Thursday, January 31, 2008

Probiotics help infants prevent eczema

In a healthy intestinal system there is a great variety of natural bacteria. Today many people have an imbalanced flora of intestinal bacteria. Now a new study, from Lund University in Sweden, shows that children with only a limited variety of bacteria in their feces one week after birth more often developed atopical eczema by the age of 18 months.

In the study, published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, feces were examined from 300 children in Göteborg, London, and Rome. “A diversified intestinal flora seems to be better at stimulating the immune defense," says Göran Molin, professor of food hygiene at the Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, who co-directed the study with Siv Ahrné, also a professor of food hygiene. The composition of a child’s bacterial flora is dependent on the mother’s microflora, since she is the primary source for the child’s bacteria at the outset.

“A healthy vagina is totally dominated by lactobacilli, or lactic acid bacteria. With a vaginal delivery the child will come into close contact with the mother’s bacteria. If the mother has a good flora of bacteria, the contact is an important help for the child to be able to be colonized by bacteria in the proper way. It can be assumed that certain hygiene measures, such as antibiotics given in some countries in connection with deliveries, in normal cases may have a deleterious effect, since the mother then is at risk to get a skewed bacteria flora, which she passes on to the child," Göran Molin reasons. But today, many women in the U.S. as many as a third of all women of fertile age have bacterial vaginosis. This is a condition in which other bacteria than lactobacilli dominate in the vagina.

Low stress hormone contributes to CFS in women

Lower levels of cortisol, the hormone that helps people deal with stress, was more prevalent in women with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome than those who did not have it. Cortisol differences were not found in men. Saliva samples were taken from 700 volunteers in the Centers for Disease Control study that appeared in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Bonnie - this study is significant to mention because they used saliva samples instead of blood. I have always believed that saliva is a more accurate hormone indicator than blood.

Allergies Linked to IBS

According to a recent study in Annals of Allergy, Asthma Immunology, patients with allergies have a significantly greater incidence (over 20%) of Irritable Bowel Syndrome than those without allergies. The lead researcher of the study adds that identifying the allergic triggers, both inhaled and ingested, and applying the appropriate treatment can markedly improve the patient's quality of life in controlling IBS.

Bonnie - IBS is a byproduct of a chronically inflammatory state. While the body ramps up its defenses against substances that it sees as toxic, inflammation rises. The gut is one of the first organ systems to degrade. IBS is an early stage digestive issue which can be treated easier than later stage GI issues like Crohn's.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Highlights of Good Calories/Bad Calories

Rarely do we ever expound on a book or speak so highly of a singular title. However, in this case, writer Gary Taubes, a correspondent for Science Magazine and winner of three Science in Society Journalism awards, has written Good Calories/Bad Calories, a book that warrants attention.
  • As far back as 1882 until the early 1960's, the experts recommended these foods to be avoided to prevent obesity:
    • Bread, and everything else made with flour
    • Cereals, including breakfast cereals and milk pudding
    • Potatoes and all other white root vegetables
    • Foods containing much sugar
    • All sweets

  • Then, in the mid to late 60's, the philosophy changed to carbs being heart healthy and low fat became the enemy.

  • One of the most famous American studies ever performed, the Framingham Heart Study that began in 1950, revealed the following surprise (it was buried in the 24th volume of the 28 volume report in 1968): after studying the diets of men with exceedingly high and low levels of cholesterol, they differed not at all in the amount or type of fat consumed.

  • Even Paleolithic expert Boyd Eaton (who Bonnie cites regularly) revised his 1985 discovery of humans eating 20-25 percent of fat at most. In 2000, he suggested that Paleolithic diets were extremely high in protein (35%), low in carb (35%), and higher in fat (30%). Many experts believe that we are most genetically compatible with the hunter/gatherers of the Paleolithic era.

  • There is strong evidence to show that excess carbohydrate consumption is the main cause of hypertension (high blood pressure). Carbohydrates create fluid retention by holding onto sodium. Excess sodium of course creates a hypertensive state. This is something that very few realize in the medical community. So, in essence, the problem with hypertension is not taking in excess sodium, rather the excess intake of carbohydrates cases water retention by inhibiting the excretion of sodium. Thus, removing carbs from the diet works like a diuretic.

  • Triglycerides, which are linked with carbohydrate metabolism and consumption, are a major cardiac risk factor. In fact, HDL to Triglyceride ratio is one of the most important cardiac risk indicators. Most, if not virtually all, individuals with high triglycerides have carb-induced lipemia.

  • For the pundits that say high carbohydrate diets do not cause heart disease in under-nourished populations: they eat out of economic necessity rather than choice, they usually do not achieve the amount of calories needed on daily basis, and they consume predominately unrefined carbs. However, now that American fast food, which is loaded with refined carbs, is reaching under-nourished populations, we are seeing the rates of obesity skyrocket.

  • The introduction of high fructose corn syrup dramatically increased sugar consumption per capita between 1965 and 2000 in the United States.

  • Insulin and improper carbohydrate metabolism is related to cancer.

  • Obesity is related to what you eat, more than how much you eat (i.e. refined carbs and sugars directly related). This totally refutes the "calories in, calories out" theory.

  • The Pima Native American Tribe study is a prime example of a population who adapted to the Standard American Diet and became obese.

  • Starving yourself and excess exercise most often do not help with weight loss. Hormonal, endocrine, and genetic connection is highly indicated. There is a failure of those to grasp that both hunger and sedentary behavior can be driven by a metabolic/hormonal disposition to grow fat. Discovering the metabolic and hormonal deviation that drives the fattening process is the key.

  • Fattening and obesity are caused by an imbalance - a disequilibrium - in the hormonal regulation of adipose tissue and fat metabolism. Fat synthesis and storage exceed mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue and its subsequent oxidation. We become leaner when this hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this balance (it can sometimes take a long time to reverse).

  • Four facts regarding insulin and weight gain.
    • Carbohydrates are singularly responsible for prompting insulin secretion.
    • Insulin is singularly responsible for inducing fat accumulation. The leaner an individual, the lower the baseline insulin.
    • Dietary Carbohydrates are required for inducing fat accumulation.
    • Both Type 2 diabetics and the obese have abnormally elevated levels of circulating insulin response to carbohydrates in the diet.

  • By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
Gary has summed up through research much of what we have been saying for years and we would like to thank him for his tireless work and courageousness to publish this book.

What's prophetic is that soon after Gary's book was published, a major study from the January 2008 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine has questioned whether the federal government's national guidelines advising Americans to eat a low-fat diet has contributed to the current obesity epidemic.

In addition
, according to a January study published by the American Diabetes Association, the diabetes epidemic, also caused by excess carbohydrate consumption, now costs the United States $174 billion a year. That's more than the cost of the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror combined.

Cholesterol: Big Problem or Big Business?

I'm sure you are frustrated as we are to keep reading about unfavorable research released years after patients have already been taking a drug. The most recent example is Vytorin, a combination of Zocor (statin that blocks cholesterol in the liver) and Zetia (blocks absorption of cholesterol in the intestine).

The makers of Vytorin announced recently that its drug had failed to reduce the growth of fatty arterial plaque, even though Vytorin users had lower LDL than those taking Zocor alone. These results have been interpreted to mean that LDL may not translate into measurable medical benefits. Whether or not that is true is up for debate. Unfortunately, this was not an event trial (one that focuses on reduction of cardiac events), because those did not start until 2006 (four years after the drug was approved) and will not be completed into 2011.

The reason this story received so much attention, like that of Avandia and Vioxx, is because Vytorin is a blockbuster drug. Cholesterol medications are the darlings of pharmaceutical companies and tens of millions of Americans are taking them. They are considered lifestyle drugs, those that are prescribed to be taken on a long-term basis, so the money to be made is the tune of $40 billion a year.

