Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pesticides May Be Sickening School Kids

Pesticide use in or near U.S. schools sickened more than 2,500 children and school employees over a five-year period, and though most illnesses were mild, their numbers have increased, a nationwide report found.

Sources include chemicals to kill insects and weeds on school grounds, disinfectants, and farming pesticides that drift over nearby schools, according to the report by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and their colleagues.

Lead author Dr. Walter Alarcon said one of the largest recent incidents occurred in May when about 600 students and staff members were evacuated from an Edinburg, Texas, elementary school after pesticides sprayed on a cotton field drifted into the school's air conditioning system. About 30 students and nine staffers developed mild symptoms including nausea and headaches.

The study, which appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, covered events from 1998 to 2002 — none as big as the Texas incident, Alarcon said.

Most of the illnesses were in children. The number of children affected each year climbed from 59 to 104 among preschoolers and from 225 to 333 among children aged 6 to 17.

"I don't think we want to overwhelm people, but the study does provide evidence that using pesticides at schools is not innocuous and that there are better ways to use pesticides," said study co-author Dr. Geoffrey Calvert.

Claire Barnett of the Healthy Schools Network advocacy group said the total is likely a "deep undercount" because there are about 54 million U.S. schoolchildren and yet no comprehensive national tracking system.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

We learned of this cool website through a client. It is solely dedicated to teaching children how to cook and prepare food, in a fun way.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Hidden Epidemic – Gross Misuse of Reflux Meds in Children

By Bonnie C. Minsky MA, MPH, LNC, CNS

The number of cases of children diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux, or otherwise known as GER or Acid Reflux, has skyrocketed over the last 5 years. According to the Mattson Jack Group, in 2004, approximately 7 million children and adolescents under the age of 17 in the United States suffered from gastroesophageal reflux. Hence, since 2002, there has been a 660% increase in spending to treat gastrointestinal disorders, most of those dollars going towards prescription medication.

In infants, reflux can be life threatening, so it is not something to take lightly. Doctors prescribe a variety of medications, including H2 blockers (Zantac®) and proton pump inhibitors (Prevacid® and Prilosec®). Most patients, and especially children, heal within four weeks. Studies available to date have not assessed the safety of reflux medications for more than 8 weeks. Yet, I have seen infants on medication for a year, and older children even longer. We have made medication a long-term solution for what should be a short-term solution, and only if dietary changes are unsuccessful.

Reflux is intricately linked with diet, but doctors and parents rarely look at the obvious. I have seen a multitude of children who have come to me after being on these medications. They suffer from severe nutrient deficiencies, have digestion and absorption difficulties, fail to grow or gain weight, exhibit chewing and eating problems, and often have developmental delays.

What is most shocking about this line of therapy is that, according to the Physicians Desk Reference, no research has been performed regarding medications to treat gastroesophageal reflux in children. Doctors routinely give drugs to children "off label," which means the drug hasn't been studied in children in adequate, well-controlled clinical trials approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Reflux, especially in infants, is especially disconcerting for parents. What once was passed off as “colic” or excessive “spitting-up,” is now commonly diagnosed as GER. A child’s digestive pain may cause crying, writhing, and sleepless nights for parents. Because doctors are not trained to look for the cause of the problem (which I find very easy to discover with an infant or toddler), they immediately prescribe medication. Parents are also to blame if they look for the “quick fix” and won’t make a commitment to dietary changes as first line therapy.

Unfortunately, just treating the symptoms will not correct the cause of reflux. In most cases, the symptoms will return immediately when the reflux medication is discontinued. In addition, there are many instances in which the medication will only slightly minimize symptoms or not improve them at all.

The most common medications for reflux prescribed by physicians are Zantac®, Prevacid®, Prilosec®, Nexium®, Reglan®, Mylanta®, and Pepcid®. The side effects and vitamin and mineral depletion they create are alarming. Too many times have I seen a young child who has been damaged mentally, physically, and emotionally from reflux medications. Whether suppressing the production of stomach acid (H2 Blockers), blocking its production (Proton Pump Inhibitors), or neutralizing it (Antacids), the damage is evident. Many of the adverse reactions are digestion-related. What is the point of fixing one problem only to create another?

