Thursday, August 23, 2007

Blog goes on vacation.

We will be back blogging after Labor Day.

As always, have a happy, healthy day!

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition August Highlights

  • The use of low carbohydrate diets lead to weight loss and improvement in fasting triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. With careful monitoring, the use of this for a 6 to 12 month period appears reasonable.

  • DHA supplementation lowered triglycerides by 24% in 34 men who participated in the USDA study.

  • A study showing that fat-free fluid milk promoted greater lean muscle mass in young weightlifters was funded by the US Dairy Council.

  • Neophobia, the avoidance of new foods, common in children, has been discovered to be an inherited trait, but one that is highly influenced by environmental factors. Research needs to be done on the environmental factors involved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Addressing Gibert's Syndrome (Autoimmune Thyroiditis)

Bonnie - so many people have this and their physician's say "no problem." An interesting comment was made by Dr. Robert Roundtree, an integrative physician whom I respect.
  • Those with Gilbert's Syndrome have a sluggish detoxification enzyme, UGT1A1, and can have difficulty eliminating cancer-causing environmental toxins found in smoke, automotive exhaust, and charbroiled meat. For this reason, Dr. Roundtree suggests minimizing the use of acetominophen, avoid grilled meats, cigarette smoke, and exhaust fumes as much as possible. In addition, eat at least one full serving of cruciferous vegetables every day (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and watercress) to enhance detoxification.

U.S. probe urged on alcoholic energy drinks

Beverage companies that sell alcoholic energy drinks were harshly criticized Tuesday by more than two dozen state attorneys general who want federal officials to examine the ingredients and marketing of the drinks.

In a letter to John Manfreda, the administrator of the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the attorneys general of 28 states, including Illinois, Iowa and Michigan, say aggressive -- and possibly fraudulent -- marketing of energy drinks mixing alcohol and caffeine targets teenagers and young adults.

"Non-alcoholic energy drinks are very popular with today's youth," Oregon Atty. Gen. Hardy Myers said. "Beverage companies are unconscionably appealing to young drinkers with claims about the stimulating properties of alcoholic energy drinks."

Steve - this is good news for consumers. Read our December '06
blog entry regarding energy drinks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back to College Survival Tips.

College is not conducive to wellness, period. Limited budgets, low-grade food options,
late-night eating, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, excess carbohydrate consumption in
the form of liquid calories, less-then-exemplary hygiene, and close proximity to thousands of others like you make for an unwell environment.

Research shows that the average college student gains four pounds in their first semester and five to fifteen pounds during a full year. Not all is lost.

*limit sugar intake - sugar is the number one contributor to reduced immunity to viruses and bacteria; or at the least, always have protein or fat with sugar.

*at the very least, take a multivitamin/mineral (ideally with plenty of vitamin D for immunity)

* adequate sleep - we're not asking for ideal, just adequate (6-8 hours)

* practice clean hygiene - simple things like washing your hands often do not put your fingers in your mouth, nose, or eyes.

* exercise - stay active to stay focused, keep a balanced weight, and to keep your immune system strong. Walk to class if you have to.

* eat breakfast - breakfast affects learning for the rest of the day and is your most important meal

* stay away from highly sweetened, caffeine-infused energy drinks. If you need the caffeine, stick with black coffee. Other than that, drink water and an occasional cocktail.

* keep nuts & seeds (with or without dried fruit) in your room; they are great, on-th-go snacks that don't have to be refrigerated.

* make intelligent choices at the cafeteria; the easiest choice, scrap the breads and grain products for fruits and vegetables (even if the pickings are slim); forget about dessert

* make one day a week your splurge day; make sure you are great for the other six.

* pack a dorm-room first-aid kit with bandages, antibiotic ointment, natural remedies, and a thermometer

* have a complete medical history chart, including any allergies, blood type, and emergency contacts to keep in your wallet

* people have many different outlets to let off steam in college; it is no secret that
drinking, drug use, and smoking increase exponentially during the college years; BE RESPONSIBLE!

AP: Pain medicine use has nearly doubled

People in the United States are living in a world of pain and they are popping pills at an alarming rate to cope with it. The amount of five major painkillers sold at retail establishments rose 90 percent between 1997 and 2005, according to an Associated Press analysis of statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 200,000 pounds of codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and meperidine were purchased at retail stores during the most recent year represented in the data. That total is enough to give more than 300 milligrams of painkillers to every person in the country.

An Associated Press investigation found these reasons for the increase:
  • The population is getting older. As age increases, so does the need for pain medications.
  • Drugmakers have embarked on unprecedented marketing campaigns. Spending on drug marketing has gone from $11 billion in 1997 to nearly $30 billion in 2005, congressional investigators found.
  • A major change in pain management philosophy is now in its third decade. Doctors who once advised patients that pain is part of the healing process began reversing course in the early 1980s; most now see pain management as an important ingredient in overcoming illness.
  • More people are abusing prescription painkillers because the medications are more available. The number of emergency room visits from painkiller abuse has increased more than 160 percent since 1995, according to the government.
Steve - this is currently a gargantuan issue and will be for the foreseeable future. Abuse of pain medication is already deeply ingrained in our culture. It's a given that if you have a headache, you take a pain pill. If one morning you wake up with soreness in your knee, you take a pain pill. If you have a chronic illness, pain medication is part of your daily routine. Do you think about addressing the underlying cause of the pain? Not likely.

