Although not as plentiful as fitness podcasts, there are many health, medicine and food science shows from which to choose. Here's a sample of them.
HEALTH & MEDICINE
"NIH Research Radio"
The good: The National Institutes of Health takes the dry results of studies it produces and jazzes them up for a listening audience. It even manages to make pelvic-floor disorders seem interesting.
The bad: The segments sometimes can descend into a public service announcement, which is confusing because they run PSAs between stories.
"Mayo Clinic Podcast"
The good: Short, sweet and informative. We listened to a disquisition about foot problems and now can talk with authority about metatarsalgia (pain at the metatarsal heads) at cocktail parties.
The bad: We learned more about bunions than we'd ever want to know.
"Listen to 'The Lancet' "
The good: You can choose among three different podcasts from the noted British medical journal on infectious diseases, neurology or oncology. We listened to a report on migraines (pronounced "mee-graines" in Britain) and retinopathy in Type 2 diabetes. We felt smarter just listening to Brit host Richard Lane.
The bad: These are so technical that they're best left to medical professionals and amateur hypochondriacs.
The good: This hourlong show co-produced by the Indiana University School of Medicine and an Indianapolis public radio station went in-depth about how kids spread the flu among themselves and in families. It also delved deeply into the latest vitamin D research and secrets to healthy aging. If it sounds like public radio, that's because it is public radio.
The bad: Nothing bad here.
The good: Although its title implies "fitness tips," this show really delves into wellness and prevention issues. Here's a doctor, Monte Ladner, we all can relate to. He takes often-confusing medical and fitness research and makes sense of it. We listened to his podcast on stress as it relates to weight gain, chronic inflammation and whether all stress is bad.
The bad: We would like to have heard more from Ladner's interview with a psychologist speaking on job stress. The podcast seems kind of slapped together, as if the doc had another job. Oh, you mean he does?
The good: It's from National Public Radio, so you know it's high quality in production and sourcing. What's particularly impressive is the breadth of coverage, from health insurance to case studies to personal stories of living with various medical conditions.
The bad: Sometimes, the topics segue too far into business coverage. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But if we wanted to download a business podcast, we would.
The good: Part of the excellent Diet Detective Web site, the podcast packs a lot of information into a seven- to 10-minute broadcast. For instance, it demystified the different oils and types of cooking fats out there in language a layperson could comprehend.
The bad: We actually wished it was a longer show. The Web site itself is chock-full of information.
"Fat 2 Fit Radio"
The good: The two hosts Russ (from California) and Jeff (from Canada) come across like regular guys who have done their research. Which they have. They give a "Web Report" from stories culled from the Internet and give a weekly low-fat recipe. Example: Asian Crock Pot Chicken.
The bad: The guys' advice is rather general and simplistic. To wit: "We don't believe in calories. We believe you should eat the calories and work out like a thinner person." The hosts wasted several minutes talking about the stock market collapse and their IRA accounts. If we wanted stock news, we'd find one of the multifarious business podcasts.
"Logical Weight Loss"
The good: Dave Jackson, the host, is a pleasant guy who admits he doesn't have all the answers. You're rooting for him to lose weight. "I feel like Richard Simmons. You look at him and he's a little chunky. I'm like him, about back at square one (on weight loss). It's been a stressful couple of years."
The bad: The podcast is short on specifics, long on bromides. Plus, Dave goes off topic occasionally.
"The Nutrition Diva"
The good: The best nutrition podcast available. The podcast we heard cut through the hype about high-fructose corn syrup "and whether it's to blame for the decline of Western civilization," quips host Monica Reinagel. She posits that the link between obesity and corn syrup "has less to do with chemistry than economics." Her advice: "Limit refined sugar in all forms." It is professionally produced, not surprising since Reinagel works for the Conde Nast-owned Web site nutritiondata.com.
The bad: We'd like to hear more Monica. She's an opera singer and a licensed nutritionist and a chef.