Saturday, July 29, 2006

Carlson Fish Oil Prescribed In Landmark BARI 2D Trial

The American Journal of Cardiology June 19, 2006 volume published preliminary information regarding the landmark Bypass Angioplasty Revascularization Investigation 2 Diabetes (BARI 2D) Trial. This important trial is investigating the effects of intervention factors such as pharmaceutical drugs or nonpharmacologic interventions such as fish oils on patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Coronary Artery Disease. Carlson Laboratories is supplying its fish oil to study participants.

The BARI 2D trial, sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH) is a randomized clinical trial designed to evaluate treatment efficacy for patients with type 2 Diabetes and CAD. Started in 2005, this trial is expected to extend at least through May, 2007. This trial has 2,368 patients enrolled at 49 clinical centers in North America, South American and Europe. Carlson Laboratories is supplying the fish oil prescribed in the study. Pharmaceutical agents are being supplied by: Abbott Laboratories, Bayer Diagnostics, Eli Lilly, Merck & Co., Pfizer and others.

Steve - we have been prescribing Carlson fish oils for years. It is extremely high quality.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Folic acid supplements could reduce inflammation

A daily supplement of folic acid could reduce inflammatory markers and therefore offer protection from heart disease for overweight and obese people, suggests a short study from Italy.

“In healthy overweight subjects a short-term folic acid supplementation reduces the circulating level of some inflammatory mediators… thus suggesting a potential therapeutic role for folic acid in the protection from atherogenesis and cardiovascular diseases,” wrote the researchers in the International Journal of Obesity (Vol. 30, pp. 1197–1202).

Since people who are overweight or obese are said to be in a state of increased inflammation, compared to non-overweight and non-obese people, reducing inflammation could benefit the ever growing number of people with ‘weight issues’.

The researchers, from University of Pisa School of Medicine, recruited 60 healthly but overweight (BMI between 25 and 29 kg per sq.m) for the 12-week unmasked randomized placebo-controlled trial. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a folic acid supplement ()2.5 mg per day) or placebo .

In agreement with a number of other studies, volunteers receiving the folic acid supplements had decreased levels of homocysteine (12 per cent), an amino acid that, by itself, has been linked by epidemiological studies to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. For the inflammatory molecules, the researchers reported that, compared to baseline, the volunteers taking the folic acid supplement had significant drops in the circulating concentration of all three molecules: MCP-1, 15 per cent; IL-8, 17 per cent;CRP, 6 per cent.

Longer term studies are needed to confirm if such effects are beneficial long-term, and also whether such benefits would be seen in obese people.

courtesy of

Omega-3, heart health evidence is strong, says review

Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, behaviour and mood, and certain cancers.

But some much publicised studies, and in particular a recent meta-analysis (British Medical Journal, doi: bmj.38755.366331.2F), have claimed that there was no evidence linking omega-3 intake and improvements in heart health.

The new review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 84, pp. 5-17), takes “a large step forward in helping to resolve the controversies related to the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on CVD outcomes,” according to Richard Dickelbaum and Sharon Akabas from Columbia University, in an independent editorial.

The problems with reviewing and pooling previous studies has come from the fact that many of the studies are not directly comparable, with long- and short-term trials being grouped together, and no separation made between primary and secondary prevention studies.

The new review, authored by Chenchen Wang and associates from Tufts-New England Medical Center, only considered studies that lasted for more than one year, and that reported or estimated omega-3 intakes and CVD outcomes. Care was taken to separate interventions using alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from interventions using eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), or EPA plus DHA.

“Most of the large cohort studies reviewed, which involved more than 340,000 participants in total, reported significant reductions after multivariate adjustment in one or more CVD outcomes of interest,” reported the reviewers.

The supplement trials considered by the researchers included EPA or EPA plus DHA in doses ranging from 0.27 to 4.8 grams per day. Five of the trials were consider to be of high standard, receiving grades A or B for their methodological quality.

The results from these studies were mixed, but the largest reported that a 0.85 grams per day supplement of EPA plus DHA was reported to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality by 21 per cent, cardiac death by 35 per cent, and sudden death by 45 per cent.

The editorial said that the study made a significant contribution to resolving the controversies with the subject.

“We believe that the body of existing evidence is strong enough to suggest that in the United States, certainly, and in other countries where omega-3 fatty acid consumption is low, public health initiatives are needed to increase intakes of EPA and DHA,” concluded Deckelbaum and Akabas.

Steve - this the first good example of a meta-analysis that was done properly. It concentrated on specific outcomes and specific trial duration.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bonnie's Back to School Tips

Here are a few reminders to keep your children healthy and focused:

  • reduce sugar intake - sugar is the number one contributor to reduced immunity to viruses and bacteria
  • supplement with cod liver oil - vitamins A & D are essential to immunity and exist in ideally bioavailable form in cod liver; no sunshine in fall and winter means little vitamin D; 1/2 - 1 tsp. daily is suggested
  • adequate sleep - this is crucial for your child's immunity and focus; between 9-12 hours for young children through teen
  • probiotic supplementation - balanced gut ecology is essential for fighting bacteria and viruses, and healthy neurological function; healthy flora is usually deficient in most of us; supplementing with a high quality acidophilus/bifidus probiotic is suggested
  • be selective with carbohydrates - instead of loading up on grain carbs, make your child's carbs fruit and veggie-heavy; fruit juice does not count (not much better than soda pop) because it is absorbed like pure sugar
  • magnesium - if extra support is needed for focus or hyperactivity, there is nothing better than "nature's valium"; a glycinate form is suggested to reduce potential intestinal disturbance, which is the only side effect of magnesium
  • practice clean hygiene - make sure your children wash their hands after going to the restroom and before meals; try to disuade them from putting their fingers in their mouth, nose, or rubbing their eyes
  • immunizations - two days before and after injections, give your child 500mg. extra vitamin C and 10-15 mg. of zinc
  • athletics - if your child is playing a sport several times weekly, make sure you are supplementing them with extra calories and proper nutrients, especially electolytes like magnesium and potassium
  • eat breakfast - breakfast affects learning for the rest of the day and is your most important meal; a recent study appeared in the August edition of Journal Physiology showing enhanced memory and test performance simply by eating breakfast, but those students who ate the healthiest breakfast showed the best performance
Good luck! Bonnie

Tots with sensitive taste buds eat fewer veggies

Preschoolers who are sensitive to bitter flavors may be especially likely to turn their noses up at vegetables, a new study shows.

