Answer Man

Delighted to play a hyperactive colon

Q: I keep seeing this crazed woman on one of those TV drug ads. She wears a flesh-colored leotard with a drawing of her intestines on it along with a hairdo that looks like a Raggedy Ann red wig. She looks a little familiar but I can’t place her. Is she someone I should know?

H.N., of Breese

A: She may have had roles in a dozen TV series, but now Ilana Becker says she is overjoyed to be taking her bowel ... er ... bow on Allergan’s Viberzi ads that you’ve recently been digesting. Even though it’s a role that might make others gag, she says playing the personification of a stomachache with diarrhea upsetting the lives of others is a dream part for her.

“I wanted the job from the moment I laid eyes on the copy,” Becker, who originally was hired merely to provide voiceovers for the spots, told AdWeek. “I remember thinking how much fun it would be to be able to bring Irritabelle to life.”

And bring her to life she has, playing the hyperactive colon that is continually causing trouble for her owner suffering with irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. Gary Scheiner, creative director for the Arnold Worldwide ad agency, said picking Becker, best known for playing herself on MTV’s “Girl Code,” was easy.

“She actually auditioned via Skype from her bathroom,” Scheiner told AdWeek. “While we saw hundreds of talented people, she was the unanimous choice.”

Becker, who since 2005 has popped up on such shows as “My Name Is Earl,” “Alpha House” and “Odd Mom Out,” is happy with the nearly four-minute Viberzi Internet spot in which Irritabelle helps explains IBS-D in detail — in her own wacky way, of course. You can see it, along with other Becker snippets, at her website, www.ilana-becker.com/media. She says she is glad her Stoogelike role about stomach distress has viewers busting a gut, sometimes in the most unusual places.

“My favorite reaction so far was a message from someone I don’t know, who works in a classified military ‘war room’ with those giant TVs that show things they’re tracking, along with world news,” she said. “The commercial came on, and they all stopped and belly-laughed. I hope I don’t get him in trouble, but to be the reason someone takes a moment to laugh is kind of the best thing ever.”

Q: Our family tends to eat dinner later in the evening, but a friend who knows our habits told me she heard this increases the chances for a heart attack. Is she right or did she misunderstand something?

Theresa Schulte, of O’Fallon

A: Eating a major meal within two hours of bedtime could indeed have far worse consequences than a midnight run for the Rolaids, according to a new study recently released at the world’s largest heart conference.

Blood pressure usually drops by at least 10 percent when a person goes to sleep, allowing the body to rest. But this did not happen in the vast majority of those who dined later in the evening, thus increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke — a particularly dangerous recipe for those already battling hypertension. As a result, researchers urge people to consume any large dinner before 7 p.m., a recommendation they realize may go unheeded in the often frantic pace of modern life.

The study, released at the European Society of Cardiology in Rome, followed 721 men and women with high blood pressure. It looked at the type of food eaten, amount of salt added, whether or not the subjects usually ate breakfast and what time they had dinner. Among those four factors, dinnertime was found to have the greatest impact on blood pressure. Surprisingly, it caused a greater increase in blood pressure overnight than a meal with a high level of salt.

Dr. Ebru Ozpelit, an associate professor of cardiology at Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey, explained it this way: Eating within two hours of bed time seems to keep the body on high alert by increasing the level of stress hormones even when you finally retire. So instead of decreasing during sleep, blood pressure remains high, doubling the chance of hypertensive people to have a heart attack. But, Ozpelit added, the findings are important for others because it stresses that when you eat may be as important as what you eat.

“With the advent of affordable artificial lighting and industrialization, modern humans began to experience prolonged hours of illumination every day and resultant extended consumption of food,” she told The Daily Mail. “Late night eating and skipping breakfast is such an erratic eating pattern which is becoming more prevalent day by day.”

Experts noted that the findings need to be replicated in larger, carefully designed studies, but previous research has shown that early dinners could help maintain healthy blood pressure, burn calories and even decrease the risk of cancer.

Today’s trivia

In 1977, what book did the Eldon, Mo., school board ban for having 39 objectionable words?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: In 1927, Al Jolson starred in “The Jazz Singer,” the first feature-length movie with sound. Near the end, Jolson, in blackface, drops to his knees as he sings “My Mammy.” When Sid Grauman asked Jolson to put his footprints in the sidewalk outside the famous Grauman Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Jolson also provided his handprints and kneeprints in the wet concrete. Grauman claimed that Jolson’s first appearance on stage was at the Grauman’s Unique Theatre in San Francisco. For pictures, see www.jolson.org/man/left/memorials/grauman/chinese.html and www.diomedia.com/stock-photo-al-jolson-making-knee-prints-in-the-concrete-outside-sid-graumans-chinese-theare-sid-grauman-is-holding-onto-jolsons-right-arm-date-image5771343.html

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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