Thursday, April 27, 2006

Healthy fats 'halve risk of MND'

Eating a high amount of polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E may reduce the the risk of developing motor neurone disease, according to a study that appears in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Polyunsaturated fats include omega 3, and certain omega 6 oils. Dutch researchers found people who had the highest daily intake of the fats had a 60% lower risk of developing MND compared to those who ate the least.

MND, a progressive fatal condition that causes wasting of the muscles, is thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors, and diet has been previously implicated in its development.

Courtesy of BBC News

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Small changes 'add years to life'

A Cambridge University study looked at over 25,000 people. It found that stopping smoking, exercising more and eating better could give you the life expectancy of a person 11 to 12 years younger. The participants have regularly filled in questionnaires about their diet, lifestyle and health and had periodic check-ups from nurses. These latest results from the study showed eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can give you the life expectancy of someone three years younger. Not smoking turned the clock back by four to five years. Even increasing exercise by a moderate amount can take up to three years off. But the amount of exercise someone would need to do to achieve that depends on their job.

Story from BBC NEWS

Monday, April 24, 2006

CDC Releases National Recommendations to Improve Health of Babies and Moms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with more than 35 federal, public and private partners, today released national recommendations designed to encourage women to take steps toward good health before becoming pregnant. The recommendations for preconception care were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Recommendations and Reports.

The recommendations on preconception health and health care identify more than a dozen risk factors and conditions that require interventions before pregnancy to be effective. Among developed nations, the United States is ranked 26th in infant mortality. If implemented, the recommendations can help improve the health of babies and moms.

Some topics:

  • Folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects
  • Detecting and treating existing health conditions
  • Reviewing medications that can affect the fetus or the mother
  • Reviewing a woman's pregnancy history
  • Stopping smoking to reduce the risk of low birth weight
  • Eliminating alcohol consumption to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Family planning counseling to avoid unplanned pregnancies
  • Counseling to promote healthy behaviors such as appropriate weight, nutrition, exercise and oral health.

The recommendations are the result of two-years of collaborative efforts with a number of partner groups including American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, CityMatCH (Urban Maternal and Child Health Leadership), Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, American College of Nurse Midwives, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and American Academy of Family Physicians.

The full recommendations on preconception care are available at and for more information on preconception care go to

Baby growth charts to be revised

The World Health Organization is to issue new guidelines on measuring the growth rates of babies. Current charts are based on calculations using the growth patterns of babies fed largely on formula milk from 20 years ago. But bottle-fed babies put on weight more quickly than those that are breast-fed, meaning breast-fed children could be shown as underweight. The new recommended charts are based on data from breast-fed babies.

The research involved more than 8,000 children from six different countries, who were raised in environments where breast feeding, good diets, and prevention and control of infection were prevalent. The study has shown that the current system pitches target weights too high. Current charts suggest a healthy one-year-old weighs between 22.5lb (10.2kg) and 28.5lb (12.93kg), when in fact the true healthy weight is 21lb (9.53kg) to 26lb (11.79kg).

Bonnie - Oh, my gosh! My head is spinning with all these revelations. First, BMI is challenged and now baby growth guidelines? Somebody stop me! Like the BMI guidelines, this was another set of guidelines that I reviled because it was outdated and far from accurate. I'll reserve comment until I see the new guidelines, but the fact that they take breast-fed babies into account is a start.

Body Mass Index is far from perfect

Dr. Arya M. Sharma, an obesity researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
says BMI (Body Mass Index) doesn't take into account the amount of muscle a person has, and is less accurate in older people, who lose muscle and bone and gain fat with age. It is also less accurate in certain ethnic groups, such as Asians, because their body fat percentage at various BMIs differs from that of Caucasians.

The BMI doesn't take into account the amount of muscle a person has, and is less accurate in older people, who lose muscle and bone and gain fat with age. It is also less accurate in certain ethnic groups, such as Asians, because their body fat percentage at various BMIs differs from that of Caucasians.

Bonnie - it's nice that the medical community is finally starting to realize this. I have never been an ardent supporter of BMI. While Dr. Sharma is on the right track, there are even more variables involved in assessing weight.

Congressional Investigators Are Critical of F.D.A.'s Efforts to Detect Drug Dangers

Disorganization, bureaucratic infighting and an inability to force drug makers to conduct needed safety tests have undercut efforts at the Food and Drug Administration to uncover drug dangers, government auditors say.

When drug safety specialists raise alarms about certain medicines, they sometimes feel that their recommendations fall "into a 'black hole' or 'abyss' " at the agency, according to a report to be released Monday by the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress.

Top agency officials sometimes excluded drug safety specialists from presenting findings at public hearings, and tensions between officials who approve drugs and those who ensure that they are safe are common, the report said.

"F.D.A. lacks clear and effective processes for making decisions about, and providing management oversight of" issues involving the safety of popular medicines, the report states.

The F.D.A. told the accountability office that its conclusions were "reasonable," the report said.

The auditors recommended that Congress vote to give the agency power to force drug makers to undertake or complete drug safety studies. Mr. Grassley has proposed legislation that would do that.

When it approves new drugs for sale, the drug agency often requires manufacturers to study whether the medicines are working as intended and whether they have unwanted side effects once they get into a broader market.

But the agency announced in March that two-thirds of these promised studies had not even been started, and hundreds of trials have been pending for years.