In an experiment with 65 preschool children, researchers found that those whose taste buds were particularly attuned to detecting bitterness were less likely to eat their veggies. In some cases, they balked at eating not only bitter vegetables, like broccoli and olives, but also sweeter fare like carrots and red peppers.

In recent years, scientists have identified a gene, dubbed TAS2R38, that controls a receptor for bitter flavor. A study published last year found that children with certain variations of that gene are particularly sensitive tasters, able to detect a very small amount of a bitter-tasting compound in water.

When the children were given free range to snack on bitter-tasting vegetables (broccoli, olives and cucumbers) and sweeter ones (carrots and red peppers), the sensitive kids ate significantly fewer bitter vegetables.

And while only 8 percent of nontaster children refused all of the vegetables, 32 percent of the sensitive tasters did so.

"Parents should try not to project their own food preferences onto their children," said study co-author Dr. Beverly J. Tepper, a professor of food science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

A nontaster parent who loves broccoli, for instance, may have a more bitter-sensitive child who simply doesn't enjoy the greens in the same way, she explained.

That doesn't mean, however, that bitter-sensitive tykes are destined to shun vegetables their whole lives -- a potential comfort to parents who regularly engage in mealtime struggles.

"We do change our food preferences as we grow and learn," Tepper said, noting that the "impact of genetics isn't set in stone."

Whether there's a more immediate fix to the bitter-sensitivity issue is unclear. A tasty sauce might make vegetables more palatable to a sensitive child, but dousing veggies with toppings may not be the most nutritionally sound choice, Tepper noted.

Serving vegetables cooked rather than raw might help, she said, since cooking takes some of the bite out.

Courtesy Reuters

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2006.

Steve - bitter is one of the flavors we taste; it is something we can acquire a taste for, just like spicy foods. Continued introduction of bitter foods/vegetables will get your child to acclamate to the taste. Sometimes it takes 8, 10, or 15 tries before they begin to except it. Do not give up trying, because it is essential that they learn the importance of these foods at an early age, not to mention their health value :)

Magnesium supplements could reduce inflammation

A daily magnesium supplement could reduce the levels of a inflammation that could lead to heart disease in people with low dietary intake of the mineral, says a US study.

“The key finding in this study is that magnesium intake from supplements has an impact on the likelihood of having elevated C-reactive protein, separate from and in addition to dietary magnesium intake,” wrote lead author Dana King in the latest issue of the journal Nutrition Research (Vol. 26, pp. 193-196).

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine, meaning it is a signaling molecule associated with increased inflammation. Chronic inflammation, brought about by an over-expression or lack of control of the normal protective mechanism, can lead to a range of inflammatory related disease, particularly cardiovascular disease.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2000 (NHANES 99-00), and focused on 10,024 people with valid measurements of both CRP levels and dietary and supplemental intake of magnesium.

Among the participants it was found that 25.6 per cent were taking magnesium supplements of at least 50 mg per day, and generally tended to be older, female and non-smokers.

Of the people taking less that 50 mg/d of supplemental magnesium, only 21.9 per cent met or exceeded the US recommended daily allowance for the mineral: 420 mg for men over 30, and 320 mg for women over 30.

People with a total (dietary plus supplements) magnesium intake below the RDA were found to be 40 per cent more probable to have elevated CRP levels.

“The implications of these findings are that magnesium supplementation intake may be a viable alternative for reducing inflammation in people who do not achieve the RDA for magnesium through dietary sources alone,” said King.

“The findings also have some implications on whether magnesium plays a direct and important role in regulating inflammation.”

Courtesy of

Steve - our favorite nutrient does it again! Note that for most people, a glycinate form is more absorbable and easier on the gi tract than your usual magnesium oxide or citrate, which can creat loose stool and intestinal disturbance. That is why we have been recommending the glycinate for over 15 years now!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Bonnie will be out of the country from July 26th-August 4th. For dietary how-to questions, contact Elana Ostrovsky or Carolyn Martinelli. For dietary supplement questions, contact Steve Minsky :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Could artificial sweeteners be to blame for your fatigue?

If you use artificially sweetened products and experience any of the following symptoms, sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, etc. could be the culprit.
  • unexplained tiredness
  • cramps, bloating or diarrhea
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • brain fog
  • nauseau
  • mood swings or depression
  • joint pain
Courtesy of First 6/26/06

Bonnie - I have said over and over how devastating symptoms created by artificial sweeteners can be. Try eliminating the sweetener for at least two weeks to see if these symptoms improve.

Ear Candling

Ear candling has been around for centuries. It is a pain-free, relaxing, non-medical procedure that can help alleviate pressure in the head or upper respiratory area. Any suffering from loss of hearing, sinus infections, sore throats, allergies, migraine and sinus headaches, ear aches, swimmer's ear, ringing in the eras or dizziness could benefit.

The process takes about 1 hour for both ears and conveniently, our Chriopractor, Dr. Liselotte Schuster, performs this duty!


