blood in my urine?

Urine reflects your health. There is a reason why we doctors ask for a urine sample. The urine tells us a lot. Blood in the urine can be copious in which case your urine is bright red or it can be microscopic or not visible to the naked eye. Some causes of bloody urine are bladder stones, an enlarged prostate, cancer of the bladder, kidney or prostate, strenuous exercise like running, or urinary tract infections. Take care of your body and when you suspect blood in your urine, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Is there any danger to whitening my teeth?

Yes. New research shows that “over the counter” whitening strips may erode the structure of your teeth. Professor Kelly Keenan, a chemist at Stockton University in Galloway NJ tells us that these strips contribute to a loss of protein from the teeth. Anything that contains hydrogen peroxide can do this to your teeth. Many other dentists believe that this is not true and are more concerned about damage to teeth from things like sugary drinks. One thing everyone agrees, is that the rate of tooth decay when teeth whiteners are used is not increased.

Is snacking bad for me and make me gain weight?

Mindless snacking can cause you to gain weight, but if you snack thoughtfully, you might actually lose weight. People who eat several small meals per day lose weight and control their hunger. Snacking keeps your metabolism in high gear if they are protein rich snacks. Buy protein rich I mean nuts as an example. You can snack on cashews or pistachio nuts and actually control your appetite and lose weight. While low fat products can play a major role in your diet, you have to realize that low fat is not the same as low-calorie. If you decide to eat a big slice of low-fat cake, you might actually eat more calories than you would get from a smaller slice of regular cake. I would recommend you check the nutritional label on whatever you eat to determine the caloric value and the fat content and try to snack on proteins like nuts.

Commentary about bad health advice:

In each issue, I like to discuss controversial medical issues (measle, anti-vaxers, etc.). Today’s controversy is “coffee enemas,” do they work?

In the 1990s Gwyneth Paltrow championed the idea of using coffee enemas to cleanse the body of toxins. The idea was to rid the body of undigested foods. The cost of one rectal blast was $135, a very pricey caffeine load long before Starbucks. I recall a parent suggesting a coffee enema when I was caring for her daughter at NY Presbyterian Hospital to combat the daughter’s extraordinary rare disease. The hospital said, “no way are we going to allow such an unverified practice within our walls.” The final word on these derriere boosters came in 1997 with a paper entitled “Colonic Irrigation and the theory of autointoxication” heralding the practice of coffee enemas as a “triumph of ignorance over science.” And with all things, in the end ignorance never wins. So, enjoy a cup of coffee in the usual orthodox manner.