More Fitness Equals Less Fatness

Look around you and chances are you’ll see that more than two adults in three are overweight or obese. Perhaps you are among them and you’re thinking, “That’s O.K. I’m no different from anyone else, so what’s the point in waging yet another losing battle against the bulge?”

You are not alone. A subtle form of peer pressure has convinced many, consciously or otherwise, that it’s acceptable to be significantly heavier than the “normal” weight ranges listed on a body mass index (B.M.I.) or doctor’s height-weight chart.

As Americans have gained extra pounds in recent decades, Mary A. Burke, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston who studies social norms, says they seem to have adjusted to a new normal regarding weight. A study she and co-authors published in 2010 revealed that a growing proportion of overweight adults — 21 percent of women and 46 percent of men (up from 14 percent and 41 percent, respectively, in the 1990s) — consider their weight “about right.” And a study published in JAMA last year found that fewer adults who were overweight or obese were trying to shed excess pounds.

Public health experts fear that this trend toward “fat acceptance” bodes ill for future well-being and the soaring costs of chronic weight-related ailments like heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and more than a dozen kinds of cancer. As Dr. Burke wrote in a recent issue of JAMA devoted to obesity, public health and medical professionals worry that “individuals who do not believe they are overweight, or who view obesity in a positive light, are less likely to seek treatment for weight loss.”

Even doctors may be tempted to give up trying to convince their overweight patients to lose weight. Although Medicare now covers up to 20 visits for weight loss counseling each year, few doctors (or perhaps I should say few patients) have taken advantage of this benefit. Yet only a 5 percent or 10 percent reduction in weight can often result in a significant improvement in health risks like high blood pressure, blood sugar or serum cholesterol levels. In other words, you don’t have to become model-thin to improve your health and life expectancy.

In an editorial in the JAMA issue, Dr. Edward H. Livingston, bariatric surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, suggested that perhaps a different message — one that encourages physical fitness — would do more to improve the health of individual patients and the overall population “than continuing to advise weight loss when that message is increasingly ignored.”

Indeed, as one team of specialists put it in JAMA, “Low cardio-respiratory fitness may pose a greater risk to health than obesity.” The team, headed by Ann Blair Kennedy of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, cited a 2014 analysis showing that, compared with normal-weight people who were physically fit, unfit individuals had an increased risk of death regardless of what they weighed, and those who were fit and overweight or obese did not face a significantly greater mortality risk when compared with normal-weight individuals.

But before you give up trying to lose weight, a better understanding of the likely sources of those extra pounds and the most successful approaches to losing them may help you achieve a double goal: more fitness and less fatness.

The average weight of American adults and children was fairly stable until 1980. Then began a frightening rise that has only recently shown some signs of leveling off. There are many reasons, among them the growing employment of women outside the home contributing to a decline in home cooking; greater reliance on packaged and processed foods; the rise of fast foods, takeout and restaurant meals; and a commensurate decline in physical activity. A result: more calories in and fewer out, a perfect formula for weight gain.

Several decades of commercial weight-loss diets, ranging from the Drinking Man’s Diet to the low-carb Atkins Diet, each claiming to be the best way to get rid of unwanted fat with minimal or no sacrifice to taste and satiety, tempted those struggling with rising poundage. Most, however, involved a radical change in people’s eating habits that was rarely sustainable. After a while, dieters returned to their old habits and regained the lost weight, often more than they had lost in the first place.

As Dr. Livingston stated, “Providing patients with the false hope that if they only reduce one class of foods or another (e.g., carbohydrates or fats) they will lose weight can become frustrating, and may in part explain the failure of most diets.” Even reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (which provide no nutrients beyond sweet calories), he wrote, “is not likely to influence obesity at the population level,” which has continued to increase even as soda consumption has declined.

Rather than a soda tax, Dr. Livingston endorsed taxes based on the calorie content of foods, and using the revenue generated “to subsidize healthy foods to make them more affordable.” Noting that “the common denominator for all successful diet plans is calorie reduction, irrespective of how that is achieved,” he said that a slimmer American populace can be achieved only if attention is paid to the entire food supply.