Sunscreens in your food

Eating certain antioxidants in foods help stabilize skin cells and can bolster resistance to damage from ultraviolet light that promotes sunburn, wrinkles and skin cancer:
  • chocolate
  • tomatoes
  • pomegranate
  • fatty fish
  • green tea
Courtesy of Eat Smart in USA Weekend

Monday, July 24, 2006

2,000 Hospitals in the U.S. Will Start to Serve Natural and Organic Foods

More than 2,000 hospitals in the U.S. now have access to natural and organic foods, thanks to a deal announced today between MedAssets, a leading group purchasing organization for the health care industry, and United Natural Food Incorporated (UNFI), the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor to the natural and organic foods industry. The deal, which is the first contract between a major health care buyer and organic food distributor, reflects the growing demand in the health care industry for healthy food options.

To date, steps that hospitals have taken include: purchasing milk produced without bovine growth hormone, and poultry and meat produced without antibiotics; supporting local communities by hosting farmers' markets and sourcing local produce; and serving fair trade coffee, organic produce and locally grown foods.

Steve - stop the presses! The deplorable quality of hospital food is always something that has amazed us. It is the last place on earth where the food should be unhealthy. It is a nice start this alliance. They need to be doing this nationwide. Next up...get rid of all the fast food restaurants in hospitals as well!

40% of Weight-Loss Surgery Patients Develop Complications

A growing number of people opt for surgery as a way to lose weight, but four in 10 develop complications within six months after surgery, according to a new U.S. government report. In the report, published in the August issue of Medical Care, the authors looked at 2,522 insurance claims for bariatric surgery -- the general term for surgery to combat obesity -- done in 2001 and 2002.

"We found that the complication rate in the hospital was 22 percent, but it went up to 40 percent over the next six months," said lead author William Encinosa, a senior economist at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which sponsored the study.

The most common complications were dumping syndrome, which includes vomiting, reflux and diarrhea; complications resulting from the surgical joining of the intestine and stomach, such as leaks or strictures; abdominal hernias; infections and pneumonia, the researchers found.

"These additional medical utilizations are expensive," Encinosa said. Costs averaged $36,542 for obesity surgery patients who had complications in the six months after surgery, compared with an average of $25,337 for patients without complications.

Moreover, medical care costs for patients who were readmitted to the hospital because of a complication averaged $65,031, compared with $27,125 for those who didn't have to be rehospitalized.

The American Society for Bariatric Surgery and other groups have established standards to qualify hospitals and doctors in preforming the procedure. Most surgery is a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. "More than 60 percent of these operations are done laparoscopically," they said. "Within two to three years, it will be more like 90 or 95 percent."

Courtesy of HealthDay News

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Report finds drug errors hurt 1.5 million

More than 1.5 million Americans are injured every year by drug errors in hospitals, nursing homes and doctor's offices, a count that doesn't even estimate patients' own medication mix-ups, says a report by The Institute of Medicine that calls for major steps to increase patient safety.

"The numbers are big. The injuries are big. This is a problem, it's serious and it continues," said report co-author Michael Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

Technology alone could prevent some errors today, but there's too little incentive for hospitals and other care providers to invest, added University of Arizona pharmacy dean J. Lyle Bootman, who chaired the IOM probe.

"We're paid whether these errors occur or not," lamented Bootman, who recently experienced the threat firsthand as his son-in-law dodged some drug near-misses while in intensive care in a reputable hospital.

For now, Bootman advises consumers to be aggressive in questioning doctors, nurses and pharmacists about their medications, whether they're watching over a hospitalized loved one or figuring out their own pills at home.

How to battle drug errors is a particularly vexing issue because of the sheer volume and complexity of today's medications. There are more than 10,000 prescription drugs on the market, and 300,000 over-the-counter products. Many come with vastly different usage and dosing instructions depending on the patient's age, weight and other risk factors, like bad kidneys.

But that's far from the only cause. Doctors' notoriously bad handwriting too often leaves pharmacists squinting to determine if the order was for 10 milligrams or 10 micrograms. Sound-alike drug names — the hormone Premarin or the antibiotic Primaxin? — can confuse health worker and patient alike.

There also are hospital mix-ups involving where a drug is administered. Consider a rare but horrifying one: Accidentally injecting the cancer drug vincristine into the spinal canal instead of giving it intravenously is almost always fatal, and it's a slow, painful death, said Cohen.

Moreover, the instructions given to consumers on how to take their medicine is woefully inadequate, the report concludes. One study found parents gave their children the wrong dose of over-the-counter fever medicines 47 percent of the time.

Then there was the newly diagnosed asthmatic wondering why his inhaler didn't work. Asked how he used it, the middle-aged man squirted two puffs into the air and tried to breathe the mist. It turns out his original doctor had demonstrated the inhaler without explaining that to work, it had to be sprayed inside the mouth.

Among the report's recommendations:

-The government should take action to speed electronic prescribing, including fostering technology improvements so that the myriad computer programs used by doctors, hospitals and drugstore are compatible.

-Fewer than about 20 percent of prescriptions currently are electronic, Cohen said. E-prescribing does more than counter bad handwriting. The computer programs can be linked to databases that flash an alert if the prescribed dose seems high or if the patients' records show use of another drug that can dangerously interact.

-Health workers must take steps to fully inform patients about medication use, including checking every drug they use before prescribing a new one.

-The nation should invest about $100 million annually on research into drug errors and how to prevent them. Among the most-needed studies is the impact of free drug samples, which often lack proper labeling on medication safety.

-The Food and Drug Administration should improve the quality of drug information leaflets that accompany prescription drugs, but often have incomplete information or are written in jargon the average consumer can't understand.

-The government should establish national telephone hotlines to help patients unable to understand printed drug information because of illiteracy, language barriers or other problems.

The Institute of Medicine is a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, an independent organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters.

Courtesy of AP

Bonnie - this is not new information. We knew this years ago. It just has gotten worse. The best thing you can do is to be the most informed patient possible. Make sure your roster of health professionals are updated on everything you are doing. Read the leaflets of any medication whether prescribed or over-the-counter. Obviously, taking preventative steps to assure that you minimizing your visits to the hospital and are taking as little medication as possible helps!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Black cohosh liver warnings sweep through Europe

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is introducing warnings labels for black cohosh products on potential liver damage. Black cohosh (Cimicifugae racemosae rhizona) is a member of the buttercup family, and is a perennial plant native to North America. It has a long history of use by women to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.

