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Health and Medicine Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 3

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Updated on Sep 27, 2011

Health and Medicine Critical Reading

Questions 1–10 are based on the following passage.

This passage describes the public's growing interest in alternative medicine practices in twenty-first century United States.

Once people wore garlic around their necks to ward off disease. Today, most Americans would scoff at the idea of wearing a necklace of garlic cloves to enhance their wellbeing. However, you might find a number of Americans willing to ingest capsules of pulverized garlic or other herbal supplements in the name of health.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which includes a range of practices outside of conventional medicine such as herbs, homeopathy, massage, yoga, and acupuncture, holds increasing appeal for Americans. In fact, according to one estimate, 42% of Americans have used alternative therapies. A Harvard Medical School survey found that young adults (those born between 1965 and 1979) are the most likely to use alternative treatments, whereas people born before 1945 are the least likely to use these therapies. Nonetheless, in all age groups, the use of unconventional healthcare practices has steadily increased since the 1950s, and the trend is likely to continue.

CAM has become a big business as Americans dip into their wallets to pay for alternative treatments. A 1997 American Medical Association study estimated that the public spent $21.2 billion for alternative medicine therapies in that year, more than half of which were "out-of-pocket" expenditures, meaning they were not covered by health insurance. Indeed, Americans made more out-of-pocket expenditures for alternative services than they did for out-of-pocket payments for hospital stays in 1997. In addition, the number of total visits to alternative medicine providers (about 629 million) exceeded the tally of visits to primary care physicians (386 million) in that year.

However, the public has not abandoned conventional medicine for alternative healthcare. Most Americans seek out alternative therapies as a complement to their conventional healthcare whereas only a small percentage of Americans rely primarily on alternative care. Why have so many patients turned to alternative therapies? Frustrated by the time constraints of managed care and alienated by conventional medicine's focus on technology, some feel that a holistic approach to healthcare better reflects their beliefs and values. Others seek therapies that will relieve symptoms associated with chronic disease, symptoms that mainstream medicine cannot treat.

Some alternative therapies have crossed the line into mainstream medicine as scientific investigation has confirmed their safety and efficacy. For example, today physicians may prescribe acupuncture for pain management or to control the nausea associated with chemotherapy. Most U.S. medical schools teach courses in alternative therapies and many health insurance companies offer some alternative medicine benefits. Yet, despite their gaining acceptance, the majority of alternative therapies have not been researched in controlled studies. New research efforts aim at testing alternative methods and providing the public with information about which are safe and effective and which are a waste of money, or possibly dangerous.

So what about those who swear by the health benefits of the "smelly rose," garlic?

Observational studies that track disease incidence in different populations suggest that garlic use in the diet may act as a cancer-fighting agent, particularly for prostate and stomach cancer. However, these findings have not been confirmed in clinical studies. And yes, reported side effects include garlic odor.