That attention is unlikely to be paid anytime soon by either the processed food industry or government regulatory agencies, so it is up to consumers to take matters into their own hands, eyes and mouths. The goal is not radical change but a reduction in calories of 500 a day and/or an increase in physical activity to achieve a weekly deficit of 3,500 calories, the approximate amount in one pound of body fat.

Just eliminating any of these — a bagel with cream cheese, one Big Mac, a Belgian waffle with a drizzle of syrup, one cup of Häagen-Dazs Green Tea ice cream, a Starbucks Venti Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream, or one serving of a Cheesecake Factory Santa Fe chicken salad — will create that 500-calorie deficit. (For the sake of comparison, you’d have to eat six apples or seven eggs to get to 500 calories. Or you could choose a two-cup Wegman’s Caesar salad for a mere 200 calories.)

If you live in a city that mandates calorie listings on menus, pay attention before you order. Also always request dressings and sauces on the side and drizzle them on yourself rather than let the restaurant pour hundreds of calories on a low-calorie salad or chicken breast.


CNN Exclusive: The more opioids doctors prescribe, the more money they make

Story by Aaron Kessler, Elizabeth Cohen and Katherine Grise, CNN
In 2014 and 2015, opioid manufacturers paid hundreds of doctors across the country six-figure sums for speaking, consulting and other services. Thousands of other doctors were paid over $25,000 during that time.
Physicians who prescribed particularly large amounts of the drugs were the most likely to get paid.
“This is the first time we’ve seen this, and it’s really important,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a senior scientist at the Institute for Behavioral Health at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, where he is co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative.
“It smells like doctors being bribed to sell narcotics, and that’s very disturbing,” said Kolodny, who is also the executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.
The Harvard researchers said it’s not clear whether the payments encourage doctors to prescribe a company’s drug or whether pharmaceutical companies seek out and reward doctors who are already high prescribers.
“I don’t know if the money is causing the prescribing or the prescribing led to the money, but in either case, it’s potentially a vicious cycle. It’s cementing the idea for these physicians that prescribing this many opioids is creating value,” said Dr. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
CNN spoke with two women who’ve struggled with opioid addiction, and they described the sense of betrayal they felt when they learned that their doctors had received large sums of money from the manufacturers of the drugs that had created such havoc in their lives.
Carey Ballou said she trusted her doctor and figured that if he was prescribing opioids, it must be because they were the best option for her pain.
Then she learned that opioid manufacturers paid her doctor more than a million dollars over two years.
“Once I found out he was being paid, I thought, ‘was it really in my best interest, or was it in his best interest?’ ” she said.
To do the analysis, CNN — along with Barnett and Harvard’s Dr. Anupam Jena — examined two federal government databases. One tracks payments by drug companies to doctors, and the other tracks prescriptions that doctors write to Medicare recipients.
The CNN/Harvard analysis looked at 2014 and 2015, during which time more than 811,000 doctors wrote prescriptions to Medicare patients. Of those, nearly half wrote at least one prescription for opioids.
Fifty-four percent of those doctors — more than 200,000 physicians — received a payment from pharmaceutical companies that make opioids.
Doctors were more likely to get paid by drug companies if they prescribed a lot of opioids — and they were more likely to get paid a lot of money.
Among doctors in the top 25th percentile of opioid prescribers by volume, 72% received payments. Among those in the top fifth percentile, 84% received payments. Among the very biggest prescribers — those in the top 10th of 1% — 95% received payments.
On average, doctors whose opioid prescription volume ranked among the top 5% nationally received twice as much money from the opioid manufacturers, compared with doctors whose prescription volume was in the median. Doctors in the top 1% of opioid prescribers received on average four times as much money as the typical doctor. Doctors in the top 10th of 1%, on average, received nine times more money than the typical doctor.
“The correlation you found is very powerful,” said David Rothman, director of the Center on Medicine as a Profession at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “What’s amazing about the findings is not simply that money counts but that more money counts even more.”
Paying doctors for speaking, consulting and other services is legal. It’s defended as a way for experts in their fields to share important experience and information about medications, but it has long been a controversial practice.
Pharmaceutical company payments to doctors are not unique to opioids. Drug companies pay doctors billions of dollars for various services. In 2015, 48% of physicians received some pharmaceutical payment.
It’s illegal, however, for doctors to prescribe the drug in exchange for kickback payments from a manufacturer.
Dr. Steven Stanos, president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, said he wasn’t surprised that doctors who frequently prescribe a drug are often chosen and paid to give speeches about the drug to other doctors.
“They know those medicines, and so they’re going to be more likely to prescribe those because they have a better understanding,” Stanos said, adding that some of the money paid to doctors may have been to teach other doctors about new “abuse-deterrent” opioid drugs.
Stanos’ group accepted nearly $1.2 million from five of the largest opioid manufacturers in the United States between 2012 and 2017, according to a recent report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Stanos said the money was used for various projects, including courses on safe opioid prescribing.
“I would obviously hope that a physician would not prescribe based on some type of kickback or anything like that, that they’d obviously be prescribing [in] the best interest of the patient,” he said.
But Dr. Daniel Carlat, former director of the Prescription Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the CNN and Harvard findings are in line with other studies suggesting that money from drug companies does influence a doctor’s prescribing habits.
“It’s not proof positive, but it’s another very significant data point in the growing evidence base that marketing payments from drug companies are not good for medicine and not good for patient care,” said Carlat, a psychiatrist who blogs about conflicts of interest. “It makes me extremely concerned.”
Barnett, one of the Harvard researchers who worked with CNN, said pharmaceutical companies pay doctors for a reason.
“It’s not like they’re spending this money and just letting it go out into the ether,” he said. “They wouldn’t be spending this money if it weren’t effective.”
According to a statement by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, drug companies support mandatory and ongoing training for prescribers on the appropriate treatment of pain.
“PhRMA supports a number of policies to ensure patients’ legitimate medical needs are met, while establishing safeguards that prevent overprescribing,” according to the statement from the group.
Angela Cantone at her home in Greenville, South Carolina.