The MHRA said it wants warning labels to appear on black cohosh containing products. Its opinion was informed by the Commission on Human Medicines and the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee, both of which have concluded that “the data underlines an association between black cohosh and risk of liver disease”.

Details of the data reviewed by the two committees was not available. But the EMEA’s advice to doctors and patients, also published yesterday, was informed by a third evaluation, by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC), which looked at 42 case reports of hepatoxicity.

The proposed wording to appear on UK product packaging is: “Warning: In rare cases, black cohosh may cause liver problems. Consult your doctor if you already have liver disease or become unwell while using this product.”

Professor Edzard Ernst, director of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth, said that only four of the case studies drawn upon by the investigation are such that any meaningful inferences can be drawn from them. “I understand that regulators have to err on the safe side, but I wonder whether this is not some overreaction as black cohosh has been used for a long time,” he said. Moreover, Professor Ernst said he was not aware of any specific research establishing a mechanism of action for black cohosh’s effect on the liver.

Bonnie - this is sabotage to scare people away from herbals. The National Institutes of Health research showed tremendous safety - more than for every other heb except milk thistle. I have had hundreds of clients taking the Phyto Pharmica brand, and have never seen a hint of elevated liver enzymes or toxicity.

Breastfeeding 'kills baby's pain'

Breastfeeding may be the ultimate natural painkiller for newborn babies. A review of research found that breastfeeding newborns helps relieve the pain from a needle prick used to screen their blood for disease.Breastfed babies appeared to experience less pain than those who were swaddled, given a pacifier, or a placebo.

The Cochrane Library review, by Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, was based on data from over 1,000 babies. The researchers say that the key to the effect of breastfeeding may be that an infant simply draws comfort from the close proximity of its mother. Alternatively, breastfeeding may help to divert attention away from the pain of a needle prick.
They also suggest that the sweetness of breast milk may be a factor. Another theory is that breast milk contains a high concentration of a chemical which could ultimately trigger the production of natural painkillers called endorphins.

But researcher Dr Prakeshkumar Shah said: "Based on this review we concluded that for a neonate undergoing painful procedure breastfeeding is superior to no treatment, placebo, or swaddling alone for relieving pain. As it is the most inexpensive, safe and advantageous from other perspectives, it should be offered to all neonates to relieve procedural pain when possible."

Courtesy of BBC News

Hospitals re-examine common delivery room practices

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, hospitals are conceiving new programs to make childbirth safer, amid mounting evidence that overuse of labor-inducing drugs for preterm deliveries and other common practices are endangering both mothers and infants.

Hospital groups are now adopting policies to discourage or prohibit births induced before the minimum 39 weeks recommended by experts, unless medically necessary. They are curtailing the use of drugs such as the hormone oxytocin to start or speed-up contractions which in too-high doses can lead to ruptures of the uterus, fetal distress and even death of an infant. They are also limiting the use of forceps and vacuums that can help coax babies from the birth canal but also lead to injuries such as fractures and nerve damage.

Statistics show that elective inductions may account for a third or more of all induced births in some hosptials, even though delivering babies even a few days early is asociated with higher rates of emergency Caesarean deliveries, admissions to the neonatal intensive-care unit with respiratory distress and other problems, and longer-term health issues for children.

Bonnie - as I have said many times, childbirth should not be offered as an elective procedure. If medically necessary, of course. A baby will come out when it is ready. It goes against the entiring birthing process to force a baby out before it is time (once again, unless medically necessary) and can cause adverse effects, as referenced in the above article. It is refreshing to hear that OB-GYN's are starting to realize this and are going back to the way nature planned it!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Folate, B6 could boost heart health for type-1 diabetics

“Effective intervention with an apparently safe, inexpensive adjunct such as folate or vitamin B6 at an early stage in childhood, in addition to optimisation of metabolic control, could have a major impact on long-term diabetic vascular complications,” wrote lead author Karen MacKenzie in the journal Pediatrics (Vol. 118, pp. 242-253).

This is the first time, say the researchers, that such a such benefits associated with these B vitamins have been reported.

The randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study recruited 122 children (average age 14) with type-1 diabetes and normal blood folate levels and assigned them to one of four experimental groups: Five milligrams of folate (Sigma Pharmaceuticals) and matched placebo; 100 milligrams vitamin B6 (Rhone-Poulenc-Rorer) and matched placebo; five mg folate plus 100 mg vitamin B6; two placebo tablets.

“We have shown for the first time that, among children with type-1 diabetes and normal folate status, both high-dose folate and high-dose vitamin B6 normalise endothelial function within two hours, an effect that is maintained over eight weeks with combined [supplementation] with high-dose folate and/or vitamin B6,” wrote the authors.

The mechanism behind the benefits of high-dose B vitamin supplementation may not be due to decreasing levels of the amino acid homocysteine, say the researchers. Homocysteine has been linked by epidemiological studies to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

MacKenzie and her co-workers propose that the B vitamins offer benefits independent of homocysteine levels, which may be due to antioxidant effects, and possibly a direct interaction with nitric oxide synthase which boosts nitric oxide production.

Since this study is the first to report such benefits, more randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are required to confirm or refute these effects.

Chicago study: more fast food, fewer grocers for blacks

For African-Americans who live in "food deserts" on Chicago's South and West Sides, where fast-food restaurants are plentiful and grocery stores are scarce, a lack of choices is more than an inconvenience. A provocative new study from the University of Michigan concludes that residents are more likely to die prematurely from diabetes, cancer and other ailments.

More than half a million Chicagoans live in food deserts, the study finds, and about 400,000 live in areas with an imbalance of food choices, meaning that residents often find it more difficult to eat an apple instead of a candy bar, a salad instead of French fries.