Adverse reactions reported in adult studies of the most commonly prescribed reflux medication in children, H2 Blocker Zantac®

Headache, sometimes severe; rare cases of malaise, dizziness, insomnia, vertigo, mental confusion, agitation, depression, hallucinations, and involuntary motor disturbances; tachycardia, bradycardia, atrioventricular block, and premature ventricular beats; constipation, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, abdominal discomfort/pain, and pancreatitis; hepatitis, hepatic failure; athralgias, myalgias; gynecomastia, impotence, and loss of libido; rashes such as erythema multiforme, alopecia, and vasculitis; anaphylaxis, angioneurotic edema. ZANTAC EFFERdose also contains phenylalanine, the substance used in Nutrasweet/Aspartame. For nursing mothers on reflux meds, note that extreme caution should be taken when taking these because they are secreted in human milk.

Vitamins and minerals depleted by H2 Blocker Zantac®

Calcium, Folic Acid, Iron, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Zinc.

Adverse reactions reported in adult studies by Proton Pump Inhibitors (Prevacid®, Prilosec®, Aciphex®, Nexium®, Protonix®)

Fatigue, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, hypergastrinoma, rash, tinnitus, proteinuria

Vitamins and minerals depleted by Proton Pump Inhibitors (Prevacid®, Prilosec® Aciphex®, Nexium®, Protonix®)

Blocks Vitamin B12 (critical for digestion, absorption, energy, stress-relief, and concentration

Adverse reactions by Antacids (Mylanta®)

Dehydration, stomach cramps, constipation, decreased bowel motility, fecal impaction, hemorrhoids,
nausea, vomiting; Mylanta® also contains aluminum, a neurotoxin.

Vitamins and minerals depleted by Antacids (Mylanta®)

Calcium, Phosphorous (both critical for bone growth)

Case study of how simple dietary changes can reverse reflux

35 year-old nursing mother with extremely fussy 6 month-old boy. Baby was projectile vomiting, spitting up constantly, and had noxious gas, abnormal stools, and bloating. The mother already had a reflux prescription for her son, but called me first. The woman ate relatively healthy, except she unknowingly was eating all the wrong foods for her and the baby. She was eating a lot of dairy, bread, and soy products. She also was not eating enough protein. We told her to avoid dairy, bread, and soy completely for several weeks to see if it made a difference. She balanced her meals by always eating a protein or healthy fat with carbohydrates. We upped her protein intake. Within two days, there was a noticeable reduction in all symptoms. After a week, there were no symptoms.

I would never say to avoid reflux meds completely, especially if a severe medical situation arises. If nothing has worked dietarily, and you need short-term relief, reflux meds may be warranted. But many cases can be reversed with optimal diet and nutrient instruction. Many infants grow out of colic/reflux at three months as their digestive system becomes more mature.

The current commonality of long-term use and doctor’s over-prescribing reflux medications warrants immediate attention. Health Professionals, Government Officials, and most importantly parents, must take notice, educate themselves, and take action to minimize the threat of negative consequences for the long-term health of our youths.

© Copyright 2005 Nutritional Concepts, Inc.

For more information, you can purchase my Reverse Reflux in Your Child Action Plan for $4.95 at

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Increased Protein in Diet Reduces Appetite and Weight

According to researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, an increase in dietary protein from 15% to 30% induces sustained reductions in appetite, caloric intake, and significant weight loss (specifically . Nineteen subjects were placed on three diets with different percentages of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The diet with the highest protein percentage showed the largest reductions in all categories.

Bonnie - small study, but significant nonetheless. This one of a growing number of trials showing increased protein intake creates health success on many levels.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Drugs Could Imitate, Even Initiate MS

According to Dr. Brian Weinshenker, Neurologist from the Mayo Clinic, drugs generally do not cause Multiple Sclerosis, though there have been rare excpetions. Certain drugs for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease, for example, have produced the symptoms and findings of MS. And the combination of drugs to treat colon cancer has shown a similar tendency. In some cases, certain drugs produce symptoms of MS. Other diseases can also mimic MS.

MS can be difficult to diagnose because manifestations can vary considerably across patients and the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. Make sure that your physician does an exhaustive medical history, neurological examination, magnestic resoannce imaging, and possibly even a spinal tap if deemed necessary.