‘I trusted my doctor’

Angela Cantone says she wishes she had known that opioid manufacturers were paying her doctor hundreds of thousands of dollars; it might have prompted her to question his judgment.
She says Dr. Aathirayen Thiyagarajah, a pain specialist in Greenville, South Carolina, prescribed her an opioid called Subsys for abdominal pain from Crohn’s disease for nearly 2½ years, from March 2013 through July 2015.
Subsys is an ultrapowerful form of fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“He said it would do wonders for me, and it was really simple and easy. You just spray it in your mouth,” Cantone said.
She says Subsys helped her pain, but it left her in “a zombie-like” state. She couldn’t be left alone with her three young children, two of whom have autism and other special needs.
“I blacked out all the time. I’d find myself on the kitchen floor or the front lawn,” she said.
She says that if she missed even one day of the drug, she had uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting.
She said she brought her concerns to Thiyagarajah, but he assured her it couldn’t be the Subsys that was causing her health problems.
“I trusted him. I trusted my doctor as you trust the police officer that’s directing traffic when the light is out,” she said.
She says that when she eventually asked Thiyagarajah to switch her to a non-opioid medication, he became belligerent.
“He said it was Subsys or nothing,” she said.
Angela Cantone holds an opioid called Subsys that her doctor prescribed to treat her prain from Crohn's disease.