In many cases, pharmaceutical makers had guaranteed they would undertake the studies as a way to speed their drugs' approval.

Much of the drug agency's functions are financed by fees paid by drug makers, but the industry mostly opposed proposals that would have allowed the agency to use this money to determine whether already approved medicines cause unexpected injuries or deaths. And neither the administration nor Congress has provided enough money to make up the difference.

The accountability office's report said that the drug agency's budget to undertake its own studies of drug dangers amounted to less than $1 million annually from 2002 to 2005, and that this figure was expected to rise to only $1.1 million annually through 2010.

Just one clinical trial to study the long-term safety of one drug can cost as much as $7 million, the report said.

Courtesy of the NY Times

Steve - The last two paragraphs are astounding. Is $1 million per year for the FDA to study drug dangers on its own going to get it done? With so much of our population dependent on medication, it is unconscionable that our government does not have a budget to independently research drug safety. As we have seen just in the last few years, allowing this to happen has had some devastating results.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Making your home less toxic

A recent article in Parade Magazine had some helpful tidbits:
  • Replace chemical-laden cleaners with environmental friendly soaps and cleaners
  • Have the stove's gas lines checked yearly
  • Opt for energy and water saving appliances
  • Use only eco-friendly pest and odor controls
  • Use only low-VOC paint
  • Use nontoxic sot or deep-cleaning products
  • Do not use monthballs; instead use cedar hangers
  • Opt for non-chlorine bleaches and cleaners with hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate
  • Use white nylon shower curtains instead of vinyl

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Study Finds a Link of Drug Makers to Psychiatrists

More than half the psychiatrists who took part in developing a widely used diagnostic manual for mental disorders had financial ties to drug companies before or after the manual was published, public health researchers reported yesterday.

The researchers found that 95 — or 56 percent — of 170 experts who worked on the 1994 edition of the manual, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or D.S.M, had at least one monetary relationship with a drug maker in the years from 1989 to 2004. The most frequent tie involved money for research, according to the study, an analysis of financial records and conflict-of-interest statements.

Lisa Cosgrove, the study's lead author, who is a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said that although the study could not prove that the psychiatrists' ties influenced the manual's development, "what we're saying is it's outrageous that the manual doesn't have a disclosure policy."

Some 400,000 mental health workers, from psychiatrists to nurses, use the manual to diagnose disorders in patients, and health insurers use the manual to determine coverage.

Courtesy of the NY Times

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Benzene: liquid supplements to be tested in US

Liquid dietary supplements that use the same preservative system as some soft drinks could contain elevated levels of the carcinogen benzene, according to a US research lab that has been contracted to carry out tests.

Flora Research Laboratories has been awarded a contract from the US National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements to develop a new method of analysing benzene levels in consumer products and, when the method is finalized, to use it to evaluate benzene levels in liquid supplements.

In the last two months there has been much government concern and media coverage about benzene levels in soft drink products, after it emerged that the FDA has re-opened a 15-year-old investigation into elevated benzene levels resulting from use of the preservative sodium benzoate.

The problem is caused when two common ingredients – sodium benzoate (a preservative) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) – are used together. When placed in acidic conditions, sodium benzoate breaks down into benzoic acid.

This may result in benzene levels higher than the US and EU limits for drinking water.

Benzene is listed as a poisonous chemical shown to increase the risk of leukaemia and other cancers. But the soft drinks industry has said that it is a question of quality, not health, in drinks.

In the US, the combination is thought to be particularly common in liquid aloe vera and vitamin formulations, and FRL has been contacted by some companies that have expressed concern following the reports about the drinks sector.

Liquid supplements are often used by people such as children or the elderly, who may be unable to swallow tablets and capsules.

The sodium benzoate-ascorbic acid reaction is accelerated in the presence of transitory metals such as copper and iron – a factor he said may lead to substantial benzene formation in herbal products.

Steve - if you take liquid supplements, to be proactive, check your ingredients to make sure it does not contain sodium benzoate.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Skin cancer epidemic underway in the US

There is an unrecognized epidemic of skin cancer underway in the United States, the American Academy of Dermatology warns.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer, and a person's risk of the disease doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns, according to a report in the April issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas, the most common and treatable types of skin cancers, had long been considered a problem only for people over 50, according to the report. But Mayo Clinic researchers found that the percentage of women under 40 with the more common type, basal cell, tripled between 1976 and 2003, while the rate of squamous cell cancers increased four-fold.

In the same study, the researchers found that just 60% of the cancers they identified occurred on skin frequently exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck, rather than the normal 90%. Most of the remaining cancers were seen on the torso. The researchers suspect this may be due to more widespread use of tanning beds.

Two types of ultraviolet (UV) light are implicated in skin cancers, the article explains. UVA, which penetrates deeper into the skin and impairs its immune defenses, is more responsible for melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer. UVB exposure causes sunburn, as well as squamous and basal cell skin cancers.

Tanning beds chiefly release UVA, although some also use UVB. According to the Mayo Clinic report, "occasional yet intense UVA exposure poses a greater risk of melanoma skin cancer than does spending long hours in the sun."

The report offers the following tips for effective sun protection:

--Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you are going to be outside, even if the weather is cloudy or hazy.