There is no bigger medical band-aid approach than pain medication. Other than pain-inducing conditions that require surgical procedures to correct, the root of most pain boils down to diet and lifestyle. Being one of the fattest and sickest nations in the world, is it a surprise that we lean so heavily on pain medication?

Whenever you read about pain in the media, it is always about band-aid approaches. Whenever you see a doctor or health professional, the discussion always involves a band-aid approach. Even alternative modalities are band-aid approaches unless diet and lifestyle are addressed.

As we have said so many times, what we eat and the lifestyles we lead can exponentially increase our inflammatory response. INFLAMMATION = PAIN. If you reduce your inflammatory response, you reduce your pain. It is as simple as that. But there is such a disconnect in our thought process about the connection diet and lifestyle has in relation to pain, it is no surprise that our abuse of pain medication is spiraling out of control.

Let's be extremely clear about this. If you are in pain, your body is sending you a message to do something about it! If you consistently muzzle that message, you will only create more layers of physical issues, not to mention side effects from the medication itself. We know deep down that just because you eliminate pain with meds, they do not make the problems go away. One would think that if you are in constant pain you would want to get to the root of the cause; but most often we choose the easy road.

While it is extremely difficult to tell a patient to try changing their diet and lifestyle before prescribing pain medication, this is what health professionals need to do. The bigger problem is the ease with which consumers can purchase over-the-counter pain medication. For this issue, public health campaigns need to publicize the connection between our diet and lifestyle with pain.

Reducing our nation's dependence on pain medication will take a Herculean effort, and at the moment, that effort is non-existent.

Zero trans fat doesn't always mean zero

Stroll the aisles of any grocery store and you're sure to spot labels declaring "zero grams trans fat" on the front of snack foods, cookies and crackers. But does zero really mean there's NO artery-clogging fat inside? Maybe, maybe not. Federal regulations allow food labels to say there's zero grams of trans fat as long as there's less than half a gram per serving. And many packages contain more than what's considered one serving. "The problem is that often people eat a lot more than one serving," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of Harvard School of Public Health. "In fact, many people eat two to three servings at a time."

"An even bigger problem is foods that have no labels at all," Mozaffarian said, citing food served not only at restaurants, but at bakeries, cafeterias and schools.

Steve - if you have followed our blog over the last year or so, you have seen us refer the .5 gram rule often. It is unconscionable and another ill-advised decision by the USDA to allow this. What can you do in the meantime? Even if a product says no trans fat, look at the label in detail to see if it has .5 grams of trans fat.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Depression is 'over-diagnosed'

Too many people are being diagnosed with depression when all they are is unhappy, a leading psychiatrist says. Professor Gordon Parker claims the threshold for clinical depression is too low and risks treating normal emotional states as illness. Writing in the British Medical Journal, he calls depression a "catch-all" diagnosis driven by clever marketing.

Professor Parker, from the University of New South Wales, in Australia, said the "over-diagnosis" began around 25 years ago. The professor carried out a 15-year study of 242 teachers found that more than three-quarters of them met the current criteria for depression. He writes in the BMJ that almost everyone had symptoms such as "feeling sad, blue or down in the dumps" at some point in their lives - but this was not the same as clinical depression which required treatment.

He said prescribing medication may raise false hopes and might not be effective as there was nothing biologically wrong with the patient. He said: "Over the last 30 years the formal definitions for defining clinical depression have expanded into the territory of normal depression, and the real risk is that the milder, more common experiences risk being pathologized."

Bonnie - whoah...Professor Parker is going way out on a limb here as far as psychiatrists go. However, I do agree with him wholeheartedly.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Omega-3 plus vitamins may prevent bed sores in hospitals

Bed sores, which afflict up to one-tenth of hospital patients, may be prevented by adding key supplements to a standard hospital diet, reports new research from the journal Clinical Nutrition, looked at the effects of supplementing the with the fatty acids eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and vitamins A, C, and E on pressure ulcers in patients hospitalized with an acute lung injury.

Lead author Miryam Theilla from Rabin Medical Center, in collaboration with researchers from Tel Aviv University, randomly assigned 100 patients to receive the normal hospital diet or the normal diet supplemented with lipids and vitamins.

Theilla and co-workers report that at the end of the seven-day study, the number of pressure ulcers in the control group increased by 24, but by only 15 in the intervention group.

"A diet enriched with EPA, GLA and vitamins A, C and E is associated with a significantly lower occurrence of new pressure ulcers in critically ill patients with acute lung injury," they wrote.

Parents Warned Cough Medicines Imperil Infants

Hoping to halt the growing number of injuries to infants and toddlers, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory Wednesday warning parents never to give cough and cold medicines to children under the age of 2 unless instructed to do so by a doctor. The warning is part of a broad reassessment by the agency of the safety of the popular medicines, which have been blamed for hundreds of adverse reactions and a handful of deaths in children under the age of 2. The F.D.A. will convene a panel of independent experts on Oct. 18 to discuss whether more prohibitions or warnings are warranted. Such meetings often signal that the agency is seriously concerned about the safety of the drugs under review.

Steve - the FDA says this was coming a while ago.

Cancer panel attacks U.S. food subsidies

A new presidential report on cancer takes on not only tobacco companies but the food industry while calling on the federal government to "cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods" and switch to policies that encourage Americans to eat vegetables and exercise.

The report, issued on Thursday, also urged changes in public and private insurance policies to encourage doctors to spend more time counseling patients on how to stay healthy by eating right, exercising and avoiding tobacco. Federal, state, and local policies have actually made healthful foods more expensive and less available, have limited physical education in schools and created an environment that discourages physical activity, the report said.

