Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Don’t Point That Menu at My Child, Please

It seems like such a wonderful concept when you encounter it for the first time as a parent. You go to a restaurant as a family, are seated and given menus, and the waitress cheerfully turns to your children and exclaims, “And these are for you!” Their own special menus — kids’ menus! Sometimes these are little laminated things, peewee facsimiles of what Mom and Dad are holding. Sometimes these are placemats that not only tell you what foods are available but also contain mazes and word-search puzzles.

No matter what, the menu offers chicken fingers with French fries. And typically, as you go down the list, macaroni and cheese, a hot dog, a hamburger, grilled cheese and some kind of pizza.

Early in my tenure as a parent, I thought children’s menus were the greatest thing, a quantum leap forward in the human condition. We didn’t have them when I was a child, at least not at restaurants where adults would be happy to dine. (There were always “family” restaurants in the Friendly’s-HoJo’s idiom that offered junior sundaes and burgers.) I was thrilled that someone had come up with this innovation, that civilization had advanced to the point where children at good restaurants were now immediately placated with children’s food, so we adults could plunge worry-free into our adult business of drinking alcohol and eating things with tentacles.

For restaurateurs there are advantages, too. Marc Murphy, the chef and an owner of Landmarc in TriBeCa (and its new sister operation in the Time Warner Center), says doing a children’s menu has helped the bottom line at his bistro, which is known for its neighborhood clientele and value-priced wines.

“It totally drives that early seating for us,” he said. “The kids eat what they eat, and with our wine program, the parents can have fun.” Landmarc serves up the requisite greatest hits — the fingers, the burger, the grilled cheese — and throws in some curveballs, like “green eggs and ham,” flavored and colored with pesto sauce.

As for me, my outlook on children’s menus started to change at some point — probably around the 102nd or 103rd time my children ordered chicken fingers with French fries. Even if the chicken fingers were good ones, made from real breast meat rather than pulverized and remolded chik-a-bits, I was disturbed by their ubiquity and their hold on my kids, who are 11 and 8 years old.

I noticed that accommodationist chefs were making chicken fingers available in Italian, Chinese and Japanese restaurants, where chicken fingers aren’t even culinarily justifiable. I perceived that my children’s chicken-finger meals outside the home were informing their eating habits inside the home, where they were getting more finicky. I heard from other parents that they were experiencing the same thing.

In short, I came to the realization that America is in the grips of a nefarious chicken-finger pandemic, in which a blandly tasty foodstuff has somehow become the de facto official nibble of our young.

For all the fretfulness I’m obligated to express over the health implications of this pandemic — chicken fingers are often fried, and are often accompanied by fries — I’m much more rankled by its palate-deadening potential. Far from being an advance, I’ve concluded, the standard children’s menu is regressive, encouraging children (and their misguided parents) to believe that there is a rigidly delineated “kids’ cuisine” that exists entirely apart from grown-up cuisine.

I grew up eating what my parents ate, at home and at restaurants. Sometimes, the experience could be revelatory, as when I tried fish chowder for the first time on a trip to Boston, or when my mother attempted Julia Child’s Soupe au Pistou.

Other times, dinner was merely dinner, not transcendent but comfortingly routine. And then there were those bummer meals that I just didn’t care for, like stuffed cabbage, but that I endured because my parents offered no other choice. It was all experiential grist for the mill, and it made me — like millions of other Americans of my generation who were raised the same way — a fairly adventurous eater with a built-in sense of dietary balance.

It pains me that many children now grow up eating little besides golden-brown logs of kid food, especially in a time when the quality, variety and availability of good ingredients is better than ever.

We accept that it’s bad not to read to young children lest it affect their “wiring,” and that it’s bad to let them slack off on exercise lest their muscles not develop, but we’re kind of lazy on the palate front. And really, discovering new foods and flavors is one of the most delightful experiences that childhood can offer. Personally, I far preferred it to reading and exercising.

There’s no single seismic jolt that created the adult-child food divide, but we can’t underestimate the influence of the McDonald’s Corporation’s introductions, in 1979 and 1983, respectively, of the Happy Meal and Chicken McNuggets. The instant popularity of these products signaled that there was a ton of money to be made in marketing foods explicitly to kids (even at fast-food restaurants, where kids were already psyched to be).

Since then, the food industry has developed a whole new segment predicated on what the nutritionist Marion Nestle, in her book “What to Eat,” calls the “ ‘kids are only supposed to eat kids’ food’ strategy.”

Ms. Nestle notes that ConAgra manufactures a product line called Kid Cuisine: prepackaged meals in compartmented, TV-dinner-style trays. If you visit the company’s Web site, you’ll find that all 14 Kid Cuisine meals are beige-yellow-ocher in color — a grim hallmark of the genre — and 5 of them are built around an entree in the breaded-chicken-nubbin family.

Realistically, there’s nothing to be gained by pining for that halcyon world where kids weren’t constantly being hustled; the genie is out of the bottle. But if we’re stuck with the children’s menu, there’s no reason it can’t be improved upon and made less of a sop to cosseted little fried-food addicts. And it’s encouraging that some important players in the hospitality industry, like the Walt Disney Company and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, are taking action on this front.

Both companies were motivated primarily by the new national concern over poor nutrition and childhood obesity, but each has produced a response that also addresses the dead-palate issue. Effective last fall, Disney stopped serving French fries automatically with kids’ entrees at its theme parks, “providing equal choice of fries, baby carrots, or grapes, not really pushing one or the other,” said Mary Niven, the vice president of food and beverage operations at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

Ms. Niven is leading her company’s “Well-Balanced Foods Initiative,” which also entails experimenting with new meals outside of the chicken-finger paradigm, such as arroz con pollo, the traditional Latin American dish of chicken and rice, and a baked chicken leg in an Asian-style citrus marinade, served with rice noodles.

Likewise, Ritz-Carlton launched a “Healthy Kids” program for children four years ago. The program not only de-emphasizes fried foods but also gives its chefs a freer hand to create their own kids’ menus. Vivian Deuschl, the vice president for public relations at Ritz-Carlton, who oversees the program, said it was set up in response to changing customer tastes.

A 20-year veteran of the company, Ms. Deuschl said that kids’ menus “started out on a limited basis in the ’80s and picked up in the ’90s as our demographics started to shift, especially at our resorts. We were getting more families, usually ones where both parents worked, so they didn’t want to leave their kids behind on vacation.”

At first, these guests were only too happy to indulge their children with a nonstop fingers-and-fries diet while on vacation. But in the last few years, Ms. Deuschl said: “We sensed a lot of tension. Parents were ordering things off the adult menu for their kids: crab cakes, pastas, stir-fries of vegetables.”

Perhaps no chef has taken the mission more to heart than Tony Miller of Latitude 41, the restaurant of the Renaissance Columbus in Ohio. (Renaissance, like Ritz-Carlton, falls under the Marriott International corporate umbrella.) “We do not have a chicken finger in this restaurant,” Mr. Miller said. The father of a 4-year-old girl, he constructed his “Fun Menu” to appeal to children without pandering to them.

“It features zero fried foods on it,” he said. “We do grilled organic chicken teriyaki, a seared fillet of whatever fish is in season, and a four-once fillet of natural beef with smashed potatoes. I have not received a single negative reaction from adults or kids. Not one. The kids say ‘Man, that’s the best steak I’ve ever eaten!’ ”

Mr. Miller is also shrewd in recognizing that parents are after not dumbed-down or deflavorized food for their kids, but rather smaller portions and prices. At the rates he’s charging — from $5 for the teriyaki to $8 for the small fillet, including beverage — he’s in the ballpark with lots of diners and chain places.

Marc Murphy, the Landmarc chef, said that it’s simply a matter of “not making a big deal of out of it” when it comes to your kids’ food preferences.

His own 3-year-old daughter usually skips the children’s menu at his restaurant, he said, and “eats the linguine alla vongole, with baby clams, when we run it on Fridays.” But it’s harder as your children get older and more exposed to the wider world; that’s when the pandemic claims them. In my family, it’s been a matter of getting back to that simple idea — the kids eat what the parents eat — and cutting off those little fingers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Homegrown fruits, veggies

Children who regularly eat homegrown fruits and vegetables eat more than twice as much of those healthy foods than kids who seldom get fresh produce on their plates, report researchers at St. Louis University. The team found that children who grow up eating homegrown produce prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods. Researchers see this as an avenue to increase intake of the vital foods.

