Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CDC: Breast-feeding rates hit new high of 77 percent in US

The U.S. breast-feeding rate has hit it's highest mark in at least 20 years with more than three-quarters of new moms nursing their infants, according to a government report released Wednesday. About 77 percent of new mothers breast-feed, at least briefly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. "It looks like it is an all-time high" based on CDC surveys since the mid-1980s, said Jeff Lancashire, a CDC spokesman. Experts attributed the rise to education campaigns that emphasize that breast milk is better than formula at protecting babies against disease and childhood obesity. A changing culture that accommodates nursing mothers may also be a factor.

Bonnie - this is wonderful news! It is an indication that sweeping public health education campaigns can work!

Researchers create health, happiness index

Courtesy of AP

Staying healthy and happy is a struggle for about half of Americans, according to a massive survey that attempts to measure the nation's general welfare, much like the Dow Jones Industrial Average portrays the health of the stock market. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on interviews of more than 100,000 people so far, shows that 47 percent of Americans are struggling and 4 percent are suffering.

Forty-nine percent of respondents are reported to be thriving based on a personal assessment of how they feel about their lives at the time of the survey, and where they think they'll be in five years. Pollsters asked people to imagine where they would put themselves on a ladder with 10 steps. Those said they were on step seven or above are listed as thriving. Those at four or below are suffering. In between are the strugglers. Those who are thriving tend to have higher incomes, more education and less illness. Those who are suffering have trouble meeting their basic needs, including food, shelter and medical care, said James Harter, Gallup's chief scientist for workplace management and well-being.

Just as the U.S is not No. 1 when it comes to health measures, it also is not No. 1 in well-being, he said. For example, 83 percent of the residents of Denmark are classified as thriving versus 1 percent who are suffering. Researchers hope the findings, which can be broken down by occupation, commute time and exercise habits, will help employers better understand what they can do to create happier and healthier workers. Eventually, they said, the data could even be used to compare health and happiness by ZIP code, creating quite a measuring stick for future generations of politicians.

"There's never been anything quite like it," said Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in economic sciences. "You're getting details about what it's like to live in this country," said Kahneman, a Princeton University professor brought in by Gallup to discuss the potential uses for the data. "What is the experience of the weekend? What is the experience of the weekday for someone who is sick and has to go to work in the morning? We are going to learn a great deal about what are the determinants of actual happiness."

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that the United States invests more on health care than any country, but that its health care system ranks 37th. "That doesn't sound like we're getting the best value from the investment we're making," Gerberding said. "That fundamentally is something we as a nation are waking up to."

Steve - now this is exciting! We spend so much time berating studies and surveys that are counterproductive and meaningless. Here is a survey that can really set the tone for change. What are the two major factors that most of us strive for? Health and happiness of course. If we can track this Health and Happiness Index annually, the US population may have more impetus to take the necessary steps to improve.

Food Can Help Fight Pain

Relief from indigestion, diabetes, headaches and even arthritis may be in your kitchen instead of your medicine cabinet. Dietitians and doctors are making the connection between food and pain, and say that changing your diet can change the way you feel.

Pain and inflammation are the body's reaction to injury, but foods can reduce them. Shelly Asplin, a registered dietitian at Omaha grocery story Hy-Vee, said Omega-3 fatty acids go a long way toward fighting pain and inflammation. Asplin said she recommends foods that are high in Omega 3s to arthritis and fibromyalgia sufferers. Fish and seafood are often high in Omega 3, as are flax seeds and walnuts."A handful (of walnuts) a day gives you a recommended serving of Omega 3. Fresh, wild seafood from very cold water contains the highest sources of Omega 3 fats," Asplin said. "Flax has to be ground -- the complete seed only delivers fiber, but ground varieties have fiber and Omega 3s."Asplin said she sprinkles ground flax seed on her morning oatmeal.Omega 3s and more are also widely touted to lessen arthritis pain and inflammation. Asplin said there are foods to avoid when fighting pain. She said refined and highly processed foods can cause inflammation.