While still in the minority, a powerful group of researchers and cardiologists are beginning to recognize that the benefits of statin medication may not come from its intended purpose, to lower cholesterol, but for its ability to reduce inflammation. Most importantly, they realize that just lowering LDL will not solve the heart disease problem. If this is the case, there are many people taking statins who think they can eat anything they want and not worry about developing heart disease. Most importantly, there are countless Americans who are currently experiencing a host unnecessary side effects from statins.

According to cardiologist Jay Cohen of University of California San Diego, muscle symptoms occur in roughly 35% of statin users, even though the drug companies' claim incidence is only 5%. Furthermore, statins have been proven to cause numbness in the limbs, cognitive and memory problems, muscle pain, and severe muscle injury. This information is not surprising, as we have heard from many of our own clients who have had to go off statin medication because of similar complaints.

Unfortunately, because statins are believed to be so safe, doctors do not seem to be listening to their patients complaints. A UCSD research team, who investigated doctor's behavior when dealing with patient complaints of statin side effects, found that of 138 doctors, 62% dismissed the possibility of a side effect.

Many of you may be asking, what do I do? If you are currently on a statin, do not do anything until you speak with your physician. If you are considering going on a statin, you need to delve deeper.

Many progressive cardiologists believe that high risk groups and those with established heart disease still have a lot to gain by taking statins. However, for healthy men with high cholesterol, for women with or without heart disease and for people over 70, there is little evidence, if any, that taking a statin will make a meaningful difference in how long they live.

You must insist that your physician look at the whole picture, which means looking at numerous factors that go into evaluating heart health.
  1. If your LDL (considered the bad cholesterol) is high, particle size makes a huge difference in risk. If you have a large number of small LDL particles, there may be some cause for concern. If you have a high number of large particles, they are not nearly as risky.

  2. Familial Hypercholesterolemia - less than one percent of the world's population has this inherited condition in which too much cholesterol is produced regardless of lifestyle changes that are made. Most cardiologists believe that a statin is warranted in this case.

  3. The good cholesterol, HDL, is finally getting the respect that it deserves for its importance in heart health. In this case, the higher the HDL level, the better. Pfizer was set to bring the holy grail, blockbuster drug torcetrapib, which helped raise HDL levels, to market but was derailed by numerous heart attacks and strokes during a trial. Merck is asking the FDA to approve its own version, Cordaptive, without waiting for the results of event trials (which will not end until 2013). Unbeknownst to much of the public, there already exists a very effective method for raising HDL. It is called Vitamin B3, or Niacin. However, Niacin is not profitable so that is why you rarely hear about it. Most well-researched cardiologists recommend Niacin to raise HDL.

  4. Triglycerides are vital for heart health because from a nutritionist's standpoint, it is the indicator of how well you are metabolizing carbohydrates as well as how many of them you are eating. Some experts look at the HDL/Triglyceride ratio as the most potent predictor of heart disease. This means that the lower your triglycerides and higher your HDL, the less risk you have for heart disease.

  5. C-Reactive Protein (CRP) reveals the level of inflammation and accounts for roughly 50% of cardiac risk according to some cardiologists. Statins can help with CRP, but should not be the first option because of potential side effects (muscle wasting, amnesia, cognitive problems, irritability and impotence) and the unnecessary blocking of cholesterol. Diet, nutrient, and lifestyle change are the first line therapy prescribed by preventive cardiologists for inflammation. Homocysteine levels should also be taken into account as an important inflammatory indicator.

  6. Some experts believe that Blood Pressure is the most important number for heart disease risk in women. There is no data showing that women can benefit from lowering their LDL values with statin medication.
To recap, your beneficial levels when evaluating test results (labs are different in how they interpret optimal reference range) include:
  • Low CRP
  • Low Triglyceride
  • High HDL
  • Low number of small, dense, LDL Particles
  • Optimal blood pressure (in women especially)
If your are at high risk for heart disease or have heart disease (males), have many small LDL particles, have genetic hypercholesterolemia, or have found no other way to reduce inflammation or raise HDL, then a statin may be an option for you to discuss with your physician.

If you begin statin therapy, make sure to supplement with at least 100 mg. of Co-EnzymeQ10, if your doctor fails to mention it. Statins deplete CoQ10, which is essential for energizing mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. CoQ10 was included in the first statin to be brought to market, but was quickly removed because it proved too costly for the drug to be profitable.

If you feel you may be on a statin unnecessarily, speak with your physician about weaning off of it while coming up with alternative methods to accomplish your optimal heart health goals. This is where we can help as well. For example, for many of our clients, simply lowering grain and simple sugar carbohydrate intake will positively reduce triglyceride levels quickly and dramatically. This, in turn, helps blood sugar, insulin levels, and promotes weight loss.

Have a happy, healthy day.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Labeling law to protect against cloning risk

California aims to protect its consumers from the possible unknown risks of consuming food from cloned animals and their offspring by proposing a bill requiring such products to display clear and prominent labels.

The bill has been brought forward by California State Senator Carol Migden following the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made its controversial announcement this month saying milk and meat from cloned animals are safe for sale to the public.

"The federal agency charged with protecting our food supply has failed us," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety.

"Consumers have the right to know that the meat and milk they feed their children is safe. Since FDA refuses to wait for science to show what's really happening with cloned animals, it is now up to individual states to protect consumers and their families. The Senator's labeling bill will protect Californians through labeling, which restores consumer confidence and choice."

Steve - once again, California steps up to do the right thing and protect the desires of its citizens.

Carotenes linked to lower heart disease deaths

An increased consumption of alpha- and beta-carotene in the diet may reduce the risks of heart disease deaths by about 20 per cent, suggests a new study.

In a study of 559 men, researchers assessed the potential benefits of various antioxidant nutrients for CVD mortality in elderly men (average age 72). Over 15 years of follow-up, lead author Brian Buijsse reports that 197 men had died from CVD. The men were free of chronic diseases at the start of the study.

Buijsse and co-workers report that an increased intake of alpha-carotene was associated with a 19 per cent reduction in the risk of CVD mortality, while beta-carotene was linked to a 20 per cent reduction, after adjusting the results for potential confounding factors, such as age and smoking

The study has several limitations, most notably the use of food frequency questionnaires to assess dietary intakes, which may be susceptible to recall errors from the participants.

Late in 2007, researchers from Harvard reports that long-term beta-carotene supplementation may slow the rate of age-related cognitive decline.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Vol. 167, pp. 2184-2190), was the first to look at long-term antioxidant supplementation in relation to a decline in cognitive function that occurs with naturally with age, and that precedes diseases such as Alzheimer's.

New research suggests ADHD meds may not help in the long run

A series of studies following 457 Finnish children from birth to ages 16 to 18 offers a glimpse of how the primary symptoms of ADHD typically evolve. At the same time, the studies raise provocative questions about the long-term effect of treating those symptoms with medication.

The studies focus on a subset of 188 Finnish teens considered to have "probable or definite ADHD" that will follow them into adulthood and 103 kids with conduct disorder -- behavior issues that fall short of an ADHD diagnosis but put kids at higher risk for similar problems. Those teens were compared with a group of Finnish teens with no ADHD diagnosis.

Researchers found it is the can't-sit-still kids -- the stereotype of the "ADHD generation" -- who are most likely to mature out of the disease. Among those with persistent ADHD, they also found, have problems with cognitive skills that are key to success in adulthood, but half have no such deficits.

And when researchers compare the findings from Finland to studies of Americans with ADHD, an even more intriguing discovery emerges: By the time they're in their late teens, those who receive drugs for attention problems seem to fare about the same as those who do not.

