Author Archives: Brian Poncelet

Probiotics and xylitol don’t help sore throats

The researchers randomly assigned nearly 1,000 people with sore throats to one of four regimens: chewing gum containing xylitol; probiotic capsules; both treatments combined; or a control group that only got a different gum without xylitol.

They found that xylitol and probiotics didn’t work any better than the gum without any remedy at all, according to the report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“We were hoping that one or the other would prove beneficial in sore throat but unfortunately not,” said senior study author Michael Moore of the University of Southampton in the UK.

“It was not clear before the trial whether they would be helpful or not, but it is a priority to find alternative approaches to treatment that don’t involve antibiotics so it was worth testing out these two potential treatments,” Moore said by email.

The study included 934 people, with complete data on the effect of the remedies available for 689 individuals.

All of the study participants came to the doctor complaining of a sore throat. At the initial exams, about two-thirds had inflammation in their throat and more than half had a cough.

Most had also experienced at least one previous sore throat in the previous three months, and more than 30 percent had at least three sore throat episodes.

They were randomly assigned to one of the four treatment groups, and then asked to record a diary of symptoms and the number of probiotic capsules or sticks of gum they had each day depending on what group they were in.

If gum was part of their regimen, participants were asked to chew five pieces daily. If their treatment included probiotics, they were asked to take one capsule daily with milk.

Participants were considered compliant with their assigned treatment if they followed these directions at least 75 percent of the time.

After three months, participants didn’t report any meaningful difference in the severity of sore throat symptoms or difficulty swallowing based on what group they were in.

One limitation of the study is that many participants dropped out before three months or didn’t provide complete data, the authors note. Another drawback is that the study wasn’t long enough to assess whether the tested remedies might help in the long run if people got recurring sore throats.

Still, the findings suggest there is no reason for doctors to prescribe probiotics or xylitol for sore throats, the researchers conclude.

For patients with strep throat, penicillin works and antibiotics are an effective and appropriate treatment, noted Dr. Jeffrey Linder, a researcher at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Most sore throats are not strep and should be treated symptomatically,” Linder, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

This means getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking over the counter medications for inflammation and pain, Linder advised.

4 easy steps to understanding & buying life insurance

Step 1: Do you need it?

If you’re reading this, the answer is probably yes. Life insurance provides income replacement to those who depend on you if you die. You probably need life insurance if:

  • You are married and your spouse depends on your income.
  • You are married and your spouse depends on you to take care of the children.
  • You have minor children, or adult children who depend on you
  • You are wealthy and don’t want to pass on your estate taxes to your heirs.

Step 2: Determine how much you have.

Obviously this includes any current policies you own, but you may have life insurance and not realize it. If you are like most and your eyes glaze during your HR benefit seminars, you may have dozed during the part about group life insurance plans. Don’t get too excited; if your employer offers it, it’s probably only 2-3x of your annual salary so you’ll likely need more. But definitely worth a look.

Step 3: Determine how much you need.

This is obviously the most complicated and intimidating part of life insurance. There are several rules of thumb floating out there, such as 10X your yearly income. This can be a good starting point, but there are major factors to consider, such as:

  • If you have minor children, how long until they are able to be self sufficient? The older your children, the less you need.
  • If you have no minor children, do you have enough in retirement for your spouse? Will your spouse need income replacement?
  • Maybe you don’t have any income but you are the primary caretaker for the children – how much would it cost for your spouse to hire a nanny or helper?
  • If needed, could your spouse earn more to help replace the lost income?
  • When determining how much you need, subtract assets and add liabilities

Step 4: Buy it!

Life insurance is a complex product and there are multiple types you can buy. In broad strokes, it is broken down into term and whole. Three major differentiators:

  • Length of insurance: Term insurance is temporary; you buy it for a certain amount of years. If you die after the term, you don’t receive the death benefit. Whole life insurance is permanent, you receive the death benefit whenever you die.
  • Cash accumulation: You accumulate a cash value with whole insurance, but not with term.
  • Cost: The cost of term insurance is significantly less than whole insurance. Significantly. Some of the extra premium of whole life goes into the cash accumulation; but high commissions and fees eat up a large portion of those premiums.

Four ways to have more energy at work

Eat smarter.

First things first. Don’t skip breakfast! Have a small meal at the very least to get your metabolism going. Then, throughout the day, practice mindful eating and listen to your body. If you need a snack, keep it well-balanced to avoid a mid-afternoon crash. Try something with equal protein and carbs to avoid blood sugar spikes (and drops).

Also, don’t forget the magic of caffeine. There’s the right amount that can give you a boost but won’t lead to a major crash afterwards. Have one cup of 200mg or less mid-morning, and then a second cup in the PM when you need a pick me up, instead of two back to back. The afternoon is a perfect time to take one of your regularly scheduled breaks.

Take regular breaks.