Excerpts taken from Tribune Media Services 7/19/2005

Eating dark chocolate appears to bring down blood pressure in people with hypertension

The study, appearing in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, followed 20 men and women with untreated high blood pressure. Each got a three-and-a-half-ounce bar of dark chocolate a day. And after two weeks, they experienced a "clinically meaningful decline" in their blood pressure.

Steve - we've been saying for years now that dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa is a healthy food. Its antioxidant properties, serotonin-boosting capapbilites, and low sugar content makes it an ideal "sweet" choice if desired.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Link between dairy, weight loss unclear

Got milk? And high hopes it will help you shed a few pounds? The dairy industry is counting on it, thanks in part to a $200 million ad campaign that confidently touts studies suggesting a connection between consuming dairy products and losing weight. But dieters might want to delay sporting milk mustaches for the moment.

Though the National Dairy Council and the researchers it pays stand by their claims, few others have endorsed the dairy-diet link. Even some scientists whose research supports that idea say its conclusions are premature.

"The bulk of the studies suggest a possible role, but there are inconsistencies in the data," said Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity expert at Children's Hospital Boston. In a 2002 study, he found that dairy aided weight loss.

"My concern is the advertising claims by the Dairy Council have well outstripped the available data," he said.

The federal government also recommends three dairy servings a day, but doesn't support the weight-loss claim.

The dairy campaign is based on research by Michael Zemel, a nutrition professor at the University of Tennessee who began studying the link between dairy and weight during the late 1980s. Zemel has received nearly $2.1 millionin funding from the Dairy Council since 1998.

Dr. Walter Willett, a Harvard University nutrition expert whose recent research suggests dairy doesn't help weight loss, said Zemel's studies are too small to sustain the industry's claims.

"You need to look across all the evidence," he said. "The larger randomized trials that have been done, they don't show weight loss. If anything, they show weight gain."

That view was reflected in a 2002 review of other dairy-weight studies by Susan Barr, a University of British Columbia nutrition professor. She found most studies showed no connection and two showed weight gain.

Associated Press 7/18/2005

Gut problem link to baby weaning

Delaying the introduction of cereal-based foods into a child's diet could help avoid later gut problems, say University of Colorado scientists.

Babies had a lower chance of developing the digestive disorder celiac disease if they were not fed grains until aged four to six months, they found.

This condition is caused by proteins in grains, which damage the gut and make it difficult to digest foods.

The research appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Exposure to gluten - a protein found in wheat - in the first three months of life increased the risk of celiac disease five-fold, the study of more than 1,500 children found.

Nicky Mendoza, a dietician for Celiac UK, said: "Current guidelines suggest not weaning before six months of age, so, for most children, gluten should not be introduced before this.

"Children that are weaned before this age should be given gluten-free foods until they reach six months."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hospital Infections Running Rampant

More than 11,600 patients contracted infections during hospital stays in Pennsylvania last year - and nearly 1,800 of them died, according to a new report by a state agency that tracks health care trends.

Hospital-acquired infections in Pennsylvania added $2 billion to hospital costs and extended hospital stays by 205,000 days last year, according to the report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

"The deaths associated with those patients and the costs associated with those patients are astounding," said Marc P. Volavka, the council's executive director. "These numbers, even on their own, stand as a clarion cry to take action."

Bonnie - "superbug" infections in hosptials have exploded over the last decade. With virulent microbial, bacterial, and viral strains becoming more resistant to antibiotics, hosptials and their sick inhabitants are the perfect breeding ground for infection. If one has to enter a hospital for any type of procedure, you can protect yourself to a point with Probiotics. Probiotics are crucial for balancing positive and negative flora in the gut.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Obesity Policy and the Law of Unitended Consequences

Steve -This very official-sounding title are myriad excuses of why our government will not do anything drastic in changing our food policy to curb obesity. Get a load of these excuses paid by our tax dolllars.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Cholesterol Drugs Show No Effect on Dementia Risk

Those who believe that taking cholesterol-lowering drugs will reduce their risk for Alzheimer's disease may want to reconsider. A large study published yesterday in Archives of Neurology found no proof that the drugs affected the risk of developing dementia from any cause - Alzheimer's, vascular dementia or the two combined.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Body Mass Index may be misleading for some groups.