"Ineffective policies, in conjunction with limited regulation of sales and marketing in the food and beverage industry, have spawned a culture that struggles to make healthy choices -- a culture in dire need of change," said the report, available on the Internet at

Margaret Kripke of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson cancer center, a member of the President's Cancer Panel, said in a telephone interview, "What became clear to me is that we simply don't have the political will to protect the public health." Several reports have shown that a third of all cancers are caused by tobacco use, and another one-third by obesity and inactivity. "This country must not ignore its moral obligation to protect the health of all Americans. We can and must empower individuals to make healthy choices through appropriate policy and legislation, and the panel urges you to use the power of your office toward this life-saving goal," the panel, chaired by Howard University's Dr. LaSalle Leffall, wrote in a letter to Bush.

The report recommended that the federal government also should "require the elimination of unhealthy foods from school breakfast and lunch programs" and "must cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods that lead to disease and increased health care costs," the report said. This includes regulation of food advertising and changing agricultural support policies, it said. "We heavily subsidize the growth of foods (e.g., corn, soy) that in their processed forms (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated corn and soybean oils, grain-fed cattle) are known contributors to obesity and associated chronic diseases, including cancer," the report reads. "The people who are doing the U.S. agricultural subsidies need to connect their subsidies with the policy on public health and I don't think that has been done," Kripke said. Yet fresh fruits and vegetables are not subsidized in the same way. "And physical education classes in school have almost disappeared," Kripke said.

Courtesy of Maggie Fox, Reuters

Steve - Wow. Wow. Wow. This is certainly not news to us, but should be a wake-up call to the President and the US public. I don't know how you could spell out any clearer.

Fat 'crucial' in children's diet

While parents may be increasingly worrying about childhood obesity, they must ensure they eat enough fat. Concerns about their child becoming overweight means some parents put them on low-fat diets, but the Nutrition Journal study said this was misguided.

Youngsters needed that fat to grow and thrive, they argued. Over a third of a child's energy intake should be made up of fat, the researchers at Pennsylvania State University said. "Despite this, many parents and children restrict fat for health reasons," they said. "Sufficient fat must be included in the diet for children to support normal growth and development."

utritionists stressed fat, as much as possible, should come from "healthy" sources such as oily fish, while chips and baked goods should be cooked in olive or sunflower oil. "Too much saturated fat in the diet, e.g. from cakes, biscuits, pastries and fatty meats, should be avoided," said Claire Williamson of the British Nutrition Foundation. The National Obesity Forum welcomed the study. "I think this research is absolutely right," said board member Tam Fry. "Young children need more fat and energy for the whole purpose of growing and living. "To give them low-fat and sugar-free products is a bad idea."

Steve - it is nice to see a study echoing what we need fat! Fat is good, as long as it is the right fat. Especially in children, the right fats are essential for brain and neurological development.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Healthy Diet Guards Against Return of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer patients who eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish can significantly lower the risk of their cancer returning, new research suggests. "We know a lot about how certain dietary things affect the risk of developing colon cancer in the first place but we didn't know, before this study, how diet affected persons who already have cancer," explained study author Dr. Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, an assistant professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The findings, which appear in the Aug. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest colon cancer patients might want to consider improving their eating habits. "This is not a substitute for standard therapy, but it's not unreasonable for oncologists to use this data to start talking about diet," Meyerhardt said. "There are benefits in other regards, such as benefits for heart disease, and it does give us some initial information that may affect people's outcome." "Maybe the message is it's never too late to change your diet," added Dr. Andrejs Avots-Avotins, an associate professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a gastroenterologist with Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas. "A healthy diet is going to be so helpful in so many different ways that even if you do end up with a cancer that may or may not have been related to your diet, this may be of benefit in prolonging your survival."

Two major dietary patterns were identified: Western (high intakes of meat, fat, refined grains and dessert) and prudent (lots of fruits and vegetables, poultry and fish). A Western diet was associated with a significantly worst prognosis, both in terms of recurrence and death, than a prudent diet. Compared with patients ranked in the lowest 20 percent of a Western dietary pattern, those in the highest 20 percent had almost three-and-a-half times the risk of recurrence or death. Those in the highest 20 percent of a Western diet were also 2.9 times more likely to see their cancer recur than those in the lower 20 percent. "There's a biological basis for this. The Western type of diet affects insulin levels and insulin-like growth factors that help promote cancer's growth and metastases," Meyerhardt explained.

Courtesy of HealthDay News

Bonnie - what a shocker! Diet can improve outcome of cancer recurrence? I am just being
. Pfizer partially funded this study. I bet this wasn't the outcome they were looking for!

NutraSweet to launch "new" NutraSweet sweetener

In October, the company launches what it calls the "new" NutraSweet -- a product it describes as a better tasting, no-calorie tabletop sweetener. And NutraSweet says it has more products in the pipeline, including a natural, low-calorie sweetener.

NutraSweet's new tabletop sweetener is a blend of two compounds -- aspartame and acesulfame potassium. It is a mix that is intended to have less aftertaste and an increased spike of sweetness at the start.

Of particularly interest for this industry, food and beverage companies' push to develop natural, low-calorie sweeteners is on the rise.

"There is a consensus that people prefer natural over artificial, whether it is backed by science or not," said Nick Fereday, senior economist at consulting firm LMC International.