Research shows that taking 15 minute breaks every 90 minutes will reenergize you and help increase productivity. While it’s slightly different for everyone, most of us aren’t capable of truly focusing for more than an hour and a half at a time. So don’t power through every client call, report, and meeting without one. You’re actually doing yourself a disservice.

Not sure if a break sounds productive enough? Why not also incorporate some exercise?

Workout mid-day.

You already know that regular exercise is important for your health, but if you time it correctly, it also works wonders for your energy levels. Fitting in even as little as 20 minutes mid-day can perk you up and improve your mood. If you don’t have a gym nearby, try taking a brisk walk near your office. Better yet, host a walking meeting with colleagues to tackle work while simultaneously upping your energy levels.

We’ve all seen that colleague whose eyes start to fall heavy in the boardroom…You definitely don’t want to be that person.

Take a power nap (or the equivalent).

I’m not the best at shutting down my brain enough to take a nap, but if YOU can do it, I say go for it. The National Sleep Foundation claims that a short 20-30 minute nap can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance. Basically, naps re-energize you in powerful ways. If you’re like me and can’t fall asleep, sit quietly, listen to music, or simply close your eyes and bask in the sunshine for a few minutes to also help you feel more energized before you get back to work.

Disclaimer: A nap won’t save you if you aren’t also getting enough sleep each night, so make sure you’re getting the proper amount of shut-eye on the regular.

If you think there’s no way you can find time to take a nap or workout mid-day, I challenge you to start out small and implement these tips one at a time. Even self-made millionaires value the importance of exercise and good rest.

Once you find something that works well for you, try adding on another, and then another. Over time you’ll develop a routine that keeps you energized, even on the toughest of days.

Plan for retirement before it’s too late

Now that the baby boomers are starting to retire it seems they’re not as good at it as they thought they would be.

Record levels of debt and a sense of entitlement have left many with a retirement income gap they’re scrambling to fill. But there is still time for YOU to do it differently. And just because there’s confusion now doesn’t mean you have to walk the same path.

But there are also a few very important lessons in here for the generations who are following the boomers:

Having robust savings won’t count for much if you’re walking around with a lot of debt.

It has been estimated that four in 10 Canadians will retire with debt. I’m willing to bet, based on how delusional I’ve found people to be, that the number is much, much higher. Another survey reported that 62 per cent of people plan to retire with a pile of debt hanging over their heads. That’s a little more in line with my thinking.

The lesson: Your balance sheet must balance.

It’s not just how much you have saved, it’s your overall net worth that paints an accurate picture. Update your net worth statement every six months to track progress.

We used to aim to have our mortgages paid off by the time we swapped paycheques for retirement income.

Now Canadians with a mortgage do not consider paying it off as an important factor in deciding when to retire. It seems more than half of us think retiring with a mortgage is now OK. Is that because we don’t have a hope in hell of getting it paid off and we’re reconciled to being old and poor? If you’re living on less income, doesn’t having fewer fixed expenses just make sense?

The lesson: If you’re buying so much home that you can’t afford to pay it off during your working years, you’re setting yourself up to have a very stingy retirement.

Can’t live within your means while you’re working? How are you going to on a fixed income that’s less?

Credit cards and lines of credit have made living beyond our means easy. Since most retirement income is predicated on receiving 30-50 per cent less income, shouldn’t you practise living on less to learn to be happy with what you have?

The lesson: You’re going to have a lot of demands on your money over your lifetime: retirement savings, educational savings for your kids, mortgage repayment.

You have to prioritize saving over spending if you’re going to meet your goals.

Learning to be happy with what 50-70 per cent of your net income can buy means when you transition into retirement you won’t be assaulted by the concepts of frugality. In the meantime, save aggressively and pay off your mortgage to have more financial security.


Lamborghini unveils world’s fastest SUV

The Lamborghini Urus SUV, just unveiled in Italy, will be the world’s fastest SUV, the automaker said.

The Urus will have a 650 horsepower turbocharged V8 and an eight-speed transmission, allowing it to reach speeds of about 190 miles an hour.

Besides reaching incredible speeds, the $200,000 SUV is expected to transform the Italian brand long known for making ultra-expensive, high-performance sports cars. Lamborghini now expects to sell more of these new SUVs than it does of its other models combined, at least doubling the carmaker’s annual sales. That means 2019, the first full year after the Urus comes out, should be the first year that Lamborghini sells as many as 7,000 vehicles.

Technically speaking, this is Lamborghini’s second SUV. The first one, the LM002 which Lamborghini made in the 1980s and ’90s, was a curiosity of which only about 300 were made.

A similar route was taken by Lamborghini’s sister-brand, Porsche, when it introduced the Cayenne SUV in 2002. (Both Lamborghini and Porsche are part of the Volkswagen Group.) Originally seen as sacrilege by many of Porsche’s sports car fans, the hot-selling Cayenne provided cash flow that allowed Porsche to develop and refine its sports cars. In other words, it was a win all the way around.