"This begs the question: Are current treatments really leading to improved outcome over time?' " wrote UCLA neuropsychologist Susan L. Smalley and co-author Dr. Marjo-Riitta Järvelin in a special section of December's Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

UCLA neuroscientist Robert Bilder, who was not involved in the Finnish research, said the studies suggest that ADHD might best be treated, in some kids, by shoring up weaknesses in underlying cognitive skills rather than by focusing exclusively on behavioral symptoms that can change with age.

"We all hope in the future we'll find the optimal combination of treatments -- whether behavioral or pharmacological -- that'll provide young people with these problems the best chance to succeed in school and social environments," Bilder said. "It's clear so far that no treatment's been identified that's a panacea."

Bonnie - this story appeared in the LA Times. I bet the parents and their children who have been on these medications for years are ecstatic about this recent research.

Lead linked to aging in older brains

Courtesy of Associated Press

Could it be that the "natural" mental decline that afflicts many older people is related to how much lead they absorbed decades before? That's the provocative idea emerging from some recent studies, part of a broader area of new research that suggests some pollutants can cause harm that shows up only years after someone is exposed. The new work suggests long-ago lead exposure can make an aging person's brain work as if it's five years older than it really is. Other pollutants like mercury and pesticides may do the same thing. In fact, some recent research does suggest that being exposed to pesticides raises the risk of getting Parkinson's disease a decade or more later.

Research with lead can measure the amount that has accumulated in the shinbone over decades and get a read on how much lead a person has been exposed to in the past. Lead in the blood, by contrast, reflects recent exposure. Virtually all Americans have lead in their blood, but the amounts are far lower today than in the past. The big reason for the drop: the phasing out of lead in gasoline from 1976 to 1991. Because of that and accompanying measures, the average lead level in the blood of American adults fell 30 percent by 1980 and about 80 percent by 1990.

In 2006, researchers published a study of about 1,000 Baltimore residents. They were ages 50 to 70, old enough to have absorbed plenty of lead before it disappeared from gasoline. They probably got their peak doses in the 1960s and 1970s, Schwartz said, mostly by inhaling air pollution from vehicle exhaust and from other sources in the environment. The researchers estimated each person's lifetime dose by scanning their shinbones for lead. Then they gave each one a battery of mental ability tests. In brief, the scientists found that the higher the lifetime lead dose, the poorer the performance across a wide variety of mental functions, like verbal and visual memory and language ability. From low to high dose, the difference in mental functioning was about the equivalent of aging by two to six years.

For younger people, prevention is a clearer strategy, researchers said. They are calling for tougher federal standards on lead exposure in the workplace. And plenty of low-income neighborhoods could use a strong effort to remove lead from old houses, many of which still have lead paint.

Steve - I love how the reporter call this research a "provocative idea." Lead, mercury, arsenic, etc., etc., etc. are NEUROTOXINS. They are ever-present in our environment. From a genetic and lifestyle standpoint, many have weak defenses against these substances. Of course it is going to hinder our brain function.

The term prevention used by researchers in not accurate in this case. While there are many steps we can take to curtail exposure and buildup, unless you live in a bubble, you cannot prevent toxic exposure in the world we live in.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dannon accused of fraudulent probiotic claims

The US arm of Danone could be forced to make a multi-million dollar refund to its customers over allegations that it has used fraudulent health claims to sell some of its Activia and DanActive branded yogurts.

In a class action filed yesterday against the Dannon company in a California court, a legal team have accused the company of spending $100m promoting clinical benefits of products which the company's own testing disproves.

Attorney Timothy Blood, who will represent Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins in the action, said the dairy group had purposely deceived consumers about the products.

"Deceptive advertising has enabled Dannon to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ordinary yogurt at inflated prices to responsible, health conscious consumers," he stated.

The class action alleges therefore that claims on advertisements and labelling for Activia pronouncing that the product is "proven" to improve one's "intestinal rhythm" and "regulate your digestive system" are all unsubstantiated.

Bonnie - hooray, hooray, hooray. I panned these products when they were launched for a number of reasons. First, the amount of probiotic in the yogurt is negligible to have any therapeutic effect. Second, they are loaded with sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, which negates any effect the probiotics would have had anyway. Third, the claims these yogurt's are making is no better than what drug company claims on television ads. It is deceiving and they should be reprimanded.

B vitamins and pregnancy

Low maternal vitamin B12 levels in combination with certain genes may have detrimental effects for offspring.

A combination of low vitamin B12 levels and certain genotypes for the methionine synthase reductase (MTRR) and transcobalamin II (TC) genes were found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by about 35 and 100 per cent, respectively, report the researchers in the journal Molecular Genetics and Metabolism.

"Therefore, it might be favorable to advise women to use a diet rich in vitamin B12 and eventually a vitamin B12 supplement in addition to a folic acid supplement in the periconception period to achieve an optimal vitamin B12 status," wrote Anna Verkleij-Hagoort from Erasmus MC, University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

The importance of B vitamins, particularly folate, in fetal development is well established. The new study expands our understanding of the potential of pre-conception diets to influence the health of offspring.

Verkleij-Hagoort and co-workers studied 230 children with a CHD and 251 health control children and their parents.

Bonnie - Folate, B-12, B-6, they are all important. That's why one must take a full-spectrum, potent prenatal. Unfortunately, we just can't get all the crucial micronutrients for a health pregnancy from our diet.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Meat linked to diabetes and CVD risk

Eating just two servings of meat a day can increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 25 percent compared to consuming meat twice a week. Fried foods and soda were also found to present the same dangers, while a diet based on vegetables, fruit, and fish did show advantageous effects on such a condition.

The study, conducted by researcher from the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, Minneapolis, and the University of North Carolina, was published this month Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The scientists analyzed the dietary intake of 9,514 participants aged between 45 and 64, in a collaborative study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute called the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities.

In general, the Western diet was heavy on refined grains, processed meat, fried foods, red meat, eggs, soda, and was light on fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grain products.

Prudent diet eating patterns favored cruciferous vegetables, carotenoid vegetables, fruit, fish and seafood, poultry and whole grains, along with low fat dairy.

Researchers also assessed associations with individual food items: fried foods, sweetened beverages, diet soda, nuts and coffee.

After nine years of follow-up, 3,782 participants, equal to 40 percent, had three or more risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

"After adjusting for demographic factors, smoking, physical activity and energy intake, consumption of a Western dietary pattern was adversely associated with metabolic syndrome," said Steffen.

When Steffen and colleagues analyzed the results by specific foods, they found that meat, fried foods and diet soda were all significantly associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

Steve - when eating conventionally grown meat that is fed corn and soy, injected with hormones, antibiotics, etc., you are going to get numbers like these. Unless your have a specific genetic variation that warrants consistent meat consumption (of the organic, grass-fed fare), once or twice weekly is the general rule.

While a surprise to most of the public, we are not surprised that diet soda contributes to metabolic syndrome.

U.S. group seeks Botox warning after 16 death reports

Botox and a similar injection should come with strong warnings following reports of 16 deaths and other serious problems after the botulinum toxin spread inside the body, according to consumer group Public Citizen.

Public Citizen said it reviewed 180 reports submitted to the Food and Drug Administration by manufacturers involving patients injected with Botox or Myobloc. The reports detailed cases of muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing or aspiration pneumonia, a serious condition caused by breathing a foreign material into the lungs. Reports to the FDA do not prove a product caused a particular problem, but the agency uses them to look for patterns of potential complications. Sixteen of the cases reported were fatal, including four involving children under 18, Public Citizen said.

Problems can occur if botulinum toxin spreads from the injection site to the esophagus, causing partial paralysis. Instructions for Botox and Myobloc mention the issue but it is easy to miss.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Work-related stress can kill.

Work can greatly increase your risk of heart disease, according to a European Heart Journal study involving more than 10,000 British civil servants over a 12 year period.

