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Health and Nutrition

Chocolate vs. Carob: Too Close to Call

February 23, 1988|KATHLEEN DOHENY

Health food fans who opt for carob over chocolate have been known to lord it over chocoholics.

But nutritionally, is carob any better than chocolate?

In many ways, no, said Bonnie Modugno, a Venice registered dietitian. The fat content of carob chips and traditional chocolate chips, for example, is comparable, she said.

The contents of a 2-ounce carob-covered granola bar shape up this way: 296 calories, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein and 16 grams of fat (or 48.6% of total calories from fat). The same amount of chocolate, she said, has about 292 calories, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, and 18 grams of fat (or 55% of total calories from fat).

Carob has no caffeine, while 2 ounces of chocolate has about 12 milligrams, according to a spokeswoman for the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn. of the U.S.A. (In comparison, a cup of drip coffee has 110-150 mg. of caffeine.)

Modugno's final word on the carob vs. chocolate debate? Pick your poison and enjoy it. "Either will give you a high source of fat and a high source of calories." But in moderation, she added, that's probably OK for most people.

Stair Training

Stair training on bleachers is an effective and popular way to build the quadriceps (front of the thigh) muscles. But only run up stairs, not down, cautions Dr. Tony Daly, an orthopedic surgeon at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital. "Running up is OK, but running down is bad," said Daly, the team doctor for the Los Angeles Clippers who advises athletes to walk down bleacher stairs after running up.

Running downstairs is "hard on the muscle for two reasons," Daly said: The muscle must contract and slowly elongate itself simultaneously, sometimes resulting in pain above and below the kneecap. Also, the landing forces going down are much greater than going up.

The same principle holds for hills, Daly added. "Running up is fine."

Seasick Fans of the Whale

In Southern California, it's whale-watching season. And, for some passengers, prime time for seasickness. How do you avoid a queasy stomach?

Nothing's foolproof, says Dr. James Benecke, an ear specialist at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, and an experienced sailor. But several measures may reduce the chances of motion sickness, which specialists believe may be due to hypersensitive balance canals in the inner ear.

Eat lightly before the cruise, Benecke suggested. "And if you have a history of motion sickness, use an (anti-seasickness) agent." Two good choices, he said, are Bonine (meclizine) and Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), both available over the counter. Consult a pediatrician before giving anti-motion sickness drugs to preteens and younger children, he added.

Those who have experienced severe motion sickness might want to consult their physician about a prescription for scopolamine, a medication that can be dispensed via a stick-on patch (usually placed behind the ear), Benecke said. "Most of the time the side effects are minimal," he noted, but they might include dry mouth, blurred close-up vision and skin irritation.

Three other do-it-yourself measures may help, he added: As you set out, drink a soft drink that has lost its carbonation. Focus and fixate on something in the distance. And don't head for the lower deck because closed spaces aggravate seasickness. "Fresh air is better," Benecke said.

Ad Fear Campaigns

Ad campaigns that emphasize punishment--smoking is followed by cancer, reckless driving by crashes--and elicit high levels of fear to persuade you to change unhealthy habits don't work, according to a report in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

An emphasis on high levels of fear and long-term consequences can even backfire by evoking a denial response, said the study's author, R. F. Soames Job, a psychologist at the University of Sydney, New South Wales. A driver who has never worn a seat belt and never crashed, for example, may conclude he is special or immune in some way.

The best way to change unhealthy habits, Job said in a telephone interview, is to pick a program with just the right level of fear--enough to motivate you, not incapacitate you--coupled with other components. "Choose a program that uses a low level of immediate-consequence fear and suggests a specific alternative behavior. Forget this death business."

An ideal smoking cessation program, in Job's view, would focus on immediate consequences rather than reduced life expectancy. The campaign's dialogue, he said, might go something like this: "If you smoke cigarettes, you're going to have unpleasant breath." And, instead of simply telling you not to smoke, the program would suggest specific, healthy alternative behaviors. "Drink orange juice."

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