--Spend as little time as possible in the direct sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

--Use about an ounce of sunscreen -- roughly a shot glass full -- and reapply it every two hours.

--Always wear sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat, and wear clothing made from tightly woven fabric to protect your skin.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Health Letter, April 2006

Bonnie - for one to follow these instructions, he/she had better make sure tto take vitamin D supplementally. This is basically saying to never get unencumbered sun exposure. The best vitamin D source is by far high quality Cod Liver Oil in liquid form.

International comparison of obesity rates

Country and % of Obese Adults
Australia - 15.05
Brazil - 11
Canada - 14.9
China - 2.9
Germany - 12.95
Mexico - 23.35
Poland - 11.35
Spain - 12.2
Sweden - 9.95
USA - 28.8

Source: World Health Organization Statistics 2005

Mediterranean diet cuts Alzheimer risk

People who eat a Mediterranean diet may be at a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, the results of a new study indicate.

A team of researchers followed the progress of over 2,200 people who did not show any signs of dementia at the beginning of the study. The participants underwent a number of medical assessments, including a neurological exam. Their dietary habits were also recorded.

They were then reassessed every 18 months for an average of four years. During the course of the study, 262 people developed Alzheimer's.

The participants were given a 'Mediterranean diet score' of between zero and nine, depending on how much they adhered to this diet. The study found that the higher a person scored, the lower the risk of Alzheimer's. In fact, for each additional point on the Mediterranean diet score, the risk of Alzheimer's fell by almost 10%.

Compared with those who scored the lowest, those who scored in the middle were 15-21% less likely to develop Alzheimer's, while those who scored the highest were up to 40% less likely to develop the disease.

The researchers concluded that 'higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduction in risk for Alzheimer's disease'. Details of this study are published in the journal, Annals of Neurology.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Marathon Season Begins

The beginning of the major marathon season begins today in Boston (the others in London, New York, Berlin and Chicago). This is as good a time as any to mention to the marathoner, whether casual or competitive, take your magnesium!

There have been too many instances where I have seen magnesium deficiency create debilitating symptoms or even death in those training and participating in marathons. Please take this seriously. Consult a licensed health professional on how much magnesium you may need, because one size does not fit all.


Eat right and your kids are likely to follow

By Sally Squires
LA Times

Want to get your children to eat more fruits and vegetables without resorting to threats, bribes or begging? Eat these healthful foods with your kids.

That's just one of the conclusions from new research on improving the eating habits of children and teens.

Such foods provide key vitamins, minerals, healthful phyto-nutrients and fiber. Plus, they're low in calories and high in flavor. But more than kids' health is at stake.

A study of 36,000 Minnesota teens points to a correlation with academic performance. Teens who earned the highest grades generally were the ones who ate more fruit and vegetables.

Just stocking plenty of fruit and vegetables doesn't help kids boost their intake. The foods must also be "appetizing and accessible," says Christie Befort, a preventive medicine researcher at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

"Canned fruit buried in the pantry is not something they are going to eat," said Befort, author of a new study of fruit and vegetable consumption, published in March in the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn. "They're not likely to eat frozen fruit in the freezer either, but having fruit and vegetables sitting there to just grab and eat or cut up and ready to go in the refrigerator, makes them easily accessible."

Studies of children including those as young as 2 and teenagers consistently show that what parents eat can shape what their offspring consume.

"That's the strongest of all factors in influencing children's eating behavior," says Mary Story, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. "If father is saying, 'No way I'll eat that broccoli,' then it's very likely that kids won't eat it either."

To help improve your children's diet:

• Provide plenty of hidden vegetables. Teens participating in focus groups told University of Minnesota researchers that they welcomed foods with hidden vegetables. Favorites that don't seem like the real thing include salsa, guacamole, hummus and baba ghanouj. Spaghetti sauce, vegetable stir-fries, bean burritos and soups such as minestrone, tomato and green pea are other options. Pumpkin pie — make it without a crust in small, individual containers — also counts as a veggie. Baked sweet-potato "fries" are another healthful choice.

• Exploit hungry moments. Most kids are ravenous after school, "so there's a really high chance that they will eat fruit and vegetables," says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Dinner preparation is another high-appetite opportunity, so have fresh baby carrots, sugar snap peas and other veggies ready with dip. Also, place fruit and vegetables in strategic places where hungry kids scrounging for food are most likely to find them: on the kitchen counter and washed and cut up in bags on eye-level shelves in the front of the refrigerator.

• Reach for the whole, not the juice. Fruit provides more fiber and fewer calories than juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises delaying introduction of 100% juice until at least 6 months of age. Then serve it only from a cup (to prevent dental problems). The group also recommends limiting juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day for children ages 1 to 6 and 8 to 12 ounces daily for those ages 7 to 18. Smart juice option: orange juice. Four ounces provides about a day's worth of vitamin C. Also vegetable juice, which isn't sweetened and is low in calories.

• Try 10. That's the average number of times that a child needs to try a new food before liking it. "You can't expect kids to like new foods right away," Story says. So keep offering fruit and vegetables even if your child seems uninterested. "Familiarity should increase their intake," adds Neumark-Sztainer.

• Offer options. When Story's three sons were young, she discovered that if she served two or three different vegetables at dinner, at least some of them would be eaten. "That way if they don't eat the broccoli, who cares?" she says.