"This is the first large-scale population study looking at the effects of stress measured from everyday working life on heart disease," said the lead researcher. "One of the problems is people have been skeptical whether work stress really affects a person biologically."

The team found chronically stressed workers -- people determined to be under severe pressure -- had a 68 percent higher risk of developing heart disease. The link was strongest among people under 50.

Behavior and biological changes likely explain why stress at work causes heart disease, Chandola said. For one, stressed workers eat unhealthy food, smoke, drink and skip exercise -- all behaviors linked to heart disease.

Stressed workers also had lowered heart rate variability -- a sign of a poorly-functioning weak heart -- and higher-than-normal levels of cortisol, a "stress" hormone that provides a burst of energy for a fight-or-flight response.

Bonnie - well, you can't be surprised to see this statistic. If you do not have some semblance of a work/life balance, you may be headed for trouble. Just as inflammatory foods and environmental toxins send out stressor signals that may create a constant inflammatory state, so does chronic stress.

There are so many wonderful ways to manage stress these days. Find the one that works best for you. You can start by improving your quality of life through enjoying what you do in your career!

High Mercury Levels Are Found in Tuna Sushi

This is similar to what The Chicago Tribune found two years in Chicago restaurants.

"Recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sushi from 5 of the 20 places had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market. The sushi was bought by The New York Times in October.

“No one should eat a meal of tuna with mercury levels like those found in the restaurant samples more than about once every three weeks," said Dr. Michael Gochfeld, professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J. Dr. Gochfeld analyzed the sushi for The Times with Dr. Joanna Burger, professor of life sciences at Rutgers University. He is a former chairman of the New Jersey Mercury Task Force and also treats patients with mercury poisoning.

The owner of a restaurant whose tuna sushi had particularly high mercury concentrations said he was shocked by the findings. “I’m startled by this,” said the owner, Drew Nieporent, a managing partner of Nobu Next Door. “Anything that might endanger any customer of ours, we’d be inclined to take off the menu immediately and get to the bottom of it.”

Tuna samples from the Manhattan restaurants Nobu Next Door, Sushi Seki, Sushi of Gari and Blue Ribbon Sushi and the food store Gourmet Garage all had mercury above one part per million, the “action level” at which the F.D.A. can take food off the market. (The F.D.A. has rarely, if ever, taken any tuna off the market.) The highest mercury concentration, 1.4 parts per million, was found in tuna from Blue Ribbon Sushi. The lowest, 0.10, was bought at Fairway.

Bonnie - I have said for a while that tuna sushi, among other fish options at sushi restaurants, are extremely high in mercury. In addition, tuna sashimi gets its distinct red color from an artificial chemical.

Low vitamin E levels linked to greater physical decline

Low blood levels of vitamin E are linked to greater physical decline in older people, suggests a new study from Yale University School of Medicine that appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The current study provides empirical evidence that a low concentration of vitamin E is associated with subsequent decline in physical function in a population-based sample of older persons living in the community," wrote lead author Benedetta Bartali.

"As the major lipid-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E plays a critical role in the defence from oxidative stress by donating electrons and neutralizing free radicals," wrote Bartali. "Low concentrations of vitamin E may affect this neutralization by creating an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants and, consequently, a highly reactive milieu.

Obesity surgery seen as diabetes cure

Patients who had surgery to reduce the size of their stomachs were five times more likely to see their diabetes disappear over the next two years than were patients who had standard diabetes care, according to Australian researchers. The patients had stomach band surgery, a procedure more common in Australia than in the United States, where gastric bypass surgery, or stomach stapling, predominates.

Diabetes experts who read the study said surgery should be considered for some obese patients, but more research is needed to see how long results last and which patients benefit most. Surgery risks should be weighed against diabetes drug side effects and the long-term risks of diabetes itself, they said.

Bonnie -
one must keep in mind that the study involved 55 patients, a tiny number to create such a sweeping assumption.

he key here, however, is how long the results last. When gastric bypass is performed, it does cut off the stressor/inflammatory signals that contribute to diabetes. However, if positive lifestyle changes do not continue, the diabetes will come back. I think calling gastric bypass a cure is very misguided.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Growth hormone free milk labels adopted by Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has reached a compromise on labelling milk free from the artificial growth hormone rBST.

The state's Department of Agriculture had previously said it would not allow milk companies to say products are free from recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST).

Now companies will be able to say its milk has been made from cows which have not been treated with rBST, but they will also have to carry the label "No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows."

BST or bovine somatotropin is a naturally occurring protein hormone in the pituitary gland of cattle. Monsanto's synthetic version is injected into a cow to increase milk production.

The hormone, which Monsanto terms a "supplement", is widely used around the US. According to the firm's estimates, about one third of the nation's dairy cattle are given rBST. However, the practice is banned in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most of the EU.

Steve - now we have to work on getting cloned, irradiated, virally adulterated foods labeled!

Puberty is arriving ever younger in American females -- 8 is no longer considered abnormal.

Excerpts courtesy of the LA Times

The first visible sign of puberty, breast budding, is arriving ever earlier in American girls.

Some parents and activists suspect environmental chemicals. Most pediatricians and endocrinologists say that, though they have suspicions about the environment, the only scientific evidence points to the obesity epidemic. What's clear, however, is that the elements of female maturity increasingly are spacing themselves out over months, even years -- and no one quite knows why according to a summary in an August 2007 report called "The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls." The report was financed by the Breast Cancer Fund, an advocacy group interested in exploring environmental causes of that disease.

Earlier breast development is now so typical that the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society urged changing the definition of "normal" development. Until 10 years ago, breast development at age 8 was considered an abnormal event that should be investigated by an endocrinologist. Then a landmark study in the April 1997 journal Pediatrics written by Marcia Herman-Giddens, adjunct professor at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that among 17,000 girls in North Carolina, almost half of African Americans and 15% of whites had begun breast development by age 8. Two years later, the society suggested changing what it considered medically normal.

The new "8" -- the medically suggested definition for abnormally early breast development -- is, the society says, 7 for white girls and 6 for African American girls.

Since the 1960s the decline in the age of maturity has crossed the line from positive reasons, such as better diet, to negative ones, such as eating too much, exercising too little and the vast unknowns of chemical pollution.

"My fear," Herman-Giddens says, "is that medical groups could take the data and say 'This is normal. We don't have to worry about it.' My feeling is that it is not normal. It's a response to an abnormal environment."

With statisticians proving that "average" is younger than recently thought, environmental activists are asking whether hormones in food, pesticides in produce or phthalates in plastics and cosmetics could be contributing to breast buds in third-graders. Overall, the biggest single factor is the trend toward obesity. Fatty tissue is a source of estrogen, so chubbier girls are exposed to more estrogen.

The biggest concern is that earlier puberty means longer lifetime exposure to estrogen, and early puberty, along with late menopause, is known to increase the risk of breast cancer.

But to design a study in which some girls are deliberately exposed to higher doses of such chemicals would be unethical.

Bonnie - I started commenting about this over 15 years ago when the changes in girls at younger ages was evident. I believe that the environment has a tremendous impact on early puberty, especially rBGH (growth hormone ), found predominately in milk. For boys, extreme environmental estrogen exposure has created development and abnormalities, as well as infertility later in life.

Bottom line, the reasons for this are man-made.

Caffeine doubles miscarriage risk: study

Pregnant women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day have twice the risk of having a miscarriage as those who avoid caffeine, U.S. researchers said on Monday. They said the study provides strong evidence that high doses of caffeine during pregnancy -- 200 milligrams or more per day or the equivalent of two cups of coffee -- significantly increase the risk of miscarriage, according to a study that appears in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Bonnie - this is not surprising news. I have always suggested to my clients for fertility and pregnancy to keep it under 200 mg. (two cups daily).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Trans-fats harm may extend to prostate: study

Increased intakes of trans-fatty acids may increase the risk of non-aggressive prostate tumors by about 100 per cent, suggests new research from Harvard.

