Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Child Rearing: Delaying Cereal in Diet May Increase Allergy Risk

By Nicholas Bakalar, NY Times

Waiting to expose a baby to cereal grains until after the age of 6 months may increase the risk that the infant will become allergic to wheat, a new study suggests. Researchers followed 1,612 children from birth until an average age of about 4½. The prevalence of wheat allergy among the 958 children exposed to cereal grains before 6 months was 0.41 percent. But among the 654 who were not exposed to grains before that age, it was 1.8 percent, more than four times as high. Of the 16 children who developed the allergy, 12 had not received cereal grains until they were older than 6 months.

The authors conclude that the age at which a baby first tastes cereal is significant. "The common sense out there is that delaying the introduction of cereals would be beneficial," said Jill M. Norris, the senior author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "But actually it may not protect against allergies."

The results, published in the June issue of Pediatrics, held true after controlling for the presence of other allergies and for a family history of allergy. The scientists are unsure of the reason for the findings, but they suggest that immune tolerance develops in a specific time interval, and not later, or that larger portions given to older children may provoke allergy rather than tolerance. "This is something to consider when making decisions about infant diet," Dr. Norris said.

Bonnie - We've already seen this before. This is a ridiculous study - are we going to give wheat to a 4 month old child who cannot digest it? This is an association study. What was the amount of grain give? Also, how do we know that parents did not avoid giving their child wheat or other grains because someone in the family had evidenced problems with it. So, of course, if there was a family history of grain intolerance, there would be an increased amount of those children reacting no matter when they introduced it!

The only accurate research study would be to randomly sample children who had no family history of grain intolerance. Then, give the exact same grains and amounts to them before 6 months and after 6 months to see what hapens.

New advice on blood-pressure drug

A class of drugs called beta-blockers should no longer be used as routine to treat high blood pressure, says the NHS drugs watchdog for England and Wales. Other drugs are better at treating the condition, also known as hypertension, which affects 40% of adults, it says.

The guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says using beta-blockers can also increase the risk of diabetes. But patients on the drugs are urged to keep taking them until seeing their GP.

The guidance, developed in conjunction with the British Hypertension Society, is an update of NICE guidance published in 2004 - but only the section on drugs for managing hypertension has been republished.

The drugs are also used to treat heart failure and angina and should still be used for these problems.

But NICE now says the evidence suggests they perform less well than other drugs in treating high blood pressure, particularly in the elderly, and there is increasing evidence that they carry an "unacceptable risk" of provoking type 2 diabetes.

  • In patients under 55, first drug should be an ACE inhibitor, followed by a calcium channel blocker or a diuretic, then all three.

  • In patients over 55, or black patients, first choice should be a calcium channel blocker or diuretic, followed by an ACE inhibitor, and then all three if necessary.

  • Beta-blockers should no longer be used for hypertension except in patients who need them for other reasons such as heart failure.
Bonnie - keep in mind that these are recommendations for British citizens. Although, it couldn't hurt to discuss these new guidelines with your physician.

Why our milk costs so much.

This story is by our favorite writer on the USDA - Andrew Martin at the Washington Bureau of the Chicago Tribune, June 26, 2006

Here's something to sour your next trip to the grocery store.

Chicago-area consumers are charged more for milk than consumers in all but a handful of urban markets, according to statistics maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Chicago was the most expensive market in the nation for whole milk in 2005, averaging $3.96 a gallon. In comparison, a gallon of milk in Carbondale, Ill., just five hours away, was among the cheapest in the nation last year, averaging $2.68 for whole milk and $2.55 for 2 percent.

It might seem that Chicago would have a competitive advantage over other cities when it comes to milk because the second-biggest repository of milk in the nation--Wisconsin--is just up the road.

But not much makes sense when it comes to milk pricing in the United States. The marketplace has been warped by consolidation and outdated federal regulations that even the Justice Department describes as "archaic and inefficient." There are fewer milk bottlers and fewer grocery store chains to sell the milk.

Who profits?

Based on industry and USDA statistics, it isn't the dairy farmers.

Dairies do not sell raw milk directly on the market; they are represented by cooperatives that collect the milk and find a place to sell it, balancing the ebbs and flows between production and demand. Once they sell it, they send payment to the farmers.

Last year, dairy farmers in Wisconsin received about $1.34 a gallon for raw milk, which translates to about 34 percent of what Chicago consumers spent on whole milk. Nationwide, dairy farmers received an average of about 39 percent of what consumers paid for whole milk.

The cooperatives that serve Wisconsin farmers receive about 22 cents for each gallon of milk sold in Chicago. That is among the most expensive in the country, according to USDA statistics. In Denver, for example, cooperatives make about 7 cents per gallon.

Once the milk is sold to a processing plant, it typically costs 70 cents to 80 cents per gallon for processing, packaging, distribution to stores and profit, said Corey Durling, a partner with the consulting firm Dairy Technomics in New Jersey. Those "non-milk costs" incurred by milk processors are not available for public review, and Durling said it was possible, though unlikely, that bottlers in the Chicago area charge higher prices.

Adding all those costs, using the higher number for "non-milk costs," the result is that Chicago supermarkets and convenience stores paid about $2.36 for a gallon of whole milk in 2005.

That means grocery stores--at least the ones charging $3.96 --made an average gross profit of $1.60 off every gallon of whole milk sold in 2005, or 40 percent of total revenue.

Chicago-area retailers appear to be making far more than the national average on milk. According to Durling, retailers usually make about 30 percent of total revenue on milk.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Major overhaul need in dealing with chronic illness

According to a new study by the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth Medical School, an overhaul for how the U.S. manages chronic illness is critical. This comes on the heels of a report by Medicare's trustees that the insurance program will exhaust its trust fund in 2018.