On average, blacks travel the farthest distance to any type of grocery store--.59 miles compared with the city average of .45 miles--and their low-access neighborhoods cluster on the South and West Sides.

In a typical African-American block, the nearest grocery store is about twice as far as the nearest fast-food restaurant, which makes following dietary recommendations more difficult for the 521,000 who live in the 287 worst grocery-store-access tracts, the report said.

People who live in food deserts are more likely to die prematurely and at greater rates from diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity, according to the study, which also tabulated years of potential life lost.

And in general, as grocery store access decreases, obesity increases, the study found.

Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Mason wondered, however, if other factors besides physical distance to grocery stores explain dire health outcomes for blacks, including access to quality health care and cultural differences.

"Whether you have a PhD from Harvard or you were a high-school dropout, in most African-American families on Sunday everybody is eating the same thing," said Mason, who is black. "We have a pattern of eating that contributes to diseases."

Adam Drewnowski, director of the Nutritional Science Program at the University of Washington, who has studied why obesity affects mostly minorities and the poor, said the health disparities cannot be separated from economic inequity. Though he had not read the report, he said he suspects it suffers from what he dubs the "Chernobyl model of nutrition"--a model that would suggest mere proximity to McDonald's means people will be obese and diabetic, while living nearer to Whole Foods would make people healthy.

"Physical access, I suspect, is not as important as economic distance," Drewnowski said. "The issue of economic distance is trickier to handle. Higher minimum wage? Health insurance? What do you do?"

Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Bonnie - I taught in Cabrini Green in the early 70's and the dietary habits were deplorable. Obviously, little has changed. One thing that can assist at least with the younger generation is to provide nutritive, balanced meals in the school environement. Many students at least one and sometimes two of their meals at school. Unfortunately, the quality and nutritive value of the school meals are abominable. This needs to change quickly.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Deepens

Several new studies suggest that diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, adding to a store of evidence that links the disorders. The studies involve only Type 2 diabetes, the most common kind, which is usually related to obesity. The findings also add dementia to the cloud of threats that already hang over people with diabetes, including heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and amputations.

The new findings were presented yesterday by the Alzheimer’s Association at a six-day conference in Madrid attended by 5,000 researchers from around the world. The reason is not known, but researchers initially suspected that cardiovascular problems caused by diabetes might contribute to dementia by blocking blood flow to the brain or causing strokes. More recently, though, scientists have begun to think that the diseases are connected in other ways as well. In both, destructive deposits of amyloid, a type of protein, build up: in the brain in Alzheimer’s, in the pancreas in Type 2 diabetes. People with Type 2 often have a condition called insulin resistance, in which their cells cannot properly use insulin, the hormone needed to help glucose leave the blood and enter cells that need it. To compensate, the pancreas makes extra insulin, which can reach high levels in the blood. Too much insulin may lead to inflammation, which can contribute to damage in the brain. In addition, abnormalities in glucose metabolism and insulin levels in the brain itself may be harmful. Some research has found that too much insulin in the brain can contribute to amyloid buildup. Researchers have even suggested that Alzheimer’s disease may actually be “Type 3 diabetes,” a form of the disease affecting the nervous system.

Diabetes rates are expected to increase because rates of obesity are rising, and epidemiologists predict that one in three American children born in 2000 will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes. Worldwide, diabetes is also on the rise, increasing to 230 million cases from 30 million in the past 20 years. One of the new studies found that even people who had borderline diabetes were 70 percent more likely than those with normal blood sugar to develop Alzheimer’s.

Courtesy of NY Times

Bonnie - yet another example of how crucial it is for us to balance every snack and meal. The phrase "never eat a carb alone" has never meant more!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Report: 1 in 8 babies born premature

Specialists called Thursday for more early ultrasound exams during pregnancy and tighter guidelines for infertility treatment as key first steps in battling a growing problem: One in eight babies now is born prematurely (at least three weeks ealry).

That's more than 500,000 babies a year, a steadily rising number as the rate of premature birth has grown by more than 30 percent in two decades.

Helping these fragile infants survive and thrive costs the nation at least $26 billion a year, and there's little likelihood of improvement soon, says a sobering report from the Institute of Medicine.

That's because doctors don't know the cause of most preterm births or how to prevent them, and have few good ways even to predict which women will go into preterm labor, concludes the report, which calls for urgent research to try to turn the tide.

Who's at high risk?

_A previous preterm baby doubles the risk of a second.

_Carrying twins increases prematurity risk by 40 percent, odds that worsen with triplets or more.

_Some 17.8 percent of black women's babies are born prematurely, compared with 11.5 percent for white women and 11.9 percent for Hispanics. That troubling difference can't be fully explained by income, education or access to prenatal care.

_Women pregnant through certain infertility treatments have increased risk, mostly because they're more likely to carry twins or more. But recent research suggests even single babies conceived by in-vitro fertilization are more likely to be preterm.

_Poor women are more at risk, as are those who are under age 16 or over 35.

_Certain infections can trigger preterm labor, and other risk factors include poor diet, maternal stress, lack of prenatal care and smoking.

The Institute of Medicine, independent advisers to the government, urged major new federal research into prematurity's causes and how to prevent it. Until then, it recommended that:

_More pregnant women receive a first-trimester ultrasound exam, the only way to be certain of the fetus' exact age. That's particularly important if the woman later has labor induced or a Caesarean section before her due date, either elective or because of a possible health problem.

_Specialists should strengthen guidelines that reduce the number of multiple births as a result of infertility treatment. During in-vitro fertilization, doctors often implant several embryos at once into a woman's womb. That number has been dropping thanks to guidelines from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, issued in 1999 and tightened in 2004 — and triplet-and-higher multiple births have dropped, too.

