Monday, February 28, 2005

Contraceptive pill linked to depression

New research shows women taking the oral contraceptive pill are almost twice as likely to be depressed than those who do not.

The Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre studied 60 women, and found that those taking the pill containing both oestrogen and progesterone were almost twice as likely to be depressed as those who did not.

The centre's director, Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, is urging clinicians to be aware of the psychiatric side effects of the pill.

But she says more research is needed to understand how hormones effect moods.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is advising women to continue taking their contraceptive medication, despite the research findings.

AMA vice president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal says if women on the pill are feeling depressed, they should discuss their concerns with their GPs.

Proposed new FDA drug safety demands under fire

Proposed new safety regulations at the US Food and Drug Administration will require considerable extra work while providing little benefit to public health, according to a survey of top drug companies to be published today.

The survey of 14 pharmaceutical and biotechnology groups by BearingPoint, a consultancy, concludes moves to increase reporting to the regulator of "suspected adverse drug reactions" identified by pharmaceutical companies during clinical trials will be ineffective.

The concerns come at a time when the FDA is under pressure to reinforce drug safety in the wake of recent health scares including side effects of a class of anti-inflammatory drugs called cox-2 inhibitors.

The FDA rule changes that are out for consultation - known by insiders as "the tome" - would trigger extra reporting procedures by drug companies to regulators if a possible causal relationship "cannot be ruled out" between a serious side-effect and a patient taking a company's drug.

That increases the burden of proof from the current requirement, which requires expedited notification to the FDA if there is "a reasonable possibility" that the drug caused the adverse event.

Drug companies estimated the change would double their caseload, and impose extra need for highly-qualified drug safety employees to contact patients who report problems.

Courtesy of Financial Times 2/28/2005

Steve - Why are we not surprised? Should we not just keep the status quo and allow increased deaths and side-effects from drugs? What Big Pharma is really saying here is that they will have to put more dollars into research instead of marketing, which will hurt the bottom line.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Breakfast For the Heart

Mom may have been right when she said breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A small study suggests that skipping that morning meal may be a bad move for the heart, and possibly the waistline.

UK researchers found that when healthy, lean women skipped their morning meal, it raised their cholesterol levels and diminished their bodies' sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

On top of that, the women tended to eat more calories on breakfast-free days -- suggesting that over the long haul, skipping breakfast could spur weight gain.

Dr. Hamid R. Farshchi and his colleagues at the University of Nottingham in the UK report the findings in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Along with past evidence, he said, the new findings suggest that making time for breakfast is likely to have long-term health benefits.

Courtesy of Reuters 2/25/2005

10 Voters on Panel Backing Pain Pills Had Industry Ties

Ten of the 32 government drug advisers who last week endorsed continued marketing of the huge-selling pain pills Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx have consulted in recent years for the drugs' makers, according to disclosures in medical journals and other public records.

If the 10 advisers had not cast their votes, the committee would have voted 12 to 8 that Bextra should be withdrawn and 14 to 8 that Vioxx should not return to the market. The 10 advisers with company ties voted 9 to 1 to keep Bextra on the market and 9 to 1 for Vioxx's return.

Courtesy of the New York Times 2/25/2005

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Vitamin E supplements effective in raising skin antioxidant levels

Supplements of either natural or synthetic source vitamin E almost double the levels of this important antioxidant on the skin’s surface, report researchers this month, providing the first strong evidence for the role of vitamin E supplements in skincare.

The new study, funded by vitamin maker BASF and first reported at a major conference on vitamin E last year, reveals for the first time a potential delivery mechanism for dietary vitamin E reaching the skin via sebaceous gland secretion.

Researchers led by Professor Jens Thiele at the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago had previously shown that sebum contains the highest concentrations of alpha-tocopherol found in human skin and accounts for the high levels of vitamin E found in the outermost layers of the skin and in skin surface lipids.

The theory was tested on 24 healthy volunteers, randomized to receive a daily supplement of either 400 mg synthetic alpha-tocopherol or natural source alpha-tocopherol for two weeks.

Serum alpha-tocopherol levels were significantly increased as early as 12 hours after the first supplements were taken, peaking on day seven, with an average increase of 76 per cent and 79 per cent, respectively.

Sebum levels remained unchanged during the first 14 days of supplementation but after two weeks, both vitamin E groups saw alpha-tocopherol levels in sebum increase by 87 per cent and 92 per cent, respectively.

“The results suggest that sebaceous gland secretion is a major mechanism leading to site-specific differences,” write the researchers in a special issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2004; 1031: 184).

Steve - This study was posted not so much for the content, but for whom the study was funded. Just like with drug companies who fund their own studies, one must proceed with caution when vitamin manufacturers fund their own studies, as is the case here. Hopefully, now that one study was done, other independent research can be done on this topic.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Healthy schools cut obesity rate in half: study

Schools that offer healthy living programs can cut their students' obesity rates in half and help lower their risk of disease later in life, says a new Canadian study released Wednesday.

Launched in 2003, the Children's Lifestyle and School-Performance Study (CLASS) shows that students attending schools with a comprehensive healthy living program eat more fruits and vegetables, and that only four per cent of these students are likely to be overweight or obese -- compared to 10 per cent for those attending schools without such a program.

The study was funded by the non-profit Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and appears in the March edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

It surveyed 5,200 fifth-graders in nearly 300 Nova Scotia schools, along with their parents and school principals.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Magnesium may protect against colorectal cancer

High levels of dietary magnesium may help protect women from developing colorectal cancer, shows a Swedish study.