Here are some tidbits from the study:
  • of the 4.7 million chronically ill Medicare enrollees in the study, $40 billion (or nearly one third of what it spent for their care over four years) could have been saved if all U.S. Hospitals practiced at the high-quality/low-cost standard set by the Salt Lake region.
  • most acute care hospitals have become first-line providers of services to chronically-ill elderly, whose care would be better managed, safer, and less expensive, outside the hospital setting.
  • there are no recognized evidence-based guidelines for when to hospitalize, admit to intensive care, refer to medical specialists, or for most chronic illness, when to order diagnostic or imaging tests.
  • Salt Lake, UT, Rochester, MN, and Portland OR had the best quality and outcomes even they were considered low cost regions.
  • chronic illness was studied because 30 to 35 percent of Medicare dollars are spent on people with these conditions during the last two years of their lives.
  • the report speaks clearly to redirect resources away from acute care and invest in an infrastructure that can better coordinate and integrate care outside of hospitals, such as home health and hospice care.

Study Cites Marked Drop In FDA's Warning Letters

The number of serious "warning letters" sent by the Food and Drug Administration to drug, device and food companies has dropped by half over the past five years, leading to a situation where the agency's ability to ensure that products are being made properly has been "significantly compromised," according to a study by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee.

In addition to a drop of almost 50 percent in the number of on-site inspections at manufacturing plants, the 15-month probe found that in some cases, FDA headquarters rejected the enforcement recommendations of agency field offices despite inspectors' findings that violations had led to deaths or serious injuries.

In 32 cases, investigators found, field inspectors recommended that the FDA issue a warning letter, seize the product or seek a court injunction, but the agency sent a significantly weaker letter alerting the company to possible problems.

The inspections, warning letters and enforcement actions described in the report involve questions of whether manufacturers are following good manufacturing practices -- whether their pills, medical devices and food products are being produced in a reliably safe manner.

Courtesy of the Washington Post

Steve - we first need to keep in mind the source of the survey. This very well may be a political jab at the Republican-dominated Food & Drug Administration. Although, the numbers do speak for themselves. The agency has been devastated by continuous budget cuts and scandals, so it would not come as a surprise if this is true.

At this stage of medical history, being more vigilant about your diet and lifestyle is of the utmost importance.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Prebiotics 'cut baby's skin risk'

Adding prebiotics to formula feed can help cut the risk of babies developing a form of eczema, research suggests.

Milan's Center for Infant Nutrition found atopic dermatitis was less likely in babies given supplemented formula than those given the standard form.

Prebiotics encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in the gut.

The study, published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggests they might prevent atopic dermatitis by giving a boost to the immune system.

Lead researcher Professor Guido Moro said the risk of atopic dermatitis was reduced by over 50% in the prebiotic-fed infants.

The research focused on 192 healthy children considered to be at high risk of developing allergies.

Steve - in addition, probiotics are good to add to formula, and for women who are breastfeeding, supplement with probiotics as well.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bonnie chimes in on sports drinks

Gatorade quietly (we do not even know when) finally went from being a thirst-quenching rehydrator to a true electrolyte drink when the sodium citrate (citrtate is not an electrolyte) became sodium chloride (an electrolyte). Sodium chloride is basically table salt. Now, even the World Health Organization says it is okay to use as an electrolyte replacement for vomiting and diarrhea.

Before we get too excited about the benefits, keep in mind that most Gatorade-types have chemical additives (such as artificial colors, flavors, and artificial sweeteners) and few contain the most deficient electrolyte of all...magnesium! Without it, potassium cannot be used efficiently and energy, endurance, muscle strength, and recovery for athletic events will suffer.


Omega-3s may help depressive kids - pilot study

Increasing omega-3 intake from the diet or supplements may help depressive kids, reports a pilot study for the first time. Researchers from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel have reported for the first time that omega-3 fatty acids could also help children suffering from depression, a condition that “may be more common than previously thought”. 28 randomly depressed children, aged between 6 and 12, received either an omega-3 fatty acids or placebo for one month. Twenty of the children completed the study.

At the end of the trial the researchers found that seven out of ten children in the omega-3 group and none of the children in the placebo group had depression score reductions of 50 per cent or more.

Belmaker and his colleagues report in the American Journal of Psychiatry (Vol 163, pp. 1098-1100) that four of the children taking the omega-3 supplements achieved remission.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More support for omega-3 calming ADHD kids

Supplements of omega-3 and omega-6 improved the attention span and hyperactivity scores of young Australians, and was rated better than the common medication Ritalin.

The study adds to a growing number of studies looking at the effect of fish oils on the behaviour and learning of kids, and reports in the UK suggest the British government may even be considering omega-3 and omega-6 food supplements in schools.

The new study from the University of South Australia recruited 132 kids with ADHD aged 7 to 12 for the randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind intervention trial.

For the first 15 weeks of study, the kids were given daily supplements of either polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6, 3000 milligrams per day), PUFAs plus multivitamins and minerals, or placebo capsules (palm oil).

After 15 weeks the placebo group crossed-over to the PUFA plus multivitamins and minerals supplement, and the other groups remained constant.

“Supplementation with PUFA over 15 weeks resulted in significant improvements compared to placebo in parent ratings of core ADHD-related behavioural and cognitive difficulties, namely inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, with medium to large effect sizes, and also in ratings of oppositional behaviour,” reported the researchers, led by Natalie Sinn.

After 30 weeks (placebo group switching to eyeq supplements) the parental ratings of behaviour improved significantly in 10 out of 14 scales.

“The fish oil groups continued to improve after taking the supplement for a further 15 weeks. According to the data the multivitamin/mineral supplement had no additional effects,” said Sinn.