Courtesy AP

Bonnie - the comment of "that's because doctor's don't know the cause for most preterm births" is shocking. I interned at the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation about 18 years ago. We knew exactly what the causes were and sent literature to doctor's all over the country. Lifestyle issues were shown to be about 95% of the preterm birth problem (i.e. poor diet, smoking, meds, alcohol, excess stress, overexercise, vitamin/mineral deficiences, etc.) We have not made any progress in addressing these issues. In fact, the number of babies born to soon in the US is worse than it was in the 1980's. Worse than in some third world countries! The immense amount of IVF being done throws hormones into dissaray and does not help things.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More magnesium, less copper for better health

According to a recent study in the journal Epidemiology, of more than 4,000 men aged 30-60, those with the highest blood level of magnesium were associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality, death from cancer, and cardiovascular disease by 40, 50, and 40 perecent, respectively.

Conversely, high levels of copper associated with older age, high cholesterol, and smoking, was linked to increased risk of these diseases.

Steve - another glowing review from our long-standing favorite nutrient, magnesium!!

Safety of vitamins validated?

According to the most recent data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, adverse reactions to all vitamins represented only four percent of the category that includes prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs. An adverse reaction is an unintended result, such as an allergic reaction, of taking a product according to directions.

Garlic may lower colon cancer risk

According to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition, aged garlic extract may prevent new polyps and reduce the number and size of exisitng polyps. It was a very small study (37 participants), but adds to other evidence supporting garlic's benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, acting as a antibacterial/fungal/viral, and lowering gastric and colon cancers.

Steve - we are always hesitant to recommend garlic in supplement form because it becomes much more allergenic than when in its original state. We are full supporters of using garlic copiously as a food staple, as long as it is well tolerated.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Authors of JAMA Study on Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy Did Not Disclose Relationships With Drug Companies

Most of the 13 physicians who co-authored a study regarding depression relapse risk for women who stop taking their medication during pregnancy -- published in the Feb. 1 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association -- did not disclose more than 60 financial relationships to pharmaceutical companies, the Wall Street Journal reports (Armstrong, Wall Street Journal, 7/11).

The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, questions the commonly held belief that hormones produced during pregnancy protect women from depression. Lee Cohen, director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Women's Mental Health, and colleagues between 1999 and 2003 monitored 201 pregnant women with a history of depression. The women were taking medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor and Paxil. Researchers found that 68% of the women who stopped taking antidepressants relapsed into depression during pregnancy. In addition, 26% of the women who continued taking their medication during pregnancy also became depressed (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 2/2).

According to the Journal, the study did not disclose that Cohen is a consultant to three pharmaceutical companies and a paid speaker for seven drugmakers or that some of his research is funded by four such companies. The second listed author of the study -- Lori Altshuler, director of the Mood Disorders Research Program at the University of California-Los Angeles -- is a consultant or speaker for at least five drug companies, affiliations that were not disclosed. Adele Viguera, associate director of MGH's perinatal psychiatry program and co-author of the study, did not disclose that she is a member of GlaxoSmithKline's speakers bureau. The study did disclose the financial ties to drug companies of two of the authors, Zachary Stowe and Jeffrey Newport of Emory University.

Previous Studies

The study is the first major research paper to establish a relapse risk for pregnant women who stop taking antidepressants, the Journal reports. Previous studies have questioned the safety of antidepressant use during pregnancy. One study found an increased risk of an infant experiencing a potentially fatal lung disorder if the woman takes a group of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy, and two other studies found that use of GSK's Paxil during pregnancy could cause cardiac fetal heart defects. The results of those studies are being called into question by industry-paid experts in the field, according to the Journal. JAMA, Authors'


JAMA said that its policy requires study authors to disclose all ties to the medical industry, the Journal reports. JAMA editor-in-chief Catherine DeAngelis said the journal was not aware of the relationships some of the study's authors had with drug companies, and "[a]s soon as JAMA found out that they didn't disclose, we contacted ... Cohen and asked for his explanation." She added, "We have one and it will be published very soon in an upcoming issue of JAMA." According to the Journal, the researchers "maintain that their financial links have no bearing on their research work or what they say about antidepressant use during pregnancy in interviews or lectures." Cohen said that "it didn't seem relevant" for him and other co-authors to disclose their financial ties in part because the study was funded by a federal health agency. He declined to describe his consulting role to drug companies or how much he is paid for the role, but he did say that drug companies "tend to pick people who are experts in this area" and "we are not talking about megabucks." Viguera said that because of the way the study was designed, he does not "see how any kind of relationship [the researchers] have with a pharmaceutical company plays a role in that." He added, "I don't believe there is a conflict of interest." Other Reaction

According to the Journal, "industry-paid opinion leaders have become dominant authorities" in the field of antidepressant use during pregnancy, and they often assist in developing clinical guidelines, are members of journal editorial boards, provide counsel to government agencies and teach courses to other physicians. "Whether or not to keep taking an antidepressant during pregnancy is a critical question for pregnant women suffering from depression," Adam Urato, a Bradenton, Fla.-based obstetrician and perinatologist who has questioned Cohen and his colleagues about their financial ties, said, adding, "What these pregnant women and the providers who care for them need is expert advice that is free from pharmaceutical industry influence or the suggestion of bias that results when these experts are being paid by many antidepressant manufacturers." A Pfizer spokesperson said, "It is important to remember that this is a partnership with the mutual goal of advancing science and enhancing patient care." Nada Stotland, a professor of obstetrics and psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago, said pharmaceutical companies have the resources needed to fill a research void on the effects of antidepressants during pregnancy, but they often "only do what they are required to do" by FDA. She added that there are few studies that examine the effects of antidepressant alternatives, such as psychotherapy, on treating depression among pregnant women. Alan Gelenberg, head of the psychiatry department of the University of Arizona and editor of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, said less than 5% of his income comes from consulting work with pharmaceutical companies, adding, "The problem is if you want an expert on antidepressants in pregnancy, most of us have taken some industry money." Gelenberg said the answer to industry-funded experts is increased funding from government and independent sources (Wall Street Journal, 7/11).

