Document shows Israel counted Gazans’ calories


An Israeli document shows that Israel calculated the number of calories Palestinians in Gaza would need in order to avoid malnutrition.

Titled “Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip — The Red Lines,” the study estimated that each Gazan would need 2,279 calories a day. The study was prepared in January 2008, months after Israel intensified its blockade of Gaza following the Hamas takeover of the coastal strip.

The study indicates that Israel's blockade of Gaza was designed to hurt not only Hamas but civilians as well, so that they would put pressure on the Hamas government. 

Israel's Supreme Court ordered the release of the document after the Israeli human rights organization Gisha requested access to it and filed a Freedom of Information petition with the Defense Ministry.

The plan formulated in the document was never implemented, according to the Defense Ministry.

There’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on over Power Plate


Remember those machines from the 1950s that used to jiggle a person’s fat in an attempt to rid the body of cellulite?

These days, a more sophisticated generation of those machines, which vibrate the entire body, is claiming it can do a lot more than eliminate cellulite.

Proponents say whole body vibration can increase muscle strength and flexibility, fight osteoporosis, improve balance and posture, increase circulation and reduce pain.

But skeptics say the claims are highly exaggerated, and that the machines might actually be dangerous. They want consumers to exercise caution if they’re going to use them.

Unlike those old-fashioned machines, the new technology relies on more aggressive vibration to stimulate muscles. One of the most popular, the Power Plate, features a vibrating platform that oscillates 30 to 50 times per second. Each time, it stimulates the nervous system and creates a reflex in the body that causes the muscles to contract.

Recent news reports say celebrities like Madonna and Heidi Klum are using it in their workouts, and the Power Plate Web site lists dozens of college and professional sports teams as using vibration training in their regimens, too.

“You’re getting a lot more muscular activity,” said Dennis Sall, a chiropractor in Mount Sinai, N.Y., who began using the Power Plate to train his patients about a year ago. “This is a great way to jump start the metabolism.”

Ultimately, he said, that causes the body to burn more calories.

Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, said that’s true.

“There’s no doubt that the muscles are contracting, and you’re burning calories and strengthening muscles at the same time,” he said.

However, he thinks it needs a lot more research to back up the claims that the machine can do a lot more than just build muscle.

A quick glance at the “applications” portion of the Power Plate Web site indicates that the device can play a significant role in anti-aging, sports performance and rehabilitation. One section seems to imply that it can be used to treat everything from emphysema to multiple sclerosis to whiplash.

According to Scott Hopson, director of research, education and training for Power Plate USA, dozens of studies using Power Plate have been published in peer review journals, including the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, the American Journal of Geriatrics Society and Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

“It’s very effective for improving balance, strength and preventing the muscle and bone loss that comes with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia and cerebral palsy,” he said. “One of the biggest secondary impairments of degenerative diseases is loss of muscle fibers and the ability to use them.

Vibration is a great for fighting against that.”

Hopson added that studies have shown that vibration can increase blood flow to muscle, tendon and ligament tissues and stimulate the release of hormones that are needed for healing damaged tissues.

But Westrich said it’s not the quantity but the quality of the research that concerns him.

“If you go to their Web site and look at all their studies, there is not very good science behind it,” he said. “I found only a few randomized prospective studies. There is some basic science studies about vibration … but a lot of it has nothing to do with their particular device.”

For example, many of the studies on osteoporosis, which are cited in Power Plate’s information packet, were conducted by Clinton T. Rubin, a professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Rubin, furious that his studies are being used by the company, said, “I’ve never studied the Power Plate at all, and the vibration magnitude we used was 50 times lower than what they are using.”

Rubin works with a different company that also makes a vibration machine but one that uses much less intensity. He said his research shows that minimal vibration can stimulate bone growth, but he said, “Power Plate misuses that.”

“I’m furious that what Power Plate is doing is dangerous to people,” Rubin said. “It’s dangerous because there is a huge scientific body of evidence that high vibration magnitudes can cause lower back pain, circulation disorders, hearing loss, balance problems and vision problems.”

Dr. Jeffrey Fine recently ordered two Power Plates for two hospitals that he works at.

“Physical medicine rehab is a specialty where we apply different types of physical energy for physiologic benefit,” he said. “We considered this a newly identified modality to treat a variety of different medical conditions.”

Currently, Fine is looking into how the Power Plate will help patients with impaired sensation from diabetic neuropathy. He pointed to studies conducted at Harvard University that demonstrated how other devices that incorporate vibration technology have proven useful in stimulating multiple joints and ultimately improving balance and gait problems.

Westrich still isn’t convinced vibration technology is for everybody. For one thing, he’s not sure how useful it would be to treat osteoporosis in his elderly patients.

“I’m not sure they can tolerate being vibrated like a piece of Jell-O,” he said.

Debbe Geiger is a freelance writer specializing in health and science.

A Sweet Dream Come True


The tip jar at CremaLita in Santa Monica reads, “Make Me Fat,” which is the opposite of why patrons frequent this new, kosher fat-free ice cream chain in Los Angeles.

The trendy, Manhattan-based company dishes out more than 60 flavors — including peppermint and espresso — averaging 60 calories per four-fluid-ounce serving. Its three Los Angeles stores are part of a low-fat craze that has infiltrated the kosher market, with retailers reporting “dramatic” interest in not-so-naughty desserts, such as Colombo Chocolate Sorbet, according to Kosher Today. In Los Angeles, Baskin-Robbins and other franchises offer kosher low-fat fare, although CremaLita is perhaps the only chain in which the stores, as well as the product, are kosher certified, said Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz of the Kosher Information Bureau.

As for why Jeffrey Britz founded CremaLita with his daughter, Allison, in 2001: “We’re weight lunatics,” he said. The 58-year-old entrepreneur — who rises at 4 a.m. to exercise most days — had sold his physical-therapy business when his thoughts turned to ice cream in January 2001. For years, he’d trekked to a soft-serve joint twice a week to pick up quarts of low-fat dessert. As that brand became a staple for chic Manhattan dieters, he analyzed the competition, opened his first store and soon drew a following. The cast and crew of “Sex and the City” bought 100 cones one afternoon; Us magazine ran a cartoon of that show’s Kristin Davis enjoying CremaLita; and 2001 Miss USA Kandace Kreuger called the brand her “secret weakness.”

But a recent New York Times story suggested the snack might not be entirely guilt free. The article alleged that samples of CremaLita and another brand had more calories than advertised, partly because of oversized servings and insufficient air beaten into the product. The piece referenced that “Seinfeld” episode in which Jerry and Elaine gain weight after pigging out on “diet” fro-yo.

In response, Britz said signs in his stores warn that size matters, but customers don’t seem to care.

“If we serve a strict four ounces, they feel cheated,” he said.

Besides, a big cup of CremaLita is still more virtuous than Häagen-Dazs: “At least it’s a large portion of something that’s low calorie and low fat,” Allison Britz said.

CremaLita stores are located in Santa Monica, WestHollywood and Sherman Oaks. For addresses and information, visit www.cremalita.com .