Steve - homegrown translates to CSA's, farmers markets, or grow-it-yourself!

Calcium, vit D may cut pre-menopausal breast cancer risk

Researchers assessed 10,578 pre-menopausal and 20,909 post-menopausal women (average age 55.2, average BMI 25.9 kg per sq. m) using a questionnaire about their medical history and lifestyle, plus a 131-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to detail food, beverage and supplement consumption during the previous year.

Over an average of 10 years of follow-up, the researchers documented 276 cases of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women and 743 cases in postmenopausal women. Among the pre-menopausal women, calcium and vitamin D intake were associated with a 39 and 35 per cent lower risk of breast cancer respectively, comparing the highest with the lowest intakes. No such benefits were observed in post-menopausal women.

"A possible explanation for the evident difference by menopause status may be related to the joint relationship among calcium, vitamin D and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs)," wrote the researchers in Archives of Internal Medicine.

"In vitro studies have suggested that calcium and vitamin D exert anticarcinogenic effects on breast cancer cells expressing high levels of IGF-1 and IGF binding protein 3. Calcium, vitamin D and IGF binding protein 3 have been shown in vitro to interact with each other in promoting growth inhibition in breast cancer cells," they added.

Since blood levels of these compounds decline with age, they would be more prevalent in younger, pre-menopausal women, they said.

Steve - keep in mind that this is a was a food frequency questionnaire study, so it must be accepted with caution. However, we see yet again the importance of adequate vitamin D, especially as a complement to calcium.

Ireland recommends vitamin D supplements for infants

The Irish Food Safety Authority (FSAI) has recommended the implementation of a national policy of vitamin D supplementation in all infants aged 0-12 months.

The authority's report, Recommendations for a National Policy of Vitamin D Supplementation for Infants in Ireland, comes in response to observations that many of the country's infants, adults, adolescent girls and pregnant women had poor vitamin D status, placing them at risk of health problems later in life.

"It is evident that low intakes of vitamin D are prevalent among all age groups throughout Ireland and that the recommended daily intake of 5 micrograms of vitamin D per day is not being met," said Dr Mary Flynn, chief specialist in public health nutrition, FSAI.

"Babies are most susceptible to developing the bone deformities associated with rickets because of the rapid growth and development that occurs during the first year of life and the likelihood of having insufficient stores of vitamin D to meet their needs. It is therefore necessary to adopt a clear, simple and safe recommendation. We conclude that all infants aged 0-12 months living in Ireland would benefit from vitamin D supplementation," she said.

Ireland's northerly latitude means that vitamin D production from sunlight is severely compromised particularly during the winter months of October to March.

The report also highlights that the dietary sources of the vitamin - including fortified foods - were not able to raise vitamin D levels in the Irish population.

Steve - while long overdue, this is a very wise move and should be replicated in as many northern nations as possible, including the US.

Aspirin helps prevent pre-eclampsia

Aspirin therapy helps prevent pre-eclampsia, an age-old problem of pregnancy for which there is no cure, researchers said in a major new analysis reported May 16.

Pre-eclampsia has been one of pregnancy's greatest mysteries. The condition usually does not occur until the last trimester, and earlier this month scientists announced a saliva-based test that might spot it earlier. To this day, it remains a threat to both mother and baby when left untreated.

Dr. Burton Rochelson, chief of obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said the new research conducted by Australian physicians confirms what many doctors had already suspected: Prescribing a baby aspirin a day helps to prevent the potentially devastating condition.

"There is a theory that pre-eclampsia is due to an abnormal inflammatory process," Rochelson said in an interview. Aspirin and other blood-thinning medications can prevent the cascade of biological events that lead to inflammation.

For at least two decades, Rochelson added, many physicians have been prescribing baby aspirin to pregnant women who develop symptoms of the disease -- soaring blood pressure, swollen ankles and high levels of protein in their urine. The disorder complicates 2 percent to 8 percent of all pregnancies worldwide and is most prevalent in first pregnancies. The disease is a leading cause of death for pregnant women.

An estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of the 500,000 maternal deaths occurring globally are directly related to pre-eclampsia. The condition can advance to eclampsia, which is marked by seizures.

Bonnie - not everyone can tolerate aspirin (approxiamtely 25% of population). Many of my clinets have babies born with salicylate toxicity when they take baby aspirin for more than the first trimester. The drug information insert says as much. I would not recommend taking ti unless a genetic test shows that it is well tolerated.

Pre-eclampsia is prevented or reduced dramatically with magnesium (and enough calcium), according to research studies. Vitamin B-6 can help remove excess fluid. Magnesium, calcium, and B-6 together can also reduce blood pressure. It is also a known fact that fish oil reduces inflammation everywhere in the body.

So why would a pregnant woman risk toxic reactions to her and her baby when safer "natural" products work as well or better?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Get ready for alli!

You won't lose weight in your sleep or shed pounds while eating anything you want -- that's the sobering message from the maker of a weight loss pill poised to hit shelves next month. GlaxoSmithKline on Tuesday opened an educational exhibit in New York City to prepare the country for alli, the first over-the-counter diet pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration. While the cautionary marketing approach may not trigger stampedes to the counter, analysts say the drug's fate hinges on the pharmaceutical giant's ability to convince people that diet pills aren't a magic bullet.

GlaxoSmithKline is counting on alli to become a star money maker. The company is spending $150 million on marketing alli this year, making it one of the drug maker's biggest campaigns to date. "We've done everything to go out of our way to be honest," said Steve Burton, vice president of the weight control division at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. "We're taking a very different approach than the fad diets people are constantly exposed to." In clinical trials, the FDA says that people using alli lost an additional 2 to 3 pounds for every 5 pounds lost through diet and exercise. The FDA approved alli, called Xenical by prescription, to be sold over the counter in February.

When taken with meals, the drug blocks the absorption of about one-quarter of any fat consumed. That fat -- about 150 to 200 calories worth -- is passed out of the body, potentially resulting in loose stools. About half of patients in trials experienced gastrointestinal side effects, including leakages and oily discharges. GlaxoSmithKline is frank about those unpleasant effects, which it says can be controlled if the drug is used properly. The campaign stresses the importance of keeping meals under 15 grams of fat to avoid effects. Educational materials even recommend people start the program when they have a few days off work, or to bring an extra pair of pants to the office. Experts say a failure to adequately prepare consumers about the effects contributed to Xenical's limited success.

The alli event comes a day after the company's shares dropped almost 8 percent when a report this week found the company's widely prescribed diabetes pill raised the risk of heart attacks and possibly death. Some experts called it another Vioxx-like example of the U.S. government failing to protect people from an unsafe drug. Alli only affects the digestive system, Glaxo says, and is the only safe over-the-counter diet drug that's been shown to work. Labeling indicates alli is appropriate for anybody who is overweight, or has a body mass index of 25 or higher. A body mass index over 30 is considered obese. Two-thirds of the U.S. population is estimated to be overweight or obese.

Bonnie - I will be shocked if this drug is a success based upon the details in the above AP report. I shudder to think of the long-term outcome of a drug that blocks one-quarter of all fat consumed and causes these kinds of GI symptoms.

AHA's new guidelines to reduce newborn heart defects

Four key recommendations listed by the American Heart Association:
  • Talk to your doctor
  • Take a daily multivitamin with a dose of at least 400 micrograms folic acid
  • Avoid people with illnesses that could induce fever
  • Review all medication use with your doctor even if over-the-counter
Steve - what was most impressive is that they encouraged these guidelines to be applied even before a woman becomes pregnant.

UK heart patients to get omega-3 on prescription?

The UK's health service watchdog has advised that heart attack patients may be given omega-3 supplements on prescription.

The new guidelines, produced by the National Collaborating Centre for Primary Care (NCC-PC) for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), could be seen as a validation of omega-3 supplements for heart health.

However, while no individual brand of omega-3 was named in the guidelines, reports indicate that NICE are considering prescribing the Omacor brand of omega-3 acid ethyl-esters, currently available on prescription in the US and billed as the only FDA-approved omega-3.

The recognition of Omacor could undermine the efficacy of all other omega-3 supplements.