"Whole grains are anti-inflammatory. Make sure the first ingredient is whole grain," Asplin said. "Whole fruit is anti inflammatory, but leave the skin on."John Mixan, a dietary life coach in Omaha, said his wife has successfully fought knee pain with diet. He advises clients to boost their intake of ginger, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, curry and basil when they're fighting pain. Mixan said choosing diet instead of medication can create a virtuous circle."So much of it has to do with them being empowered. It's the whole mind-body thing. They're taking control, so not only are they putting better foods in themselves, they're taking control rather than delegating their health to someone else," Mixan said. "It's not that there's no place for a doctor, but control can lead to health." Mixan also said olive oil is a better choice than hydrogenated oils, which can cause inflammation.

Salicylic acid is an analgesic -- it is what your body makes out of aspirin. A study in the Journal of Clinical Pathology found that vegetarians had higher natural levels of salicylic acid in their blood than non-vegetarians. Building on that study, Susan Miller, a PhD and registered dietitian, suggests boosting fruits and vegetables that are high in salicylic acid, which includes apricots, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, sweet potatoes and green peppers.

The Cleveland Clinic has found that food may be among common migraine triggers. Some chemicals and preservatives in foods set off some migraines, while other sufferers may notice that "foods and beverages, such as aged cheese, alcoholic beverages, and food additives such as nitrates (in pepperoni, hot dogs, luncheon meats) and monosodium glutamate -- commonly found in Chinese food -- may be responsible for triggering up to 30 percent of migraines," the clinic reported on its Web site.

On the other hand, caffeine is sometimes used to treat acute migraines. Also, water – traditionally used to wash down a couple of pain pills -- may itself may fight regular headaches. In a study that debunked a slew of myths about drinking water, University of Pennsylvania doctors Dan Negoianu and Stanley Goldfarb found that one small trial did find that participants who drank more water experienced fewer headaches than those who did not. However, the doctors said the results were not statistically significant.I

The pain from both gas and some bowel diseases, like irritable bowel syndrome, can often be fixed with food, some say. The Mayo Clinic said gas pain is produced by air in the digestive tract. High-fiber foods and raw vegetables can be the culprit, so introduce them to your diet slowly. Mayo also said certain artificial sweeteners cause gas in some individuals, so try checking your gum or candy labels if you're suffering from gas pain.For IBS sufferers, pain is often triggered by food. reported about a common nerve pain diabetics suffer called diabetic neuropathy."What can start as a little tingling or numbness in your feet can turn into major problems with walking, working and leading an active lifestyle," the Web site reported. "Diabetic neuropathy can also wreak havoc with your digestion, your sexual response, and make it hard to feel normal body sensations."Doctors' tips included guidelines for a healthy, well-balanced diet, which includes six to 10 servings of complex carbohydrates, about five ounces of meat a day, two servings of dairy, four servings of fruits and four of vegetables and up to five servings of fats and oils.

Steve - this story was done by an Ohio local television news reporter. While their hearts were in the right place, some of the information they provided is very counterproductive. Here is some clarification to the misinformation:
  • Ms. Asplin says a handful of walnuts provides a daily dose of omega-3. This is untrue. While walnuts are anti-inflammatory, they do not even begin to provide a daily dose of omega-3. In fact, there are many of us that are poor converters and are unable to convert walnuts' oils, which are not omega-3 when they enter the body (same for flax). Thus, the only omega-3 source that is immediately absorbed as omega-3 when it enters the body, is fish oil.

  • She also mentions that whole grains are anti-inflammatory. This is also untrue in many cases. Does she think that whole wheat is anti-inflammatory for a celiac? Many whole grains are inflammatory in persons who have intolerants or allergies to grains.

  • The dietary life coach quoted in the piece is also mistaken that garlic, ginger, cinnamon, etc. are anti-inflammatories. For some people, they are, but for others, they are poison.