• Resist the temptation to bargain. "Eat your vegetables and you can have dessert" just puts you in a power struggle over food. The pediatricians' group advises parents to choose when to eat and what food to provide. "Children then can choose what to consume."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Another gene variant that's linked to obesity

Geneticists have estimated that a person inherits 30 percent to 70 percent of a tendency to be fat or thin (or body mass index) from his or her parents. At least 70 different mutations or variants of 10 different genes have been implicated in obesity thus far, but just how common the mutations are in people or groups of people is not always clear. A new study which used a pioneering statistical technique to test more than 86,000 DNA sequence variations has identified yet another gene variant that's linked to BMI, an obesity index based on the ratio of weight to height.

And after studying the DNA samples from five different study groups, the researchers calculated that the obesity-predisposing genotype is present in about 10 percent of populations around the world.

Such widespread distribution suggests that the variant has been common in humans for a long time. And, like other gene mutations related to fat storage and eating habits, it probably gave a competitive advantage to early humans who lived with the uncertain food supplies associated with hunting and gathering, only becoming a liability with the abundant food supplies of modern times.

The study, published Friday in the journal Science, started with blood samples taken from nearly 700 participants in the landmark Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked heart disease through three generations of residents of the Massachusetts town since 1948.

Using a technique developed by the Harvard School of Public Health that estimated the extent that genetics can explain variations in a specific trait, the researchers found a single candidate. The variant lies near an insulin-induced gene (INSIG2) that's known to produce a protein that controls the burn rate of fatty acid and cholesterol.

With the new obesity culprit in hand, the researchers joined with scientists at other institutions to determine if the variant could also be linked to an increased risk of obesity in other groups. Those studies confirmed the same association in four of five independent groups, including those of Western European ancestry, blacks and children, and which included both families and unrelated subjects. The analysis also confirmed that people had to have inherited two copies of the mutation to face the increased risk of obesity.

Steve - as more genetic research becomes available, such as this recent one, it reaffirms what we have said for years...while our genes have changed little in the last 10,000 years, our diet has changed completely. Incompatible foods, an overabundant food supply, and latent activity levels create gene expression that leads to obesity. What is so exciting is that obesity gene expression can be "swtiched off" by making the correct lifestyle changes. That is where we come in!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bonnie Minsky Wins Award

We are proud to announce that Nutrition Business Journal, a highly regarded industry publication that tracks market data & strategic analysis every month, has named Bonnie Minsky the winner of the "2005 NBJ Personal Achievement

NBJ thanked Bonnie "
for going the extra mile for her patients and for her efforts in nutritional education. Minsky has authored two books, "Nutrition In a Nutshell" and "Our Children’s Health: America’s Kids in Nutritional Crisis and What We Can Do to Help." She co-authored the bill that would license nutritionists in Illinois in 1990, the second of its kind proposed in the United States. Bonnie was honored as the first Licensed Nutrition Counselor in the state. Similar bills have now been passed in most states. Bonnie has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and given hundreds of lectures discussing natural menopause, anti-aging, weight loss and other aspects of nutrition. She currently serves as President and Wellness Director of Nutritional Concepts where she privately counsels."

Congratulations Bonnie! An achievement well-deserved.

School junk-food limit fails

By Maura Possley and Christi Parsons
Chicago Tribune staff reporters

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich suffered another setback Tuesday in his attempt to limit junk food in Illinois public schools when a legislative review panel rejected his proposal to change state rules on school vending machines.

But Blagojevich vowed to "go back to the drawing board" with his embattled plan in hope of passing it in time for the next school year.

Lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules said they don't oppose the governor's goals, just his strategy. They voted 10-1 against his plan to prohibit the sale of soda pop, chips and candy before and during the school day for children up to 8th grade.

Some lawmakers didn't think the governor's plan was sweeping enough because, for example, it didn't cover what can be served in school lunch lines.

"Members are laudatory of what the governor is trying to do," said Rep. Larry McKeon (D-Chicago), who voted against the plan. "We would like to move forward with a more comprehensive approach to the broader issue of nutrition in schools."

Aides said children's-health advocates had urged Blagojevich to propose a small change in the rules and tackle other problems later.

The governor has been pushing to ban junk food in schools for more than two years. After the legislature refused to enact his ban on junk food in all schools, he retooled the proposal last fall and asked the State Board of Education to prohibit unhealthy snack sales at elementary and middle schools.

"How could they possibly think that we ought to have junk food in schools?" Blagojevich said. "We're talking about making sure that kids learn the right lessons in schools."

Steve - it is tough to read between the lines here. Even small changes, which Blagojevich proposed, would be helpful. Although, as we said when we were quoted in the Pioneer Press, the changes fall short. It seems like the panel said all the right things about why they turned it down. They wanted a broader plan with more sweeping changes. The skeptic in me is a bit wary of this. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cute website

Someone forwarded this link to us. It reminds us of the ancient Hostess Cupcake we have in our midst, which is still intact!

Drug firms 'inventing diseases'

Pharmaceutical firms are inventing diseases to sell more drugs, researchers have warned.

Disease-mongering promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild problems to boost profits, the Public Library of Science Medicine reported.

Researchers at Newcastle University in Australia said firms were putting healthy people at risk by medicalizing conditions such as menopause.

But the pharmaceutical industry denied it invented diseases.