"Patients should be advised to consume at least 7 g of omega 3 fatty acids per week from two to four portions of oily fish. For patients who have had an MI within 3 months and who are not achieving 7 g of omega 3 fatty acids per week, consider providing at least 1 g daily of omega-3-acid ethyl esters treatment licensed for secondary prevention post MI for up to 4 years," state the guidelines.

NICE also stated that patients should avoid supplements containing beta-carotene, as well as antioxidant supplements containing vitamins C and E. They also should be advised against taking folic acid supplements.

Bonnie - on the heels of a recent blog about the Omacor brand of fish oil, now this. This is what the EU is doing now with dietary supplements. Forget about the decades of successful use with freely available brands of fish oil, let's only make available one brand by prescription and increase the price five-fold. In addition, it just so happens that Omacor contains the excipient partially hydrogenated oil (a trans fat). On top of it, let's dissuade these patients from taking supplemental folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Brilliant!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Benefits of omega-3 fed cows passed onto consumers

Cows fed a diet rich in omega-3 produce enriched meat that has significant benefits for consumers, suggests new research from Kansas State University.

The enrichment of meat products with omega-3 and its addition to animal feed to boost levels in animal-derived produce is seen by some as having potential in bridging the gap between recommended and actual intake in the modern population.

"Our study was the first to look at the effects of eating a high-ALA diet of beef from cattle fed flaxseed and the impact on long-chain omega-3 fatty acid composition of EPA and DHA in the membrane phospholipids of the heart and liver using a rat model," wrote lead author Denis Medeiros.

The new research, published in the journal Nutrition Research, suggests that raising cattle on flaxseed diet (10 per cent), rich in alpha-linolenic acid, leads to increases in the omega-3 content of the meat, which could then be passed on to the consumer.

Bonnie - this is a good idea. However, the best way to increase omega-3 content in cattle is to let them exist the way nature intended, and that is to graze!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wyeth's new birth control pill expected to be approved

The FDA is expected to announce approval on Tuesday for Wyeth's birth control pill Lybrel, the first pill allowing women to avoid their monthly menstrual period indefinitely. Many doctors say there's no medical reason women need monthly bleeding and believe it causes health problems in women, including anemia and epilepsy. Still, some women raise concerns about whether blocking periods is safe or natural. Analysts have estimated that Lybrel sales could reach $40 million this year and $235 million by 2010. Shares of Wyeth hit a 52-week high of $58.49 on Monday.

Bonnie - it is so interesting that physician's stated for years that it's necessary for women to have menstrual periods. Now, new drugs and heavy marketing by drug companies have changed their minds. It always concerns me when humans try to improve upon mother nature.

Krispy Kreme launches whole wheat donut

The whole wheat Krispy Kreme donut, which touts 3 times as much fiber as its white counterpart, still contains less than half the amount provided by a small pear. Both donuts have equal amounts of sugar and fat (almost 20% of your daily value in 1 donut). Both donuts contain more trans fat than saturated fat.

Each whole wheat doughnut contains:
180 calories
11 grams fat (55% calories from fat)
3 grams saturated fat
3.5 grams trans fat
19 grams carbohydrate
2 grams of fiber

Bonnie - just thought we would provide a little early morning humor!

Aspirin does not slow cognitive decline

A study published in this month's British Medical Journal monitored 6,377 healthy women aged 65 or older, who took 100 mg aspirin every other day for nine years, found that they didn’t fare any better than women who were taking a sugar pill, or placebo. There was virtually no difference between the two groups in terms of cognition and verbal memory - and each group had the same numbers who suffered substantial decline in their mental abilities.

Monday, May 21, 2007

FDA issues safety alert on diabetes drug

The widely prescribed diabetes drug Avandia is linked to a greater risk of heart attack and possibly death, a new scientific analysis revealed, and the U.S. government issued a safety alert Monday. The Food and Drug Administration urged diabetics taking the pill to talk to their doctors, but stopped short of forcing a sharper warning label on the drug sold by GlaxoSmithKline PLC of London. More than 6 million people worldwide have taken the drug since it came on the market eight years ago. Pooled results of dozens of studies revealed a 43 percent higher risk of heart attack, according to the review published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Experts said the overall risk was small and cautioned people not to stop taking the drug on their own but to talk to their doctors. The company downplayed the report of heart risks, saying the analysis by Dr. Steven Nissen and statistician Kathy Wolski at the Cleveland Clinic is not definitive scientific proof.

FDA officials acknowledged that Glaxo submitted information last August indicating some increased risk from the drug but that other studies were contradictory. However, several members of Congress expressed alarm and said they would hold hearings on the safety issues.

Worried patients should not quit Avandia on their own and should discuss concerns with their doctors, wrote Drs. Bruce Psaty and Curt Furberg in an editorial in the New England Journal. However, to the extent that the new analysis shows valid risks, the drug "represents a major failure of the drug-use and drug-approval processes in the United States," they said. When the drug was approved, "evidence was at best mixed" on its benefit, wrote the two doctors. Both have been frequent critics of the FDA's failure to spot dangers in the drug approval process and its conduct in the case involving Vioxx. Several experts said Avandia was another example of the FDA failing to detect a safety problem early enough. The report on the diabetes drug's risks follow Glaxo's $2.5 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over the release of data on the safety and effectiveness of its drugs.

Courtesy AP

Alzheimer's 'diet link' analyzed

A study is being launched to investigate possible links between diet and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers at the Alzheimer's Society will look at the effects of fruit juice, red wine and oily fish on the incidence of mental illness. They will analyze data from new and existing studies to see if a healthy "Mediterranean diet" could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said there seemed to be evidence that it could be "extremely beneficial". "Nothing is going to guarantee cures or prevention of dementia, but we do think there probably are things that people can do to reduce their chances of getting these bad illnesses," he said. "We don't want to encourage false hope, but we are hoping that this study will produce genuine advice for people." The study's first findings are expected in July.

Steve - there is copious amounts of data that already exists showing the relationship between lifestyle/diet and Alzheimer's prevention. What the Alzheimer's organizations and governments need to do is to aggressively promote a campaign emphasizing lifestlye/diet improvement. The Alzheimer's Association, based in Chicago, is already starting to do this. But believe it or not, they need more money to promote lifestyle/diet improvement than they do to fund research to find a drug cure. How sad.

Infertility linked to trans fats

According to a surprising study from Harvard, researchers determined that getting only 2% more calories from trans fats than from monunstaurated fats (such as olive oil) more than doubles the risk of infertility. And getting 2% more calories from trans fats than from carbohydrates increased the risk by 73%.

Researchers believe that trans fats adversely affect ovulatory function.

Bonnie - I must say that I am even surprised by the results of this study. While it is only one study, trans fats have now been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and infertility.

Trans fats are still widely present in our food supply. Read your labels, especially when it comes to baked goods.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just 10 Minutes of Daily Exercise Boosts Heart Health

A new study has good news for those who've been avoiding exercise because they don't think they have enough time: Even 10 minutes a day can improve your cardiovascular fitness.

"For people who've been really sedentary, you're getting a benefit almost immediately. Just get off the couch," advised the study's lead author, Dr. Timothy Church, director of the Laboratory of Preventive Medicine Research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University.

The findings are published in the May 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers recruited 464 postmenopausal women who were considered overweight or obese. All of the women had some degree of high blood pressure, and none was exercising at all at the start of the study.

The women were randomly assigned to one of four groups: the control group that would remain sedentary; a light exercise group that averaged 72 minutes a week of exercise; a moderate exercise group that averaged about 136 minutes a week; and a high exercise group that completed nearly 192 minutes of exercise each week.

The researchers measured the women's peak oxygen consumption at the start of the study, and then again after six months of exercise. They found that the women in the light exercise group increased their peak oxygen consumption levels by 4.2 percent. The moderate exercise group saw a 6 percent rise, while the heavy exercise group upped their cardiorespiratory fitness by 8.2 percent.

"This is great news for couch potatoes and for the aging," said Church. "There are people that can't obtain the recommendations for exercise, but now, we see if you can't get 150 minutes a week, you stand to benefit even if you get half that."

Coca-Cola settles in benzene lawsuit

Coca-Cola has reformulated two of its soft drinks in the US to halt a lawsuit alleging they may contain the cancer-causing chemical, benzene.