  • The most egregious comment is about salicylic acid. If many of our clients followed Ms. Miller's advice, they would be in a hospital bed. It is true that for some people, salicylates can act as a pain reliever (it is the main ingredient in aspirin). However, there are many others that have terrible reactions to salicylates and creates the opposite effect.
What is the overall message here? The concept of food reducing pain is sound, but a health professional needs to individualize, not generalize. Otherwise, you will have a lot of unhappy people when they do not see results.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Halal, Kosher markets grow

The market for Halal foods is growing according to experts, as US Muslims grow accustomed to seeing Halal in their grocery aisles, and non-Muslims see it as healthier. Halal means to be sanctioned by Islamic law. With recent crises surrounding food contamination, Halal certification can help a product's overall image because these products are seen as safer and have less chemicals.

The same can be said for Kosher foods. Whether Halal or Kosher certified, these foods have to go through a rigorous testing process to be approved. From a non-Muslim or non-Jew's perspective, purchasing food with these labels adds another level to the food screening process.

Steve - overall, you will see less ingredients on Kosher or Halal food ingredient labels. This is almost always a good thing. To become Halal or Kosher-certified is no easy task. When the opportunity presents itself, it would be a prudent choice to consider them, especially when it comes to meat and poultry.

Osteoporosis drug 'risks heart'

Women who take the drug Fosamax for osteoporosis may be at an increased risk of developing an irregular heartbeat. Researchers have linked the drug - widely prescribed to stop bone-thinning in older women - to a condition known as atrial fibrillation. This is not necessarily serious, but can in some cases lead to a stroke according to the Archives of Internal Medicine study.

It is not the first research to examine a link between Merck's Fosamax - whose generic name is alendronate - and atrial fibrillation, but its suggestion that the drug may increase the risk by 86% is higher than previous findings.

"Having ever used alendronate was associated with an 86% higher risk of newly detected atrial fibrillation compared with never having used the drug," said Dr Susan Heckbert, who led the research. But she added: "Careful judgement is required to weigh the risks and benefits of any medication for any individual patient."

Monday, April 28, 2008

WIC program now allows low-income mothers to buy fruits and vegetables

Courtesy of LA Times

For the first time in its 35-year history, the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program -- which provides food vouchers to millions of households nationwide -- will, starting October 2009, allow participants to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and soy-based products.

It's about time. The mission of the WIC program is to safeguard the health of low-income children up to age 5 as well as pregnant, postpartum and lactating low-income women, who are considered to be at nutritional risk. Since the program's inception in the 1970s, knowledge about nutrition has advanced considerably -- but the WIC food provisions have remained mostly unchanged.

The original list of eligible foods made no provisions for children or pregnant women to obtain fruits and vegetables. There were no fresh fruits, only juice. Fresh carrots were the sole vegetable that could be purchased with WIC vouchers, but only by lactating mothers. (Vouchers could also be used to purchase whole milk, dried beans or peanut butter, certain fortified cereals, and up to two dozen eggs and 3 pounds of cheese a month.)

By far the most significant change will be the provision of cash-value vouchers, redeemable at regular grocery stores and farmers markets, that can be used to buy fruits and vegetables -- items that often go by the wayside when a food budget is stretched to the limit.

Bonnie - we reported on this back in '03. Can you believe it took 35 years to do this? If you are giving out vouchers, why would you not promote the healthiest options to the demographic that needs it the most?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Flavored milk may be as healthy for kids as plain

Despite its added sugar, flavored milk may be better for kids than no milk at all, and may even be as healthy as the plain variety, a study of U.S. children suggests. Using national survey data on more than 7,500 2- to 18-year-olds, researchers found that those who drank flavored milk had a similar average body mass index (BMI) than plain milk drinkers. The findings suggest that flavored milk can be part of a sound diet for children, according to the research team, led by Mary M. Murphy, a nutrition science researcher with Arlington, Virginia-based ENVIRON International Corp. Appearing in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the study, funded by the National Dairy Council, is based on results from a government health and nutrition survey. Some flavored milks contain artificial sweeteners, but most do have extra sugar and calories.