Report authors David Henry and Ray Moynihan criticised attempts to convince the public in the US that 43% of women live with sexual dysfunction.

They also said that risk factors like high cholesterol and osteoporosis were being presented as diseases - and rare conditions such as restless leg condition and mild problems of irritable bowel syndrome were exaggerated.

The report said: "Disease-mongering is the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments.


"It is exemplified mostly explicitly by many pharmaceutical industry-funded disease awareness campaigns - more often designed to sell drugs than to illuminate or to inform or educate about the prevention of illness or the maintenance of health."

The researchers called on doctors, patients and support groups to be aware of the marketing tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and for more research into the way in which conditions are presented.

They added: "The motives of health professionals and health advocacy groups may well be the welfare of patients, rather than any direct self-interested financial benefit, but we believe that too often marketers are able to crudely manipulate those motivations.

"Disentangling the different motivations of the different actors in disease-mongering will be a key step towards a better understanding of this phenomenon."

But Richard Ley, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the research was centred on the US where the drugs industry had much more freedom to promote their products to the public.

"The way you can advertise is much more restricted in the UK so it is wrong to extrapolate it.

"Also, it is not right to say the industry invents diseases, we don't. It is up to doctors to decide what treatment to give people, we can't tell them."

Courtesy of BBC News

Steve - we have watched this hypothesis with keen interest over the years. If you follow Big Pharma and where it has pooled its resources, you recognize that many of their new drugs are aimed at conditions that can be treated "for life." You need "for life" diseases to warrant the drugs. Cholesterol, depression, and osteoporosis are diseases that are only recent phenomenona. Obesity is next in the pipeline.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Laughter good for your health

By Janet Cromley
LA Times Staff Writer

NO joke. A good belly laugh — or even the anticipation of laughter — appears to beneficially affect the body's hormones.

Researchers at Loma Linda University and Oakcrest Health Research Institute in Yucaipa discovered this in a study of 32 healthy men, half of whom were instructed to view a one-hour humorous video of their own selection. The other half simply sat in a room with an assortment of magazines.

Blood was drawn before, during and after the trial.

The scientists found that those chosen to watch the humorous video had, on average, 27% more beta-endorphins and 87% more human growth hormone in their blood than the control group — before the video clips even started to roll. The levels of these beneficial hormones remained elevated during and after the experiment.

The research, presented at a meeting in San Francisco last weekend, builds on previous studies that show exposure to humor has other healthful effects, such as lowering levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine.

"The benefits of laughter are similar to exercise," says lead researcher Lee Berk of Loma Linda University. "Laughter has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Blood pressure is lowered overall and resting heart rate decreases. Additionally, the immune system appears to get tuned up."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bonnie's Passover Recipes

Chicken Soup

1 large organic or kosher stewing chicken, rinsed and cut into pieces (leave skin on)

2 boxes (64 oz.) Pacific Foods chicken broth

3 quarts water

1 large bunch fresh parsley, whole

1 bag baby carrots

6-8 large stalks celery, cut in half, leaves on

2 large white or yellow onions (1 cut into quarters; 1 diced)

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. white pepper

1 T. fresh dill

Cook all for 2 ½ - 3 hours. Strain all. Put back any baby carrots that remain whole. FREEZE.

Nana’s Meatballs

1 (8 oz.) jar grape all- fruit spread (Smucker’s grape)

1 bottle chili sauce (preferably homemade brand or Grandma’s)

½ cup water

2 T. fresh lemon juice

2 lb. organic ground round or sirloin (free range, organic)

1 organic egg or 2 egg whites, beaten

½ cup oats (1 minute quick-cooking)

sea salt

½ tsp. onion powder or onion salt

Combine first four ingredients and simmer for one ½ hour or more. Mix meat with remaining ingredients and shape into small balls. Add to simmering sauce in small quantities. Add a few at a time to the sauce. Cook thirty minutes more. Cool and FREEZE.

Passover Kugel

3 ½ cups matzoh farfel

5 eggs

½ cup raw sugar

½ cup Sucanat (dry cane juice- brown sugar substitute)

-1 Fuji apple, peeled and grated

1 stick organic butter, melted

1 cup nonfat or organic yogurt

1 cup organic sour cream

large (17 oz. can) apricot halves

1 cup yellow raisins

Pour boiling water over 3 cups matzoh farfel in a colander. Let drain. Soak raisins in hot water for 20 minutes and drain. In a food processor, blend 5 eggs, ½ cup raw sugar, apple, butter, yogurt, sour cream, and juice of apricots. Place matzoh processed mixture and drained raisins into a greased 9x13 pyrex dish. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place apricot halves on top of kugel. Make topping.


Mix together-

1 T. organic butter

½ cup matzoh farfel

½ cup Sucanat

Brown all in a nonstick frying pan. Sprinkle topping over apricot matzoh mixture. Bake for one hour. Cool for 10 minutes, then slice. May be made the day before and reheated in the microwave.

Grocery List

-matzoh farfel

-eggs, organic

-raw sugar



-organic butter

-organic yogurt

-organic sour cream

-1 large organic or Kosher chicken (Empire has this frozen)

-2 lbs. organic or free range ground round/sirloin

-bunch fresh parsley

-bag baby carrots


-2 onions (large)

-fresh dill

-large can apricot halves

-yellow raisins

-Smucker’s fruit spread (grape)

-Homemade chili sauce

-oatmeal (quick cooking)

-2 boxes organic chicken broth (Pacific Foods)

-we assume you have white pepper, salt, and onion powder

Anti-depressant stillbirth link

Use of a type of anti-depressant medication during pregnancy may increase the risk of a stillborn baby, research suggests.