Sweet 'N Low maker Cumberland Packing Corp., a privately held concern, also says it is working on several natural, low-calorie products. Privately held Merisant -- which makes Equal -- has created the Whole Earth Sweetener company, whose work is dedicated to developing natural sweeteners and sweetened foods.

Sweet Simplicity was the first sweetener to be developed by Whole Earth in 2006, and it is now sold as a natural, zero-calorie tabletop product. Sweet Simplicity contains erythritol, which is a polyol or sugar alcohol, and fructose.

The herb stevia is receiving a great deal of attention in the food and beverage industry. Coke and Cargill recently made headlines on news of a deal to develop and market a natural, zero-calorie sweetener based on the stevia plant. PepsiCo is also researching natural, low-calorie sweeteners for its beverages, including those based on the herb.

Courtesy of Boston Globe

Bonnie - with regard to the "new" NutraSweet, it is more of the same. Sweet Simplicity is corn-derived and can cause digestive distress. However, it is better than most.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Why vegetarians are eating meat

This is an interesting piece. In a nutshell, now that humane, locally grown meat is becoming more widely available, vegetarians are getting in on the act.

The full article can be read here.

Bonnie - this is good news for the many who were vegetarians/vegans for principle at the expense of their health. See Mariel Hemingway's comment in the piece.

End Fluoridation, Say 500 Physicians, Dentists, Scientists And Environmentalists

In a statement released recently, over 600 professionals are urging Congress to stop water fluoridation until Congressional hearings are conducted. They cite new scientific evidence that fluoridation, long promoted to fight tooth decay, is ineffective and has serious health risks. (

Signers include a Nobel Prize winner, three members of the prestigious 2006 National Research Council (NRC) panel that reported on fluoride's toxicology, two officers in the Union representing professionals at EPA headquarters, the President of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment, and hundreds of medical, dental, academic, scientific and environmental professionals, worldwide.

Signer Dr. Arvid Carlsson, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine, says, "Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It's really obsolete."

An Assistant NY State Attorney General calls the report "the most up-to-date expert authority on the health effects of fluoride exposure."

The Professionals' Statement also references:

-- The new American Dental Association policy recommending infant formula NOT be prepared with fluoridated water.

-- The CDC's concession that the predominant benefit of fluoride is topical not systemic.

-- CDC data showing that dental fluorosis, caused by fluoride over-exposure, now impacts one third of American children.

-- Major research indicating little difference in decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.

-- A Harvard study indicating a possible link between fluoridation and bone cancer.

-- The silicofluoride chemicals used for fluoridation are contaminated industrial waste and have never been FDA- approved for human ingestion.

Monday, August 13, 2007

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U.S. life expectancy lags behind 41 nations

Americans are living longer than ever, but not as long as people in 41 other countries. For decades, the United States has been slipping in international rankings of life expectancy, as other countries improve health care, nutrition and lifestyles.

"Something's wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries," said Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. That life expectancy ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier, according to international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Researchers said several factors have contributed to the United States falling behind other industrialized nations.
• Adults in the United States have one of the highest obesity rates in the world. Nearly a third of U.S. adults 20 years and older are obese, while about two-thirds are overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
• A relatively high percentage of babies born in the U.S. die before their first birthday, compared with other industrialized nations. Forty countries, including Cuba, Taiwan and most of Europe had lower infant mortality rates than the U.S. in 2004.

Policymakers also should focus on ways to reduce cancer, heart disease and lung disease, said Murray. He advocates stepped-up efforts to reduce tobacco use, control blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. "Even if we focused only on those four things, we would go along way toward improving health care in the United States," Murray said. "The starting point is the recognition that the U.S. does not have the best health care system. There are still an awful lot of people who think it does."

Bonnie - the two factors mentioned above that contribute to our ranking, obesity and infant mortality, are inexcusable for a country like the United States. However, the third and most important factor, our poor health care system, will be the toughest to fix. It is based upon greed and a flawed philosophy: band-aid approach instead of a preventative approach.

Inducing labor for convenience questioned

Hospitals and healthcare organizations across the nation are concerned about induced labor. Several have barred elective labor induction under certain circumstances, such as before 39 weeks of gestation (one week before the due date) or when there isn't clear evidence that the mother's cervix is primed for childbirth.

"People want to schedule their birth like they schedule their nail appointments," says Janie Wilson, director of nursing operations for women and newborns at Intermountain Healthcare, a Salt Lake City-based chain of hospitals that has tried to reduce the rate of labor inductions.

Some experts say induced labor creates unnecessary risks and costs. It can lead to more interventions, such as caesarean sections, and increased use of forceps and vacuum devices to assist in delivery, research has shown. A 2005 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that C-sections occurred 12% of the time among women having spontaneous labor compared with 23.4% for women having medically necessary labor induction and 23.8% for women having elective labor induction.

Other studies have found that, compared with spontaneous labor, elective induction leads to longer hospital stays and higher costs. Induced labor also may be more painful because some of the drugs administered to trigger labor can cause more intense contractions.

There is little scientific evidence that labor induction causes any long-lasting harm to mother or baby. But even short-term medical problems are significant given the nation's healthcare economics crisis, Wilson says. According to data, healthy deliveries in the 39th week (and women whose cervixes were fully prepared) incur the lowest costs.

"It could be contributing to the double-digit premium increases you pay each year," she says of elective labor induction's effect on insurance rates. "Cost is the icing on the cake. But it's not the main reason we should be doing this. We should do it because it's safer."