Using a population-based prospective cohort of 61,433 women, researchers at the Karolinska Institute found that women with the highest intakes of the mineral had a 40 per cent lower risk of developing the disease than those with the lowest intakes.

"This population-based prospective study suggests that a high magnesium intake may reduce the occurrence of colorectal cancer in women,” conclude Susanna Larsson and colleagues in the 5 January issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (293, pp86-89).

The findings are significant as researchers have recently identified a deficiency of the mineral in European populations.

Approximately 150,000 people in the US are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. The cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, and the risk of contracting it increases with age.

Protein emerging as bone health factor

Researchers at the government-funded Agricultural Research Service are currently completing a third human clinical study investigating the impact of protein on bone health.

Their findings to date show that protein at both high and ‘normal’ levels have no impact on bone health markers. The new study shows that protein may actually increase calcium absorption when the mineral is at low levels.

“I think we’re going to see the dogma that high protein diets harm calcium absorption reversed,” said Fariba Roughead, lead author of one of the latest studies in this area.

Some Nutritionists believe that protein may leach calcium from the bones as a result of the body’s attempt to neutralize the acid ash or sulphate produced when protein is metabolized.

Yet studies carried out over the last two years suggest that the impact of protein on bones is in fact positive.

In 2003, the ARS team reported that a high-meat diet, consisting of 20 per cent of daily calories as protein, (about 117 grams, including 10.5 ounces of meat), had no adverse effect on calcium retention nor on biomarkers for bone breakdown in postmenopausal women, even when they were only receiving half the recommended calcium intake.

Last year a team from the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University took the debate one step further, showing that protein could actually help bone health.

They reported that men and women who increased their dietary protein by an average of 58 grams of protein a day had 25 per cent higher levels of bone growth factor and lower levels of a marker of bone resorption compared with controls.

New results from the ARS team, not yet published, look set to confirm protein’s benefit to bone health.

The team has however seen no benefit on calcium uptake from a soy isoflavone-rich diet.

Bonnie - This nutritionist has been saying for years that protein is ESSENTIAL for bone health, not the other way around. It's nice to see the pendulum swing back our way.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Children 'harmed' by vegan diets

Putting children on strict vegan diets is "unethical" and could harm their development, a US scientist has argued.

Lindsay Allen, of the US Agricultural Research Service, attacked parents who insisted their children lived by the maxim "meat is murder".

Animal source foods have some nutrients not found anywhere else, she told a Washington science conference.

The Vegan Society dismissed the claims, saying its research showed vegans were often healthier than meat eaters.

Professor Allen said: "There have been sufficient studies clearly showing that when women avoid all animal foods, their babies are born small, they grow very slowly and they are developmentally retarded, possibly permanently."

"If you're talking about feeding young children, pregnant women and lactating women, I would go as far as to say it is unethical to withhold these foods [animal source foods] during that period of life."

She was especially critical of parents who imposed a vegan lifestyle on their children, denying them milk, cheese, butter and meat.

"There's absolutely no question that it's unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans," she told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

She said the damage to a child began while it was growing in the womb and continued once it had been born.

However, the claims have been dismissed by the Vegan Society in the UK.

In a statement, it said increasing numbers of people were opting for a plant-based diet.

Kostana Azmi, the chief executive officer, said: "The vegan diet can provide you with more energy, nutrition, and is bursting with goodness."

She said plant sources were sometimes a safer, and cheaper source of nutrients.

For instance, animal sources of omega-3 oils, needed for the development of the brain and nervous system, were often contaminated with pollutants, such as mercury in fish.

In addition, the vegan diet was often a healthier alternative. She said dairy and meat products were rich in saturated fat, while plant based diets were low in it.

The society does recommend that vegans supplement their diet with vitamin B-12 pills.

The US Agricultural Research Service is part of the US Department of Agriculture.

Courtesy of BBC News 2/21/05

Bonnie - I have been saying this forever. I believe putting children on strict vegan diets may be causing their children permamnent physical, mental, and emotional damage. There is no possible way that a child can develop properly as a vegan. I have seen it too many times in my practice.

Panel says Vioxx can return to market

Merck & Co. Inc.'s withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx is safe enough to rejoin Pfizer's rival pain relievers Celebrex and Bextra on the U.S. market, an advisory panel said after concluding that all three medicines posed some level of heart risk. By 17-15 vote, in a stunning turnaround for Vioxx, assures lower litigation costs for Merck, which previously were estimated to exceed $20 billion dollars. Vioxx was withdrawn in September by Merck after a study showed the drug doubled heart attack and stroke risk compared with a placebo in patients who took it for at least 18 months. The FDA in most cases follow's the advisory panel's advice.

Steve - I guess killing an estimated 50,000 people is not enough. We should be outraged, yet, we find ourselves not surprised. Why shouldn't we expect this to happen?

Vioxx will no longer be a blockbuster drug, but that is not the point. The only thing Merck was interested in was to assure that Vioxx was not removed from the market by the FDA, which would have increased their litigation costs exponentially.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Antidepressant Safety Debate May Include Adult Patients

The yearlong debate over whether antidepressant drugs increase the risk of suicide in some children may soon widen to include adults, as English and Canadian scientists are reporting findings from three new analyses of suicide risk in people over age 18 who have taken the medications.