A Canadian study of almost 5,000 mothers found those who used SSRIs were also more likely to have premature and low birth weight babies.

However experts said women should not stop taking medication without expert advice.

The study is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The researchers, from the University of Ottawa, compared the health of babies born to 972 women taking SSRI anti-depressants with that of babies born to mothers who did not use anti-depressants.

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors work by increasing levels of the mood chemical serotonin in the brain. They include Prozac.

The researchers found women using the drugs were twice as likely to have a stillbirth. They were also almost twice as likely to have a low birth weight baby.

Almost 20% of women who used SSRIs gave birth prematurely, compared to 12% of those who did not use the drugs.

Babies born to women using SSRIs were also more likely to have seizures.

The researchers said women should be fully briefed about the potential risk of SSRIs before taking a decision about whether or not to use them.

Courtesy of BBC NEWS

Lawmakers Want Junk Food Out of Schools

Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation's schools.

Dangerous weight is on the rise in kids. This week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of obese and overweight kids has climbed to 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls. Four years ago, the number was 14 percent.

"Junk food sales in schools are out of control," Sen. Tom Harkin (news, bio, voting record), D-Iowa, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said Thursday. "It undercuts our investment in school meal programs and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease."

Harkin and a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill to have the Agriculture Department set new nutritional standards for all food sold in schools. The goal is to restrict junk food sales in schools.

The Agriculture Department has tried to restrict junk food before, but a 1983 federal court ruling, in a lawsuit by the National Soft Drink Association, said the limits could only apply to cafeterias during meals, not for the entire day throughout campus.

Today, candy, soda and other snacks are sold in nine out of 10 schools, according to the Government Accountability Office. Already plentiful in high schools, junk food has become more available in middle schools over the past five years, GAO found.

Courtesy of AP

Steve - let's see if the USDA can stand up to the monstrous food lobbies! Unfortunately, history says they wil not.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Raising vitamin D intake could cut risk of many cancers

Raising the RDA of vitamin D from 400 IU to 1500 IU could cut the number of deaths from cancer by 30 per cent, say the US scientists investigating the link between vitamin D levels and cancer risk.

The link between vitamin D intake and protection from cancer dates from the 1940s when Frank Apperly demonstrated a link between latitude and deaths from cancer, and suggested that sunlight gave “a relative cancer immunity.”

The Health Professionals Follow-Up study, a prospective study of over 50,000 US male health professionals, is the first study to examine total cancer incidence and factors that determine 25(OH)D levels.

The research, led by Edward Giovannucci from Harvard School of Public Health, used data from 1095 participants who had plasma 25(OH)D levels measured, and then computer-predicted levels for the whole cohort.

The scientists then linked the 25(OH)D levels to determinants of vitamin D exposure, like dietary and supplemental vitamin D, geographical residence, skin pigmentation and leisure-time activity.

Vitamin D levels were strongly linked to physical activity and skin colour – darker skinned people produce less vitamin D on exposure to the sun, relative to fair-skinned people.

“In this cohort analysis, a 25(OH)D increment of 25 nanomoles per litre (nm/L) was associated with a 17 per cent reduction in total cancer incidence, a 29 per cent reduction in total cancer mortality, and a 45 per cent reduction in mortality of digestive-system cancer,” wrote Giovannucci in the April issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (vol. 98, pp. 451-459).

The best source of vitamin D is from sun exposure, with a fair-skinned person estimated to produce up to 20,000 IU after 20-30 minutes in the sun. However, sun exposure is discouraged due to the risk of skin cancer.

In an accompanying editorial, Gary Schwartz from Wake Forest University and Willian Blot from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center said clinical trials of high dose vitamin D supplementation and the risk of cancer should be “undertaken speedily”.

Schwartz and Blot said that the cohort results were likely to boost enthusiasm for the vitamin for cancer prevention, but cautioned that observational epidemiological studies had limitations that should not be overlooked.

The vitamin's protection is proposed to be multifaceted, by reducing the formation of blood vessels in tumours (angiogenesis), stimulating the mutual adherence of cells, and enhancing intercellular communication through gap junctions. All this adds up to stop proliferation of cancerous cells by contact inhibition.

Sara Hiom, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said that the study was one of the most robust that suggested an association between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of cancer incidence and mortality in men.

"The authors suggest that it may be wise to review daily recommended doses of vitamin D as these may currently be too low. As the sun is also an important source of the vitamin, Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign will continue to advise safe enjoyment of the sun without burning," she said.

Bonnie - this adds to the promising body of research linking vitamin D to reducing the risk of cancer. Although, before we raise the RDA levels to 1500 IU, there must be more research and it should be made explicitly clear that vitamin D should not be taken over the RDA unless supervised by a licensed health professional.

