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Doctor responds to letter-writers

I love letters. Good letters are the best, but push-back letters give me a chance to reflect on my opinions. I thought I’d share two of them with you today, along with my follow-up comments. They have been edited for brevity but still keep with the spirit of the letter-writers.

Dear Dr. Paster: On behalf of the Florida Department of Citrus, I am writing in response to recent comments you made on TV equating orange juice with Coke.

While we appreciate the viewpoint on calories, it is important to recognize the distinction between nutrient-dense 100 percent orange juice and grapefruit juice, and sugar-sweetened beverages like soda that contain few, if any, nutrients. As a fellow health professional, I wanted to clarify this.

GR, registered dietitian, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

A: This letter makes a good point. Orange juice is a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and other vitamins and minerals. Taken in moderate quantities, it’s a good food. But you can’t ignore the calorie issue – 20 ounces of O.J. clocks in at 300 calories, while the same amount of Coke is actually a bit less, at 240.

My mom would give me a glass of juice every morning. That was a 6-ounce tumbler. Juices in moderation are fine, with orange and grapefruit so much better than grape. But portion size here is key.

On that same TV interview, I gave my opinion that a piece of fruit is better than juice. That’s because fruit has fiber, while juice has little. Which is more satisfying – drinking 8 ounces of orange juice or eating the three or four oranges it takes to make that juice?

If you want to know more about good eating, read Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food.” You’ll love it.

Dear Dr. Paster: It truly bothers me when doctors exaggerate their claims to make a valid point. In your column about the HPV vaccine, you said the vaccine would eliminate cervical cancer. But you must know that the vaccine doesn’t kill all strains of HPV, just the most common ones. I think the other strains might just take over.

Also, you said that lifelong lesbians are protected. Well, what if they had sex with a guy when they were younger? You told them not to get a pap test. Bad job doc.

Dr. B.

A: First off, I think you missed the point of the column. Parents should immunize their children against cancer by getting the human papillomavirus vaccine. Thinking that giving this shot in middle school will encourage them to have sex when they’re 16 is just plain bunk. Sex education starts at home, and I can tell you as a parent, it was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had.

But let me clarify the other issue, the pap test. Pap tests will not become a thing of the past, but we are doing them less and less often because we now understand the risk factors better – that is HPV infection. If we could get rid of 95 percent of the HPV, then we would get rid of nearly all cervical cancer.

I never said not to get a pap test but rather that it might become a thing of the past. And wouldn’t that be nice?

Immunize those kids. Stay well.

Dr. Zorba Paster hosts a radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7; email him at

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