The new findings are mixed, and apparently contradictory, and likely to encourage both patient advocates who believe that antidepressants like Prozac have hidden dangers, and manufacturers who insist that the medications are safe, experts said.

One of the reports, an analysis of data on antidepressants from previous studies, found that adults taking the drugs were twice as likely to attempt suicide as those receiving a dummy pill or other treatments, but no more likely to complete the act.

The two other reports found no significant link between the medications and suicide. Suicide attempts occurred in less than 0.5 percent of the more than 200,000 people included in the three studies.

All three papers appeared yesterday in the online version of The British Medical Journal.

Courtesy of the New Yor Times 2/18/05

Vitamin D May Ward Off Prostate Cancer

Getting a little sunshine may be one way for men to cut their risk of prostate cancer. A large study presented at a cancer conference Thursday found that men with higher levels vitamin D in their blood were half as likely to develop aggressive forms of the disease than those with lower amounts.

Doctors see little harm in getting the 15 minutes a day that the body needs to make enough of this nutrient.

The study, which involved nearly 15,000 men in the Physicians' Health Study at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that men who consumed a lot of calcium had modestly higher rates of prostate cancer.

The new findings fit with that notion, because too much calcium lowers vitamin D, and are especially believable because researchers got them by measuring blood samples rather than relying on what men said they ate — an imprecision that has hurt past studies of food and cancer risk.

Courtesy of Associated Press 2/18/05

Bonnie - For those of us who live in cold climates and do not get daily sunshine, cod liver oil is the most bioavailvble form of vitamin D, and you get extra omega 3's to boot!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Diet for the 21st century? Go back 10,000 years

A commmentary by some of the world's top nutritional geneticists, which appeared in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, recommend that adhering to a "cave-man" diet, similar to what our ancestors ate before the introduction of agriculture and animal domesticity, could ameliorate humans' epic rate of disease. Dr. Loren Cordain and Dr. S. Boyd Eaton, two of the top researchers in the field, believe that human disease is so prevalant because our diet has changed so drastically over the last 10,000 years. Our genes are simply unable to evolve fast enough to keep up with dietary change.

Bonnie - Eureka! If ever you need to read a commentary, this is it. It is a Bonnie Blueprint! I have been an ardent supporter of S. Boyd Eaton's work for many years, as well as Loren Cordain recently. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines should have paid more attention to these brilliant researchers.

Government to find what makes kids unhealthy

The federal government is launching a 21- year National Children's Study, in which researchers will track 100,000 kids in 96 counties from birth to their 21st birthdays to discover what makes them unhealthy.

More than 2,4000 scientists have helped design the $2.7 billion project, the largest and most expensive long-term children's study in history.

Courtesy of Jim Ritter at the Chicago Sun-Times

Bonnie - My tax dollars are being spent on this? We're going to have to wait 21 years to find out why are children are unhealthy? They could just read my book, Our Children's health, and get the answers right now!

Green tea's action on bladder cancer

Green tea extract is able to target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone, researchers have found for the first time, adding further support to its potential as a cancer prevention agent.

The UCLA team has also uncovered more about how green tea extract counteracts the development of cancer. This could allow researchers to work out which people could benefit from the extract.

Numerous epidemiological and animal studies have suggested that green tea extract provides strong anti-cancer effects in several human cancers, including bladder cancer.

In the new study on bladder cancer cell lines, scientists demonstrated that the plant extract interrupts a process that is crucial in allowing bladder cancer to become invasive and spread to other areas of the body.

The findings, published in the 15 February issue of Clinical Cancer Research, “add a new dimension in understanding the mechanisms of green tea extract," said senior author JianYu Rao.

Epidemiological studies have also shown selenium and vitamin E to decrease the risk of bladder cancer.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A glass of wine a day keeps women's heart risk at bay

Researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that women who had already suffered a heart attack or had heart surgery for blocked arteries had higher Heart Rate Variability (HRV) if they drank moderately than if they were teetotal.

HRV measures the intervals between heartbeats, with lower rates being associated with higher risks of heart disease and death.

"We found that women who drank five grams or more of wine a day had increased Heart Rate Variability," Professor Staffan Ahnve told Reuters by telephone.

More importantly the results were strongly seen with wine, with little effect from beer or spirits.

The results were published Tuesday in the British Medical Association's specialist journal Heart.

Courtesy of Reuters 2/15/05

Monday, February 14, 2005

Flu Shots for Elderly May Not Save Lives

The flu vaccinations that doctors hoped would save the lives of fragile elderly people have apparently failed to lower death rates, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

Based on U.S. mortality rates from 1968 to 2001, the study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found no correlation between increasing vaccination rates after 1980 and declining death rates in any age group.

"We conclude, therefore, that there are not enough influenza-related deaths to support the conclusion that vaccination can reduce total winter mortality among the U.S. elderly population by as much as half," study author Lone Simonsen wrote in The Archives of Internal Medicine.

Bonnie - I rest my case!

ADHD drug Adderral pulled in Canada

The popular drug, which has been linked to 20 sudden deaths worldwide, mostly in children, was taken off the Canadian market Wednesday, sparking questions about whether kids in the USA should be using it.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory on its Web site saying that the rate of sudden death for children on Adderall XR is no higher than for those not on the drug. But children with heart defects could be at higher risk.