Cantone would later learn that from August 2013 through December 2016, the company that makes Subsys paid Thiyagarajah more than $200,000, according to Open Payments, the federal government database that tracks payments from pharmaceutical companies to doctors.
CNN compared the $190,000 he received from 2014 to 2015 with other prescribers nationwide in the same medical specialty and found that he received magnitudes more than the average for his peers.
Nearly all of the payments were for fees for speaking, training, education and consulting.
Cantone is now suing Thiyagarajah, accusing him of setting out to “defraud and deceive” her for “the sole purpose of increasing prescriptions, sales, and consumption of Subsys to increase … profits.”
Through his attorney, Thiyagarajah denied any wrongdoing but declined to comment on this story due to the pending litigation.
In a court filing responding to Cantone’s lawsuit, Thiyagarajah denied all of the allegations against him and said that all medical care provided to Cantone was “reasonable and appropriate and in keeping with the standard of care.”
His attorney, E. Brown Parkinson, said the doctor is currently practicing medicine, alternating weeks between his practices in South Carolina and New York.
Thiyagarajah might be expected to write a relatively high number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers, given that he’s board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with a subspecialty in pain medicine.
But he wrote an unusually high number of prescriptions for Subsys and other opioids even when compared with other doctors with the same certifications.
In 2014 and 2015, physicians with Thiyagarajah’s certifications wrote an average of 3.7 opioid prescriptions per Medicare patient per year, according to the analysis by CNN and Harvard. Thiyagarajah, however, annually wrote more than seven opioid prescriptions per patient per year.
After about two years on Subsys, Cantone says, she took herself off the drug cold turkey.
According to an affidavit by an investigator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Thiyagarajah’s office was inspected by the agency in June 2015 and found to be prescribing another opioid, buprenorphine, “for non-legitimate medical need” in violation of federal law.
In March 2016, the agent conducted another inspection and seized 45 medical records related to Subsys.
The DEA did a compliance review and referred its findings to the Department of Health and Human Services, according to Robert Murphy, associate special agent in charge of the agency’s Atlanta Field Division.
Cantone is also suing Insys, the company that makes Subsys. Insys denied allegations of wrongdoing in a court filing responding to Cantone’s lawsuit.
Separate from Cantone’s lawsuit, John Kapoor, the founder and largest shareholder of Insys, was arrested and arraigned in federal court in October on charges of bribing doctors to overprescribe the drug.
“Dr. Kapoor engaged in no wrongdoing and refutes all of the charges in the strongest possible terms,” said Tom Becker, a spokesman for Kapoor. “He looks forward to being fully vindicated after having his day in court.”
Kapoor resigned from the Insys board of directors in October, according to a company news release.
Several other Insys executives were arrested in connection with an alleged racketeering scheme.
Separately, Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, is conducting an investigation into the opioid industry.
According to her investigation and the federal indictment, Insys used a combination of tactics, such as falsifying medical records, misleading insurance companies and providing kickbacks to doctors in league with the company.
Saeed Motahari, president and CEO of Insys, wrote a letter in September to McCaskill, noting that he was “concerned about certain mistakes and unacceptable actions of former Insys employees.” He added that most of the field-based sales staff were no longer with the company.
“I stand with you and share the desire to address the serious national challenge related to the misuse and abuse of opioids that has led to addiction and unnecessary deaths and has caused so much pain to families and communities around the country,” Motahari added.