Bonnie - this is a perfect example of why I am a member of the American College of Nutrition instead of the American Dietetic Association (ADA). I would be utterly embarrassed if this the best my colleagues could come up with and actually publish it. Why?
  1. ENVIRON Corporation is a for profit health sciences consulting firm which was hired by the study's funding source, the National Dairy Council to survey the data.

  2. Who is a huge funding source to the American Dietetic Association? The National Dairy Council.

  3. To use BMI as the only indicator for changes in health status is unconscionable. Many of the flavored milks have high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors and colors. Besides, BMI's influence as an obesity indicator has been greatly reduced in recent years.
This seems like another attempt by the Dairy Council to force feed milk down the public's throat with marketing dressed as research. And the ADA is in cahoots.

Supplemental vitamin D, calcium may reduce stress fractures

Results from a randomized, double-blind study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research showed that of 5201 female US Navy recruits, the ones taking calcium and vitamin D supplements were 20% less likely to develop stress fractures than those taking the placebo.

Steve - I wonder how much lower the risk would be if they were also taking magnesium?

Complications From Heartburn on the Rise

Chronic heartburn is a daily acid bath for the esophagus, and complications from it are on the rise. New government figures show a worrisome increase in esophagus disorders from severe acid reflux. The worst one, esophageal cancer, is continuing its march as the nation's fastest-growing malignancy.

Heartburn sometimes is a temporary problem, but it also can signal gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD, where a loose valve allows stomach acid to regularly back up into the delicate esophagus. Millions have GERD, which is on the rise along with expanding waistlines. For most people, acid-suppressing medications are precribed. But severe reflux over many years can cause serious problems for a fraction of people. Hospitalizations for all reflux-caused esophageal disorders doubled between 1998 and 2005, says a sobering new count by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And over the past two decades, esophageal cancer has risen six-fold. About 16,470 Americans will be diagnosed with it this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Fewer than one in five survives five years, and 14,280 are predicted to die this year.

Bonnie - this is not a surprise. Should we not be asking why this is happening? Could it be our own Standard American Diet, full of heavily processed foods, too much sugar, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and soft drinks? Could it also be partially caused by food intolerance, deficiency of key nutrients (especially magnesium), and stress? I say all of the above. The key is to correct the causes, not to throw meds and surgical procedures at the problem.

Drugmakers Didn't Begin 1,044 Promised U.S. Studies

By Justin Blum, Bloomberg News, 4/23/08

Drugmakers haven't made progress in starting studies that they promised to conduct after their products were approved by U.S. regulators, according to data released today. The Food and Drug Administration determined that 1,044, or 62 percent, of incomplete studies for conventional drugs and biotechnology medications had yet to be started as of Sept. 30. At the same time in 2006, 1,026, or 63 percent, of the unfinished studies hadn't begun, according to the FDA. To receive FDA approval, drugmakers often agree to perform additional studies of safety, dosing and other matters after medications come to market. The research is usually voluntary, and lawmakers have repeatedly complained it isn't completed.

Doctors say post-approval studies may be needed to fully assess the risks of medications because some dangers don't emerge until products are in widespread use. Some research has been pending for years. Of the 1,044 studies that hadn't begun, drugmakers committed before Oct. 1, 2004, to undertake 444 of them, according to the FDA. The FDA statistics show 271 studies, or 16 percent, were on or ahead of schedule, and 242, or 14 percent, had been submitted for FDA review or terminated before completion.

Bonnie - what more can you say?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dinner in a "Grain-Less" Wrap