Parents are making decisions about stimulants such as Adderall XR with few facts, says Julie Magno Zito, an epidemiologist at the University of Maryland. There are no good long-term studies of such medicines, she says. Rare side effects of a drug won't surface in short studies unless they include a huge number of kids, such as in a national HMO, and that kind of study hasn't been done on Adderall XR, Zito says.

About 700,000 children in the USA take Adderall XR, a timed-release stimulant, and 300,000 use Adderall, a version that often needs to be taken more than once a day, according to Shire Pharmaceuticals Group PLC, maker of the drug.

Steve - Strattera, another drug used for attention deficit, has recently been linked to liver problems (Blog - 2/3/05)

Study Questions Prostate Cancer Treatment

According to the authors of an editorial in last month's Journal of Clinical Oncology, "the bottom line is that most men diagnosed with the disease (prostate cancer) today can expect to live as long as, or longer than, men their age without the disease. Given the many uncertainties about this disease, this information alone will be helpful for clinicians and their patients when discussing treatment options and when considering what life will be like, living as a prostate cancer survivor.

Period analysis of 180,000 men diagnosed between the ages of 65 to 74 years from 1990 2000 —the age group representing the highest number of prostate cancer diagnoses—show little or no excess mortality associated with a diagnosis of prostate cancer. The overall conclusion of the investigators is that period analysis of survival in prostate cancer shows that most patients diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States no longer have excess mortality compared with the general population. This information will be welcome news to patients at the time of diagnosis."

Steve - Wow - first, the Prostate Cancer Antigen (PSA) serum screening is renedered useless, and now this? Another predicition has come to fruition. There could have been countless unecessary procedures and surgeries avoided over the last few decades. Over the years, we have shown many of our male clients reserach that procedures for certain prostate cancers are unnecessary. Those of you who have had a friend of family member go through this are aware of the debilitating, life-lasting side effects.

Meditation May Help Lower Blood Pressure

A study of 150 black men and women in the San Francisco area compared the effects of twice daily meditation, muscle relaxation and health education classes. Women who meditated showed the greatest benefit.

The transcendental meditation study is the latest in a number conducted by researchers affiliated with the Maharishi University of Management, founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian cleric best known for teaching the Beatles about eastern religion in the 1960s. Numerous studies of other meditation techniques by researchers at other schools have also found benefits for those suffering from conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer.

Dr. Frank Staggers, a study co-author, said the idea for the study stemmed from successful results achieved after he asked patients with high blood pressure to use relaxation techniques. Staggers, who is black, said many of the patients at the Oakland clinic are black and suffer from high blood pressure.

Women who meditated had both blood pressure readings drop about seven points while the other two groups registered drops of about one point one and three points. The findings were less supportive for meditating men, according to the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health, which funded the meditation study.

Courtesy of Associated Press 2/14/05

Men who meditated had a .2 point increase in their systolic reading and a 4.7 point drop in their diastolic reading while those who practiced muscle relaxation registered drops of 2 points and 3.1 points. Men in the health education group recorded drops of about .9 and 2 points.

McDonald's to Pay $8.5 Million in Trans Fat Lawsuit

McDonald's has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit over artery-clogging trans fats in its cooking oils, the company.

McDonald's said it will donate $7 million to the American Heart Association and spend another $1.5 million to inform the public of its trans fat plans.

The settlement is the result of litigation from a San Francisco area activist who has been seeking to raise public awareness of the health dangers from the trans fatty acids (TFAs) in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Trans fats are used in thousands of processed food products, often giving the crunch to French fries, cookies, and cereals.

They are created in processing vegetable oils and have been found to be as unhealthy as pure cholesterol. The latest official U.S. nutrition recommendations suggest limiting their intake.

Stephen Joseph, a lawyer who founded, sued McDonald's over complaints the firm did not properly inform the public that it had encountered delays in plans to lessen the trans fats in its cooking oils.

"McDonald's has been successful in reducing TFA levels in our Chicken McNuggets, Crispy Chicken Sandwich and McChicken Sandwich," the fast food firm said. "McDonald's continues to work hard on our initiative to reduce TFAs in our cooking oil."

Steve - "McDonald's continues to work hard to reduce trans fats in cooking oil." That means - it has not been done yet. Even though two years ago they came out with a huge ad campaign saying they were going to switch to healthy cooking oil.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Doctors Say Kids Should Skip Juices

Researchers say that when a baby's bottle or cup is filled with juice — even the 100 percent, all-natural, no-sugar-added stuff — parents might as well be pouring Pepsi.

A growing body of science is linking sweet drinks, natural or otherwise, to a host of child health concerns, everything from bulging bellies to tooth decay.

"All of these beverages are largely the same. They are 100 percent sugar," Dr. David Ludwig, an expert on pediatric obesity at Children's Hospital Boston, said recently. "Juice is only minimally better than soda."

The trouble is that parents who are quick to limit a child's soft drink consumption often overlook or even encourage juice indulgence thanks to the beverage's good-for-you image.

But that image can be overstated. Though healthy in moderation, juice essentially is water and sugar. In fact, a 12-ounce bottle of grape soda has 159 calories. The same amount of unsweetened grape juice packs 228 calories.

In a nation where nearly a third of children are either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, health officials now say high-calorie beverages have little place in a young child's diet.