The analysis

Sometimes, pharmaceutical companies pay doctors to do medical research. They also pay doctors for promotional work: for example, to speak with other doctors about the benefits of a drug.
Among the doctors who prescribe the highest volume of opioids, the CNN/Harvard analysis found that the largest amount of money was paid for that second category, which includes speaking fees, consulting, travel and food.
Concerns about payments to doctors by opioid manufacturers were brought to light last year in a study by researchers at Boston University.
Several studies published in medical journals in recent years have found an association between payments by pharmaceutical companies for various types of drugs and doctors’ prescribing habits.
For example, researchers at the University of North Carolina examined the two government databases analyzed by CNN and Harvard and found that when doctors received payments from manufacturers of certain cancer drugs, they were more likely to prescribe those drugs to their patients.
“This study suggests that conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry may influence oncologists in high-stakes treatment decisions for patients with cancer,” the authors concluded.
Some studies have looked at whether the amount of money a doctor receives makes a difference. Studies by researchers at Yale University, the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health and Harvard Medical School have all found that the more money physicians are paid by pharmaceutical companies, the more likely they are to prescribe certain drugs.
Dr. Patrice Harris, a spokeswoman for the American Medical Association, said that the CNN and Harvard data raised “fair questions” but that such analyses show only an association between payments and prescribing habits and don’t prove that one causes the other.
It’s “not a cause and effect relationship,” said Harris, chairwoman of the association’s opioid task force, adding that more research should be done on the relationship between payments and prescriptions.
“[We] strongly oppose inappropriate, unethical interactions between physicians and industry,” she added. “But we know that not all interactions are unethical or inappropriate.”
Harris added that relationships between doctors and industry are ethical and appropriate if they “can help drive innovation in patient care and provide significant resources for professional medical education that ultimately benefits patients.”
Stanos, the pain physician, said a doctor who gets paid by a pharmaceutical company and prescribes that company’s drug might truly and legitimately believe that the drug is the best option for the patient.
“I hope physicians that do promotional talks prescribe because they think the medicine has a benefit,” he said.
But Jena, one of the two Harvard researchers who collaborated on the CNN analysis, said he worries that money from opioid manufacturers — especially large amounts of money — could influence a doctor to prescribe opioids over less dangerous options.
“Every decision, every recommendation a physician makes, should be in the best interest of the patient and not a combination of the patient’s interest and the financial interest of the doctor,” said Jena, associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.
“If we lived in a different world where none of these payments to physicians occurred, how many fewer Americans would have [been prescribed] opioids, and how many fewer deaths would have occurred?” he asked.
From 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the CDC. In October, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency.
At least one company has decided to stop paying doctors for promotional activities such as speaking engagements.
Purdue Pharma discontinued its speakers program for the opioids OxyContin and Butrans at the end of 2016 and the program for Hysingla, another opioid, in November, according to company spokesman Robert Josephson.
“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” a company statement said.

More than $1 million in three years

Though Thiyagarajah’s opioid prescription rates were particularly high, many other doctors who have prescribed large amounts of opioids have also been paid large amounts of money by pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs.
Several patients have filed lawsuits against these high prescribers.
From August 2013 through December 2016, Dr. Steven Simon of Overland Park, Kansas, was paid nearly $1.1 million by companies that make opioid painkillers, according to the federal Open Payments database.
Most of the payments were fees for speaking, training and education.
Ballou, one of his patients, says she remembers Simon bragging about how drug companies were flying him across the country to give lectures to other doctors.
“He said he was going to Miami, and they were going to give him a convertible, and he was going to stay in the best hotel and eat the best Cuban food he’d ever had,” said Ballou, who filed a lawsuit against Simon after she says she became addicted to opioids.
Simon’s lawyer, James Wyrsch, said he would not comment on pending litigation.
In court documents, he asked for the case to be dismissed, saying in part that Ballou’s complaints that Simon improperly prescribed Subsys were “simply incorrect.”
Bridget Patton, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Kansas City field office, said federal agents went to the office where Simon works, Mid-America PolyClinic, in July.
The clinic said in a statement that it is “fully and willingly cooperating with all investigations” and that Simon has not been employed there since July 24.
“We had a lawful presence at that facility,” Patton said. She declined to say whether investigating Simon himself was the purpose of the FBI visit.
The owner of the pain clinic, Dr. Srinivas Nalamachu, told The Kansas City Starthat the agents showed up with a search warrant for Simon’s medical records involving fentanyl prescriptions.
Simon and his lawyer told CNN they couldn’t comment due to the pending litigation.
Ballou said that when she was Simon’s patient, it didn’t give her pause that the same doctor who was prescribing opioids to her was also taking money from the companies that made the drugs.
But now she looks back with anger.
A Mother's Day card Angela Cantone's daugher made for her reads, "Best of all mother likes to sleep," alluding to the many instances when Cantone says her opioid medication caused her to pass out.