Courtesy of

Bonnie - it is unconscionable that they did not reveal their association with Big Pharma, especially in light of all the revelations concerning this same issue over the last few years. If the authors claim that the association had no bearing on the study's outcome, then why did they not state their associations?

This has to stop and must be dealt with much faster than it is now.

Study: Eating fish helps protect eyesight

Two new studies give one more reason to eat a diet rich in fish: prevention of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in old age.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon are already known to help the heart and brain stay healthy. The new studies, appearing Monday in the Archives of Ophthalmology, add to evidence that fish eaters also protect the eyes.

A study of 681 elderly American men showed that those who ate fish twice a week had a 36 percent lower risk of macular degeneration. In the other study, which followed 2,335 Australian men and women over five years, people who ate fish just once a week reduced their risk by 40 percent.

Stronger evidence may come in five or six years with results from a large, randomized study of how fish oil and another nutrient, lutein, affect macular degeneration, said Dr. Emily Chew of the National Eye Institute, who is heading that study.

Volunteers will be assigned randomly to get either fish oil, lutein, or both — or placebos.

Researchers don't yet know why eating fish seems to protect the eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids may neutralize free radicals in the eye, preventing the formation of new blood vessels, reducing inflammation or all three, Chew said.

Courtesy AP

Monday, July 10, 2006

More evidence that cranberries could prevent tooth decay

The flavonoids quercetin and myricetin found in cranberries can stop the formation of dental plaques and tooth decay, as scientists report yet more benefits for this super fruit.

The new research, presented last week at the 84th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, goes some way to identifying the compounds in cranberries that could be responsible and the mechanisms behind these benefits.

Scientists from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York reported that flavonoids in cranberries might be able to reduce the formation of plaque, inhibit acidic conditions, and stop the bacteria from sticking to teeth.

Lead researcher Hyun Koo and his colleagues investigated the effects of the flavonoids quercetin and myricetin, and their corresponding glycosides on the inhibition of glucosyltransferase enzymes (GTF) associated with plaque formation. Tests were performed in solution and on saliva-coated hydroxyapatite (calcium compounds sometimes used in dental implants).

They found that solutions containing 250 micrograms per millilitre of the flavonoids quercetin and myricetin inhibited the activity of glucosyltransferase enzymes by about 55 per cent in solution and by as much as 40 per cent on the hydroxyapatite. Expression of the gene responsible for producing the glucosyltransferase enzymes was said to be repressed.

Tea linked to lower risk of bile stones and cancer

Drinking at least one cup of tea a day could cut the risk of cancer in the gallbladder and bile ducts by about 40 per cent, suggests a population-based study from China.

The new study, published in the June issue of the International Journal of Cancer (Vol. 118, pp. 3089-3094), adds to the body of science by considering the effects of tea drinking on cancer in the gallbladder and bile ducts, cancers that are described as “rare but highly fatal malignancies.”

The researchers, led by Ann Hsing from the US National Cancer Institute, assessed the demographic, medical and dietary histories of 627 people with bile tract cancers (cases), 1037 people with bile stones, and 959 randomly selected healthy controls. The sample population was based in Shanghai, China, where the incidence of these types of cancers is reported to have increased in recent years. Tea drinkers were defined as anyone who drank at least one cup of tea per day for at least half a year. Specifically, women tea drinkers had associated reduced risks of gallbladder cancer, bile duct cancer, and bile stones of 44, 35, and 27 per cent, respectively.

For men, no significant association was observed for tea drinkers and the relative risk of these conditions. These results may have been affected, wrote Hsing and her colleagues, by the high number of smokers amongst the men, which may affect the incidence of these types of cancers.

CRN authors risk assessment for specific nutrients

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has authored risk assessments for coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), carotenoids lutein and lycopene, and creatine monohydrate. The risk assessments, published by the peer-reviewed journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, were co-authored by CRN scientists John Hathcock, Ph.D., and Andrew Shao, Ph.D., to ensure regulators worldwide have a science-based guideline available to determine safe upper levels for these popular non-essential nutrients in dietary supplements.

For each nutrient, Drs. Hathcock and Shao reviewed only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) conducted in humans, using uncontrolled trials and animal data as supportive information only. For CoQ10 the authors arrived at a ULS of 1,200 mg per day. For lutein the authors concluded that a ULS of 20 mg per day should be proposed for this carotenoid. For lycopene, the authors arrived at a ULS of 75 mg per day. Creatine was assigned a ULS of 5 grams per day.

Upper levels do not suggest that supplements taken above the level identified are unsafe, nor do they constitute a recommended intake. They simply identify a level at which there is "no known toxicity for these nutrients," said Dr. Hathcock.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Demand for organic food outstrips supply

America's appetite for organic food is so strong that supply just can't keep up with demand. Organic products still have only a tiny slice, about 2.5 percent, of the nation's food market. But the slice is expanding at a feverish pace.

Growth in sales of organic food has been 15 percent to 21 percent each year, compared with 2 percent to 4 percent for total food sales.

Mainstream supermarkets, eyeing the success of organic retailers such as Whole Foods, have rushed to meet demand. The Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and SuperValu Inc., which owns Albertson's LLC, are among those selling their own organic brands. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said earlier this year it would double its organic offerings.

The number of organic farms — an estimated 10,000 — is also increasing, but not fast enough. As a result, organic manufacturers are looking for ingredients outside the United States in places like Europe, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa.

The dilemma of how to fill the gap between organic supply and demand is part of a long-running debate within America's booming organic industry. For many enthusiasts, organic is about more than the food on their plates; it's a way to improve the environment where they live and help keep small-scale farmers in business.

Switching to organic is a difficult proposition. Vegetable grower Scott Woodard is learning through trial and error on his Putnam Valley, N.Y., farm. One costly mistake: Conventional farmers can plant seeds when they want and use pesticides to kill hungry insect larvae. If Woodard had waited three weeks to plant, the bugs that ate his seeds would have hatched and left. Organic seeds can be double the price of conventional.