"With the possible exception of milk, children do not need any calorie containing beverages," Ludwig says. "What is needed to replace fluid loss and satisfy thirst is the same beverage we've been drinking for millions of years, and that's water." J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press

Bonnie - Earthshattering? I think not. It is comforting to see things come full circle. When I was starting my practice twenty years ago and telling clients and schools that juice was almost as bad as soda, they thought I was a quack! It's nice to see doctors acknowledge the juice issue. Unfortunately, it took 1/3 of the child population being overwight to realize it.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Dietary staple holds promise against Alzheimer's disease

Curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry spice, holds potential as a weapon in the fight against the disease, according to a new UCLA-Veterans Affairs study.

The study, involving genetically altered mice, suggests that curcumin, a dietary staple of India, where Alzheimer's disease rates are reportedly among the world's lowest, inhibits the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and also breaks up existing plaques.

Reporting in the online edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the research team also determined curcumin is more effective in inhibiting formation of the protein fragments than many other drugs being tested as Alzheimer's treatments.

Bonnie - While this is only a mouse study, there are hundreds of other studies touting the benefits of curcumin for myriad health issues.

Carrot Compound Shows Promise for Slowing Cancer

When Bugs Bunny uttered his famous catchphrase, "What's up, doc," he was often chomping on a carrot, though he wasn't inquiring about the health benefits of the vegetable. New findings suggest that they would have had a lot to talk about: results from a recent rat study indicate that a naturally occurring compound in carrots reduces the risk of developing cancer by a third.

The compound falcarinol helps protect carrots from fungal diseases. Kirsten Brandt of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England and her colleagues investigated the effects of the natural pesticide on rats suffering from precancerous tumors. The researchers studied 24 animals that were divided into three groups: one group ate regular feed that did not contain falcarinol, another group consumed the feed plus carrots and the last group dined on the feed with falcarinol added to it. According to a report published in the February issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, after 18 weeks the rats that received falcarinol (either from carrots or feed additives), were one third less likely to develop full-scale cancerous tumors than were rats in the control group.

Falcarinol can be toxic in large amounts, but it would take 400 kilograms of carrots to reach a lethal dose. The scientists used raw carrots for the study, so it is not yet known if cooked carrots or carrot juice will exhibit the same beneficial effect, and the mechanism for the vegetable's apparent cancer-fighting effects remains unclear. "We now need to take it a step further by finding out how much falcarinol is needed to prevent the development of cancer," says Brandt, "and if certain types of carrots are better than others, as there are many varieties in existence, of different shapes, colors and sizes."

Courtesy of Sarah Graham at

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Diet Lowers Cholesterol as Well as Drug

A diet rich in fiber and vegetables lowered cholesterol just as much as taking a statin drug, Canadian researchers reported. They said people who cannot tolerate the statin drugs because of side-effects can turn to the diet, which they said their volunteers could easily follow.

David Jenkins of St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto and colleagues created what they called a diet "portfolio" high in soy protein, almonds, and cereal fiber as well as plant sterols -- tree-based compounds used in cholesterol-lowering margarines, salad dressing and other products.

They tested their diet on 34 overweight men and women, comparing it with a low-fat diet and with a normal diet plus a generic statin drug, lovastatin.

Each volunteer followed each regimen for a month, with a break in between each treatment cycle.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jenkins and colleagues said the low-fat diet lowered LDL -- the low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol -- by 8.5 percent after a month. Statins lowered LDL by 33 percent and the "portfolio" diet lowered LDL by nearly 30 percent.

The portfolio was rich in soy milk, soy burgers, almonds, oats, barley, psyllium seeds, okra and eggplant. The Almond Board of California helped fund the study, as did several food makers and the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Arginine may lower stroke risk marker

L-arginine has previously been found to lower blood pressure and is often included in nutritional supplements recommended for heart patients.

But a small trial on middle-aged men shows that the amino acid may also benefit the heart through its effect on homocysteine, increasingly considered a marker for heart disease risk.

In a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study, researchers from Pennsylvania State University, Kraft Foods and INRA in France tested the effects of a daily 12g dose of L-arginine on 16 middle-age men with hypercholesterolemia.

After each treatment, the team measured blood circulation variables at rest and during two tasks designed to put the heart under stress.

L-arginine had a modest effect on blood pressure – enough to reduce heart disease risk but not enough to allow someone to stop taking blood pressure lowering medication.

However the researchers also found that its presence in the blood was inversely related to a change in plasma homocysteine.

“This study is the first to describe a haemodynamic mechanism for the hypotensive effect of oral L-arginine and the first to show substantial reductions in homocysteine with oral administration,” say the authors in this month’s issue of the Journal of Nutrition (135, pp212-217).

DHEA Appears Effective in Treatment of Midlife-Onset Depression

The over-the-counter hormonal therapy known as DHEA may be an effective treatment of midlife-onset minor and major depression, according to a study in the February issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), an adrenal androgen and neurosteroid is available as a supplement in the U.S.

Peter J. Schmidt, M.D., from the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md. and colleagues, evaluated 23 men and 23 women aged 45 to 65 with midlife onset major or minor depression of moderate severity. They were randomly assigned to either receive six weeks of DHEA therapy, three weeks each of two dosages, or six weeks of placebo treatment. Following the six weeks of DHEA therapy and a period of one or two weeks without any therapy, the treatment groups were reversed. The participants in the study were evaluated at three and six weeks during the treatment phases with standard measures of depression and a sexual functioning scale.

A 50 percent or greater reduction in the baseline of their score on a depression rating scale was observed in 23 patients after DHEA and in 13 patients after placebo. Six weeks of DHEA treatment was associated with significant improvements in measures of depression and sexual functioning compared to both baseline and six weeks of placebo treatment, the researchers found.