The researchers also compared the effects of Ritalin to the effects observed by fish oil supplements. Using a comparison figure from a meta-analysis (CMAJ, 2001, Vol. 165, pp.1475-1488), Sinn and her co-workers calculated that the Ritalin had a total effect on the ADHD index of 0.54.

A larger effect value of 0.59 was calculated for the group that took the fish oil supplements for the whole 30 weeks, while the placebo group that switched to fish oil after 15 weeks had an effect value of 1.03.

“There is no known evidence that medication provides any benefits beyond four weeks, whereas in the present trial symptoms continued to improve after 15 weeks of supplementation,” said the South Australian team.

AHA urges limits on trans fats and makes lifestyle recommendations

The American Heart Association urged a specific limit on trans fats in the diet -- less than 1 percent of total calories.

For the first time, they also included lifestyle recommendations, such as exercise and no smoking.

In addition, they suggested rather than counting calories, people should cook with healthier oils and balance calories in the diet.

Bonnie - come again? Whoah...the AHA is really stepping out now! There is actually no safe levels of trans fat, so they are still not going as far as they should.

Now they suggest exercise and no smoking? That's big of them.

What I am actually pleased with is the fact that they mention balancing calories (even though the comment is vague), meaning proteins, carbs, and healthy fat. This is actually a major step!

FDA ruling boosts barley claims

Food companies now will be able to say their products may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, based upon scientific evdience that it can lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). The rule allows companies such as Kraft Foods, Quaker Foods, and General Mills sell products with whole-grain barley or dry-milled barley products attach labels saying the products "may reduce the risk of heart disease."

Bonnie - barley can also be a digestive aid. My concern is that if barley (which contains gluten) is added to many foods, there will be more foods that gluten-intolerant individuals will need to avoid.

In addition, as these huge food companies have done in the past, they will attach the healthy labels to products that may contain barley, but also contain myriad ingredients that lessen or render barley's positive effects useless (such as added sugars, saturated fats, etc.). For instance, it would not surprise me to see Oreo's containing barley touting the heart-healthy effect. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Energy drinks fueling concerns

For every parent or grandparent, this is a must read. The energy drink sector is growing rapidly and targeting children and young adults. Many of these products are dangerous and addicitve.

Free registration may be required to access this New York Times article.

Stress may be causing infertility in women

Research presented at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology found that simple talk therapies can reverse the effect of stress and boost a woman's chances of becoming pregnant. The study also said that women with hectic jobs are those most at risk for stress-induced fertility. 16 women who were normal weight but had not had a period for six months were found to have high levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Eight of the women were given cognitive behavorial treatment and the rest no treatment. Twenty weeks later, 80% of those given therapy had started ovulating again compared with 25% in the other group. Two months later two of the women became pregnant.

Steve - larger studies are needed here for medical legimitimacy, but we do not need to see anymore. It works! We have helped so many women get pregnant with counseling, and of course, dietary/lifestyle change.

Fish farming with antibiotics under scrutiny

As was the case with chicken and beef, the fish industry is now being targeted for the overuse of antibiotics at fish farms. Misuse could protmote bacterial resistance leading to the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria in humans as well as the fish themselves.

Why do they have to use antibiotics on fish? For the same reasons they use them in mass-produced domesticated animal farms. The premises are dirty, fetid environments that are a breeding ground for disease and pathogens. Fish are not meant to be bred in farmed environments where the water is contaminated with waste and chemicals, they are overfed grain foods and animal byproducts that is completely different from their natural diet, and the fish are in such great numbers and in such close quarters that they can barely swim. As this is not a natural environment, the fish are more prone to disease and sickness.

Choose wild caught whenever possible until the farmed fish industry cleans itself up, literally!


Glut of positive research - highlights

With so much research coming out lately with regard to diet and nutrients, we thought we would encapsulate several:
  • A new study published in the June 17 edition of the Journal of European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shows a significant reduction of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children after supplementing with 1 mg. for every kilogram of body weight of Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, everyday for one month. In the randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study, Pycnogenol helped reduce hyperactivity and improve attention, concentration and motor-visual coordination in 61 children with ADHD. Participants who took placebo showed
    no significant improvement in these scores.
  • A study published in this month’s issue of Angiology shows that supplementation with the pine bark extract Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all) improves blood flow to the muscles which speeds recovery after physical exercise. The study of 113 participants demonstrated that Pycnogenol significantly reduces muscular pain and cramps in athletes and healthy, normal individuals.

  • A Mayo Clinic study involved 50 fibromyalgia patients enrolled in a randomized, controlled trial to determine if acupuncture improved their symptoms. Symptoms of patients who received acupuncture significantly improved compared with the control group, according to the study published in the June issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
  • In the June 2006 issue of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, researchers measured enterolactone (the bioactive lignan metabolite in humans) and genistein levels in 220 premenopausal women and 237 age-matched controls. The researchers noted a decrease in pre-menopausal breast cancer risk in tandem with increased concentrations of plasma enterolactone. There was no such significant association noted with genistein (a phytoestrogen in soy), and the study authors concluded that “Using biomarkers of phytoestrogen intake, we confirmed the strong inverse association between enterolactone and premenopausal breast cancer risk as found with dietary intake estimates." Lignans are commonly found in foods such as flaxseed.
  • Folic acid supplements may prevent cancer progression and promote regression of disease, according to a new study. Published in the July 15, 2006 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the small study found that 31 of 43 patients with the precancerous laryngeal lesion called leucoplakia demonstrated 50 percent or greater reduction in the lesion size after six months of taking folate supplements. In 12 of 31 responders, there was no evidence of the original lesion. Folate levels in the patients' blood also increased significantly from baseline while homocysteine levels decreased significantly. This study provides data to support the hypothesis that folate insufficiency is a risk factor for cancer progression.