Cantone, the patient who went to Thiyagarajah, the pain specialist in South Carolina, looks back with sadness.
She cries as she remembers the Mother’s Day card her daughter made her in preschool. The teacher asked each child what their mother liked to do and wrote it on the card.
Her card said her mother liked to sleep.
“Instead of saying ‘she gives me hugs and kisses or takes me to the park,’ it was the years of her finding me on the floor,” Cantone said. “I feel like I failed as a parent.”
She becomes angry when she thinks about the hundreds of thousands of dollars her doctor was paid by the drug company.
“The medication that was being prescribed to me was for his benefit, not my own,” she said.

Everything You Need To Know About Daylight Saving Time 2018


March 06, 2018 05:57 PM

It’s almost time to spring forward!

Daylight saving time begins this Sunday, March 11, at 2:00 a.m. And yes, this is the one where you lose an hour of sleep. But don’t fret! That means you gain one more precious hour of sunlight at the end of the day to beat those end-of-winter doldrums.

So don’t forget to set any clocks that aren’t on a smart device ahead one hour before heading to bed Saturday night. And get ready to have your microwave display the wrong time for the next 8 months because you don’t want to break out the instruction manual.

Daylight saving time may not be the most thrilling day on your calendar, but the practice is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year.

It was first enacted by the federal government as a way to save coal during World War I in the spring of 1918, and was only meant to exist during wartime. The practice was technically ended later that same year, but many regions continued to follow it, until eventually the government put the measure back in place in 1966.

The next major change came in 2007, when the Department of Transportation (DOT), which is surprisingly in charge of the practice, expanded daylight saving time to encompass about 65% of the year.

The DOT was assigned the responsibility because the switch affects so many modes of transportation. The agency continues to observe the twice-yearly time swap because it reportedly saves energy, cuts down on traffic accidents and reduces crime.

States have the final say on if they participate, though. Hawaii and most of Arizona do not — the latter because it receives so much sunlight already. The islands of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands abstain as well.

According USA Today, 26 states are considering making daylight saving time permanent, starting with Florida, but this change would require approval by Congress.

Research varies as to whether or not the practice actually satisfies its reasonings — air conditioning units have shown to cost more energy in some areas — but at the very least, the extra hour encourages more time outside. And whether you spend that working out or sipping cocktails on the patio, a little more sunshine is never a bad thing.

5 fab recipes for St. Patrick’s Day, from corned beef to Guinness cupcakes

From left, Tropical Mango Mayonnaise, Apricot-Bourbon Mustard and LB Steak Sauce, photographed in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Wednesday, April 11, 2012.      (Mark DuFrene/Staff)

Fresh thyme adds a delicate floral flavor to traditional Irish soda bread.
1 of 5

Guiness-laced gingerbread cupcakes get a final flourish of cream-cheese frosting for St. Patrick’s Day. (Milleflore Images)


Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day deliciously with these tasty takes on classic dishes, from America’s Test Kitchen’s homemade corned beef to Guinness-spiked gingerbread cupcakes. Yum.

1 Miette’s Guinness Gingerbread Cupcakes

Life’s short. Let’s plan dessert first. This fantastic Guinness-laced cupcake recipe from San Francisco’s Miette patisserie gets its complexity — and deliciousness — from molasses, ginger, cardamom, cloves and other gingerbread spices. Add a pouf of cream cheese frosting and serve with a tall glass of Guinness. Yum. Find the recipe here.

2 America’s Test Kitchen’s Ultimate Home-Corned Beef

Sure, you could buy a strangely pink corned beef at the supermarket for St.Patrick's Day -- or for everyday sandwich-making. Or you could make your own, using tips from America's Test Kitchen. (Photo courtesy of America's Test Kitchen)
You can make your own corned beef at home. (Photo courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen) 

Sure, you could buy that strangely pink, supermarket-prepped corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day — or for everyday sandwich-making. Or you could make your own. Turns out, corned beef is simply brined brisket + six days. Who knew? Here are America’s Test Kitchen’s how-tos.