Pick and Prepare a Protein
1 ¼ to 1 ½ lbs. of one of the following:
  • Pork tenderloin, sliced crosswise into ½ inch pieces
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, in ½ inch slices
  • Extra large (21-25 count) peeled, deveined shrimp“
  • Dry” sea scallops (untreated with additives and water)
  • Center-cut salmon fillets or halibut
Pick and Mix a Flavoring Combo
  • Lemon Dill
    • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 4 large green onions, thinly sliced
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
    • 1 tsp. lemon zest
    • salt and pepper to taste
  • Barbecue
    • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 4 large green onions, thinly sliced
    • ½ cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
    • salt and pepper to taste
  • Italian
    • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
    • 2 T. Italian seasoning
    • ¼ cup capers or shallots
    • salt and pepper to taste
  • Pick and prepare a vegetable: 1 pound of one of the following (or mix and match):
    • Asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
    • Bell peppers (2 large, 1 red, and 1 yellow), stemmed, cored and cut into ¼ inch thick strips
    • Bok choy, halved, cored and thinly sliced
    • Sliced mushrooms
    • Bean sprouts
    • Zucchini or yellow squash, trimmed and thinly sliced (halve lengthwise, if large)
    • Eggplant, trimmed and thinly sliced (halve lengthwise, if large)
    • Sugar snap or snow peas
    • Cherry or grape tomatoes
    • Fennel, trimmed, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
Mix protein, flavoring, and vegetable in a bowl. Tear off 4 12-by-18 inch sheets of heavy-duty foil or parchment paper; divide mixture among them, arranging protein atop vegetables, each in a single layer. For each packet, bring long sides of foil together and fold over about ½ inch; crimp to seal. Repeat folding and crimping, lengthwise, twice more. Fold ends twice to seal. Set packets on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. If grilling, set packets on hot rack; cover and grill for 8 minutes. Let packets stand 3 minutes. SERVES: 4

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Few US doctors answer e-mails from patients

Most Americans want the convenience of e-mail for non-urgent medical issues, but fewer than a third of U.S. doctors use e-mail to communicate with patients, according to recent physician surveys. "People are able to file their taxes online, buy and sell household goods, and manage their financial accounts," said Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "The health care industry seems to be lagging behind other industries." Doctors have their reasons for not hitting the reply button more often. Some worry it will increase their workload, and most physicians don't get reimbursed for it by insurance companies.

A survey conducted early last year by Manhattan Research found that only 31 percent of doctors e-mailed their patients in the first quarter of 2007.

Dr. Daniel Z. Sands, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, is among the early adopters who doesn't get paid for e-visits. He sees communicating with patients online as no different from phoning them, a practice that also is not billable. He mostly gets e-mails from patients seeking advice for new symptoms or updates from chronic disease sufferers.

A 2007 University of Pittsburgh study published in the journal Pediatrics followed 121 families who e-mailed their doctors. Researchers found 40 percent of e-mails were sent after business hours and only about 6 percent were urgent. Doctors received on average about one e-mail a day and responded 57 percent faster than by telephone. A separate study by health care giant Kaiser Permanente published in the American Journal of Managed Care last year found patients made 14 percent fewer phone calls than those who did not use the online services. Before e-mail can become as routine as a physical, doctors need to be trained to handle confidential patient messages in the digital age, some experts say.

Steve - since we began accepting emails in the late 1990's, it has been a wonderful service for clients. We have found that when clients can write their symptoms, wants, needs, and desires in an email, it comes out much clearer and hence, becomes easier for us to make the proper suggestions. It also allows us the time to respond rapidly and keeps a "paper trail" for later review.

31 percent is a paltry number for doctors that email, to say the least!

Meeting the special dietary needs for those living in Senior Housing

The number of Assisted Living Centers and Nursing Homes will explode as aging baby boomers enter the arena. Many boomers have watched their parents go through the process and have witnessed first-hand instances of neglect and lack of personalization. They will not subject themselves to the same treatment. Many boomers are used to living a certain way, and eating is no exception. Our clients, in particular, have more of a need for dietary specialization due to intolerance and allergy. According to most surveys and research done on assisted living facilities, the mealtime experience is always identified as the first or second most unsatisfactory. Recently, we have been asked to explore the quality of menus currently available.

We focused on six random facilities, taking into account size (number of residents and locations), for profit or non profit, national and/or Illinois-centric, nursing and/or assisted living. We have no association or interest in any of them. We examined several issues we thought would be of interest to our clients.
  1. What is the quality of the food and menu?
  2. Do they accommodate for special dietary needs?
  3. How is the food prepared (chef or food service)?
  4. Has a health professional helped create and periodically evaluates the menu?
In our opinion, only one out of the six facilities passed muster.