Ascension Health Inc., the largest nonprofit healthcare system in the country with facilities in 20 states, last year requested its doctors follow criteria before proceeding with an elective labor induction. The criteria specified that the fetus must be at least 39 weeks in gestational age, in a specific size range and have established lung maturity, and that the mother isn't already having contractions.

Until more research is done, interventions that are performed without an obvious medical need should be viewed skeptically, says Dr. Michael C. Klein, emeritus professor of family practice and pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.

Doctors who want the convenience to schedule daytime deliveries may be the biggest force for elective labor induction, says Lisa Sherwood, a certified nurse midwife and women's healthcare nurse-practitioner based in San Clemente. Women who "haven't slept well in weeks, have swollen ankles and sore backs" are vulnerable to the suggestion of elective induction. "People look at the doctor as the expert and will do whatever he or she suggests."

But, she says, "once you do an intervention, it begets more interventions, and many women feel they are led down a road they didn't understand. Women tell me, 'I didn't know it was going to end up like this.' Women need to be given all the information on what they are signing up for, not just told, 'You're going to have your baby today.' "

Bonnie - I have never been a proponent of interfering with the natural birthing process unless medically necessary. Childbirth should be a celebrated and welcomed event. It should not be perceived or treated like a medical procedure.

Child growth chart may be changed

New child growth charts which reflect the slower weight gain associated with breastfeeding could be soon be adopted in England. Current UK growth charts are based on predominantly formula-fed babies, which tend to grow more quickly. The new charts have been drawn up by the World Health Organization. They have been backed in a report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. It is hoped that adopting the new standards could stop breastfeeding mothers being worried about their babies apparently failing to put on weight fast enough.

Bonnie - it is imperative that they make this change. I have to constantly reassure mothers with breastfed newborns and young children that their children are not underweight.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Prevention 'may not help elderly'

Use of medicines to prevent disease may not prolong or improve life in elderly people, say doctors. Drugs such as statins, prescribed to combat heart disease, may simply switch the cause of death to cancer or dementia in older people, they warn. Writing in the British Medical Journal they said fear of discrimination meant doctors were offering preventive treatment regardless of age. Experts agreed more evidence on such treatments in the elderly was needed. Statins are the mainstay of the government's goal to cut rates of heart disease by 40% by 2010.

Around 40 million statins are prescribed annually in the UK, a figure that is rising. GPs are offered financial incentives through their contract to prescribe them to as many high-risk patients as possible. But Dr Dee Mangin, a GP in New Zealand, and London GP Dr Iona Heath said it was worrying that there was no upper age limit for assessing the risk of heart disease. And if the aim is to prevent untimely death, what effect is it having in people who have already lived longer than the average, they questioned. Cause of death One large study of statins in people aged 70-82 years old found that illness and deaths from heart disease fell in those treated with pravastatin but overall there was no difference in mortality as rates of cancer illness and death increased. Changing the cause of death without the patient's informed consent, is unethical, they argue. Dr Heath said: "If you said I can give you this drug and it will reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack, people would have a different reaction to if you said I can give you this drug which will reduce your risk of a heart attack but increase the risk of you being diagnosed with cancer or dementia."

Bonnie - this is such a compelling issue and one that has disappointed me greatly for a long time. When I see elderly clients on countless medications, many just to counterbalance the medications' side effects, the first issue we discuss is quality of life. Do they want to continue down this path or do they want to alter their diet and lifestyle, which has proven to improve quality of life, and reduce their medication intake? Usually if they are seeing me, they are so miserable that they will try anything. In many instances, improvement in quality of life is dramatic, even at an advanced age.

The financial incentives offered to GPs in the UK for prescribing statins is shocking!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Diet Foods May Promote Child Obesity

Diet sodas and other noncalorie and low-calorie foods may be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic, new research suggests. The studies involved young rats, not children, but researchers say the findings indicate that eating diet foods early in life may inadvertently lead to overeating and obesity later on. Juvenile rats in the study fed sweet or salty low-calorie foods over time later overate when fed similar tasting calorie-dense foods, suggesting that the low-calorie foods disrupted the body's ability to recognize calories and regulate energy intake. This was especially true among young rats genetically predisposed to become obese. Researcher W. David Pierce, PhD, acknowledges that extrapolating the findings to human children is a big leap. But the University of Alberta sociology professor says the rat studies may provide important clues about how early taste conditioning leads to overeating and obesity.

The study is published in the August issue of the journal Obesity.

Steve - we do not need a rat study to prove this. We have had thousands of clients come to us that have been on "diet" everything and never lost a pound.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Diabetes problems have 'vitamin link'

A simple vitamin deficiency may be the cause of many of the side effects of diabetes, a study suggests. Researchers found people with the disease expelled thiamine - vitamin B1 - from their bodies at 15 times the normal rate in a study of 94 people. The Warwick University team said thiamine helped ward off complications such as heart disease and eye problems, the Diabetologia journal said. Experts said diet supplements could potentially help people with diabetes.

The team measured thiamine levels in blood plasma and found concentrations were 76% lower in people with type 1 diabetes and 75% lower in people with type 2. Thiamine is key to warding off vascular problems such as kidney, retina and nerve damage as well as heart disease and stroke. It works by helping protect cells against the effect of high glucose levels.

Bonnie - while B-1 does not make up the entire nutrient picture for diabetes, it does play a role. I almost always recommend a B-Complex in addition to the B's in a multivitamin, among other nutrients for client's with diabetes or blood sugar issues. I do not, however, recommend B-1 supplementation alone because it could create an imbalance of B-vitamins.

