An Update on My 'Cabbie Index'

I'm an advocate of scouring the real world for information. I call it my "Cabbie Index." When I'm in a new area, I like to ask cab drivers how things are going. They always know where the construction is happening... who's getting laid off... and how the business at local spots seems to be. (Though I suppose I might have to rename it the "Uber Index.")

For example, when I stay at a Hampton Inn in Madison, Wisconsin, I mingle in the morning with folks enjoying the great breakfast foods. (I love the self-made waffles.) I might hear about a new pipe or valve company from a couple of engineers or hear thoughts on electronic medical record (EMR) systems from some visiting nurses.

My boots-on-the-ground activity keeps me close to what's happening across America...

Recently, I've been around the country chatting up taxi and Uber drivers, hotel staff, baristas at Starbucks, and restaurateurs in Chicago and California... I'm trying to get a flavor of the world...

Everyone seems busy. Drivers are getting plenty of passengers... flights are full and more expensive than I've seen in a while... new restaurants are opening up...

I'm looking for signs the economy might be taking a turn down, but from what I see, the economy is still healthy.

I'll keep you up-to-date here when I start seeing changes... In the meantime, enjoy it.

Now let's get into this week's Q&A...

Q: You recently were asking for ideas for your newsletter.

Perhaps you could consider an article on names that we see all the time, but are never translated for us – things like MSCI, Global X, iShares, etc. Are these separate companies? Or do they just refer to some part of the market? Do they show a preference (more aggressive, conservative, etc.) Or do they only trade in limited markets?

I know there a lot more names out there. Perhaps you could track some of the more well-used names down and explain them to us. – B.C.

A: iShares and Global X are money-management companies that offer exchange-traded funds (ETFs). There are plenty of others like Invesco, SPDR, PIMCO, and Vanguard... all of which run ETFs you can buy on the New York Stock Exchange.

They each offer a range of ETFs to fulfill different financial needs, investing styles, and risk levels... from international funds, to industry specific funds, to fixed income funds. Some ETFs even track a specific index. For example, the SPDR S&P 500 Fund follows the S&P 500 Index.

ETFs can create their own strategy where they can license an index to follow from an index provider... which is where MSCI comes in.

MSCI is one of these index providers. MSCI stands for Morgan Stanley Capital International. MSCI creates market-tracking indexes, like the MSCI World Index, which follows mid- and large-cap companies in developed markets, and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which follows the performance of emerging markets.

Q: Dear Dr. Eifrig, you mentioned plaque buildup in this bulletin and heart disease as a major cause of death. What can be done to treat plaque buildup? – M.A.

A: The concern is that there are few studies that show which lifestyle changes (if any) will reduce the plaques in your blood vessels. Many studies combine interventions, such as exercise, diet, and stress reduction. We found one promising study showing that a low carbohydrate diet reduced plaque sizes, but the study was funded in part by the Atkins Foundation (the same folks who came up with the Atkins low-carb diet), so we're a bit wary of the results.

However, even if you can't reduce the plaques, we do know you can slow their growth. As we've explained before, plaques that stick to the lining of your blood vessels cause heart attacks and strokes. But these plaques form when there's damage to the blood vessels – they're basically band-aids for your body. That damage often comes from inflammation.

We know that cutting out inflammatory foods like trans fats, artificial sugars, and processed foods helps. Eating plenty of inflammation-fighters like fruits, vegetables, and olive oil also helps. Since stress can contribute to inflammation, try incorporating a good stress-busting practice like meditation into your day. And always move – the more you move, the better you'll feel. And don't forget, fat also triggers inflammation. So try to lose those extra pounds with common-sense diet and exercise.

Q: I just read your explanation about sugar and particularly sugar consumed with fruits. I'm a fan of fruits and eat a lot of them. However, there is a diet fad that is rising nowadays (another one) and this diet bans fruits because of sugar. I'm not going to follow their advice but what is your take about this. – F.H.

A: I'm not a fan of any diet. They're far too restrictive and nearly impossible to follow in the long term. Any diet that cuts out fruits entirely is ridiculous. Fruits and vegetables pack many of our needed vitamins and minerals, as well as beneficial antioxidants. Plus, fruits have a lot of fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. That makes them a great alternative to other sweet foods.

If you're concerned about too much fruit raising your blood sugar (for instance, if you have diet-controlled diabetes), keep a journal to see which ones affect you most. Remember, different folks will have different reactions to the same sugary foods. You can also limit your consumption of fruits with the most sugar per serving, like mangoes, cherries, grapes, and figs. But be sure to load up on low-sugar fruits like strawberries, blackberries, and peaches.

Keep your questions coming... [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
July 19, 2019