Brushing teeth every day can keep the doctor away

Brushing your teeth may help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, research suggested today.

A US study found that people with gum disease were more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis - the narrowing of blood vessels that can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

While past research has suggested a link between periodontal disease and vascular disease, researchers said their study was the strongest evidence yet of the relationship.

The researchers, writing in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, measured bacteria levels in the mouths of 657 people with no history of stroke or heart attack.

They also measured the thickness of the participants' carotid arteries - which are measured to identify atherosclerosis.

The team found that people with a higher level of the specific bacteria that causes periodontal disease also had an increased carotid artery thickness.

They were able to show that atherosclerosis was associated with the type of bacteria that causes periodontal disease - and not any other oral bacteria.

Dr Desvarieux said one possible explanation for the link was that the bacteria that cause gum disease may migrate throughout the body via the bloodstream and stimulate the immune system - causing inflammation that results in the clogging of the arteries.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Sleep Hormone May Affect Sex Organs, Study Finds

Melatonin, a hormone available in over-the-counter supplements and popped freely by many frequent air travelers, may affect the sex glands, U.S. and Japanese researchers reported on Monday.

Tests on Japanese quail showed the hormone regulates a sexual pathway believed to be involved in seasonal breeding patterns. It is likely to affect human gonads as well, the researchers said.

"It really amazes me that melatonin is available in any pharmacy," said biologist George Bentley of the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley.

"It is a powerful hormone, and yet people don't realize that it's as 'powerful' as any steroid. I'm sure that many people who take it wouldn't take steroids so glibly," added Bentley, who worked on the study.

"It could have a multitude of effects on the underlying physiology of an organism, but we know so little about how it interacts with other hormone systems."

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bentley and colleagues at Hiroshima University in Japan said they were studying melatonin's effects on a brain hormone called gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone or GnIH.

GnIH has been found to have the opposite effect to the key hormone that primes the body for sex -- gonadotropin releasing hormone or GnRH. In birds, switching off GnRH causes the gonads -- the testes and ovary -- to shrink as part of the birds' yearly cycle. In humans, GnRH brings on puberty.

Bonnie - I have always told my clients before taking melatonin (which I never suggest long-term) to test their melatonin hormone level first. If you are not deficient in melatonin, it may be harmful to take. Like administering any hormone, it may create an imbalance of other hormone levels.

Nursing moms advised to keep babies close by

Nursing babies should sleep right next to their parents' bed, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics in a new breast-feeding policy out Monday that's drawing applause and pointed criticism.

The academy reiterated its 8-year-old policy that mothers should feed babies only breast milk for six months, unless there are special nutritional needs, and continue breast-feeding until the baby is at least 1 or longer if desired.

Breast-feeding rates have increased for 12 years, but only about one-third of mothers are still nursing 6-month-olds, and slightly fewer than 1 out of 5 breast-feed 1-year-olds, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nursing helps protect babies against infections and diarrhea and significantly reduces the chances of dying in infancy, the policy says.

La Leche League spokeswoman Katy Lebbing favors the new advice to keep babies near overnight. "It's a myth that breast-fed babies sleep through the night," she says. Many continue to wake up overnight even after the first few months of life, "and they need to nurse, they need the nutrition."

But family historian Stephanie Coontz says pediatricians are doing no favors for stressed-out, modern families by making a blanket recommendation that couples keep babies near them overnight. "These experts are piling higher and higher expectations on mothers," Coontz says. "Half of American women go back to work before their babies are a year old. A woman might need a good night's sleep or to bond with her husband, and that's good for the baby." Courtesy of 2/6/05

Steve - Am I dreaming? These last three blog entries are all positive preventative building blocks for a healthy life...breast feed your baby for at least one year, do not overfeed your baby, and limit soft drink and juice consumption!

Baby weight gain 'over-estimated'

Growth tables used to chart a baby's development may be inaccurate, on-going research suggests.

The World Health Organization study found they may over-estimate how quickly babies should put on weight.

This may have caused unnecessary concern about for breastfed babies, who gain weight more slowly.

The research was dicussed at a meeting organised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the International Obesity Task Force.

The child development growth charts in widspread use are largely based on studies of formula fed children from more than 20 years ago.

Formula fed babies tend to put weight on faster than their breastfed counterparts.

The latest WHO study, of 8,440 children from six countries, found that target weights for two and three-year-olds were 15% to 20% too high.

The researchers say the current overfeeding of babies could explain in part why this generation of adults is the fattest ever.

The WHO will release new growth charts based on breast-fed babies at the end of the year. 2/4/05

Sweet Drinks Linked to Preschool Obesity

Sweet drinks — whether Kool-Aid with sugar or all-natural apple juice — seem to raise the risk of pudgy preschoolers getting fatter, new research suggests. That may come as a surprise to parents who pride themselves on seeking out fruit drinks with no added sugar.

"Juice is definitely a part of this," said lead researcher Jean Welsh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While fruit juice does have vitamins, nutritionists say it's inferior to fresh fruit.

She said preschoolers were better off snacking on fruit or drinking water.

Welsh's research, published in the February issue of Pediatrics, found that for 3- and 4-year-olds already on the heavy side, drinking something sweet once or twice a day doubled their risk of becoming seriously overweight a year later.