3 Sweet DIY Mustard

OK, technically this one’s called Sweet Bavarian Mustard and we’re supposed to be going all-Irish here. But this is such a wonderful, easy-to-make mustard and it goes so well with corned beef, we couldn’t resist. You shouldn’t either. You’ll find the recipe here.

4 Easy Thyme Herbed Soda Bread

Fresh thyme adds a delicate floral flavor to traditional Irish soda bread.(Thinkstock)
Fresh thyme adds a delicate floral flavor to traditional Irish soda bread. (Thinkstock) 

When modern Irish cooking expert and celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna — you may have seen her on the “Rachael Ray Show” — does a St. Patrick’s Day spread, it’s likelier to include gravlax with dill and juniper berries than corned beef and cabbage, but she always makes soda bread. Her easy recipe calls for just six ingredients, including fresh thyme. You’ll find the recipe here. Also, an explanation for the cross traditionally cut into the top of the loaf. (Psst, fairies are involved.)

5 Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Irish Soda Bread

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Irish soda bread can be a bit bland.Not so in this version, though, that adds Irish whiskey butter and whiskey-soaked raisins to the mix. (Thinkstock)
This version of Irish soda bread adds whiskey-soaked raisins to the mix. (Thinkstock)

This version, created by baking maven Beranbaum, author of “The Bread Bible,” add butter, sugar and whiskey-soaked raisins to the classic recipe. The resulting sconelike loaf is even more delectable slathered in an Irish whiskey butter. (Irish whiskey butter!) Here’s the recipe.

Mother’s Day 2018

Mother’s Day 2018 in the United States

Mother’s Day in the United States is annually held on the second Sunday of May. It celebrates motherhood and it is a time to appreciate mothers and mother figures. Many people give gifts, cards, flowers, candy, a meal in a restaurant or other treats to their mother and mother figures, including grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, and foster mothers.

Gift boxes and pink rose.
Flowers and other gifts are given to mothers on Mother’s Day.

What Do People Do?

Many people send cards or gifts to their mother or mother figure or make a special effort to visit her. Common Mother’s Day gifts are flowers, chocolate, candy, clothing, jewelry and treats, such as a beauty treatment or trip to a spa. Some families organize an outing for all of their members or hold a special meal at home or in a restaurant. In the days and weeks before Mother’s Day, many schools help their pupils to prepare a handmade card or small gift for their mothers.

Public Life

Mother’s Day is not a federal holiday. Organizations, businesses and stores are open or closed, just as they are on any other Sunday in the year. Public transit systems run to their normal Sunday schedules. Restaurants may be busier than usual, as some people take their mothers out for a treat.


The origins of Mother’s Day are attributed to different people. Many believe that two women, Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis were important in establishing the tradition of Mother’s Day in the United States. Other sources say that Juliet Calhoun Blakely initiated Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the late 1800s. Her sons paid tribute to her each year and urged others to honor their mothers.

Around 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for Mother’s Day to be celebrated each year to encourage pacifism and disarmament amongst women. It continued to be held in Boston for about ten years under her sponsorship, but died out after that.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis held a private Mother’s Day celebration in memory of her mother, Ann Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia. Ann Jarvis had organized “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to improve health and cleanliness in the area where she lived. Anna Jarvis launched a quest for Mother’s Day to be more widely recognized. Her campaign was later financially supported by John Wanamaker, a clothing merchant from Philadelphia.

In 1908, she was instrumental in arranging a service in the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, which was attended by 407 children and their mothers. The church has now become the International Mother’s Day Shrine. It is a tribute to all mothers and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Mother’s Day has become a day that focuses on generally recognizing mothers’ and mother figures’ roles. Mother’s Day has also become an increasingly important event for businesses in recent years. This is particularly true of restaurants and businesses manufacturing and selling cards and gift items.

About Mother’s Day in other countries

Read more about Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday Type Where It is Observed
Sun May 9 2010 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 8 2011 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 13 2012 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 12 2013 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 11 2014 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 10 2015 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 8 2016 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 14 2017 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 13 2018 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 12 2019 Mother’s Day Observance
Sun May 10 2020 Mother’s Day Observance