"There's not a lot of information out there," Woodard said. "We try to do the best we can. Sometimes it's too late, but then we learn for next time."

The industry's Organic Trade Association is trying to become more of a resource for individual farmers.

Caren Wilcox, the group's executive director, described how an Illinois farmer showed up in May at an industry show in Chicago.

"He said, `I want to get certified. Help me,'" Wilcox said. "It was a smart thing to do, but the fact that he had to get into his car and go down to McCormick Center says something about the availability of information."

Steve - music to our ears!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

New WHO Charts will deem many babies bigger

A quarter of all British babies will be redefined as heavier than the norm, if new child growth charts produced by the World Health Organization are approved.

Babies' weights are currently plotted against 1980s data.

The new WHO charts aim to show how breastfed babies "should grow", rather than how most babies do grow.

They are based on a select group of 8,000 babies from six cities around the world, who were entirely breastfed for six months, with continued breastfeeding into their second year, and where none of the families smoked.

The result of using this "ideal" sample of babies is a markedly changed growth curve for weight than the ones currently used in Britain - which include both formula and breastfed babies.

Breastfed babies put on more weight in the first few weeks but then slow down.

The 50th centile in the charts is the line showing a rate of growth where half will be above and half below.

The new 50th centile from the WHO shows growth after one year which is about half a kilo, or one pound lighter.

It would mean that a quarter of all babies would, in one statistical sweep, jump from below the 50th centile to above it.

The WHO argues that the new growth charts will help to promote breastfeeding as the optimal source of nutrition during infancy.

Bonnie - this is a very positive step in the right direction for producing healthier adults. I hope the US will adopt these new standards as well.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Adopting multiple healthy habits may significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease in men

A prospective study of 42,847 middle-aged and older U.S. men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study has found that a healthy lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), even among men taking antihypertensive or lipid-lowering medications. The research, which is the first to look at the role of a healthy lifestyle and CHD in men in this age group, is published in the July 3, 2006 online edition of Circulation.

The research team, led by Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Stephanie Chiuve, research fellow in nutrition at HSPH, did a 16-year follow-up of men aged 40-75 in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a men's health study that began in 1986. The researchers defined healthy lifestyle factors as not smoking, daily exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, a healthy body weight and a healthy diet (based upon the Alternate Healthy Eating Index developed by HSPH, which targets food and nutrients associated with lower risk of chronic disease). The study, which documented 2,183 coronary events, found that men with all five healthy lifestyle factors had a lower risk of CHD compared to men with none of those factors. It also found that 62 percent of coronary events may have been prevented if all men in the study population adhered to all 5 healthy lifestyle factors; for those men taking medications, 57 percent could have been prevented. Men who adopted two or more low-risk factors during the study period (1986-2002) had a 27 percent lower risk of CHD. Overall, for each healthy lifestyle factor, the authors found an inverse association with CHD risk.

Chiuve says the study shows that middle-aged and older men who adopt a healthy lifestyle, including men taking antihypertensive or lipid-lowering medications, have a lower risk of CHD. "It's never too late to make changes to become healthier," she said.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association. Chiuve was supported in part by an institutional training grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Courtesy of Harvard School of Public Health

Monday, July 03, 2006

Juice 'can slow prostate cancer'

Drinking a daily eight ounce glass of pomegranate juice can significantly slow the progress of prostate cancer, a study suggests.

Researchers say the effect may be so large that it may help older men outlive the disease.

Pomegranates contain a cocktail of chemicals which minimise cell damage, and potentially kill off cancer cells.

The study, by the University of California in Los Angeles, appears in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Previous research had indicated that pomegranate juice could have a beneficial effect on prostate cancer in tests on mice.

But the latest study has shown that humans can potentially benefit too.

The UCLA team focused on 50 men who had undergone surgery or radiation treatment for prostate cancer - but had shown signs that the disease was rapidly returning.

The presence of prostate cancer cells is monitored by measuring levels of a chemical they produce called prostate-specific antigen (PSA).

The researchers measured how long it took for PSA levels to double in individual patients - a short doubling time indicates that the cancer is progressing quickly.

The average doubling time is about 15 months, but in patients who drank pomegranate juice this increased to an average of 54 months.

Some men on the study continue to show suppressed PSA levels after more than three years, even though they are receiving no treatment apart from drinking pomegranate juice.

Combination effect

Lead researcher Dr Allan Pantuck said: "I was surprised when I saw such an improvement in PSA numbers.

"In older men 65 to 70 who have been treated for prostate cancer, we can give them pomegranate juice and it may be possible for them to outlive their risk of dying from their cancer.

"We are hoping we may be able to prevent or delay the need for other therapies usually used in this population such as hormone treatment or chemotherapy, both of which bring with them harmful side effects."

Pomegranate juice is known to have anti-inflammatory effects and high levels of anti-oxidants, which are believed to protect the body from damage by particles called free radicals.

It also contains isoflavones which are believed to play a role in cancer cell death.

Dr Pantuck said: "There are many substances in pomegranate juice that may be prompting this response.

"We don't know if it's one magic bullet or the combination of everything we know is in this juice.

"My guess is that it's probably a combination of elements, rather than a single component."

Chris Hiley, of the Prostate Cancer Charity, said more work was needed to firm up the findings.

She said: "It may well turn out that pomegranate juice has a wider application than just delaying disease progression in men with prostate cancer who have already been treated.

"It might also help as a reassuring low-key intervention for men whose cancer is being monitored rather than treated."

Dr Laura-Jane Armstrong, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: "If the results of this study can be confirmed, it could have important implications for prostate cancer patients, especially by delaying the use of other more aggressive treatments that can have debilitating side effects."

Funding for the study was received from a company which makes pomegranate juice.

Courtesy BBC News