The study followed almost 15,000 men over 13 years and piles further pressure on the fatty acids after significant prostate cancer risk increases were observed for higher intakes of the trans isomers of oleic and linoleic acids.

"Blood levels of trans isomers of oleic and linoleic acids are associated with an increased risk of non-aggressive prostate tumours," wrote lead author Jorge Chavarro in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

The new study adds to a small number of previous studies reporting that increased levels of markers of trans-fat intake are associated with an increase risk of cancer of the prostate.

Probiotics may ease stress-related gut problems

Using a proprietary probiotic supplement, researchers report that abdominal pain and nausea/vomiting were reduced significantly compared to placebo, according to results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study published in the journal Nutrition Research.

The preparation contained Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum.

"The human microflora is a complex ecosystem that contributes to the equilibrium of different gastrointestinal functions," explained researchers. "The potential beneficial effects of probiotics are due to the modulation of intestinal flora, modification to the mucosa to prevent the adherence of pathogens, and modulation of the immune system."

Study explains how protein keeps hunger at bay

Diets high in protein are the best way to keep hunger in check, U.S. researchers said. They found that protein does the best job at keeping the hunger hormone ghrelin in check, while carbohydrates increase hunger. According to the study that appeared in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the researchers stated that "suppression of ghrelin is one of the ways that you lose your appetite as you begin to eat and become sated."

They also found that eating carbohydrates resulted in a strong ghrelin suppression at first, but ghrelin levels rebounded with a vengeance, rising to an even higher level. Basically, the carbohydrates eventually made people even hungrier than before they had eaten.

Bonnie - uh, where have we heard this before? All together now... never eat a carb without a protein or healthy fat.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Vitamin B6 may slash colorectal cancer risk

Increased intake of vitamin B6 from diet and supplements may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by over 20 per cent, suggests a large Scottish study of almost 5,000 people in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

The study, by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital (Edinburgh) and the University of Aberdeen, adds to an ever growing body of science supporting the potential colorectal benefits of higher intake of the B vitamins.

The new case-control study involved 2,028 hospital-based colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and 2,722 population-based controls.

After adjusting the results for potentially confounding factors such as age, sex, location of the tumour, folate status, and certain genotypes, lead author Evropi Theodoratou report: "Moderately strong inverse and dose-dependent associations in the whole sample were found between CRC risk and the intake of dietary and total vitamin B6."

Steve - as more research comes out about B-vitamins, especially folate, B-12, and B-6, it is not surprising that they help prevent certain cancers because the three B's are an essential part of the methylation pathway; i.e., detoxification. If one is methylating properly, they are excreting toxins that otherwise would be building up in cells.

Statins may not reduce risk of Alzheimer's after all

Several studies in recent years have raised hopes that cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins might also reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, but a major new study has found no Alzheimer's benefits to the drugs. "Physicians should not prescribe them for Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis, a neurologist at Rush University Medical Center who was the lead researcher of the research, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

Statins are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States. Some researchers think the cholesterol-fighting drugs might also help protect kidneys and help prevent arthritis, bone fractures and colon cancer. Cholesterol appears to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, so the theory went that lowering cholesterol might fight the disease. An alternative theory is that statins might fight Alzheimer's by reducing inflammation in the body. The Rush study followed volunteers for as long as 12 years. Similar "longitudinal" studies also have found that statins provide little or no Alzheimer's benefit, Arvanitakis said. The Rush study included 929 Catholic nuns, priests and brothers. Volunteers underwent annual cognitive tests and agreed to have their brains autopsied when they died. The 119 volunteers who used statins at the beginning of the study were just as likely to develop Alzheimer's as non-statin users, the researchers found.

Bonnie - while statins may have a marginal effect on Alzheimer's because of the inflammation reduction, it is definitely not a panacea. Fish oil may be a much more effective complementary therapy for Alzheimer's prevention by not just reducing inflammation, but much more.

Antidepressant Studies Unpublished

The makers of antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil never published the results of about a third of the drug trials that they conducted to win government approval, misleading doctors and consumers about the drugs’ true effectiveness, a new analysis has found. In published trials, about 60 percent of people taking the drugs report significant relief from depression, compared with roughly 40 percent of those on placebo pills. But when the less positive, unpublished trials are included, the advantage shrinks: the drugs outperform placebos, but by a modest margin, concludes the new report, which appears Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Previous research had found a similar bias toward reporting positive results for a variety of medications; and many researchers have questioned the reported effectiveness of antidepressants. But the new analysis, reviewing data from 74 trials involving 12 drugs, is the most thorough to date. And it documents a large difference: while 94 percent of the positive studies found their way into print, just 14 percent of those with disappointing or uncertain results did.

Steve - the hits just keep on coming for Big Pharma. Of course, the real losers are the patients and health professionals who have been mislead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Don't buy into Clorox Green Works hype

Yet another example of a big company trying to go green but not getting it quite right. I applaud their efforts, but they fall short because the household products still contain petrochemical derivatives and artificial dyes.

Now, would I recommend these over your conventional household products? Yes. However, because of the aforementioned, they will not make our Safe Household Products list.


Despite FDA finding cloned animals safe, restaurants & grocery stores fight back.

According to an article in the LA Times, don't look for much food from cloned animals or their offspring at your neighborhood supermarket or restaurant any time soon.

Despite the Food and Drug Administration's declaration that such meat and milk are safe to eat, it is going to take years for ranchers to produce and raise the animals.

Even then, many of the nation's biggest grocers say they are dead set against selling it.

"Our intention is not to accept cloned products from our suppliers," said Meghan Glynn, a spokeswoman for Kroger Co., the Cincinnati-based owner of Ralphs, Food4Less and several other chains.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Inc., the owner of Safeway and Vons, said it favored continuing a voluntary ban on the use of cloned animals for food.

And California Pizza Kitchen, the 229-restaurant chain based in Los Angeles, said it had "no plans to provide our guests with cloned products."

Add Dean Foods, the largest retailer of milk products, to the list of detractors.

The only problem is that they as well as the public probably won't know if they've received such products. In its decision, the FDA did not require products derived from clones to be labeled because agency scientists found no difference between them and meat and milk produced the conventional way.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday asked U.S. farmers to keep their cloned animals off the market indefinitely even as Food and Drug Administration officials announced that food from cloned livestock is safe to eat. Bruce I. Knight, the USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, requested an ongoing "voluntary moratorium" to buy time for "an acceptance process" that Knight said consumers in the United States and abroad will need, "given the emotional nature of this issue."

Bonnie - while the voluntary bans are nice, they won't last. Especially if the products do not need to be labeled. We have not heard the last of this issue. I know that I personally would like to know if my food came from a cloned animal. However, there are indications from ranchers that cloned animal products have already entered the marketplace and are impossible to track. Lovely! Once again, this is just another reason to eat certified organic.

EU Probes Pharmaceutical Industry

According to the Wall Street Journal, European Union investigators raided drug companies in several countries to examine whether large companies are abusing their market power to prevent competitors from bringing new drugs to market, or whether companies were colluding to restrain competition. AstraZeneca PLC, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Sanofi-Aventis SA, and Pfizer Inc. said they were among the companies contacted.

EU investigators cited figures indicating that the number of new drugs launched annually has declined from an average of 40 in the late 1990s to 28 between 2000 and 2004. Officials say one concern is that companies are "misusing" patent laws to block new drugs made by rivals. Another potential violation is more straightforward -- collusion between companies, for instance, agreeing not to enter each other's markets, or taking payment not to launch a competing drug.

Steve - does this seem like an industry that has the public's best interest in mind at the moment?