Healthy Nutrition Standards in Illinois Schools

On March 16, the State Board of Education passed, with a 7-2 vote, an amendment to their existing nutrition standards that could greatly reduce junk food in schools. However, despite what the media has reported, the standards have not yet been finalized. The State Board sent the rule to a legislative committee for a review which will take place on April 11th. This committee can pass or reject the rule. This committee’s votes will determine whether or not there will be health-based nutrition standards for Illinois schools.

Please send or fax a message to the committee reviewing the nutrition rules, urging them to pass healthy standards for all elementary and middle schools.

Joint Committee on Administrative Rules
700 Stratton Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 785-8998 fax

Bacteria resistance keeps rising

According to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bacteria resistance is on the rise, contributing to more aggresive skin infections, post-surgical infections, treatment-resistant salmonellosis, recurrent urinary tract and heart infections, and a 58% rise in infectious diseases between 1980 and 1992. Superbugs, strains resistant to multiple antibiotics, are emerging as even greater threats. Even tuberculosis is now resistant to multiple antibiotics. 41% of strep infections today are resistant to penicillin, while 15% are resistant to three or more antibitoics. Of the estimated 2 million patients each year who develop infections while hospitalized, 90,000 will die, mostly from staph infections, which are now resistant to penicillin and other standard antibiotics. The drug of last resort, the powerful antibiotic Vanomycin, is not immune. Doctors reported the first case of vanomycin-resistant staph last May.

Unfortunately, as infection rates rise, the interest of Big Pharma in developing antibiotics is decreasing, a trend with long-term implications. Big Pharma does not consider antibiotics to be lucrative.

Researchers at U of I are discovering the root causes of resistance. According to microbiologist Abigail Salyers, "your colon is like a singles bar. Bacteria are passing around DNA like there is no tomorrow." Bacteria swap genes freely and mutate for survival.

Recent findings show that the gene swapping is actually stimulated, in some cases, 100- to 1,000-fold by tetracycline, a common antibiotic used to treat acne. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of antibiotics prescribed for humans are unnecessary. Even when prescribed properly, they can foster the growth of resistant bacetria for up to six months in people taking the prescription as well as those they contact.

Antibacterial soaps and some household products are culprits as well.

Salyers hopes her research will cause physicians and the agricultutral community to rethink how and which antibiotics they administer.

Courtesy of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champign Fall/Winter 2005-2006 LAS News

Bonnie - this is compelling data. Who would have thought that some antibiotics can act as "aphrodesiacs" for bacteria gene-swapping. The moral of this as healthy as you can to keep the gi tract as healthy as can be, so you do not have to take antibiotics. In addition, take your probiotics! Healthy-infused flora battle to keep a healthy balance in the gut.

Citizens for Health calls on FDA to revoke its approval of Sucralose

Citizens for Health, the national grassroots advocacy organization committed to protecting and expanding natural health choices, today submitted a Citizen Petition to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calling on the agency to revoke its approval of sucralose, better known as the artificial additive, Splenda. Sucralose is a highly processed chemical sweetener manufactured with chlorine in a factory in McIntosh, Alabama, in a process that releases such toxins into the environment as cyclohexane.

“There were potential public health concerns regarding sucralose that were dismissed by the FDA when they first approved this synthetic additive,” said Jim Turner, Esq. chairman of the board of Citizens for Health. “People should also know, however, that there has not been a single human clinical study on the finished product, Splenda.”

Omega 3 and Lutein/Zeaxanthin could save billions

According to the Lewin Group, a national health care and human services consulting firm, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein/zeaxanthin, could save the U.S. Healthcare System $5.6 billion over five years, The savings reflect the potential for avoiding hospitalizations and achieving greater independence for more than 500,000 people. The report outlined a lower risk of coronary heart disease with omega-3's and redeuced risk of age-related macular degeneration with lutein/zeaxanthin.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Federal Study Rejects Aspartame Risks

A huge federal study in people — not rats — takes the fizz out of arguments that the diet soda sweetener aspartame might raise the risk of cancer.

No increased risk was seen even among people who gulped down many artificially sweetened drinks a day, said researchers who studied the diets of more than half a million older Americans.

A consumer group praised the study, done by reputable researchers independent of any funding or ties to industry groups.

"It goes a fair way toward allaying concerns about aspartame," said Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which had urged the government to review the sweetener's safety after a troubling rat study last year.

Findings were reported Tuesday at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Aspartame came on the market 25 years ago and is found in thousands of products — sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even many medicines. NutraSweet and Equal are popular brands.

Research in the 1970s linked a different sweetener, saccharin, to bladder cancer in lab rats. Although the mechanism by which this occurred does not apply to people and no human risk was ever documented, worries about sugar substitutes in general have persisted.

They worsened after Italian researchers last year reported results of the largest animal study ever done on aspartame, involving 1,800 lab rats. Females developed more lymphomas and leukemias on aspartame than those not fed the sweetener.

The new study, by scientists at the National Cancer Institute, involved 340,045 men and 226,945 women, ages 50 to 69, participating in a research project by the National Insitutes of Health and AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

From surveys they filled out in 1995 and 1996 detailing food and beverage consumption, researchers calculated how much aspartame they consumed, especially from sodas or from adding the sweetener to coffee or tea.

Over the next five years, 2,106 developed blood-related cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia, and 376 developed brain tumors. No link was found to aspartame consumption for these cancers in general or for specific types, said Unhee Lim, who reported the study's findings.