Excess glutamate contributes to OCD

According to a report in Time Magazine, a gene that appears to regulate the brain chemical glutamate, when overstimulated by receiving too much (glutamate) from external sources (i.e. diet), can create Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Steve - what is the most common form of glutamate we receive from diet? Monosodium Glutamate, or commonly known as MSG. MSG is hidden in many foods, and go by the names such as hydrolyzed proteins, autolyzed yeast, sodium and calcium caseinate, yeast extract, and spice extract.

We have been very critical of MSG for years. This is another good reason to avoid.

Tate & Lyle launches fiber line in US

Tate & Lyle introduced its new line of branded fiber ingredients to the US market, claiming the ingredients can help food and beverage manufacturers add fiber to 'everyday' products.

Bonnie - The ingredients can also devastate many people's digestive systems.

Promitor Resistant Starch (from corn starch) and Promitor Soluble Corn Fiber are the two products.

The resistant starch product is designed to replace flour and can be used in baked products and snacks, including cereal, crackers, cookies, bread and pasta. The corn fiber product replaces sugar in product applications, and can be used in foods and beverages ranging from cereal coatings, soup and sauces to jams, fillings, confectionery and dairy products.

Bonnie - not surprising that this comes from the makers of (sucralose) Splenda. For corn-sensitive individuals, you may as well be giving them poison. While their intentions may be honorable, the end result is disappointing, yet typical.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

American Journal Nutrition Highlights - July

  • The improvement in acne and insulin sensitivity after a low-glycemic load diet suggest that nutrition-related lifestyle factors may play a role in the pathogenesis of acne. YEAH!
  • A one year intervention with calcium and vitamin D reduced bone turnover, significantly increased bone mineral density in patients younger than 70 years of age, and decreased bone loss in older patients. The effect of the treatment, however, was related to physical performance/activity.

  • Sweet taste preferences are partly inherited. Chromosome 16p11.2 may harbor genetic variations that affect the consumption of sweet foods.

  • A Scottish study is the first to suggest that specific genetic interaction influences eating behavior in children. The two genes studied exhibited much different energy use depending on their expression. If certain polymorphisms were discovered, energy intake from food was much lower, making easier to gain weight.

Infant formula ads 'should be banned'

A coalition of charities is demanding infant formula be treated like tobacco and subjected to a total advertising ban in the United Kingdom. The National Childbirth Trust, Save The Children and Unicef blame advertisements for many mothers abandoning breast feeding before the recommended six months. They want the government to extend a ban on infant milk adverts to include "follow-on" milks for older babies. England's policy on the promotion of formula milk is currently being reviewed by the Food Standards Agency. At present, companies are not allowed to advertise formula milk for babies under six months. But they are allowed to promote so-called follow-on milks, a range for children aged between six months and two years.

The charities accuse baby milk companies of using their follow-on milks to promote their products for younger infants by giving them the same name and logo so as to make them "virtually indistinguishable" to parents. "In similar ways to how tobacco companies found their way through loopholes in legislation restricting the advertising of cigarette promotion, formula milk companies are finding ways to exploit ambiguity in the law and to continue aggressively marketing their products to parents," says Belinda Phipps of the NCT.

Bonnie - I do not agree with a total ban, because there will always be some loophole to exploit. Why not spend megabucks for breastfeeding public service announcements? If they can find famous people who have or are currently breastfeeding to participate, they could help turn things around.

Monday, August 06, 2007

House bill directs FDA to revamp food safety work

The U.S. House passed a $90.7 billion funding bill on Thursday that orders the Food and Drug Administration to write a plan for improving its food safety work. The FDA would submit the plan to Congress early next year with implementation due by July 2009. The White House has threatened to veto the bill on grounds it spends too much and ties the administration's hands on issues ranging from prescription drugs to school snacks. The bill allows importation of prescription drugs from other nations and the White House says there is no way to assure the drugs are safe.The House bill calls on the FDA to set clear goals for a multi-year overhaul of its food safety operations.

Steve - this is doomed from the start. Mark my words. Where are they going to find the staff to write it? The FDA is already so grossly undermanned, they cannot possibly have something ready by early next year. It took them 13 years to write guidelines for dietary supplements!

Cargill unveils, SaltWise, a salt substitute

The world's largest manufacturer of salt now makes a salt substitute. Food ingredient giant Cargill Inc. claims that the substitute, called SaltWise, can reduce sodium in packaged foods by 25 to 50 percent without a loss of flavor. What's in it? The company won't say, at least not yet. "We're still finishing up some intellectual property in that area," said Timm Adams, technical development manager at Cargill. The ingredients will eventually become public, most likely when a food company lists them on its packaging of a product that uses SaltWise, Adams said.

The product probably won't appear on store shelves until early next year. A meat company may be the first to use SaltWise: The J&B Group's No Name brand of meats, the No. 1 frozen steak brand in the country, says it has developed steak, chicken and pork products with 33 percent less sodium using SaltWise.

Steve - we can only imagine what the ingredients will be. Stay tuned...our detective skills may turn something up before you see it on labels!

LA Times Health Section: Big Pharma

This week's Los Angeles Times Health Section has several special articles dedicated to the drug industry's influence on consumers, health professionals, and government. The section is brilliantly structured, taking a drug in its infancy, to market, and beyond.