The tool most commonly used to determine whether people are overweight or obese appears to give some racial groups a false sense of security — and others unnecessary cause for concern.

The well-known body mass index (BMI) relies on a calculation using height and weight to produce a number. That number enables scientists to gauge the risk of weight-related illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes in populations. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy; 25 to 29.9 overweight; and 30 or higher, equal to 186 pounds or more for someone 5 feet 6 inches tall, obese.

But in June, a study of nearly 1,200 people of South Asian, Chinese, Aboriginal and European heritage became the latest to show that current BMI thresholds significantly underestimate health risks in many non-Europeans.

Even when waist size and waist-to-hip ratios were considered, the study found that many in the Asian, Chinese and Aboriginal groups who had "healthy" BMI levels were at high risk of weight-related health problems and didn't know it.

BMI and other body measurement thresholds "do not apply to non-European ethnic groups, and warrant revision," concluded Salim Yusuf, director of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders.

This isn't the first time that the body mass index has been called into question. In 2000, the World Health Organization's Pacific Group suggested setting a BMI of 23 as the threshold for being overweight and 25 for being obese in Asian populations.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute also cautions at its Internet-based BMI calculator that the measurement is less accurate at determining who is overweight and obese among muscular people, who have a BMI of 27 to 30, as well as among the elderly, who lose muscle as they age and may be fatter than the numbers suggest.

"Many of us have begun to realize that body mass index is a very poor measure of adiposity — how fat you are — and how much health risk you face," Yusuf said.

Sally Squires, L.A. Times 7/11/2005

Bonnie - Boy, is this nice to see in print. I have said for years that BMI is a gross miscalculation for gauging overweight and obese individuals. As it is with everything, you need to look at multiple factors to gauge if an individual is of normal weight, overweight, or obese.

folate and vitamin B12 can reduce the risk of hip fracture in elderly

According to a new Japanese study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, the risk of hip fracture is significantly higher in stroke patients than in other individuals of the same age, and is thought to be associated with increased blood levels of a substance called homocysteine.

Because folate and mecobalamin (vitamin B12) reduce homocysteine levels, the team thought that supplements of these nutrients could reduce fracture risk.

Colleagues studied 628 patients aged 65 years or more who had residual paralysis on one side of the body a year or more after having a stroke. The participants were randomly assigned to take folate and mecobalamin daily, or inactive placebos.

During 2 years of follow-up, the number of falls in each group was virtually the same, but there were only six hip fractures in the supplement group compared with 27 in the placebo group. Even though homocysteine levels dropped in the active treatment group and rose in the placebo group, bone mineral density did not differ significantly between groups -- so that didn't explain the fewer number of fractures.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Walnuts Protective for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Eating walnuts as part of one’s overall diet has been trumpeted again for people developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus – this time with a study published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The study follows another report published late last year in the international journal, Diabetes Care, which highlighted the importance of eating a handful of walnuts a day. Walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats, Omega oils and vitamins.

Intake of 30 grams of walnuts a day in conjunction with 350g of oily fish a week enabled achievement of recommendations on the type of fat in an energy-controlled diet for the management of diabetes.

The walnut group used in the study achieved targeted fat proportions earlier (at three months) than the other two dietary intervention groups and maintained them for longer (at six months). After six months, those in the walnut group were consuming almost half their dietary fat intake from polyunsaturated fat-rich foods, with walnuts providing almost one third of total fat intake and one half omega-3 polyunsaturated fat intake. However, in contrast, the low fat advice group continued to consume foods rich in saturated fat as the main sources of fat in the diet.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Calcium reduces osteoporosis risk for women on the Pill

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, are important because it is estimated that 80 percent of all women have used oral contraceptives. If the pill’s effect on their bone mass is not offset with higher calcium intake in their youth, the peak bone development years, we may see an increase in the incidence of osteoporosis once they reach the menopause.

The study group comprised 135 healthy young women aged between 18 and 30 years, all of whom had a dietary calcium intake of less than 800mg per day and 57 of whom reported using oral contraceptives.

These women were randomly assigned to one of three diets: a medium dairy diet, where calcium intake was increased to between 100 and 1100 mg per day; a high dairy diet, with 1200 to 1300 mg of calcium per day; and a control diet, where calcium intake remained below 800mg per day.