Coca-Cola,, while still denying the allegation, said it changed formulas in its Vault Zero and Fanta Pineapple drinks last September to minimise benzene formation, the settlement document says.

The move means Coca-Cola joins several other soft drinks makers who have reformulated products to avoid benzene litigation. PepsiCo, Coca-Cola's arch-rival, still has action against it pending.

Benzene is a known carcinogen and concerns over its presence in drinks went public last year. Coca-Cola has agreed that it will no longer sell Vault Zero or Fanta Pineapple with both sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid, which under certain conditions, can create the formation of benzene.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Further Comments on Prostate Cancer/Vitamin Link

As we suspected, there are a number of reasons why we’re questioning the conclusions of this study. To begin with, this is a cohort study, which is not as reliable as the ‘gold standard,’ a randomized controlled trial. So let's first have some good data in this area before jumping to conclusions. The very nature of statistics is that any researcher with many outcome measures, as was the case in this study, will stumble upon a figure that suggests some kind of an effect where there is none, provided that numerous ways of checking the data are used, as again was the case in this study. As with many cohort studies, there are a large number of variables involved. These missing observations are filled in by the authors’ evaluation of the numbers and then the resulting bias, of which there is a great deal in this study. This is why the best studies ask one research question at a time with one clear cut outcome being measured. This is a large study that was originally intended to improve our general understanding of the relationship between diet and health. It wasn't designed to speculate on the potential for risk.

Differences in screening practices may have also had a substantial influence on prostate cancer incidence, by permitting prostate cancer to be diagnosed in some patients before symptoms develop or before abnormalities on physical examination are detectable. Although there is no discussion of this as a variable in the study, on the National Cancer Institute’s own Web site it acknowledges the impact screening practices have in detecting prostate cancer: ‘The evidence is insufficient to determine whether screening for prostate cancer with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or digital rectal exam (DRE) reduces mortality from prostate cancer. Screening tests are able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage, but it is not clear whether this earlier detection and consequent earlier treatment leads to any change in the natural history and outcome of the disease.’

Considering what a strong factor family risk is for all cancers, prostate cancer may also increase in men who have a family history of breast cancer. Other potential risk factors of this nature were not accounted for in the study.

The research is at odds with a nested study published recently in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that reported an increased selenium intake in combination with a daily multivitamin may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by about 40 per cent.

Most importantly, many multivitamin/minerals contain the daily recommended intake for iron (18 mg.). Men should never take supplemental iron (18 mg. or more) unless iron anemic. Excess stored iron may produce health risks, including the allowance of cancer cells to reproduce more rapidly. This is why we always recommend working with a knowledgeable health professional to look at individudal needs.

As we alluded to in an earlier blog, Dr. Goran Bjelakovic commented on this study in an editorial and was quoted in the press release that appears in this issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute. He is not directly involved in the study. However, we are still very wary of his involvement in any study supposedly without bias.

To read the abstract (summary of the study), go to

Vitamins tied to prostate cancer

The study, being published today (Wednesday), suggest high-dose multivitamins may harm the prostate.

Government scientists turned to a study tracking the diet and health of almost 300,000 men. About a third reported taking a daily multivitamin, and 5 percent were heavy users, swallowing the pills more than seven times a week.

Heavy multivitamin users were almost twice as likely to get fatal prostate cancer as men who never took the pills, concludes the study in Wednesday's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Here's the twist: Overall, the researchers found no link between multivitamin use and early-stage prostate cancer.

More rigorous research is needed, caution the National Cancer Institute scientists. Still, "the findings lend further credence to the possibility of harm associated with increased use of supplements," Dr. Christian Gluud of Copenhagen University Hospital and Dr. Goran Bjelakovic of Serbia's University of Nis wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Bonnie - while the published study is not yet available, we are very familiar with Dr. Bjelakovic. He is an ardent detractor of dietary supplements. He has used sham meta-analyses in the past to mislead the press and public. His last published study claimed antioxidants increased mortality, which was summarily panned by colleagues and consumers alike.

We will comment on the details as soon as we read the study.

Vitamin D studies positive for cancer prevention

Evidence is mounting that vitamin D -- the so-called sunshine vitamin -- offers a ray of hope in cancer prevention. A pair of recent studies suggests that up to half of breast cancers and two-thirds of colon cancer cases in the United States might be prevented if people got enough vitamin D, which comes from sunlight and certain foods, such as milk and salmon. Study co-author Cedric Garland of University of California at San Diego said people can reduce their cancer risk by taking 2,000 international units of vitamin D daily, in addition to spending 15 minutes in the sun (unless you're prone to skin cancer). Most Americans fall far short of that goal. It's extremely difficult to consume 2,000 IUs of vitamin D -- the equivalent of about 20 glasses of milk -- through food alone. That's why Garland suggests a vitamin D3 supplement. Consuming too much of the nutrient, however, can cause health problems.

Bonnie - the key to these studies is the word PREVENTION. Cod Liver, Cod Liver, Cod Liver!

USDA may tweak farm bill in lieu of public pressure

US Agriculture secretary Mike Johanns last week presented industry representatives with details of changes to the administration's 2007 farm bill, which provide an additional $5 billion to address issues such as nutrition and obesity.

"We listened when producers told us that farm policy should distribute support more equitably. Specialty crops are now nearly equal in market value to program crops, yet these producers receive no direct cash support," said Johanns.

"Specialty crop producers made it clear they don't want a cash subsidy, but they would like additional support to address market promotion, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, nutrition, and targeted research. Our proposals provide that support with nearly $5bn worth of additional funding targeted toward specialty crop growers."

The proposal includes an additional $2.75bn funds over ten years to specifically purchase fruits and vegetables for US Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.

Some $500m has been allocated in mandatory funding for the purchase of additional fruits and vegetables for these programs, as part of an effort to help schools offer meals based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

USDA also plans to invest $1bn over ten years to establish a Specialty Crop Research Initiative to provide science-based tools that address needs of specific crops and regions and which continue advancements in productivity and technology.

Epigenetic differences arise during the lifetime of monozygotic twins

The finding:

Investigating epigenetic profiles of 80 sets of identical twins, ages 3 to 74, Manel Esteller of the Spanish National Cancer Center in Madrid and his colleagues revealed how lifestyle and age can impact phenotype. Unsurprisingly, older twin pairs differed more in things like DNA methylation and histone acetylation than younger twins. Greater lifestyle dissimilarities between twins correlated with epigenetic variability, and gene expression microarrays confirmed that epigenetic differences correspond with increased phenotypic disparities.

The follow-up:

“We are now mapping twins with different penetrance for a particular disease, such as diabetes or autoimmune disease,” Esteller says. “By comparing the epigenomes of both twins, we can isolate genes that contribute to the development of these diseases.”

Perfecting the studies:

Stephen Baylin at John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore calls the group’s work “a poster child for the importance of epigenetics.” But a more perfect study would start with twins, get a baseline for any differences, and track epigenetic, lifestyle, and phenotypic differences over time, “That’s easier said than done,” he admits.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Steve - fascinatng stuff. Once again, the research shows us that how we express our genes has everything to do with our health. Nutritionally speaking, finding ways to harmonize the signalling pathways to our genes will help bring us a better quality of life.

Monday, May 14, 2007

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Highlights

Once again, here are tidbits from our favorite nutrition journal. As this is the April issue, we lament our tardiness.
  • The negative effect of excess homocysteine and neural tube defects may be lessed by supplements of preformed methyl folate groups (5-formyl tetrahydrofolate, L-5 methyl tetrahydrofolate, folic acid) more effectively than folic acid alone.

  • Promoting higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of hypertensive and dyslipidemic persons may have substantial benefits in reducing their risk of cognitive decline. In another study, researchers propose that moderate intake of EPA/DHA may postpone cognitive decline in elderly men.

  • A study on subjects' outcomes on a three meal-a-day diet showed lower blood pressure, lower liver enzymes, lower cholesterol, and less hunger versus subjects' on a one meal-a-day diet.

  • In an elderly Dutch population, higher dairy consumption was not associated with lower weight or more favorable levels of components of metabolic syndrome.