  1. The author's primary purpose in the passage is to
    1. confirm the safety and effectiveness of alternative medicine approaches.
    2. convey the excitement of crossing new medical frontiers.
    3. describe the recent increase in the use of alternative therapies.
    4. explore the variety of practices that fall into the category of alternative medicine.
    5. criticize the use of alternative therapies that have not been scientifically tested.
  2. The author describes wearing garlic (line 1) as an example of
    1. an arcane practice considered odd and superstitious today.
    2. the ludicrous nature of complementary and alternative medicine.
    3. a scientifically tested medical practice.
    4. a socially unacceptable style of jewelry.
    5. a safe and reliable means to prevent some forms of cancer.
  3. The word conventional as it is used in line 7 most nearly means
    1. appropriate.
    2. established.
    3. formal.
    4. moralistic.
    5. reactionary.
  4. The author most likely uses the Harvard survey results (lines 10–13) to imply that
    1. as people age they always become more conservative.
    2. people born before 1945 view alternative therapies with disdain.
    3. the survey did not question baby boomers (those born between 1945–1965) on the topic.
    4. many young adults are open-minded to alternative therapies.
    5. the use of alternative therapies will decline as those born between 1965 and 1979 age.
  5. The statistic comparing total visits to alternative medicine practitioners with those to primary care physicians (lines 23–25) is used to illustrate the
    1. popularity of alternative medicine.
    2. public's distrust of conventional healthcare.
    3. accessibility of alternative medicine.
    4. affordability of alternative therapies.
    5. ineffectiveness of most primary care physicians.
  6. In line 28, complement most nearly means
    1. tribute.
    2. commendation.
    3. replacement.
    4. substitute.
    5. addition.
  7. The information in lines 30–35 indicates that Americans believe that conventional healthcare
    1. offers the best relief from the effects of chronic diseases.
    2. should not use technology in treating illness.
    3. combines caring for the body with caring for the spirit.
    4. falls short of their expectations in some aspects.
    5. needs a complete overhaul to become an effective system.
  8. The author suggests that cross[ing] the line into mainstream medicine (lines 36–37) involves
    1. performing stringently controlled research on alternative therapies.
    2. accepting the spiritual dimension of preventing and treating illness.
    3. approving of any treatments that a patient is interested in trying.
    4. recognizing the popularity of alternative therapies.
    5. notifying your physician about herbs or alternative therapies you are using.
  9. In lines 49–54, the author refers to garlic use again in order to
    1. cite an example of the fraudulent claims of herbal supplements.
    2. suggest that claims about some herbs may be legitimate.
    3. mock people who take garlic capsules.
    4. reason why some Americans are drawn to alternative health methods.
    5. argue that observational studies provide enough evidence.
  10. Which of the following best describes the approach of the passage?
    1. matter-of-fact narration
    2. historical analysis
    3. sarcastic criticism
    4. playful reporting
    5. impassioned argument

Questions 11–20 are based on the following passage.

In the following article, the author speculates about a connection between the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet recommended by the medical establishment in the last twenty years and the increasing rate of obesity among Americans.

American dietitians and members of the medical community have ridiculed low-carbohydrate diets as quackery for the past thirty years, while extolling a diet that cuts down on fat, limits meat consumption, and relies on carbohydrates as its staple. Many Americans are familiar with the food pyramid promoted by the U.S. government, with its foundation of carbohydrates such as breads, rice, and pasta, and its apex allotted to fats, oils, and sweets. Adhering to the government's anti-fat, pro-carbohydrate gospel, food manufacturers have pumped out fat-free grain products that lure consumers with the promise of leaner days. Then, why are Americans getting so fat? Could the dietary recommendations of the last twenty years be wrong? And what's more, could the proponents of diets that push protein and fat be right?

Fact: Obesity rates have soared throughout the country since the 1980s. The United States Centers of Disease Control reports that the number of obese adults has doubled in the last twenty years. The number of obese children and teenagers has almost tripled, increasing 120% among African-American and Latino children and 50% among white children. The risk for Type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity, has increased dramatically as well. Disturbingly, the disease now affects 25% to 30% of children, compared with 3% to 5% two decades ago.

What is behind this trend? Supersized portions, cheap fast food, and soft drinks combined with a sedentary lifestyle of TV watching or Internet surfing have most likely

contributed to the rapid rise of obesity. Yet, there might be more to it: is it a coincidence that obesity rates increased in the last twenty years—the same time period in which the low-fat dietary doctrine has reigned? Before the 1980s, the conventional wisdom was that fat and protein created a feeling of satiation, so that overeating would be less likely. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, were regarded as a recipe for stoutness. This perception began to change after World War II when coronary heart disease reached near epidemic proportions among middle-aged men. A theory that dietary fat might increase cholesterol levels and, in turn, increase the risk of heart disease emerged in the 1950s and gained increasing acceptance by the late 1970s. In 1979, the focus of the food guidelines promoted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began to shift away from getting enough nutrients to avoiding excess fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium—the components believed to be linked to heart disease. The anti-fat credo was born.