  • In the first study of its kind, researchers discovered that daily folic acid supplements could improve DNA stability and reduce the risk of certain cancers linked to faults in the genetic code. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, found that of 61 healthy volunteers receiving 1.2 mg of folic acid for 12 weeks, their measured levels of uracil were markedly reduced, thus reducing DNA damage.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Highlights

From the May Issue:

Consumption of coffee is associated with reduced risk of death attributed to inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases in the Iowa Women's Health Study.

A furanocoumarin-free grapefruit juice establishes furanocoumarins as the mediators of the grapefruit juice-felodipine interaction (which affects the absorption of many mdeications).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

LA Times shines on vitamin D

These are two incredible articles on the growing (it's about time) support for vitamin D in the conventional medical establishment. This may require a sign-in.

LA Times Health Section

Wonder Pill, Really.,1,5420197.story?coll=la-headlines-health

Catching rays? A few can do you good.,1,4086567.story?coll=la-headlines-health

The "Catching rays" article reinforces what we have been saying forever...the sun can be your friend in moderation. And, if moderate sun exposure is not an option, Cod Liver Oil is essential!

Use of Massage Therapy in Hospitals Up 30 Percent

Hospitals are incorporating massage therapy programs at a growing rate; according to a new national survey. The survey shows the number of hospitals offering massage therapy has increased by more than one third in two years. The bi-annual survey is conducted by Health Forum, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association on behalf of the American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA) and polls hospitals across the United States on information on programs they offer, including massage therapy. Of the hospitals that have massage therapy programs, 71 percent indicate they offer massage therapy for patient stress management and comfort while more than two-thirds (67 percent) utilize massage therapy for pain management. Fifty-two percent say they provide massage for cancer patients and 67 percent offer massage to their staff for stress management.

According to the survey, hospitals also use massage therapy for: Improving mobility and movement (52 percent) Pregnant women (51 percent) Part of physical therapy regimen (50 percent) Hospice or end-of-life care (37 percent) Edema (33 percent) Infants (24 percent) Post-operative care (25 percent) Pre-operative care (17 percent) .

The effectiveness of massage therapy in alleviating the symptoms of a number of medical conditions has been demonstrated in on-going research and clinical studies. Research has shown that massage therapy can be effective in boosting the body’s immune system functioning, reducing blood pressure in stroke patients, easing post-operative pain], easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and soothing chronic back pain better than other complementary therapies. Recent studies have also associated massage therapy with substantive relief of symptoms in cancer patients, such as pain, fatigue, stress, anxiety, nausea, and depression.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Miscellaneous Tidbits

Deep, slow breathing (six or seven breaths per minute) can help stop a hot flash. And if that does not work, try an all natural, fun alternative. Flash Fannye has 8 savvy fans to carry with you "The Coolest Accessory for the Hottest Women." Check out their website at!

Compounds derived from avocados and soybeans are one of the hottest natural treatments for arthritis. These extracts, called unsaponifiables (ASU or FASU), have been shown to reduce inflammation, boost collagen formation in cartilage, and improve symptoms in people suffering from arthritis.

A double-blind, placebo controlled study involving patients with athritis of the knee took either 300mg or 600mg of ASU/FASU or a placebo daily. At the study's conclusion, those taking both dosages had marked reductions in pain and function. 71% of them had reduced their NSAID and analgesic intake by more then half. This is sold as a prescription drug in France.

Sobering statistics about our healthcare system

Overdosed America, by John Abramson MD, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, does not pull any punches:
  • Our health sytem's performance is ranked 37th among the nations of the world. And when efficiency in improving citizens' health is added in, we drop to a dismal 72.
  • The debacle of American health care can be laid squarely at the feet of the pharmaceutical industry, which has compromised virtually every aspect of medicine, medical education, clinical guidelines, and scientific research.
  • According to national guidelines, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are recommended for more than 40 million Americans. yet medical literature backs their use in only a limited subgroup of patients, and even then, the benefits are small. According to one of the studies suporting their use, if 100 men at very high risk of heart attack took a statin daily for two years (at a cost of $336,000), it would prevent heart attack in just one of them. The remaining 99 men would not only receive no benefit, they would also suffer adverse effects of the drugs, such as lowered production of coenzyme Q10, a critical nutrient for the heart and overall health.
  • Modern medicine is now the third leading cause of death in the US, claiming about 225,000 lives each year.

Using hormones to reduce # of periods

Below are excerpts from Maureen Jenkins article "Lifting the Curse," that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday, June 9th.

Many women are starting to use hormonal birth control continually because of debilitating cramps and conditions like endometriosis and fibroids. But a woman doesn't need to have a medical condition to have fewer periods -- or none.

New products like Seasonique, an extended-cycle pill that lets women have just four periods a year, have hit the market, one of the latest developments allowing women to choose when, or if, they menstruate at all.

It has become a lifestyle choice made manageable thanks to modern medicine -- but not all health professionals agree this is a long-term safe bet.

Not everyone has signed on to this. Dr. Susan Rako, a Massachusetts-based women's hormonal health expert, strongly disagrees with the practice.

"To encourage healthy young girls and women to do away with their periods for convenience's sake without educating them to the risks is immoral," says Rako, author of The Blessings of the Curse: No More Periods? (, $15.95) and founder of the educational nonprofit Women's Health on Alert.

"A woman's normal cycle protects her by lowering her blood pressure, giving her the only natural way of ridding herself of excess iron [and lowering the risk of] atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes," Rako says. "In addition, the birth control pill makes a woman more susceptible to the high-risk strains of human papillomavirus in causing cancer of the cervix."