  • Magnesium intake is favorably associated with some markers of systemic inflammation in healthy women, including C-Reactive Protein (CRP), which was 24% lower in those with the highest quintile of magnesium intake.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids exhibit a protective effect on breast cancer risk and provides additional importance in evaluating the ratio of dietary fatty acids.

  • A more acidic dietary intake was significantly associated with lower bone ultrasound measures in women, thus expressing a negative effect on bone density.

A taste of what life will be like with 'prescription' dietary supplements

Steve - the FDA accorded an approval based on a company-sponsored clinical study showing that fish oil lowers triglyceride levels. With prescription drug status, this company, Omacor, is now free to make specific health claims about fish oil and aggressively sell it through cardiologists and any other doctors prescription. If their marketing efforts are successful, Omacor stands to earn tremendous amounts of money.

The actual price per prescription we've seen is $144.77 (120 softgels). That is roughly 750% more than what the same amount of fish oil sells for in a health food store. It is only 10% stronger in EPA than a store bought product. The company selling this prescription fish oil drug knew that some consumers might question why they should pay such a high price. In their marketing materials, the company tries to differentiate their fish oil drug from what is available in health food stores by stating that "Fish oil sold in health food stores is no substitute for prescription fish oil, because they are not bioequivalent." Laughable.

One of the added ingredients in this product is partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a trans fat. Wonderful, huh?

Those with health insurance may find that their co-pay may still be higher than what they could freely pay for fish oil supplements
. That is to say nothing of how much health insurance premiums could increase if too many patients use this overpriced fish oil drug.

Big Pharma and their political lobbies are fighting hard to make dietary supplements prescription. As we see with the Omacor example, the results could be disastrous.

Some sunscreen ingredients have been shown to mimic estrogen.

Several common ingredients in sunscreens have been shown to act like estrogen. One test-tube study showed that breast cancer cells grew faster in the presence of such compounds.

Another study showed that sunscreen ingredients are absorbed through the skin and can be measured in the urine (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, July 2004). The significance of this finding for adults remains controversial, but the authors warn that young children may be vulnerable to hormonal disruption from such sunscreens.

Sunscreens that contain physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide don't have hormonal effects and are safe for young children and people with sensitive skin (the Lancet online, May 3, 2007).

Courtesy of LA Times

Senators who weakened drug bill got millions from industry

Courtesy of USA Today

Senators who raised millions of dollars in campaign donations from pharmaceutical interests secured industry-friendly changes to a landmark drug-safety bill, according to public records and interviews. The bill, which passed 93-1, grants the Food and Drug Administration broad new authority to monitor the safety of drugs after they are approved. However, the powers granted to the FDA in the bill's original version were pared back during private meetings.

• A measure that blocked an effort to allow drug importation passed, 49-40. The 49 senators who voted against drug importation received about $5 million from industry executives and political action committees since 2001 — nearly three quarters of the industry donations to current members of the Senate, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data compiled by two non-partisan groups, Center for Responsive Politics and PoliticalMoneyLine.

• Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he demanded removal of language that would have allowed the FDA to ban advertising of high-risk drugs for two years because it would restrict free speech. Roberts has raised $18,000 from drug interests so far this year, records show, and $66,000 since 2001. His spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said he "takes great pains to keep fundraising and official actions separate."

• Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., claimed authorship of a change that reduced the FDA's power to require post-market safety studies. He said he wanted to target drugs only if there was evidence of harm. Gregg has raised $168,500 from drug executives and PACs since 2001 and sided with them in four key votes.

• The bill's chief sponsors — Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., — agreed after consultations with industry officials and others to modify a proposal that all clinical drug studies be made public, said Craig Orfield, Enzi's spokesman. Under the change, only those studies submitted to the FDA would be available. Enzi took in $174,000 from drug interests since 2001; Kennedy, $78,000. Their spokesmen said the money did not influence them.

Senators also voted down an amendment that would have made it harder for scientists who have accepted money from a drug company to advise the FDA on drug approval applications from that firm. "It's not that money buys votes," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the lone vote against the bill. "But you have a culture in which big money has significant influence. Big money gains you access, access gives you the time to influence people."

The pharmaceutical companies spend more money on lobbying than any other single industry — $855 million from 1998 to 2006, according to the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity. "I don't think there is any lobbying group in town that has the clout of the drug industry," said Ron Pollack, director of Families USA, a left-leaning consumer advocacy group.

The bill, which now goes to the House, was based in part on the recommendations of a report by the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences. The Institute was asked by the FDA to examine drug safety in the wake of the scandal over Vioxx, which Merck withdrew from the market in 2004 amid evidence that the drug put users at increased risk for heart attack and stroke. The report offered two dozen recommendations for improvement. Chief among those was that Congress should grant FDA the power to require a system of post-market surveillance, which the Senate bill would do. But two other key recommendations were not followed in the measure: That FDA should have the power to ban consumer advertising for the first two years of a drug's market life; and that FDA scientists who investigate post-market side effects should work in an office separate from those that approve drugs initially. The bill "does not sufficiently address the underlying problems," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who in recent years held hearings featuring FDA whistle-blowers who said their concerns about drug safety were ignored.

Steve - this is a very important piece of legislation. The more information that comes out that can help Americans understand it, and voice their opinions, the better.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dairy Council to End Ad Campaign That Linked Drinking Milk With Weight Loss

A national advertising campaign that associates dairy products with weight loss will be curtailed because research does not support the claim, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The advertisements, conceived by the promotional arm of the dairy industry and overseen by the Agriculture Department, feature slogans like “Milk your diet. Lose weight!” and suggest that three servings of dairy products a day can help people be slim.

Dairy products were upgraded in the 2005 revision of federal dietary guidelines, which recommended that people consume more low-fat milk and dairy products. An advisory committee that helped set the guidelines cited a report, partly financed by the dairy industry, which found that low-fat dairy products did not necessarily add to weight gain and that dairy products have certain nutrients that can help consumers meet dietary recommendations. The guidelines increased the amount of low-fat or fat-free dairy products to three cups a day, up from two cups. The dairy council is allowed to continue to use wording from those guidelines that says adults and children should not avoid milk and milk products because of concerns that they may lead to weight gain, the letter from the F.T.C. said.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, said the agreement to modify the advertisements was groundbreaking. “Those ads were ridiculously misleading,” she said.

Courtesy of the New York Times.

Steve - this is shocking. It is considered a major slap on the hand to Big Dairy. We were outraged when this campaign came out. There is gives more credence to the debacle that is the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Latest chance to diminish Big Pharma influence dashed in Senate

Steve - while the big news coming from this was the disallowing of cheaper drug imports, two other issues that were defeated in bill S1082 guarantees that nothing is going to change in the cozy relationship between big Pharma and the FDA.

One vote was on the Grassley amendment #1039 which would have given true power to scientists in the FDA responsible for regulating the safety of drugs already on the market. The FDA and Big Pharma were adamantly opposed to this amendment. The vote was 47 -46, defeating the amendment. This vote was a sell out of Dr. David Graham and other FDA scientists who have gone to Congress as whistleblowers to save American lives.

The other key vote came on the Durbin amendment #1034. This amendment sought to prevent Big Pharma from placing "experts" on FDA Advisory Committees -- which make the final decisions on the safety of drugs. Durbin argued the obvious point that hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake as well as the lives of Americans and that such flagrant conflicts of interest must be stopped. He pointed out that the FDA Advisory Committee that ruled on the safety of Vioxx had 10 "experts" on the Big Pharma bankroll, resulting in over 50,000 deaths. The vote was 47 -47, and in this case the tie went to Big Pharma as the amendment was defeated.

The Senate has failed when given a major opportunity to protect the health and well being of Americans. The battle now moves to the House and then to a conference committee. The legislation is being ramrodded through before the general public knows what is happening. Mainstream media, a primary client of Big Pharma, is intentionally failing to explain the true meaning of S1082. There is still time for you to determine its fate by contacting your House reps.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Leading zero trans oils analyzed in independent testing

Independent testing of trans fat oil alternatives has revealed that the performance and taste of the more 'heart-healthy' oils matches or exceeds those of partially hydrogenated oils.

Released this week, the results of the contest conducted by revealed that the participating zero trans oils showed "excellent" fry lives as well as a functionality "equivalent to or better than" partially hydrogenated oil.