Study suggests heart risk from calcium supplements

Older women who take calcium supplements to maintain bone strength may have an increased risk of heart attack, researchers led by Ian Reid of the University of Auckland wrote in the British Medical Journal.

The study involved 1,471 healthy post-menopausal women, average age 74, who already had participated in a study on the effects of calcium on bone density and fracture rates. Of them, 732 were given a daily calcium supplement and 739 were given a placebo. They were followed for five years.

Heart attacks were more common in the women taking the calcium supplements, with 31 women who took supplements experiencing a heart attack compared to 21 women who got a placebo, the researchers said.

They said that because calcium supplements raise blood calcium levels, this possibly accelerates the formation of deposits in the arteries that could lead to heart attack.

Bonnie - it is about time that we see this in a medical journal! As I have said incessantly, calcium, when supplemented improperly (such as a poorly absorbed source like carbonate, or not taken in conjunction with magnesium and vitamin D), creates calcification. Where do calcium deposits go? Into our brain kidneys, heart, etc.

Women especially ingest way too much calcium and choose poorly absorbed sources. In the near future, the mainstream will finally discover that the key to healthy bones later in life is a combination of lifestyle choices (exercise), low inflammation (anti-inflammatory diet), and the proper ratio of supplemental calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Research Capsule 11/1/07-1/31/07

This blog entry encapsulates the latest research from our favorite journal, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • Low vitamin B-12 status was associated with a more rapid cognitive decline in participants aged 65 or older.

  • High dose alpha tocopherol (1200 IU Vitamin E) supplementation in patients with coronary artery disease was found safe and significantly reduced plasma biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation (C-Reactive Protein). In the case of CRP concentrations, CRP was 32% lower with vitamin E group than placebo.

  • Fatty fish, vitamin D-fortified products, regular supplement use, and taking a sun vacation are important predictors for adequate vitamin D stores during winter in cold climates.

  • The dramatic decline in cardiovascular in the United States since 1950 may be possibly be attributable in part to voluntary fortification of the food supply with vitamin B6 and folic acid.

  • For subjects at increased risk of coronary artery disease, monounsaturated fats (i.e. olive oil) provided a greater reduction in risk as a replacement for saturated fat than did carbohydrates.

  • Consumption of equal amounts of EPA and DHA from oily fish on a weekly basis or from fish oil supplements is equally effective at enriching blood lipid markers.

  • Calcium intake is not significantly associated with hip fracture risk in women and can adversely affect fracture risk if not accompanied with vitamin D.

  • L-Carnitine supplements produces a reduction of total fat mass, increases total muscular mass, and facilitates increased capacity for physical and cognitive activity.

  • Short-term, high protein, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets reduce hunger and lower food intake significantly more than do high-protein, medium-carbohydrate nonketogenic diets.

  • In persons with low vitamin D blood markers, more research should be done on vitamin D supplementation as a method to reduce systolic blood pressure in those at risk for hypertension.

Sexual performance supplement taken off shelves

Two men seeking to boost sexual performance and grow bigger muscles instead ended up with advanced prostate cancer after taking "herbal" supplements, Urologists at the University of Texas Southwestern medical school became concerned after two men developed aggressive and incurable prostate cancer within months of taking the same supplement. They analyzed the product, which they did not name for legal reasons, and found it contained two hormones -- testosterone and estradiol. When they tested it on tumor cells in the lab, they found it fueled the growth of prostate cancer cells more potently than testosterone alone, they reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

"We filed an adverse event report with the FDA who issued a warning letter. The manufacturer responded by removing this HHDS product from the market," the researchers wrote.

Bonnie - as I alluded to in my in-depth piece
MANopause, one must be very wary of sexual performance supplements and online prescription medications. Online prescriptions have been found to be tainted as well as fake. "Natural" supplements are no different. Work with a licensed health professional before considering any of these substances.

Mediterranean diet wards off asthma, allergy: study

Children of women who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables while pregnant are far less likely to develop asthma or allergies later in life. Eating vegetables more than eight times a week, fish more than three times a week and legumes more than once a week seems to boost the protection, the researchers said in the journal Thorax.

The researchers based their findings on 468 pregnant women tracked for 6-1/2-years after giving birth using questionnaires on diet. Parents provided details on respiratory and allergic symptoms of their children, who were also tested for persistent wheezing and allergies. Children of mothers who followed a high-quality Mediterranean diet were 80 percent less likely to have persistent wheezing, the most common symptom of childhood asthma, the study found. They were also 45 percent less likely to develop allergies.

Bonnie - this should come as no surprise because the Mediterranean diet is perfectly balanced, anti-inflammatory, low sugar, low simple carb, rich in nutrients, and consists of very little processed food.

Food From Cloned Animals Seems Safe, a Panel Finds

Meat and milk from cloned animals seem to pose no special health risks, said a draft report released Friday by the European Food Safety Agency. It was a first step toward the eventual sale of such products within the European Union. The report acknowledged that cloned animals were prone to more diseases than conventionally bred animals, but it added that humans would not suffer because unhealthy clones would be excluded from the food chain as is the case with conventionally bred animals.

Its ruling is not binding and does not take into account the ethical aspects of cloning, which will be reviewed separately by the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, an advisory panel. The decision also does not take into account European public opinion, which strongly favors natural foods.

Based on the expert panels’ opinions, the European Commission will decide whether to allow the sale of such products on the Continent. The decision was particularly important because the United States Food and Drug Administration is also expected to rule this month on the safety of products from cloned animals. It, too, is expected to conclude that the products are safe. The Washington Post has reported today that the FDA has found cloned meat to be safe, even though the report has yet to be officially publiushed. That could allow commercial production of such products to move forward.

Steve - the report failed to mention that cloned meat has not been tested in human consumption trials as of yet. The report also said the high number of diseased and deformed animals bred from cloning would "diminish" as the technology becomes more precise. Isn't that lovely?

Regarding the FDA's decision,the newspaper quoted Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group that petitioned FDA to restrict the sale of food from clones, as saying his group was considering legal action. "One of the amazing things about this is that at a time when we have a readily acknowledged crisis in our food safety system, the FDA is spending its resources and energy and political capital on releasing a safety assessment for something that no one but a handful of companies wants," said Mendelson.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Environmental triggers might play a role in Americans' overeating

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

Here's an interesting thought: What if you're not to blame for your weight problem?

What if the fault could be laid squarely at the feet of food manufacturers and marketers, grocery store managers, restaurant operators, food vendors -- the people who make food so visible, available and mouth-watering?

Several recent studies, papers and a popular weight-loss book argue that eating is an automatic behavior triggered by environmental cues that most people are unaware of -- or simply can't ignore. Think of the buttery smell of movie theater popcorn, the sight of glazed doughnuts glistening in the office conference room or the simple habit of picking up a whipped-cream-laden latte on the way to work.

To make Americans eat less and eat more healthily, researchers contend, the environment itself needs to be changed -- with laws regulating portion size, labeling or the places where food can be sold or eaten. That would be much easier, the researchers add, than overcoming human nature.

Other health experts say that view is too extreme. Individuals can exert control over their own environment and lose or maintain weight despite the temptation of venti lattes, super-sized French fries and all-you-can-eat pasta bowls, they say.

"The environment, I think, to a large extent explains the obesity epidemic," says Dr. Robert H. Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and past president of the American Heart Assn. "But should we change the environment to alter the obesity epidemic? And how much do we need to change it? Those are difficult questions. To blame it all on the environment is a mistake. There is individual responsibility."

To explain how so many people have become overweight, researchers start with the urge to eat.