Bonnie - on the surface, the extended cycle pill seems liberating! Before "jumping in" without testing the water, do yourself a favor. Read Dr. Rako's book, The Blessings of the Curse: No More Periods?, and discuss this at length with a knowledgable health professional. If past history serves as a reminder, remember the miracles of Thalidomide and HRT for hot flashes? They had a dark side that may not have been worth the risk.

Breast-Feed or Else

This New York Times article by Roni Rabin is dynamite. It shows how important breast-feeding is, yet exhibits the difficulty young mothers have accomplishing this in American culture.

The New York Times Health Page

Breast-Feed or Else article

To view this may require registration.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Doctors group to target unhealthy diets

Americans' unhealthy eating habits will be the target of the top U.S. physicians' group next week, when it votes on resolutions calling for reducing salt in food and for taxes on sugary soft drinks.

The American Medical Association, or AMA, plans to focus on the contribution of soft drinks to the nation's obesity epidemic as well as the over-consumption of dietary salt when its 544 doctor-delegates convene the group's annual meeting.

One resolution asks the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to place stricter regulations on sodium in processed foods, fast food, and restaurant offerings and it recommends cutting salt content in foods by at least half over the next decade.

A second resolution supports taxes on sugary soft drinks -- likely at the state and local level -- despite industry opposition. It calls for the revenue to go for public health programs to combat obesity, which has been labeled an epidemic by U.S. health authorities.

A soft-drink tax might also curb consumption somewhat, the AMA said, as with levies on alcohol and cigarettes.

At the meeting, the AMA will likely also hone its campaign against non-physicians treating patients without a doctor's supervision -- something that has grated on alternative providers such as nurse practitioners, psychologists, and chiropractors.

"I think at times (physicians) feel threatened that there are other practitioners that can provide safe, quality care and they are not the (only) provider of health care services and would like to maintain that authority," said Rose Gonzalez of the American Nurses Association.

Bonnie - have I died and gone to heaven? The AMA's top target is the American Diet? It can't be. For years and years, all I kept hearing was that diet had nothing to do with my client's health issues!

What's changed? Copius positive data regarding the diet/health connection, confidence in physicians are at an all-time low and it is hurting their bottom line, and the American attitude is pointing towards major change in lifestyle.

Doctors are scared because they have never been trained to look at prevention. They have had little or no training in diet and nutrition. Right now, at least they have to show that they are going with the trend.

What really needs to change in the medical profession is the philosophy. Diet and nutrition must be emphasized from pre-med to med school through continuing ed. We will all be better off!

Encouraging results for folic acid as a cancer prevention drug

Folic acid supplements may prevent cancer progression and promote regression of disease, according to a new study. Published in the July 15, 2006 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the small study found that 31 of 43 patients with the precancerous laryngeal lesion called leucoplakia demonstrated 50 percent or greater reduction in the lesion size after six months of taking folate supplements. In 12 of 31 responders, there was no evidence of the original lesion. Folate levels in the patients' blood also increased significantly from baseline while homocysteine levels decreased significantly. This study provides data to support the hypothesis that folate insufficiency is a risk factor for cancer progression.

Animal and human studies have increasingly demonstrated associations between folate deficiency, serum homocysteine elevations, and a variety of cancers. Some studies have suggested folate supplementation or at least a high folate dietary intake may protect against some cancers. This body of evidence suggests folate to be an effective chemopreventive drug. Other chemopreventive drugs are being tested, and while the retinoids demonstrate the most promise, they are highly toxic.

These results suggest, according to the researchers, "folate supplementation, alone or in combination with other chemopreventive drugs, could effectively reduce the risk of progression in an already genetically altered mucosa, especially in patients with hypofolatemia."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Fish Oil may help reduce dementia risk

Elizabeth J Johnson, Carotenoid & Health Laboratory, and Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, wrote a piece in the American College of Clinical Nutrition suggesting that at least 1 gram of fish oil daily or 2.7 servings of fatty fish weekly can reduce dementia risk by 50%. Their findings, yet to be officially published, are based upon the presitigious Framingham Heart Sutdy.

Med diet good for people with heart problems

The Mediterranean diet, already linked as a way to protect against heart disease, could help people with established heart problems says a population-based study from Greece.

The Med diet, rich in olive oil, fruit and vegetables and fish, has long been linked to lower incidence of heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancers. However, studies into the severity and prognosis of people with heart disease is lacking.

The new article, published on-line in the journal Nutrition (doi:10.1016/j.nut.2006.04.005), reports the results of the Greek Study of Acute Coronary Syndrome (GREECS) of 2172 patients (76 per cent men) who had been hospitalised with myocardial infarction (MI) or unstable angina (UA) and their adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

Dietary assessment was performed using validated, semi-quantitative 156-item food frequency questionnaires, and correlated to the Mediterranean diet using a 55-point scale. The higher the score, the closer to the Med diet.

Diet score was also linked to biological markers of heart disease and heart attack, such as cardiac troponin I, creatine phosphokinase, and creatine phosphokinase-MB, and an inverse association was observed.

Lower adherence to the Mediterranean diet, linked to younger patients, smokers, or people with a family history of coronary heart disease (CHD), was associated with a higher degree of severity of CHD.

“A five-unit increase in diet score [increased adherence to the Med diet] was associated with 15 per cent lower odds of having MI, after controlling for confounders,” said Greek researchers.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Wendy's plans to use healthier cooking oil

The country's third-largest burger chain said the blend of corn and soy oil has zero grams of artery-clogging trans fat per serving and will cut trans fat in those menu items by 95 percent. Wendy's will begin using the oil in its 6,300 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada in August.