To date, the studies that have tried to link dietary fat to increased risk of coronary heart disease have remained ambiguous. Studies have shown that cholesterol-lowering drugs help reduce the risk of heart disease, but whether a diet low in cholesterol can do the same is still questionable. While nutrition experts are debating whether a low-fat, carbohydrate-based diet is the healthiest diet for Americans, nearly all agree that the anti-fat message of the last twenty years has been oversimplified. For example, some fats and oils like those found in olive oil and nuts are beneficial to the heart and may deserve a larger proportion in the American diet than their place at the tip of the food pyramid indicates. Likewise, some carbohydrates that form the basis of the food pyramid, like the "refined" carbohydrates contained in white bread, pasta, and white rice, are metabolized in the body much the same way sweets are. According to one Harvard Medical School researcher, a breakfast of a bagel with low-fat cream cheese is "metabolically indistinguishable from a bowl of sugar."

So what about those high-fat, protein diets that restrict carbohydrates like the popular Atkins' diet and others? A small group of nutrition experts within the medical establishment find it hard to ignore the anecdotal evidence that many lose weight successfully on these diets. They are arguing that those diets should not be dismissed out of hand, but researched and tested more closely. Still others fear that Americans, hungry to find a weight-loss regimen, may embrace a diet that has no long-term data about whether it works or is safe. What is clear is that Americans are awaiting answers and in the meantime, we need to eat something.

  1. The passage is primarily concerned with
    1. questioning the dietary advice of the past two decades.
    2. contrasting theories of good nutrition.
    3. displaying the variety of ways one can interpret scientific evidence.
    4. debunking the value of diets that restrict carbohydrates.
    5. isolating the cause of the rising rate of obesity.
  2. The author's attitude toward the medical experts who ridiculed low-carbohydrate diets as quackery and praised low-fat diets is one of
    1. bemused agreement.
    2. seeming ambivalence.
    3. unconcerned apathy.
    4. implicit objection.
    5. shocked disbelief.
  3. The term gospel (line 8) as it is used in the passage most nearly means
    1. one of the first four New Testament books.
    2. a proven principle.
    3. a message accepted as truth.
    4. American evangelical music.
    5. a singular interpretation.
  4. The author uses the word Fact (line 14) in order to
    1. draw a conclusion about the USDA's dietary recommendations.
    2. imply that statistical information can be misleading.
    3. hypothesize about the health effects of high-fat, protein diets.
    4. introduce a theory about the increased rate of obesity.
    5. emphasize a statistical reality regardless of its cause.
  5. The passage suggests that the obesity trend in the United States is
    1. partly a result of inactive lifestyles.
    2. the predictable outcome of cutting down on saturated fat.
    3. a cyclical event that happens every twenty years.
    4. unrelated to a rise in diabetes cases.
    5. the unfortunate byproduct of the effort to reduce heart disease.
  6. In lines 26–31, the author implies that the government's 1979 food guidelines
    1. relied more on folk wisdom than on scientific study.
    2. was based on the theoretical premise that eating less dietary fat reduces heart disease.
    3. was negligent in not responding to the increasing incidence of heart disease.
    4. no longer bothered to mention nutrient objectives.
    5. was successful in reducing heart disease rates.
  7. The author characterizes the anti-fat message of the last twenty years (line 48) as
    1. elusive.
    2. questionable.
    3. incoherent.
    4. beneficial.
    5. inventive.
  8. The author cites the example of a breakfast of a bagel with low-fat cream cheese in order to
    1. show that getting a nutritional breakfast can be fast and convenient.
    2. demonstrate that carbohydrates are the ideal nutrient.
    3. overturn the notion that a carbohydrate-based breakfast is necessarily healthy.
    4. persuade readers that they should eat eggs and sausage for breakfast.
    5. argue that Americans should greatly restrict their carbohydrate intake.
  9. The author of the passage would most likely agree with which statement?
    1. The federal government knowingly gave the public misleading advice.
    2. Soaring obesity rates are most certainly a result of low-fat diets.
    3. Nutritionists should promote high-fat, protein diets like the Atkin's diet.
    4. Scientists should investigate every fad diet with equal scrutiny.
    5. There is no definitive evidence connecting dietary fat to heart disease.
  10. The tone of the last sentence of the passage (lines 65–67) is one of
    1. optimism.
    2. resolve.
    3. indulgence.
    4. irony.
    5. revulsion.
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