Olive extract may improve quality of life for arthritis sufferers

Supplementation with an olive extract decreased pain and inflammation, and improved the quality of life of people suffering from osteoarthritis, claims a new study in the journal Nutrition Research.

"An 8-week treatment with olive extract improved daily living activities in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and significantly reduced plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) and homocysteine levels in patients with and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)," wrote lead author Catherine Bitler.

The new double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study recruited 90 people (age range 55 to 75, average BMI 27.9 kg per sq. m) to receive either 400 mg of freeze-dried olive vegetation water (OVW) per day or placebo for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken in order to measure a variety of biochemical markers.

Bitler and co-workers report that the RA subjects receiving the olive extract had significantly lower homocysteine levels than the placebo group.

C-reactive protein (CRP) levels decreased by about 50 per cent as a result of olive extract supplementation, while CRP levels in the placebo group increased.

Bonnie - olive leaf extract is in Metagenics Kaprex, one of the main supplements we suggest for osteoarthritis. In addition, eating olives and extra virgin olive oil is a no brainer!

Friday, August 03, 2007

U.S. issues new botulism warning for green beans

Consumers should not eat certain brands of French-cut green beans because of concerns they could be tainted with the toxin that causes botulism, U.S. health officials warned on Friday. The green beans were manufactured by Lakeside Foods Inc. of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and packaged in 14.5-ounce cans, the Food and Drug Administration said. The FDA said the beans may not have been processed adequately to eliminate the potential for botulinum toxin, which can cause a life-threatening illness.

The FDA said the affected Lakeside French-cut green beans are sold nationwide under the brands Albertson's, Happy Harvest, Best Choice, Food Club, Bogopa, Valu Time, Hill Country Fare, HEB, Laura Lynn, Kroger, No Name, North Pride, Shop N Save, Shoppers Valu, Schnucks, Cub Foods, Dierbergs, Flavorite, IGA, Best Choice and Thrifty Maid. The warning applies to cans with the following codes: EAA5247, EAA5257, EAA5267, EAA5277, EAB5247, EAB5257, ECA5207, ECA5217, ECA5227, ECA5297, ECB5207, ECB5217, ECB5227, ECB5307. Consumers who have the products should dispose of them immediately, the FDA said. Botulism symptoms include dizziness, double vision, difficulty in breathing and abdominal problems. People with those symptoms who may have eaten the recalled green beans should seek immediate medical attention, the FDA said.

Steve - it seems like every day another food safety issue arises.

Multivitamins and minerals may boost mood in elderly

A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may improve depressive symptoms amongst the elderly, suggests a new trial in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

The new prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, recruited 225 hospitalized acutely ill older people and randomly assigned them to receive either normal hospital diet plus multivitamin and mineral supplements or normal hospital diet plus placebo for six weeks.

Depressive symptoms and cognitive function were assessed using the 15-item geriatric depression questionnaire (GDS) and abbreviated mental test questionnaire (AMT), respectively.

Gariballa and Forster report that at the end of the study levels of folate and vitamin B12 in red blood cells and the plasma, respectively, increased significantly in the MVM group but decreased in the placebo group.

Significant differences were also reported for symptoms of depression scores between the groups, with beneficial effects observed for patients in the supplementation group regardless of the initial level of depression of the individual, ranging from no depression to severe depression. No differences in cognitive function scores.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

U.S. breast-feeding rates rise to record high

The percentage of U.S. mothers who breast-feed their babies has reached the highest level on record amid mounting evidence that it provides many health benefits to the child, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 74 percent of American women who gave birth in 2004 breast-fed their babies for at least some period of time, continuing an upward trend since the early 1990s.

Breast-feeding rates just about reached the government's target of 75 percent, the report showed. But many women did not stick exclusively to breast-feeding in the first months after birth as recommended by experts, turning instead to baby formula, the report showed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women who do not have health problems exclusively breast-feed their infants for at least the first six months, with breast-feeding continuing at least through the first year as other foods are introduced. The CDC backs these recommendations, Philip said.

The CDC report found that among infants born in 2004, the rate of exclusive breast-feeding through the first three months after birth was 31 percent, shy of the government's goal of 60 percent, and through six months was 11 percent, below the government target of 25 percent.

Bonnie - I agree. This is progress, but we still have a long way to go. More new mothers would breastfeed if lactation consulting was readily available (and the cost covered by their health insurance policy) for the first two months post partum. It is also important to make it more acceptable and less stressful for mothers to breastfeed in public. They shouldn't have to hide in a bathroom!

Additionally, there are too many mothers quitting before they are supposed to. The CDC suggest six months minimum for breastfeeding (I say one year minimum). The percentage of women who switch to bottle feeding before six months is still way too high.

Kroger drops milk hormones

Kroger Co. will sell only milk certified to be free of a bovine growth hormone by February, the Cincinnati-based grocer said Wednesday. Earlier this year, Kroger shifted the milk it sells in the western half of the United States to a certified hormone-free supply. By February, the milk that Kroger processes and sells in its stores throughout the Midwest and Southeast will also be certified as hormone-free. This includes Kroger banner stores in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

"Our customers' increasing interest in their health and wellness is the basis for our decision," said William Boehm, senior vice president and president of manufacturing for Kroger, in a statement. "We appreciate the willingness of dairy cooperatives across the country to work with us to make this transition in the next six months."

Steve - this is wonderful news. I venture to say we will be seeing more grocers implementing this policy in the future. It is a perfect example of how the consumer's dollar talks!