Steve - McDonald's said the same thing and flat-out lied. I'll believe it when I see it. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Danger of excessive belly fat in men

Bonnie - this was one of the best articles I have read on the subject. It was written by the editors of Men's Health Magazine and appeared in USA Today Weekend Edition. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Subcutaneous fat is the kind that gives you "saddle bags" on the hips and "granny arms" around your biceps and triceps. This lies just under the skin and on top of the muscle and is not an immediate risk.
  • Visceral fat, or central obesity, gives you a "spare tire" or "beer gut." This fat sourrounds your vital organs and is bad, especially for men.
  • A recent study from the Queen's University in Ontario showed that body weight alone no longer tells you how big your health risk is. You need to look where you carry your fat: the more that settles in your midsection, the worse.
  • Visceral fat markedly increases your risk for hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Why? It surrounds and inhibits the function of the most important organs in your body, especially the liver. As fat increases and insinuates itself into the tissue, it slows down the liver's response to insulin, a hormone that tells the body to move fuel into cells. As a result, your pancreas must produce more insulin to get the liver to respond. This is called insulin resistance, which leads to high blood pressure, rising triglycerides and cholesterol, and then metabolic syndrome (obesity and type 2 diabetes).
  • Even moderate weight loss of 5% to 10% of your total weight can dramatically reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, because the first fat lost is from the abdomen.
Small changes to lose abdominal fat:
  1. Up your fiber intake so your body requires less insulin.

  2. Consume monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados to help with insulin resistance.

  3. Avoid anything made with sugar or foods with high sugar content which would spike your blood sugar.

  4. Exercise because it burns energy!

Bonnie comments on Consumer Reports position on mercury for pregnant women

According to Consumer Reports, pregnant women should not eat canned tuna because it contains harmful levels of mercury. Taking a more cautious approach than the U.S. government, Consumer Reports claims that due to the FDA findings that 6% of canned light tuna tested exceeded maximum limits of mercury allowed, pregnant women should avoid all forms of tuna.

Bonnie - Whole Foods does a very good job of testing their canned tuna for mercury safety. There are other brands that also list mercury-safe on the label. These should be, not only okay for pregnant women, but recommended as good sources of omega-3 fats. To err on the side of caution, however, I recommend no more than 12 oz. weekly. Pregnant women should never eat raw fish, and sushi tuna and shark/swordfish are the worst from a mercury perspective.

Women on the pill could benefit from Q10, vit E

Women taking oral contraceptives have lower levels of the antioxidants coenzyme Q10 and vitamin E, and could possibly benefit from supplements, suggests a new study.

“If our findings are confirmed by larger studies, women who receive oral contraceptives may be considered for coenzyme Q10 and/or alpha-tocpherol supplementation,” wrote lead author Prabhudas Palan from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Coenzyme Q10 and alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) are both lipid-soluble antioxidants found in cell membranes. They are capable of mopping up free radicals that can lead to oxidative stress, linked to a variety of disease including Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Vol. 194, e35-e38), recruited 55 pre-menopausal women (average age 33) with regular menstrual cycles. 15 women were taking an oral contraceptive (OC) (norgestimate/ethinylestradiol) while the other 40 were not taking any (OC). Women taking multivitamins or Co-Q10 supplements were excluded.

Non-fasting blood samples were taken randomly during the menstrual cycle and serum levels of a variety of antioxidants measured.

Gamma-tocopherol, alpha- and beta-carotene, and lycopene levels were similar between the groups. However, serum levels of Co-Q10 were 37 per cent lower in the OC group, and alpha-tocopherol levels were 24 per cent lower.

“The results clearly show that the use of OC significantly lowered the serum levels of coenzyme Q10 and alpha-tocopherol, compared with levels in non-OC users,” wrote the researchers.

A study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 80, pp 649-655) reported that Co-Q10 together with alpha-tocopherol could reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) a pro-inflammatory protein linked to CVD.

Steve - a small study, but significant nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Commercial diets alike for weight loss – what about nutrition?

Commercial weight loss programs all result in about the same levels of weight loss, says a new study in the British Medical Journal, but not all are based around the principles of healthy eating.

It is estimated that most adults in the UK and the US will undertake a diet at some time, but long-term success rates are reported to be poor with half of the weight lost being regained within one year.

The market for commercial diets is estimated to be worth about £11bn (€16bn) by 2007 in the UK, with speciality products, functional foods, and meal replacers taking centre stage.

A new article in the British Medical Journal (Vol. 332, pp. 1309-1314) compared the effects of four commercial diets – Dr. Atkins’ new diet revolution, Slim-Fast plan, Weight Watchers pure points programme, and Rosemary Conley’s eat yourself slim diet and fitness plan.

The researchers, based at five different centres around the UK, recruited 240 mildly obese 40-year old volunteers following one of the four commercial weight loss programmes. A further 60 volunteers with similar characteristics were recruited to eat their normal diet and act as a control for the others.

No standardisation of energy intake was attempted so that the study was a reflection of the volunteers’ interpretation of the diet programmes.

After six months, the results indicated that all four programmes resulted in similar weight loss (5.9 kg), fat loss (4.4 kg), and a reduction in waist circumference (7 cm).

The researchers also measured total cholesterol levels every two months, and found that in all groups except the Atkins group experienced a small but significant drop in total cholesterol levels. After six months, only the Weight Watchers group had sustained reduced cholesterol levels (0.55 millimoles per litre).

“The Atkins diet had no detrimental effects on total cholesterol concentrations or renal functions, although the overall safety of the diet was not tested,” stressed lead researcher Helen Truby from the University of Surrey.

Rachel Cooke from the British Dietetic Association said that the diets worked merely by lowering the calorie intake overall.

However, “from a dietetic perspective emphasis should continue to be on consistent messages [about] healthy lifestyle, which includes healthy eating and healthy activity,” said Clarke.

Both the study authors and Clarke noted that the results of the study highlight the need for realistic weight loss targets. Many dieters have unrealistic targets, said Truby.