Eating is an automatic behavior that has little to do with choice, willpower or even hunger, Cohen says. Her paper, with co-author Thomas Farley of Tulane University's Prevention Research Center, was published online last month in Preventing Chronic Disease, the peer-reviewed health journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cohen and Farley argue that automatic behaviors can be controlled, but only for a short time (the reason most diets ultimately fail). A more effective approach, they say, would be to decrease the accessibility, visibility and quantities of food people are exposed to, and the environmental cues that promote eating.

"Eating behaviors are like a lot of other lifestyle behaviors; you tend to repeat them, often in the same context, same location, with the same people, at the same time of day," Wood says. "When people repeat behaviors in that way, they become automatic. They are cued by the context and no longer involve decision-making."

The fact that food is everywhere in today's society is a problem, Cohen says, because people appear to be biologically configured to eat, eat, eat.

"People are designed to overeat," she says. "We have a mechanism to store extra calories when we are given too much to eat. When you increase portion sizes, whether someone is fat or thin, neurotic or not neurotic, we eat too much."

Changes can be also be profound if people focus on their immediate environment. As he points out: Families usually have a "nutrition gatekeeper" who, through shopping, cooking and serving food, controls about 73% of what everyone in the family eats.

Steve - to blame the weight issues of our country solely on environment is inaccurate. However, the environment has a lot to do with it. The way American lifestyle is designed emphasizes overeating and inactivity. For researchers to think that this will be altered so we do not have to think about our behavior is ludicrous. The simple fact that Big Food has such immense monetary and political influence will make this impossible.

Besides behavior modification and gaining knowledge of your individual nutritional needs, the almighty dollar will be the single most important determinant in how we alter our environment for the better. Big Food follows the money.

Americans opt for healthy eating, not diets

Dieting has fallen out of favor while trying to eat more healthfully is in, a marketing research firm that tracks what Americans consume. Twenty-nine percent of women and 19 percent of men are on diets, based on the responses of 26,000 American adults, compared to 10 years ago when 35 percent of women and 23 percent of men said they were dieting, according to Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group Inc.

Steve - this is always good news. Long-term dietary solutions are always preferred.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Doctors must stop giving antibiotics for colds in the UK

Courtesy of the London Telegraph

Doctors are to be told to stop prescribing antibiotics for coughs, colds and sore throats because over-use of the drugs is fuelling the spread of killer hospital superbugs. Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, says it is time to end the unnecessary use of penicillin and other commonly-prescribed pills, which cost the NHS £1.7 billion a year.

Using antibiotics too liberally has led to bugs such as MRSA becoming resistant to treatment with the drugs. Most colds, coughs and flu are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics anyway, Mr Johnson points out.

Announcing a £270 million campaign against superbugs, to be launched next month, he says it is vital that doctors adopt "less of a knee-jerk reaction to prescribing". The campaign, called Clean, Safe Care, will also include an extra £45 million for hospitals to spend on infection control nurses or antibiotic specialist pharmacists. All patients going into hospital will be screened for MRSA by 2009.

"The past 60 years have seen great advances in health care and medicine. For example, the use of antibiotics has saved countless lives, but antibiotics do not work on most coughs, colds and sore throats and their unnecessary use can leave the body susceptible to gut infections like Clostridium difficile."

Over-use of antibiotics, which can be used only on bacterial infections, has been blamed for the rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The drugs can strip natural bacteria from the gut and allow C.diff to take hold and kill vulnerable elderly people. Too-liberal use of antibiotics, especially when patients do not finish their courses, allows multiplication of bugs that have mutated to become resistant. If antibiotic use is not curbed, doctors could run out of effective treatment as certain bugs become resistant to more and more drugs.

Pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to invest the billions of pounds needed to research and develop new antibiotics because they are not very profitable. Dr Mark Enright, professor of molecular epidemiology at Imperial College London, said even common bacterial infections do not really need treating with antibiotics and usually go away on their own."In the old days, before we had problems with resistance, people thought it really didn't matter - you could throw antibiotics at these cases and you would pick up the odd one that was treatable that way," he said. "I am sure there are still GPs who think they know best and think antibiotics are the global panacea we once thought they were."

Bonnie - I don't think much more needs to be said except that you can do your part as a patient by not demanding an antibiotic. Some doctors say that at times they feel pressured by certain patients to prescribe them. This issue is a major public health crisis worldwide and both doctor and patient need to be responsible.

Save the date for scholarship presentation.

Bonnie will be presenting her first scholarship to a deserving nutrition student at the University of Illinois School of Public Health on Friday, April 11th. Time and exact location will be forthcoming.

Chewing gum with sorbitol

Too much chewing gum that contains sorbitol can lead to severe weight loss and diarrhea, according to a study in the British Medical Journal, Two patients had become ill after chewing around 20 sticks of gum a day. Sorbitol is widely used in "sugar-free" foods, but is also used as a laxative. Despite warnings on packets of chewing-gum and other products containing sorbitol, many people do not realize that large amounts may cause problems.

Steve - let's understand something right off the bat. Eating up to 20 sticks daily of any gum is awful and would make most people sick. That said, sorbitol is a strong laxative and should be used in moderation. In fact,
we have never advocated it as a sugar-free option because it is corn-based and very harsh.

Xylitol, while still a mild laxative, is usually well tolerated as a sugar-free option (unless corn-sensitive). Some products contain corn-free xylitol as well (such as Xylichew Gum).

The real lesson here is not to overdo it on any sweetener, whether it is real sugar or alternatives.

The skinny on colon cleansers.

I am frequently asked my opinion of colon cleansers and colonics.

Some health professionals suggest you should be regularly cleaning your colon. In fact, some make a lot of money persuading people that their colons are packed with several years' worth of decaying waste and that a colon cleanser or colonic will solve the problem. Unfortunately, this is not altogether accurate.

Colon cleansers come in a variety of forms, including capsules, laxatives, enemas, and "high colonics" which flush large amounts of water through the intestines. Colon cleansing is based on the theory that waste collects in the colon over time and stagnates there, causing toxins to form and spread throughout the body. Many 19th century doctors accepted this as fact. Although scientific research conducted has failed to confirm it, the misconception persists. Most of the toxicity we cannot eliminate resides in fat cells and other tissue.

The human body can cleanse itself quite well. The kidneys and lungs remove toxins and by-products from the blood stream, and regular bowel movements remove waste products from the gastrointestinal [GI] tract. There are no 'pockets' in the colon that collect stool for years.

The problem with colon cleansers and colonics is that they may cause harm and can be addicting. In some clients who have used strong laxative cleansers for long periods of time, the digestive system loses its ability to perform peristalsis (the process of moving food and waste through the bowel). This created a major problem for them when they wanted to go off of the cleanser.

Intestines aren't just a waste disposal unit. They're also a place where nutrients from food are absorbed into the bloodstream, to be transported throughout your entire body. Washing out the intestinal tract constantly could potentially interrupt this absorption, leaving you with vitamin or mineral deficiencies. In addition, colon cleansers can lead to dehydration.
In rare cases, high colonics can potentially harm the colon, causing small tears or internal damage.

Finally, many of the colon cleansing products on the market are loaded with potential allergens and intolerants that create more toxicity via inflammation.

A proper diet is the key to healthy bowel transit time and detoxification. If you need additional fiber in your diet, there are very safe and low allergenic options that should be chosen based upon the individual. Seek out the advice of a knowledgeable health professional such as myself who can taking into account your unique needs.

Physical activity increases blood flow throughout the body, and the better your blood flow, the easier it is for your colon to work efficiently.

My suggestion for those who are passionate about colonics: perform only once or twice a year maximum. Use only to provide temporary relief if you're constipated.

My suggestion for those who take colon cleansing supplements and powders: most products that I see I do not approve of. I would not attempt to try any colon cleansing products without consulting your physician or licensed health professional.