In a follow-up story, Monsanto admits that it has and will continue to reduce its supply of rBGH hormone because of waning consumer demand.

If you need reaffirmation of the dangers of this substance, read our newsletter entry this February.

Should You Sip Your Vitamins Through a Straw?

Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

As nutrient-fortified sodas, juice, teas and flavored water proliferate on store shelves, questions remain about whether these beverages really provide health benefits. The explosion of nutrient-laced drinks reflects consumers' desire for more healthful choices than soda. But some nutritionists say these enhanced drinks may lead consumers to pack in more calories than they need. Many health experts say there is little evidence to suggest that fortified beverages make a significant difference in health.

Bonnie - there are two useful purposes for these types of drinks:

1) Elite athletes who need the nutrients and carbs
2) Non-diabetic elderly people who cannot swallow pills well and who need extra calories

Find Yourself Packing It On? Blame Friends

Courtesy of NY Times.

Obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus, researchers are reporting today. When one person gains weight, close friends tend to gain weight, too. Their study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved a detailed analysis of a large social network of 12,067 people who had been closely followed for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003. The investigators knew who was friends with whom as well as who was a spouse or sibling or neighbor, and they knew how much each person weighed at various times over three decades. That let them reconstruct what happened over the years as individuals became obese. Did their friends also become obese? Did family members? Or neighbors? The answer, the researchers report, was that people were most likely to become obese when a friend became obese. That increased a person’s chances of becoming obese by 57 percent. It did not even matter if the friend was hundreds of miles away, the influence remained. And the greatest influence of all was between close mutual friends. There, if one became obese, the other had a 171 percent increased chance of becoming obese, too.

Bonnie - as if overweight/obese children are not ostracized enough, now their thin friends can tell them, "we can't be your friend because we are afraid of getting fat." This Framingham research study made huge headlines. If true, why can't the reverse be true? Why can't fat people become thin when all their friends are thin? If it works, we may be onto something.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Severe heart attacks linked to bad fat intake

The 15th European Congress on Obesity saw the results of researchers looking into the fat content in fast food - one of the biggest sources of trans fats available to consumers.

Seventy-four samples of French fries and fried chicken bought in McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets in 2005 and 2006 were analysed across 35 countries. Trans fat levels ranged from 15per cent of the total fat content to 29 per cent.

The study, announced this week, is yet another nail in the coffin for "bad fats" in food. Dr. Peter Light, researcher from the Canadian institute, said: "We know saturated and trans fats cause cholesterol build-up in the arteries, but it can also accumulate in the heart cells and affect the way the cells conduct electricity and contract properly."

Dr. Light notes that intracellular saturated fats can cause an excessive build-up of calcium within the heart cells.

This abnormal calcium level disrupts the heart's electrical flow, causing heart cells to dangerously hyper-contract, without a normal rest period in between beats. Light's research reportedly shows that "good" fats such as polyunsaturated and fish oils do not have this effect.

He said: "The more saturated fat you have circulating in your heart cells at the time of a heart attack, the more severe the attack may be.

"By controlling the amount of saturated and trans fats in our diet, we can likely reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and reduce the incidence of damage if we have a heart attack."

Bonnie - it is great to see that they are emphasizing calcification as a major risk factor instead of just cholesterol, cholesterol, cholesterol. Let us not forget that fats are good, especially when they are predominately omega-3, monounsaturated, and some polyunsaturated. Our bodies do need saturated fats, but in moderation and not chemically-altered.

Health policies make workers shape up or pay up

Looking for new ways to trim the fat and boost workers' health, some employers are starting to make overweight employees pay if they don't slim down.

Others, citing growing medical costs tied to obesity, are offering fit workers lucrative incentives that shave thousands of dollars a year off health-care premiums.

In one of the boldest moves yet, an Indiana-based hospital chain, Clarian Health Partners, last month said it will begin charging less-healthy employees up to $30 every two weeks based on three health guidelines.

Employers are getting serious about penalizing workers "because they've run out of other options," said Joe Marlowe, senior vice president with Aon Consulting, a national benefits consulting firm.

UnitedHealthcare, a national insurer, introduced a new plan this month that, for a typical family, includes a $5,000 yearly deductible that can be reduced to $1,000 if an employee isn't obese and doesn't smoke.

Critics of the lose-it-or-pay trend say that companies who charge heavier employees more for their medical coverage are turning the health-care system into a police state. Just as worrisome, they say, employers are working off a false assumption that it is easy for people who are obese and have other health issues to change their situations.

Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a Princeton, N.J.-based employee rights group, called the trend "a very dangerous road that could lead to employers controlling everything we do in our private lives."

Employers have been struggling with how to hold down costs without offending or pushing away workers.

Sixty-two percent of 135 executives responding to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey this spring said unhealthy workers such as those who smoke or are obese should pay higher benefit costs, up from 48 percent in 2005.

Still, some lawyers say weight-based compensation plans may run afoul of other employment laws.

"A key protection in the Americans With Disabilities Act is that employers can't discriminate against employees based on their health status," said J.D. Piro, a principal at Hewitt Associates' health-care law group. "This is a fight that's likely going to be dealt with in the courts."

Brittney Manning, 29, a patient advocate at Clarian Health's Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, said many employees were taken aback when the plan was announced. But she approves.

"I think it's fair for people to pay according to what their health-care costs are," she said. Because her weight is "normal," she added, she doesn't expect to have to pay more.

Courtesy of LA Times