Courtesy of

Bonnie - as we have said many times before, fad diets come and go. We have never been proponents of them. While sometimes not the most popular stance, we have always stuck to our guns to promote individualized dietary balance based upon human genetics, clinical and research data. Our goal with each of you is not just short-term gain, but long-term dietary and lifestyle improvement.

Doctors effort to prove link between health diet and cancer prevention difficult

Doctors have known for years that healthful diets help prevent heart disease.

But proving that particular foods protect against cancer has been difficult, says Walter Willett, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who spoke Monday at the annual meeting here of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Recent studies, however, have dashed hopes for a variety of proposed anti-cancer strategies: reducing fat to prevent breast cancer, increasing fiber to ward off colon tumors and filling up on fruits and vegetables to avoid cancer in general, Willett says. These studies are convincing because they followed participants over time and in some cases randomly assigned people to follow particular diets. Though these studies may have disappointed many people, doctors have learned a lot about cancer prevention:

•Early experiences may matter most.

Many long-term studies, such as the Women's Health Initiative, involved mostly women over 60. But midlife may be too late for people to reduce their risk of cancer through diet.

"If you are 50 years old and have a cancer diagnosis and you suddenly start eating well, that is not going to do anything," says Barrie Cassileth, chief of integrative medicine at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who will speak about nutrition at the meeting today.

Breast tissue may be most susceptible to outside influences before puberty. Older Japanese women exposed to nuclear radiation in 1945 did not develop breast cancer, but young girls did, Willett says. Carcinogens may do the greatest damage early in life, so diet may play its most important role during childhood, Willett says.

•The amount of food may be more important than the type.

A number of studies strongly show that people who burn more calories than they consume are less likely to develop cancer, Willett says. Evidence strongly links obesity to colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, liver cancer and others. Though eating vegetables may not reduce a cancer patient's risk of death, losing even a few pounds may benefit people with certain tumor types, Willett says.

Researchers continue to study nutritional factors that may increase the risks of cancer, such as high intake of dairy products and low intake of folic acid, calcium, vitamin D and lycopene, which is found in tomatoes.

Courtesy of USA Today

Bonnie - there were some extremely important statements in this article. The importance of eating a balanced, healthy diet during childhood (before puberty, in particular) and portion size cannot be overemphasized. These statements mirror our Circle of Health.

Ronald McDonald fronts 2010 Olympic fitness pitch

The corporate frontman for fast-food giant McDonald's Restaurants -- is visiting elementary school children across the province to deliver a message of nutrition and fitness on behalf of the 2010 Olympics.

"The focus is not on french fries and burgers, but on making healthy food choices, working hard and being fit," said Renee Smith-Valade, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games.

"We're fully supportive of it," she said.

The Go Active Canada interactive school show is one of two national fitness and nutrition programs being offered to elementary schools by McDonald's Canada, a top Olympic sponsor. The programs are only brought into schools upon the schools' invitation.

McDonald's spokesman Chris Stannell said that under the interactive program, Ronald McDonald is visiting elementary schools to "offer and promote the idea of leading a balanced, active lifestyle."

Stannell said the programs reflect McDonald's dedication to "being part of the solution to health and wellness today."

Not everyone is as pleased with the company's involvement in schools.

Michelle Morton, whose 10-year-old daughter attends an elementary school in Squamish, said she was appalled to hear of Ronald McDonald's appearance last week at two local schools in conjunction with the Olympic Games.

"Since when did the Olympics equal McDonald's?" said Morton, who questioned the ethics of exposing children as young as five and six years old to McDonald's' corporate messages and logos.

Seb Amenta, principal of Stawamus elementary, said staff at his school felt "uncomfortable" with the McDonald's' connection after they attended the presentation at Garibaldi Highlands, along with approximately 55 students, in grades 2 to 7.

"My staff, when they went, said, 'Oh, it was splashy. We couldn't help but see the Big M everywhere,'" Amenta said.

"The sponsor was definitely visible."

Amenta said the students who attended the presentation enjoyed it, and teachers were impressed with the overall message of fitness and good health. But, he said, schools must be extra vigilant about exposing children to corporate culture.

"Money can start to take over, and we can't go there with our kids. They are too precious," Amenta said.

Courtesy of the Vancouver Sun

Steve - it has been well documented that McDonald's main goal is to cement their brand in young children. Once they have them hooked, they have customers for life. It is so hypocritical for them to be parading around Ronald McDonald promoting health and fitness. At least this "corporate con job" did not go unoticed by some of Vancouver's citizens.

A look into new marketing strategies for blockbuster drugs

Steve & Bonnie - we found this report on the website of pharmaceutical business intelligence firm Cutting Edge Information. We thought this line was the most telling of all: "Not all drugs are able to benefit from a mature promotional infrastructure or a strong clinical profile – so blockbuster product teams must work diligently to provide their brands with comprehensive marketing efforts that underscore drugs’ strong attributes and surmount their downfalls."

Below is the entire summary:

"The blockbuster drug model drove the pharmaceutical industry to great heights for decades. In the current pharmaceutical market, however, blockbusters are becoming few and far between. In what can sometimes be a search for pharma’s holy grail, the difference between discovering a blockbuster and the next me-too product often comes down to experience and expenditure.

Blockbusters are not simply born out of large pharmaceutical companies’ expansive pocketbooks. Instead, it is their past experience commercializing drugs in varied markets with large patient populations that has taught blockbuster brand teams how to avoid common pitfalls. The blockbuster brands profiled in Cutting Edge Information’s latest study have experienced, savvy promotional infrastructures that support drug launches every step of the way with expert solutions.