Additionally, consumer tests on French fries cooked in the oils revealed a generally higher liking for these compared to fries cooked in a 'leading brand' of partially hydrogenated oil used as a control.

The testing, which was conducted in conjunction with Texas A&M University's oils and fats program, was designed to provide unbiased information on the different zero trans oils currently available on the market.

According to the results, all the oils tested contained less than one percent trans fat, compared to 28.8 percent contained in the control. In addition, none of the zero trans fat oils came even close to the end of fry life after 300 fryings. Consumers rated the fries cooked in each oil on a scale of 1 (dislike) to 8 (like). All of the oils were preferred by consumers over the partially hydrogenated oil.


AAK FryChef palm olein, high oleic sunflower blend was revealed as containing 0.2 percent trans fat and 29.4 percent saturated fat. Overall consumer liking was rated at 5.6.

ACH FryMax high oleic sunflower oil contained 0.5 percent trans fat and 6.6 percent saturated fat. Consumer liking was 5.4.

Bunge Amaizing NT high oleic canola, corn blend contained 0.5 percent trans and 10.5 percent saturated fat. The oil came top of the list for consumer liking, scoring 5.9.

Bunge Nutra-Clear high oleic canola contained 0.7 percent trans and 7.1 percent saturated fats, and was rated at 5.6 for consumer liking.

Bunge Treus low lin soybean oil contained 0.3 percent trans fat, 13.7 percent saturated fat, and was rated 5.7.

Cargill Clear Valley high oleic canola oil: 0.2 percent trans fat, 6.5 percent saturated fat, 5.8 rating.

ConAgra Wesson Smart Choice cottonseed, canola blend: 0.6 percent trans fat, 17.1 percent saturated fat, 5.5 rating.

CSP Whole Harvest expeller pressed soybean oil: 0.9 percent trans fat, 15.6 percent saturated fat, 5.3 rating.

Loders Croklaan Sans Trans palm olein, mid oleic sunflower blend: 0.3 percent trans fat, 27.9 percent saturated fat, 5.6 rating.

The online database is designed to provide information primarily for the restaurant industry, but is also relevant for makers of fried foods such as potato chips, corn chips and donuts, said president and chief executive officer of FryTestcom, Stephen Joseph.

Steve - the ones we prefer are Cargill Clear Valley, Bunge Nutra-Clear, ACH Fry-Max, or CSP Whole Harvest, because they are free of plam oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Diet With Low Glycemic Index Slows AMD Progression

People whose diet consists of foods that lead to a high dietary glycemic index have a substantially higher risk of progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to recent long-term results from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). In fact, consumption of highly refined carbohydrates can lead to up to a 17% increased risk of AMD progression, according to data presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Vision and Research in Ophthalmology (ARVO). This newest set of results from AREDS confirms findings from earlier years, but shows that the effect of diet on AMD is even stronger than previously thought.

The findings are important because they show that keeping your glycemic low by dietary means can reduce the risk of AMD progression, Dr Chiu said. The researchers estimate that reducing the dietary glycemic index for the upper 50% of the older population might eliminate more than 100,000 new cases of advanced AMD in 5 years in the US alone.

Bonnie - as long as you stick to fruits, vegetables, and moderate whole grains, you'll be fine!

Use common sense for marathon running

Q. I know that exercise is good for my heart, which is one reason I took up long-distance running. But I have heard that marathon running damages the heart. Is that true?

A. Your question, variations of which have been batted around for more than a century, doesn't have a simple answer.

Back in 1869, a British doctor wondered if prolonged vigorous exercise, such as long-distance rowing or endurance bicycling, could damage the heart. Over the years, overwhelming evidence of the benefits of regular exercise for the heart and virtually every other system in the body pushed that concern to the side. But several small studies have raised the question again.

Blood samples given by runners immediately after marathons show increased levels of proteins that indicate possible damage to heart muscle. Blood tests for these proteins, creatinine kinase-MB and cardiac troponin T, are used in emergency rooms to detect heart attacks. It turns out that skeletal muscle also makes and releases creatinine kinase-MB, so the increase could be from the wear and tear on muscles during the race.

A study presented at the 2006 American Heart Association meeting suggested that marathon runners over age 50 may have more calcium in their hearts' arteries than non-marathoners. But there is no way to know if other differences account for the extra calcium or, more important, if it translates into heart disease.

Long-term studies of elite athletes indicate that they have above-average life expectancies and low risk for heart disease and diabetes in later years. On the other hand, they tend to develop lower-limb arthritis more than the general population. Granted, elite athletes are a biologically and genetically select group who are not representative of the population at large. Yet their long-term health offers a signal that endurance exercise generally is safe.

One point raised by the studies almost certainly will pan out: Runners with the least amount of training showed the most worrisome cardiovascular changes after a marathon. If long-distance running is what keeps you active, do it. Just use common sense.

Thomas Lee, M.D., editor in chief, Harvard Heart Letter. Distributed by Tribune Media Services

Bonnie - when marathon running, just use common sense...and supplement with magnesium!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Long wait for celiac diagnosis

People with celiac disease are waiting an average of 13 years to be diagnosed, a poll has revealed. The gut disorder is caused by gluten intolerance. The charity Celiac UK says some of the 800 patients surveyed reported seeing their GP almost 30 times before being diagnosed. But it says the condition can be easily detected by GPs using a quick and simple blood test. People with celiac disease can experience a range of symptoms, including as bloating, diarrhea, chronic fatigue, breathlessness, depression and weight gain. Children with the condition can have behavioral, learning or concentration problems. The only treatment for the condition is a life-long gluten-free diet.

It also found patients often have to insist on being given the blood test, which is the first step to diagnosis. In addition, 29% of those polled said that prior to diagnosis, they experienced extreme pain, falling to 5% after diagnosis. Anxiety levels fell from 13% to 3%.

Norma Mc Gough, head of diet at Celiac UK, said the delays in diagnosis were a combination of patients not recognizing, or getting used to, their symptoms - or that doctors were not considering celiac disease as an explanation for what could be a vague range of symptoms. Celiac UK chief executive Sarah Sleet said: "Celiac disease is considered to be the most under-diagnosed common chronic condition in the UK today. "One in 100 are believed to be at risk from the condition, but the latest research suggests only one in eight, or 12.5%, of these have been diagnosed.

"There is no reason why people should not be diagnosed more quickly, and avoid years of debilitating pain and ill-health." Professor Mayur Lakhani, head of the Royal College of GPs said: "I am sorry to hear of the experience of some patients in this report who have had a late diagnosis. "Awareness of coeliac disease is increasing but doctors do find it a difficult condition to consider for diagnosis as its symptoms are also mimicked by many other common disorders. "However, more needs to be done and can be done. I would urge all doctors to be more vigilant about this condition and to request the simple blood test which can clinch an early diagnosis."

Bonnie - I am not surprised by these statistics. I am sure they are worse in the US. The current medical model does not cater to diet-related disease discovery. When the educational paradigm for doctors incorporates a "whole health" philosophy, then patients won't have to wait thirteen years for a celiac diagnosis.

The number of U.S. adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis has been projected to reach nearly 67 million adults by the year 2030

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions (e.g., gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia) affect approximately 46 million adults in the United States, resulting in substantial disability and costs of $128 billion annually. Because U.S. adults are living longer and the number of persons in older age groups is growing, the number of U.S. adults living with chronic conditions such as arthritis likely will increase.

The number of U.S. adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis has been projected to reach nearly 67 million adults by the year 2030, including 25 million adults who are expected to have arthritis-attributable activity limitations. Greater use of existing evidence-based interventions and development of new interventions aimed at decreasing pain, improving function, and delaying disability associated with arthritis are needed to reduce the impact of these projected increases, particularly in those states that will be most heavily affected.

CDC's Arthritis Program funds 36 state health departments, who collaborate with local chapters of the Arthritis Foundation to expand the reach of evidence-based public health interventions for arthritis. These include physical activity programs (Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program, and Enhance Fitness) and self-management education programs (Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program and Chronic Disease Self-Management Program), both of which are delivered by trained instructors in community settings. In addition, the CDC Arthritis Program also has developed two communication campaigns to promote physical activity among persons with arthritis. CDC is funding a project to develop a new arthritis-specific exercise program that emphasizes joint-protection strategies and components designed to improve physical function.