The researchers found that, over the one-year period, an increase in dietary calcium positively impacted the percentage change of total hip body mass density (BMD), body mass content (BMC) and bone area.

Increased intake of calcium products also prevented a negative percent change in total hip and spine BMD in the women taking oral contraceptives.

Overall, the extent of the differences in bone mass with increased dietary calcium noted in this study was between 1 and 2 percent, which translates to a reduced risk of osteoporosis of between 3 and 10 percent over one year. A 5 to 10 percent increase in bone mass is estimated to reduce the risk of fracture by between 25 and 50 percent.

Steve - Make sure that as you up your calcium intake, you offset that with increased magnesium.

The Food Industry Empire Strikes Back

Steve - I thought this was an interesting article on how Food Companies have been and are currently protecting themselves from future legislation related to obesity and providing unhealthy food choices.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Vitamin E Shows Heart Health Benefit for Women

A new study involving nearly 40,000 healthy women -- the longest and largest trial ever conducted on vitamin E -- found that vitamin E significantly reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease -- the #1 killer of women in the United States.

The study, published in the July 6 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, also confirmed that vitamin E is safe, reporting that taking 600 IU of vitamin E supplements every other day did not increase total mortality in healthy women. In reaching the conclusion, the Women's Health Study (WHS) contradicts a recent meta-analysis that reviewed studies of people already ill with cancer, heart disease or other serious medical conditions.

"The benefits shown in this study are very encouraging and should come as welcome news to everyone," said Andrew Shao, Ph.D., CRN's vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs. "The data clearly show that vitamin E can help healthy women, especially older women. They can continue to take vitamin E with confidence and expect to derive substantial benefit."

WHS found a 24 percent reduction in cardiovascular deaths among the nearly 20,000 women who took vitamin E supplements over a 10-year period compared with the nearly 20,000 other study participants who were given placebo. For women 65 and over, the study reported that taking vitamin E supplements had an even greater positive effect. Among that population, there was a 49 percent reduction in cardiovascular death and a 34 percent reduction in heart attack.

Steve - This data should reassure all of those who were dismayed by last year's meta analysis that recklessly stated vitamin E contributed to all cause mortality.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Acupuncture for Fertility

As more women than ever delay having children until their 30s and 40s, infertility is a growing challenge in the U.S. An estimated 3 million couples are unable to conceive after a year of trying, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Fertility clinics have done a brisk business in recent years, but now doctors say that a growing number of women who have been unable to get pregnant through conventional medical treatments are seeking out alternatives such as acupuncture. Demand for the traditional Chinese method is so great that an increasing number of fertility doctors now are collaborating with acupuncturists, with some physicians adding acupuncturists to their staff, according to doctors and experts in the field.

Although many acupuncturists and doctors of oriental medicine swear by the treatment — and have relied on it as an infertility remedy for years — the mainstream medical community remains divided on acupuncture's efficacy. Some doctors say more research is needed to demonstrate acupuncture's effectiveness, and others believe it's irresponsible to recommend the treatment based on the existing scientific evidence.

Most fertility specialists trace the current popularity of acupuncture treatment to a German study published in 2002 in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The study, led by Dr. Wolfgang Paulus at the University of Ulm, found that 42% of women receiving acupuncture just before and after an assisted-reproductive therapy, such as IVF, became pregnant; that compared with 26% of patients who got pregnant with assisted-reproductive treatments but who received no acupuncture therapy.

Later that year, Dr. Raymond Chang and colleagues at Cornell University's medical school in New York published a paper in the same journal, describing several ways acupuncture might actually improve a woman's chances of conceiving: relaxation, regulating reproductive hormones and improving the lining of the uterus, where the embryo needs to be implanted before it can develop.

Because of the reports, published in a prestigious journal, "some doctors started to say, let's try it out," said Dr. Paul C. Magarelli, a fertility specialist in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Courtesy of LA Times 7/5/2005

Friday, July 01, 2005

Avoiding Milk Reduces Risk of Insulin Resistance

Women who do not drink cow's milk have less body mass (weight gain), better blood sugar balance, lower triglycerides, and better HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Diabetic Medicine, June, Vol 22, Issue 6