Furthermore, blockbuster drugs rely so heavily on acceptance from the medical community, that it’s no wonder why they deliver the massive returns that make them blockbusters. Blockbuster brands are consistently supported by efficient, streamlined thought leader development programs designed to win the medical community’s acceptance and propel the drug to rapid peak annual sales.

The following recommendations and conclusions were among Cutting Edge Information’s top study findings:

Invest in thought leader development to generate widespread market acceptance prior to Launch.
Cutting Edge Information analysts identified thought leader development as a critical component to blockbuster brand teams’ successes. Blockbuster brand teams tap the medical community early in development and continue to invest in opinion leaders for a number of purposes, including publications planning, speaker opportunities and continuing medical education...

Assign marketing resources to overcome unique blockbuster brand challenges
Every brand comes to market under unique marketing circumstances. Not all drugs are able to benefit from a mature promotional infrastructure or a strong clinical profile – so blockbuster product teams must work diligently to provide their brands with comprehensive marketing efforts that underscore drugs’ strong attributes and surmount their downfalls. To accomplish this feat, companies deliberately and strategically allocate resources to a marketing mix that best compliments their objectives. Therefore, competitors can learn much about a drug’s profile by looking at the brand team’s budget allocations...

Market research dominates early-phase US commercialization spending
Early in a drug's lifecycle, project and brand teams' primary objectives are to start outlining the competitive landscape, identify unmet needs and spot potential problem areas that could inhibit a drug's US commercial development in the years ahead. Marketers tackle these challenges with market research, which is one of the best tools brand teams have at their disposal early on. US resource allocation analysis shows that market research spending dominates early marketing budgets…

Negotiate co-promotion agreements to overcome a lack of European promotional infrastructure, extend commercial reach and increase market penetration in Europe
To expand their reach in Europe and to fully penetrate the market, five of the six European brand developers have either signed co-promotion agreements or plan to do so. These brands, each with its own unique combination of European promotions experience and infrastructure, sought co-promotion partners with the promotional capabilities and European presence that best complements their situations…

Advertising spending consumes 12% less of European marketing budgets than global spending
One core marketing strategy that brand teams approach differently in Europe is advertising. The absence of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising in Europe means companies must shift the strategies they use to promote key product platforms in the US and other markets. Instead of relying so heavily on advertising to spread the word of their products’ clinical merits, European brand teams instead target influencer and prescriber networks through other channels, including advisory boards, symposia, congresses, thought leader relationships and their sales forces…

Monday, June 05, 2006

FDA: Restaurants should put nutrition info on menus

Restaurants should provide nutrition information with their menus, reduce marketing of high-calorie food and offer healthier choices to help cut obesity rates, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The idea left a bad taste for the restaurant industry.

"How can anyone realistically manage that?" asked Ivan Matsunaga, executive vice president of Carol Stream-based Connie's Pizza and chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

As the amount of food eaten outside the home increases, the agency said restaurants need to take the lead in cutting fat from the diet of Americans.

The FDA does not have the legal authority to mandate that restaurants take such actions, so the announcement only provides a set of guidelines, the agency said. The recommendation that all chain restaurants provide calorie information faced opposition from the National Restaurant Association before it was made.

''As an industry we really can't get behind mandated nutrition information on menus,'' said Sheila Cohn, director of nutrition policy for the National Restaurant Association. Some restaurants update their menus daily and the amount of ingredients can vary depending on who cooks it, she said.

Legislation to require menu labeling was defeated in Congress last year. Similar bills are under consideration by New York state and Washington, D.C.

"Does the dining public really want that, would be my question," said Tod Barber, director of operations for Palatine-based Weber Grill Restaurants, which just introduced a gluten-free menu and has an ingredient list for each of its dishes to better serve diners with food allergies.

The center's report said that at least 60 percent of respondents in four national polls wanted calories to be listed on menus. But the center found that only half of 300 large restaurant chains surveyed provide any nutrition information.

Cost is a major factor, which even the report noted. Laboratory work needed to calculate calorie content of one item can cost $100; an entire menu can cost $11,500 to $46,000, the report said.

The FDA hired the nonprofit Keystone Center for $500,000 in June 2004 to determine ways to help slow the nation's rising obesity rates.

Some major restaurants are voluntarily starting to provide more information about calorie content, said Jeff Cronin, a spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Ruby Tuesday Inc., for instance, has put nutrition information for almost all its items on restaurant menus, he said. Now the restaurant puts the information on a brochure that goes along with the menu. Subway sandwich shops also put nutrition information for some items on napkins, Cronin said, and Oak Brook-based McDonald's Corp. has begun to include some caloric information in its packaging.

Steve - let's just say what is not being said here...the national restaurant association does not want to put the nutrition information on its menus because the public will be appalled at what they discover. Restaurants can get away with putting more fat, more sodium, etc. on their menus because they do not have to list the ingredients or nutrition information. That should change, so at least the customer can choose.

Some of these restaurants claim that they are offering healthier fare, and some are. Yet, some of these "healthier items" are loaded with chemicals. Our Healthy Eating While Dining Out Action Plan covers many of the most well-known restaurants and explains what is best on menu if you are trying to maintain balanced eating and sustained weight-loss.

Yoga study shows some benefits for cancer patients

Women who took yoga classes during breast cancer treatment reported they could function better physically and felt better about their health.

Sixty-two women who were undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer were randomly assigned to attend yoga classes twice a week or be put on a waiting list to start yoga after their treatment. All completed surveys about various quality-of-life measurements.

The women who practiced yoga reported better physical functioning, such as the ability to walk a mile, climb stairs and lift groceries, said Lorenzo Cohen, director of integrative medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

They also felt better about their overall health and reported less fatigue and problems sleeping, said Cohen, the study's lead author.

No difference was seen, however, in rates of depression and anxiety in the two groups, according to findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Courtesy Reuters