The dietary information was collected before the cancers developed, removing the possibility of "memory bias" — faulty recollection influenced by knowing you have a disease.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest still warns about one potential hazard of aspartame use: thinking that calories "saved" from using a sugar substitute justify "spending" more on unhealthy foods.

Courtesy AP

Bonnie - They tested for cancer. The major problems with aspartame are neurological, weight gain, and blocking vitamin B-6 and Magnesium absorption (causing excess acid and increased feeling of stress).

In addition, Michael Jacobson's comments in the AP report were not fully explained. Here is what he posted on his organization's website.

"The new National Cancer Institute study significantly allays concerns raised by a recent Italian study that found that modest amounts of aspartame caused cancer in rats. However, it's important to note that the people observed in the new study were only 50 to 69 years old. In contrast, the Italian researchers allowed the rats to die a natural death, equivalent to people living into their 80s, 90s, or older. If aspartame only causes cancer in truly elderly people, the new study wouldn't detect a problem. Also, the new study's means of measuring aspartame consumption -- food-frequency questionnaires -- is imprecise. That approach is not capable of detecting small increases in cancer rates."

Lifestyle changes cut high blood pressure risk

People really can commit to diet and lifestyle changes for the long haul, and the benefit shows up in their blood pressure, researchers reported Monday.

In a study of 810 adults with elevated blood pressure, investigators found that those who were given a lifestyle overhaul were generally able to stick with the plan for the 18 months they were followed.

Moreover, their risk of having full-blown high blood pressure was about one-fifth lower than that of study participants who received only advice on lifestyle changes.

The findings, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, show that people can change their behavior for the long term, according to study co-author Dr. William Vollmer, of Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, Oregon.

"That's the bottom line," he told Reuters Health. "People were able to maintain multiple lifestyle modifications."

Those modifications were slightly different depending on which group study volunteers were in. One group was given goals of exercising for at least 3 hours per week, cutting sodium and alcohol intake, and, if overweight, shedding 15 pounds.

A second group had all of those goals, plus instructions to follow the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's DASH diet, which calls for boosting fruit, vegetable and low-fat dairy intake, while cutting down on saturated fat.

Both groups attended regular counseling sessions to help them work these lifestyle changes into their daily routine.

A third group received only advice on diet, exercise and weight loss.

After 18 months, men and women in both counseling groups were eating less fat and sodium, and had shed some pounds; one-quarter had met the goal of losing 15 pounds. Those in the more intensive DASH diet group had also increased their fruit, vegetable and low-fat dairy intake.

These changes, the researchers found, were reflected in their blood pressure. At the outset, all of the study volunteers were either on the verge of high blood pressure or in the earliest stage of the condition, and nearly all were overweight.

After 18 months, rates of full-blown high blood pressure were lower in all three groups, but lowest in the DASH group -- where it fell from 38 percent to 22 percent.

In the other counseling group, the hypertension rate slid from 36 percent to 24 percent.

"This is very encouraging news," said Vollmer, noting that there had been some concern that having people make multiple diet and exercise changes at the same time might "overwhelm" them.

In real life, he acknowledged, few people would have the support of group and individual counseling, as his study volunteers did. In fact, Vollmer said, the advice-only group, where participants had two 30-minute discussions with a health educator, got more support than would the average American battling excess pounds and elevated blood pressure.

But, Vollmer added, any kind of support can help a person stick to lifestyle changes, even if it's simply a friend who will take a regular walk with you.

"People love to have social support," he said.

Courtesy of Reuters

Steve - music to our ears!

Monday, April 03, 2006

European Aspartame Manufacturer Quits

Holland Sweetener Company, a joint venture between Dutch Royal DSM and Japanese Tosoh Corporation has announced that it will close its Aspartame manufacturing facility located in the Netherlands. According to the financial pages of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the move is due to a "structural oversupply" in the global aspartame markets, which has caused "worldwide strong price erosion over the last 5 years".

Perhaps recent renewed doubts over cancer causing properties and other side effects of the sweetener, which is used instead of sugar in a huge number of 'diet' foods and drinks, had something to do with the oversupply - Betty Martini, long time anti-aspartame campaigner, certainly thinks so.

Here are Betty's comments

With all the excuses of Holland Sweetener, obviously the handwriting is on the wall. With the impeccable Ramazzini Study in Italy showing aspartame to be a multipotential carcinogen, peer reviewed by 7 world experts, the studies by the original manufacturer, Searle, which also showed cancer, have been confirmed. For years FDA and the manufacturers have tried to prevent independent studies, and Gregory Gordon who did the original UPI Investigation once wrote an article on this.

And the studies keep coming. One study in Greece shows neurological problems and memory loss. Bottom line - Alzheimers. Another study done in Liverpool shows aspartame interaction: Actually aspartame interacts with all drugs and vaccines.

Dr. Ralph Walton's research showed 92% of all independent peer reviewed studies show the problems aspartame causes.

Now the FDA is obligated to recall aspartame and invoke the Delaney Amendment which says if a product produces cancer in animals it cannot be put in food. Their own FDA toxicologist, Dr. Adrian Gross told Congress this should have been done in the beginning.

Aspartame should never have been approved, and how Don Rumsfeld got it approved when the FDA said no is told by James Turner, Attorney, in the aspartame documentary, Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World, or Barnes & Noble. Here is the clip, available on-line.

Courtesy of Health World Online