Steve - is something missing here? Diet-related pain is once again ignored. We sound like a broken record, but until the diet/pain connection is given as much or more attention than physical activity, we are going to conitnue to harp on this.

67 million people by 2030 with arthritis! That will be one-fifth of the population. With positive nationwide dietary changes, this number could be greatly reduced.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dietary supplements could save $24+ billion in health care costs

A study released this week shows that over the next five years, appropriate use of select dietary supplements would improve the health of key populations and save the US more than $24 billion in healthcare costs. The study, commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA), updated research conducted by The Lewin Group in 2004 and 2005 that included a systematic literature review of the most rigorous scientific research available. Key study findings include:

Calcium with vitamin D: Appropriate use of calcium with Vitamin D for the Medicare population shows potential avoidance of approximately 776,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures over five years, as well as avoidance of stays in skilled nursing facilities for some proportion of patients. The five-year (2008-2012) estimated net cost associated with avoidable hospitalization for hip fracture is approximately $16.1 billion.

Folic Acid: if just 11.3 million of the 44 million American women who are of childbearing age and not taking folic acid, began taking 400 mcg. of folic acid on a daily basis neural tube defects could be prevented in 600 babies, saving as much as $344,700,000 in the first year. Over five years, taking into account the cost of the supplement, $1.4 billion could potentially be saved

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The estimate of the potential five-year savings in health care expenditures resulting from a reduction in the occurrence of coronary heart disease (CHD) among the population over age 65 through daily intake of approximately 1800 mg of omega-3 is $3.2 billion. Approximately 374,301 hospitalizations and associated physician fees due to CHD could be avoided.

Lutein with zeaxanthin: Through daily intake of 6-10 mg of lutein with zeaxanthin, it is estimated that $3.6 billion could be saved over 5 years by helping people with age related macular degeneration avoid dependency. Across the five year period, approximately 190,927 individuals could avoid the transition to dependence either in the community or a nursing facility that would accompany a loss of central vision resulting from advanced AMD.

Steve - of course, we must take this at face value because
The Dietary Supplement Education Alliance is a nonprofit group that represents dietary supplement manufacturers. However, the supplements researched in this report have copious clinical data exhibiting preventative benefit. At least someone is attempting to assess the savings we could achieve through prevention!

Once again, fish oil shows promise in reducing risk of heart problems

A new Japanese study that appears in The Lancet found that fish oil supplements were just as effective as statin drugs, and offered a similar level of protection in protecting against fatal heart attack. The Japan EPA Lipid Intervention Study (JELIS) exclusively involves Japanese people, whose fish intake is on average far higher than that in the West, and the researchers were testing at far higher levels of supplementation than have ever before been monitored. They found that those who were supplementing with 900 mg of EPA and DHA daily reduced their chances of developing non-fatal heart problems by around 19 per cent compared with those eating two fish servings weekly. The study involved 18,645 participants with high cholesterol levels who were randomly given either a supplement or a statin.

Steve - hmmm...not a study that Big Pharma likes to see.

All-liquid cleanse for detox, weight loss becoming popular, but its claims are disputed

At 6-foot-4 and a rangy 212 pounds, Scott Campbell doesn't need to lose weight. But there he was, squeezing lemon juice and mixing it with maple syrup, bottled water and cayenne pepper.

It is part of an extreme "detoxifying" diet called the Master Cleanse, whose adherents swallow nothing but the lemon concoction, saltwater and laxative tea.

Also known as the lemonade diet, the Master Cleanse has gained in popularity recently, thanks to celebrities like Beyonce Knowles who swear by the regimen, as bad as it may taste.

"I'm never hungry," said Campbell, a 35-year-old freelance TV producer from New York City who was cleansing not to lose weight, but because he usually eats "a lot of bad stuff" like burgers, fries and Philly cheesesteaks.

Devotees of the all-liquid diet are supposed to stay on it for at least 10 days, then ease back into normal eating with orange juice and vegetable soup.

Medical authorities say they have yet to see evidence of harm from the Master Cleanse, though experts generally caution against extended fasting and other extreme diets.

They say those who try the Master Cleanse to lose weight will just gain it back, and they dispute the claim that the Master Cleanse or any other diet can "detoxify" the body -- or that the body needs to be detoxified.

Dr. Ed Zimney, the medical director of HealthTalk, a Seattle-based Web site where a lively debate about the cleanse has flourished, said: "Your gastrointestinal tract does not need to be cleaned out because it is constantly in motion." The Master Cleanse was invented 60 years ago by nutrition guru Stanley Burroughs, who wrote the book "The Master Cleanser" in 1976.

It is not known how many people have tried the cleanse.

According to one Web site that promotes it, the purpose is "to dissolve and eliminate toxins and congestion; to cleanse the kidneys and digestive system; to purify glands; to eliminate waste and hardened materials in the joints and muscles; to build a healthy bloodstream; to maintain optimal blood pressure; and ... to lose weight."

Weight loss was Beyonce's motivation; she told Oprah Winfrey that she dropped 20 pounds on the cleanse to prepare for "Dreamgirls."

The diet has fans beyond celebrities and the hip neighborhoods of New York City.

Zoe Cochran, 52, of Navasota, Texas, does an annual 30-day cleanse plus shorter ones.

"After the cleanse I have great digestion and great elimination," she said. Cochran said the cleanse also cured an injured knee that was so painful she couldn't get up from a sitting position.

Neil Paz, 30, of Arlington, Va., considered the cleanse after actor-singer Jared Leto touted it. But he deemed it "very New Age-pet rock" and decided to eat more vegetables and drink more water instead. "Doing that and exercising more is not going to be as fast but is the healthy way to go," he said.

Courtesy of Associated Press

Steve - while we have never recommended it, we are familiar with the Master Cleanse and have heard of many adverse experiences. The main reason one must avoid a cleanse like this, especially for more than a few days, is that the energy we need to perform in today's world cannot be met with this extreme liquid detox.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Price of milk set to skyrocket

Most agriculture experts say milk prices will jump in coming months as producers pass along increased costs for livestock feed. Demand for corn ethanol has driven up the price corn, which is the main food crop for dairy cattle. How much that increase will be depends largely on whom you ask and where you live. Ken Bailey, a dairy expert at Penn State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, predicts an overall 8 percent increase for whole milk, from an average of $3.07 a gallon to about $3.35 in October. The news is worse, though, if you live in New York, where milk this week shot up 60 cents a gallon to $3.54, a 20 percent increase, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Chicago, milk prices in April jumped 12 percent from a year earlier and are expected to rise further.

So while Americans bemoan rising gas prices, they will have to contend with milk prices that are even higher per gallon. And in much the same way that demand for gasoline has remained consistent despite rising prices, so has the demand for dairy.The two have something else in common: Despite the swelling demand, production increases have been limited, adding to price pressures.

Steve - this is the perfect time to switch the dairy herds to the food that they were meant to eat...grass! It will make for much healthier cattle and increase the omega-3 content.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Folic acid may prevent hearing loss

According to a new study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, of 728 Dutch men and women between the ages of 50 and 70 years old assigned to receive either 800 micrograms of folic acid per day or placebo for three years, those using folic acid had less hearing loss compared to those with placebo. This study is particularly important because food is not fortified with folic acid in the Netherlands. At the beginning of the study, the participants' folic acid levels were half of that typically seen in the United States, where food is fortified.

Studies tie bone-building drugs, unusual heart rhythms

Two research reports suggest a possible link between two bone-building drugs and irregular heart rhythms in a small number of women who take the medicine. The signs of a problem were more pronounced with Reclast, a drug made by Novartis AG and given through a once-a-year, 15-minute intravenous infusion. But there was a hint of similar trouble in a few women who took the leading osteoporosis pill, Fosamax by Merck & Co. The two drugs are in the same class. The safety question caught researchers by surprise.

While uncertain how big a worry it might be, they agreed the overall risk is small. Specialists said women at high risk for bone breaks — the main target of these osteoporosis drugs — should keep taking them as prescribed. But several experts said they'd be cautious about those who also are at risk for a condition called atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that can cause strokes. The two separate reports published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine point to elevated rates of serious episodes of that heart condition in women who took Reclast and Fosamax. "For the first time, there may be a side effect," said a researcher involved in both studies, Dr. Steven Cummings of California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. Until now, people have assumed Fosamax "was completely safe and could be given to almost anybody."