The Pediatrics study followed 10,904 Missouri children in a nutrition program for low-income families. Researchers looked at the effect of sweet drinks in three groups: normal and underweight children, those at risk of becoming overweight, and those who already were overweight.

The researchers compared the children's heights and weights, approximately one year apart. They also looked at parents' reports of what their children ate and drank during a four-week period at the beginning of the first year. Fruit drinks like Kool-Aid and Hi-C were included as sweet drinks, along with juice and soda.

The children in the study drank, on average, more fruit juice than soft drinks or sweetened fruit drinks.

The authors suggest that limiting sweet drinks may help solve the growing problem of childhood obesity. One in five American children is overweight, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Rebecca Unger, who evaluates overweight children in private practice and at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said the study backs up what she sees in the real world.

"We do see kids do well when we cut out juice," she said. "Sometimes that's all they need to do."

Journal Pediatrics & 2/7/05

Steve - Of course, this study comes as no surprise to us, or should it to you. What is very exciting is the indictment of fruit juice. For years, we have been tirelessly telling our clients that fruit juice is not an alternative to soda. For the reasons mentioned above, it can be just as detrimental for weight gain and blood sugar imbalance. There are so many fun drink alternatives. Kids love unsweetened fruit-flavored waters, sparkling or flat. If you need to sweeten them, add a bit of stevia extract (a safe, herbal, non-glycemic, non-caloric sweetener).

Friday, February 04, 2005

FDA Staff Questions Heart Risks of Merck's Arcoxia

Merck & Co. Inc.'s painkiller Arcoxia offers a "marginal" advantage in gastrointestinal safety but seems "worse than" other pain drugs in terms of deaths and serious cardiovascular problems, U.S. regulatory staff said in documents released on Friday.

Merck conducted studies on Arcoxia comparing it to a placebo, naproxen and other medicines known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

"The results appear to demonstrate that (Arcoxia) is worse than each comparator" with regard to deaths and serious cardiovascular problems, Food and Drug Administration staff reviewers wrote in an analysis posted on the agency Web site.

The FDA told Merck last October Arcoxia was "approvable" after additional safety and effectiveness data were reviewed. The agency will seek input later this month from an outside advisory panel on the risks and benefits of Arcoxia and other painkillers.

Arcoxia is Merck's successor to Vioxx, the arthritis drug the company pulled from the market last year after it was linked to heart attacks and strokes. Both drugs are part of a class called COX-2 inhibitors.

In a separate analysis, FDA reviewers said an experimental COX-2 inhibitor called Prexige, made by Novartis, showed it was safer on the gastrointestinal tract than other pain drugs. But the risks of heart attacks, strokes and deaths was "similar" to what was seen with Vioxx, the FDA reviewers said.

Reuters 2/4/05

Newborns at Risk of Antidepressant Withdrawal

Newborn babies could be at risk of suffering withdrawal symptoms if their mothers are prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy, researchers said on Friday.

The drugs known as selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can cause convulsions, irritability, abnormal crying and tremors.

The majority of reported cases uncovered by Sanz and his colleagues were associated with paroxetine, which is produced by drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline under the brand name Paxil or Seroxat.

"Paroxetine should not be used in pregnancy, or if used, it should be given at the lowest effective dose," said Sanz, a specialist in clinical pharmacology.

The findings, which are reported in The Lancet medical journal, are another blow for SSRIs, which have become the gold standard treatment for depression.

In the meantime, they suggested doctors use non-drug therapies and review prescription thresholds, particularly during pregnancy.

Courtesy of Reuters 2/4/05

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Liver Alert on Strattera

Strattera was licensed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) last year.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned doctors to look out for signs of liver problems in children taking the drug.

However, they stress that the chances of liver damage are very slim.

The Committee on Safety of Medicines, which advises the MHRA, met at the end of January 2005 to review new evidence on the use of the drug, known technically as atomexetine.

This evidence suggests that the drug may very rarely be associated with liver reactions.

Over 2m patients have been treated with the drug in the US, and around 10 000 patients in the UK.

It is estimated that serious liver problems occur in less than 50,000 patients.

Schools Sack Soda in Favor of Smoothies

Schools across the nation are battling childhood obesity by getting pickier about who sells snacks to students. In several dozen school systems, Smoothie King and Jamba Juice pass the test.

Even so, smoothies are still a source of sugar and calories.

Smoothie King says its 200-calorie, 12-ounce banana-and-strawberry smoothie has 42 grams of sugar — mostly from the fruit itself, the company says. And that size is small for a smoothie.

"Parents came to Jamba because they were looking for something that was a healthier option than a soda or greasy french fries," company spokesman Kendra Gilberd said.

This school year Texas has a new school nutrition policy that restricts fried and fatty servings and sets limits on some types of food. The fruit and ice smoothies are limited to 12-ounce cups; 20-ounce smoothies can mean 300 to more than 500 calories, depending on the ingredients.

"Even too much of a good food can be a problem," said Dr. William Cochran, a pediatric gastroenterologist and nutritionist for Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pa. He worries that snacks like smoothies won't replace something else and will only add more calories.

Steve - While overall a healthier option, smoothies are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Where's the protein?! Students who drink smoothies not accompanied by lean protein or a healthy fat, may still incur blood sugar imbalance and/or weight gain.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Calcium and Vitamin D Most Effective for Treatment of Crohn's-related Bone Loss

According to a study published today in the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the addition of popular bone building drugs to calcium and vitamin D therapy to treat bone loss associated with Crohn's disease is not beneficial. Moreover, the study shows that calcium and vitamin D treatment alone can improve bone mineral density (BMD) in Crohn's patients by 3 to 4 percent per year.