My personal suggestion for colon cleansing/constipation is the vitamin C levage. What I love about it is that while it is guaranteed to do the job, it is incredibly safe and healthy. Your gut will absorb all that vitamin C which is very healing to our cells. If you would like to try the levage, you must contact us to determine what is the right dosage and source of vitamin C for you. This is also a much healthier way to cleanse your colon for a colonoscopy. Of course, your physician must be notified to make sure he/she is on board.

Have a happy, healthy day.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Diet Coke joins the heart truth campaign

Diet Coke’s first major marketing push of the year will focus on women’s hearts—literally.

The No. 3 soft drink will launch new ads, packaging and events to raise awareness about women’s risk of heart disease in conjunction with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s “The Heart Truth” campaign.

The Heart Truth program introduced the Red Dress as a national symbol for women’s heart disease in 2002. Beginning, Jan. 22, it will appear on 2.5 billion Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke and Diet Coke Plus products. National TV, print and online ads will trumpet during American Heart Month in February, but the first print ad will appear in the Jan. 18 issue of People.

“Our research with consumers has told us that women today are increasingly mindful of making choices that positively impact their lives,” said Katie Bayne, CMO of Coca-Cola North America, Atlanta, in a statement. “Through this partnership, Diet Coke can help raise awareness about heart disease, the No.1 killer of women, while showing women how to incorporate heart-health into their lives.”

Steve - ...and to offer up the idea that Diet Coke is a mindful choice for women's heart health, without actually saying so, of course.

Did I fail to mention that Coke has partnered with cable channel ExerciseTV to create exercise programming that feature an array of Coke products?

One can never cease to be amazed by the audacity.

Walking & moderate exercise help prevent dementia

People age 65 and older who regularly walk and get other forms of moderate exercise appear to significantly lower their risk of developing vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in Neurology. The four-year study involved 749 men and women in Italy who were over age 65 and did not have memory problems at the beginning of the study. Researchers measured the amount of energy exerted in the participants’ weekly physical activities, including walking, climbing stairs, and moderate activities, such as house and yard work, gardening, and light carpentry. By the end of the study, 54 people developed Alzheimer’s disease and 27 developed vascular dementia. The study found the top one-third of participants who exerted the most energy walking were 27 percent less likely to develop vascular dementia than those people in the bottom one-third of the group. Participants who scored in the top one-third for the most energy exerted in moderate activities lowered their risk of vascular dementia by 29 percent and people who scored in the top one-third for total physical activity lowered their risk by 24 percent compared to those in the bottom one-third.

Steve - this should not come as a surprise to any of us. Staying active physically and mentally into our later years is crucial for mental acuity. Of course, eating properly and taking care of yourself increases your chances that you can exercise without impediment (i.e. chronic pain).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Q - I am taking niacin for high cholesterol. How does it work?

From the NY Times:

A. Nicotinic acid, one of the two forms of niacin or vitamin B3 (the other is nicotinamide), not only reduces “bad” lipids when taken in pharmacologic doses, but it also increases “good” kinds. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Exactly how it works is unclear, said Dr. Sheldon S. Hendler, co-editor of The Physicians’ Desk Reference for Nutritional Supplements. “It does not inhibit cholesterol synthesis as the statins do,” he said. “A protein receptor for nicotinic acid, called GPR109A, has recently been discovered and is thought to play some role.” Many of the suggested explanations deal with reducing liver triglycerides, Dr. Hendler said. “For example, in fat tissue, it leads to a decrease in the amount of free fatty acids going to the liver, where triglycerides are made,” he said. “This means decreased triglyceride-containing lipid particles, including LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and VLDL cholesterol (also bad cholesterol). This exchange leads to an increase in the proportion of HDL cholesterol and other lipid particles that contain good cholesterol.” Nicotinic acid also has a role in reverse cholesterol transport, he said. In that process, HDL-cholesterol particles remove cholesterol from plaque in arterial linings and are transported to the liver for excretion, helping reverse coronary artery disease.

Steve - this is a pretty good explanation by Dr. Hendler. Niacin is a favorite used by our favorite local cardiologist, Dr. Stephen Devries of Northwestern-Chicago. While niacin has always been around to raise HDL as well as lower LDL, it is not a "sexy" choice because it is a vitamin and cannot be patented. A blockbuster HDL drug was scrapped last year when patients started dying during trials, leaving niacin as still the only game in town for raising HDL.

France best, U.S. worst in preventable death ranking

France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations, researchers said on Tuesday. If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year, according to researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs.

In establishing their rankings, the researchers considered deaths before age 75 from numerous causes, including heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, certain bacterial infections and complications of common surgical procedures. Such deaths accounted for 23 percent of overall deaths in men and 32 percent of deaths in women, the researchers said. France did best -- with 64.8 deaths deemed preventable by timely and effective health care per 100,000 people, in the study period of 2002 and 2003. Japan had 71.2 and Australia had 71.3 such deaths per 100,000 people. The United States had 109.7 such deaths per 100,000 people, the researchers said.

After the top three, Spain was fourth best, followed in order by Italy, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Austria, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Britain, Ireland and Portugal, with the United States last.

Steve - I guess nothing has changed since last year.

Four health changes can prolong life 14 years

People who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day live on average 14 years longer than people who adopt none of these behaviors, researchers said in the journal PLoS Medicine. Between 1993 and 1997 the researchers questioned 20,000 healthy British men and women about their lifestyles. They also tested every participant's blood to measure vitamin C intake, an indicator of how much fruit and vegetables people ate. Then they assigned the participants -- aged 45-79 -- a score of between 0 and 4, giving one point for each of the healthy behaviors. After allowing for age and other factors that could affect the likelihood of dying, the researchers determined people with a score of 0 were four times as likely to have died, particularly from cardiovascular disease. The researchers, who tracked deaths among the participants until 2006, also said a person with a health score of 0 had the same risk of dying as someone with a health score of 4 who was 14 years older. The lifestyle change with the biggest benefit was giving up smoking, which led to an 80 percent improvement in health, the study found. This was followed by eating fruits and vegetables.

Steve - sounds pretty simple huh?

Pediatricians change advice on kids' allergies

Breast-feeding helps prevent babies' allergies, but there's no good evidence for avoiding certain foods during pregnancy, using soy formula or delaying introduction of solid foods beyond six months. That's the word from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is updating earlier suggestions that may have made some parents feel like they weren't doing enough to prevent food allergies, asthma and allergic rashes. In August 2000, the doctors group advised mothers of infants with a family history of allergies to avoid cow's milk, eggs, fish, peanuts and tree nuts while breast-feeding.

The new guidance report for pediatricians, published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, goes against earlier advice about restricting certain foods from moms' and babies' diets. In the journal's opinion, the only surefire advice remaining is to breast-feed. The report says:

-There is no convincing evidence that women who avoid peanuts or other foods during pregnancy or breast-feeding lower their child's risk of allergies.

-For infants with a family history of allergies, exclusive breast-feeding for at least four months can lessen the risk of rashes and allergy to cow's milk.

-Exclusive breast-feeding for at least three months protects against wheezing in babies, but whether it prevents asthma in older children is unclear.

-There is modest evidence for feeding hypoallergenic formulas to susceptible babies if they are not solely breast-fed.

-There is no good evidence that soy-based formulas prevent allergies.

-There is no convincing evidence that delaying the introduction of foods such as eggs, fish or peanut butter to children prevents allergies.

-Babies should not get solid food before 4 to 6 months of age, however.

Bonnie - I would certainly follow the advice of the American Academy of Allergists, which has not changed its stance. Pediatricians, who were on the same page with allergists, are not allergy experts, nor are they experts in foods and nutrition. The average Pediatrician has had only one course in Nutrition (and probably outdated) in medical school.

This findings are surprising given the fact that food allergies and food intolerances have been on the rise for the last few decades.