Fosamax, the Merck brand name for alendronate, is now used by an estimated 1.8 million American women. In a letter to the medical journal, Cummings reported evidence of the heart problem found in a recent review of a 1997 Merck-sponsored study of postmenopausal women on Fosamax. There appeared to be 50 percent more risk of the serious heart rhythm in women who took the daily pill than among those who didn't take it. About half of the 6,459 women took Fosamax, and 47 developed atrial fibrillation, compared to just 31 cases among the other women. However, the finding, while not statistically definitive for Fosamax, worried some researchers because it is in line with the results of a new study published in the same issue of the medical journal. This study of 7,736 postmenopausal women with bone-thinning osteoporosis focuses on Reclast.

Novartis recently won approval to sell Reclast, known generically as zoledronic acid, for Paget's disease, another bone condition. The company hopes to get an OK later this year to sell it for osteoporosis use. The new study, funded by Novartis, shows that Reclast works at least as well as existing drugs in the same class, researchers say. However, the risk of a serious case of irregular heart rhythm was more than double that in the other patients — 50 cases in the drug-taking half, compared to 20 cases in the others. Researchers cautioned about overestimating the importance of the heart rhythm problem. The Reclast study showed little apparent difference in overall cardiac deaths and the overall risk of the rhythm condition remained small. Doctors made available by Merck and Novartis said the side effect could be a statistical fluke or just a product of aging. They said earlier studies showed no sign of the possible side effect. For now, it's unknown if the possible risk applies to other drugs in the class known as biphosphonates. Future studies are expected to help clarify the risk.

Courtesy of Associated Press

Bonnie - bisophosphonate medications have also been linked to jaw-wasting and digestive issues, not to mention specific depletion of key vitamins and minerals.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sodium seen as new food fight: McCain U.S. CEO

Sodium is shaping up to be the new battleground in the quest to make U.S. diets healthier, said Frank van Schaayk, chief executive officer of McCain Foods USA Inc., a major food supplier to restaurants. Privately held McCain has been part of the battle to remove artery-clogging trans fats from foods as the leading potato supplier to McDonald's Corp. and other restaurants. Canada-based McCain Foods Ltd. is working on different types of "flavor enhancers" and salt replacements to reduce sodium in foods, van Schaayk said. He declined to give details. But sodium does not necessarily have to be replaced with something else. "If you gradually reduce sodium, people learn to enjoy the foods with less sodium," he said.

Some U.S. food makers have already been taking steps to cut down on sodium in their products. Campbell Soup Co., for example, has a line of soups that use a lower-sodium sea salt. But most American food products ranging from snack foods to frozen dinners, carry high levels of sodium.

Courtesy of Reuters

Steve - there are two comments that need to be addressed here.

The bad...Flavor enhancers - he is refering to the umami enhancers that we are now starting to worry about (see our May Email Update). I anticpiate that they will just be adding more chemicals.

The good..."If you gradually reduce sodium, people learn to enjoy the foods with less sodium." This can only come from a person who has implemented and understands what a healthy lifestyle really is. If van Schaayk really means it, this is a significant development.

High calcium, vitamin D intake may have a down side

In one of the first studies to examine the relationship between diet and brain lesions, researchers observed that elderly people who reported higher calcium and vitamin D intake were much more likely to have greater volumes of brain lesions -- regions of damage that can increase risk of cognitive impairment. "Our finding of a relationship between brain lesions and consumption of both calcium and vitamin D raises the question about a possible down side to high intakes of these nutrients," Dr. Martha E. Payne of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, told Reuters Health. "We are concerned that some of this extra calcium may end up in the blood vessel walls rather than the bone. This may be a particular problem for individuals with renal disease since calcium excretion may be impaired," Payne said. "We cannot conclude that calcium or vitamin D caused the brain lesions that we found," Payne said. "However, we hypothesize that our findings may be due to vascular calcification, whereby calcium is taken up into the blood vessel walls." She reported the study findings at a meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, part of Experimental Biology 2007 in Washington, DC.

Bonnie - it is about time somebody is addressing the excess calcium issue. The reason vitamin D was dragged into the equation is because it enhances calcium absorption. Excess calcium, especially that comes from malabsorbed sources (i.e., milk, calcium carbonate, oyster shell), calcifies in unwanted places in the body such as veins, arteries, kidneys (in the form stones), heart and brain. I have will have more on this issue in the coming months.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Coca-Cola eyes Glaceau

The Coca-Cola Co. is in talks to acquire vitaminwater maker Glaceau, according to a Beverage Digest report last week. The publication attributed the information to anonymous sources who said negotiations were ongoing and that an announcement might be timed with a meeting of Coke's North American bottlers in Atlanta in early May.

Steve - let's hope this is not true. They'll ruin Smart Water!

Aspirin may increase stroke risk in healthy older persons

Healthy older people who take regular aspirin to prevent stroke may actually be increasing their risk. In the past 25 years the number of strokes associated with blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin or warfarin has risen seven-fold, a UK study found. The risk is particularly high in the over 75s and aspirin may do more harm than good in healthy older people, The Lancet Neurology paper reported. However, people advised to take daily aspirin by their GP should not stop.

Study leader, University of Oxford's Professor Peter Rothwell, said the increasing use of drugs such as aspirin may soon take over high blood pressure as the leading cause of intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke in the over 75s. He warned than in healthy older adults the risks of taking aspirin may outweigh any benefits. "GPs have been treating high blood pressure very aggressively and that is bringing dividends but there are other causes of stroke in the elderly which have become important. "There are good reasons for taking aspirin or warfarin but there are elderly who take aspirin as a lifestyle choice and in that situation the trials have shown there's no benefit. "And what our study suggests is that, particularly in the very elderly, the risks of aspirin outweigh the benefits," he said. Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research and development for The Stroke Association said aspirin had gained a reputation of being part of a healthy lifestyle. "However, this evidence indicates that if you are healthy and have a low risk of heart disease or stroke and unless advised by your GP to take aspirin on a daily basis then the increased risks from the side effects of aspirin are likely to outweigh the benefits of preventing a stroke." He advised people to lower their risk of stroke by having regular blood pressure checks, eating a healthy diet, stopping smoking, only drinking alcohol in moderation, reducing salt intake and taking regular exercise.

Bonnie - I have said all along that aspirin is not for everybody. While it is the only documented drug that is effective for certain chronic diseases (because it mediates stressor signals to our genes), there is a significant portion of the population that does not tolerate it well. In many instances, it can do more harm than good. Conveniently, a simple genetic test can now detect if you tolerate aspirin or not. In fact, your doctor should always recommend this first.

Mother's diet key to future health

Pregant women’s diet can affect not only the health of their children but their grandchildren too.
Research has revealed how a mother-to-be’s choice of food can affect the genes of children for at least two generations. It provides the first hard evidence to bear out a growing suspicion that what happens to the fetus in the womb could predetermine the health of future generations.

The research is the first in the world to prove the scientific basis of epigenetics – genetic changes that do not require the DNA to mutate. The work by scientists in Australia showed that vitamin supplements, including folate and B12, switched off a gene in mice which caused obesity and diabetes. This effect was also carried into the grandchildren of the mothers who took vitamin supplements, who were also more likely to switch off the gene.

Dr Jennifer Cropley, who carried out the work at Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, said: “Most people know that genes are passed on from generation to generation. But our research shows that lifestyle choices, such as diet, can directly affect the health of future generations, meaning that you inherit not only the genes of your parents and grandparents, but the consequences of their lifestyle. You are not only what you eat, but what your mum and grandmother ate.”

She added: “We suspect diet can affect the babies’ genes. Now we need to find out which genes are affected by which diet.”

Dr Michael Odent, founder of London’s Primal Health Research Centre, said: “We are entering a new age in our understanding of health.

“Scientists thought the environment started at birth, but this research shows our future health is to a great extent shaped in the womb and that a mother’s diet may have long- term effects on the health of future generations too.”.

Courtesy of The Daily Express

Bonnie - we brought this up in our December 2006 newsletter. I anticipate that we will be hearing a lot more about it over the next decade.