"Patients with Crohn's often suffer loss of bone mass and an increased number of bone fractures due to treatment with corticosteroids, poor nutrition, active inflammation and calcium and vitamin D deficiencies," said Charles Bernstein, MD, author of an editorial appearing in this month's journal. "Calcium and vitamin D have long been used to enhance bone mass in people with Crohn's, and findings of these studies show it to be sufficient in maintaining BMD in these patients."

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall. According to the most recent data from the National Health Interview Survey, there are more than two million prevalent cases of Crohn's disease in the United States.

According to results of the study from researchers at the University of Alberta, adding the bone-building drug etidronate (Ditronel) to calcium and vitamin D therapy to treat bone loss in people with Crohn's disease adds no additional benefit. This study aimed to assess the efficacy of etidronate on bone loss in patients with Crohn's disease, an effect that has never before been studied in patients who were not menopausal or on corticosteroid therapy.

Medical Bills Leading Cause of Bankruptcies

A new Harvard study of bankruptcy cases shows medical bills and illnesses are a major cause of roughly half of this country's personal bankruptcies, according to the study published today on the Web site of the journal Health Affairs.

Touted as the first in-depth analysis of medical causes of bankruptcy, the study looked at 1,771 court records of people who filed for bankruptcy in 2001 in five federal districts, including one in Illinois. More than half of those bankruptcy filers were interviewed in detail about their finances and health. The researchers determined that 46.2 percent to 54.5 percent of the nearly 1.5 million personal bankruptcy filings in 2001 could be chalked up, in large part, to medical problems.

The researchers estimated that some 40,168 of Illinois' 79,777 personal bankruptcies last year were medical bankruptcies, affecting 111,544 debtors and their families.

The study found that the majority of medical bankruptcy filers nationwide were middle-class homeowners with some college education. They usually had health insurance, too. More than 75 percent of people in medical bankruptcy were insured when they first got sick. Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times 2/2/05

Bonnie - This is a very scary and disappointing statistic. This should not be happening in the United States. The one way we can keep this trend from continuing is to take your health into your own hands, WITH PREVENTION!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Hormone shots could cut preterm births - US study

Weekly injections for pregnant women of a drug derived from the hormone progesterone could have prevented nearly 10,000 premature births in 2002, a team of researchers reports in the February issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The researchers based their projection on a study using a hormone derivative known as 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate or 17P for short. Although researchers are not quite sure how it prevents early delivery, some studies had suggested it may help. The 2003 U.S. government study of 450 pregnant women showed it reduced preterm births -- before 37 weeks -- by a third.

Joann Petrini and colleagues from the March of Dimes charity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other centers estimated that in 2002, about 30,000 women who had premature babies may have been helped by use of 17P. If a third of them also carried to term, that would translate to 10,000 prevented premature births, the researchers said. "Prematurity is a serious problem that affects 1 in 8 babies in the United States, and 17P offers promise in an area where there have been few successes," Petrini said in a statement. Courtesy of Reuters 1/31/05

Bonnie - It does not have to be progesterone injections - best to use natural suppositories or progesterone cream.

Mental Health: Sweating Depression Away

People with mild to moderate depression can significantly reduce their symptoms if they exercise aerobically, a new study reports.

The study appears in the current issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Exercise has often been described as a valuable mood enhancer.

"People say that all time that 'If I could exercise, I would feel better,' " said a co-author of the study, Dr. Madhukar H. Trivedi of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

But the goal of this study, the researchers said, was to try to establish scientifically if exercise really helped with depression and, if so, how much was needed. The researchers took 20 adults ages 20 to 45 with diagnoses of depression and separated them into groups.

Some did differing amounts of aerobic activity, working on a treadmill or exercise bike. One did flexibility exercises. None were taking medication for depression. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that patients who worked out for half an hour three to five times a week reported half the symptoms of depression that they had before the program began.

The more they worked out, the less depressed they reported feeling. Too little aerobic activity produced the same results as the stretching group.

The study noted that the exercise was done in groups, so the social support may also have played a role in the improvement. But whatever the explanation, the benefits were comparable to those achieved with medication or therapy, the study said.

Courtesy of the New York Times 2/1/2005

Study Shows Pfizer May Have Known About Celebrex's Heart and Stroke Problems

A previously unpublished study by Pfizer Inc. of its arthritis drug Celebrex found more than four years ago that users had a potentially significant increase in risk of heart attacks and strokes, casting doubt on the company's insistence that it had no hint of the problem until recently.

The study of 425 Alzheimer's patients was completed in 2000 but was made accessible to the public only recently on a drug industry Web site. When posted last month, the report of the clinical trial did not initially indicate there was evidence of an increased cardiovascular risk from the drug. But an updated account of the study posted last week acknowledged that there was a statistically significant difference in the number of heart-related problems between users of Celebrex and of the placebo.

Pfizer dismissed the results of the Alzheimer's study yesterday, saying that it was too small to be meaningful and that it was unreliable because those in the Celebrex arm of the trial were found to have had considerably more cardiovascular risk factors to begin with than those in the placebo group. In a statement, the company also said that it had shared the study results with the FDA in June 2001 and that an independent panel of safety experts had monitored the 52-week study for any significant health problems.

Courtesy of the Washington Post 2/1/2005