Senior Lifestyle Corporation (24 locations in IL, many with different names, and more in the US)
They were far and away the best of the lot in terms of quality of food, variety of menu, senior-specific nutrition, and commitment to educating residents about wellness through their menus. In fact, this group calls their mealtime experience "Dining for Wellness." It ties directly into their award-winning "Fit for Life" wellness plan. The food is prepared by an in-house food service and is constantly tweaked by nutritionists. Special dietary needs are accommodated.


Belmont Village (4 locations in IL and several others in the US).
They have a wide variety of menu options to choose from which can accommodate many specific dietary needs. Food is prepared fresh daily by in-house chef. There are many impressive menu items, but Belmont did not fare better in our opinion because they use many "fat-free" dressings and condiments, offer "sugar-free" items, hot dogs, hamburgers, and Jell-O.


Friendship Village of Schaumburg (only IL location)
The menu is loaded with heavy sauces, cream soups, and gravy.

Pathways Senior Living
(multiple IL locations).
Standard American Diet fare including sugar-free dessert offerings.

Sunrise Senior Living (23 locations in IL and more around the US).
Standard American Diet fare with protein-less breakfasts, heavy lunches, and dinners that include "assorted dessert tray." Limited menu selection.

Lexington Health Care (multiple IL locations).
Does accommodate for special dietary needs. However, a recent daily menu included items such as "Ambrosia Jell-O Cubes with Whip Topping", margarine, frosted banana cake, breaded fish fillet, and egg drop soup.

All of the facilities' menus are overseen by health professionals.


Visit as many facilities as you can to get a sense of the kind of choices you will have. Make sure they are licensed and/or accredited.
Check your state's website for any complaints against the facility you are interested in. If need be, seek out the advice of a Geriatric Care Manager or Ombudsman/Patient Advocate.

Visit at different times of the day and on a weekend to observe the routines and activities. Make surprise visits to the places you are seriously considering, and arrange for an overnight stay before making a final decision. Eat a meal at the facility. Is the food healthy? Do you have a choice of main course? Do you have input into meal planning or have options to eat ethnic or specialty foods? Are the residents provided a suitable area for eating? Are healthy snacks available at all times? Are utensils and serving dishes senior-friendly and clean? Is mealtime a pleasant experience? Are those who need help with eating cared for with dignity and respect? If you live nearby and want to bring food in, is it allowed? Can the residents eat in their rooms?

Food Safety is a major issue. Many senior illnesses occur because of food safety. In this case, no question is a dumb question. This link has a checklist of important questions to ask when visiting the cafeteria/meal area.


Not only is it essential that senior living centers make quality, variety, and safety of their menus a priority, they need to vastly improve their overall nutrition. Seniors require many more nutrients than young to middle-aged adults for optimum function. Many of our health care dollars could be saved by accomplishing simple nutritional tasks.

Many have saved hard-earned dollars and/or invested in long-term care to maintain or improve your lifestyle into the later years. Help yourselves and others by not settling for average and below average food. Demand quality, individualized, dietary-specific menus.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Antioxdants called into question once again

For whatever reason, a meta-analysis review that was published last year (in JAMA) on antioxidants and was summarily criticized by every reputable expert, was republished this month with a different angle in the Cochrane Systematic Review.

The authors claim that of 67 randomized trials with over 232,550 participants using vitamins A, E and beta-carotene supplements, mortality increased by 16 percent.

The authors of last year's study admitted that there were major errors and corrections were made. They republished to "set the record straight." Unfortunately, they did not seem accomplish their goal.
  1. The researchers had 747 trials at their disposal, but only chose to use 67, less than 9 percent of the evidence.

  2. 405 of the 747 trials were excluded because there were no deaths. Could we purport that the numbers may have looked differently if they were included?

  3. As what seems to be customary when structuring nutrient trials, the participants are mostly sick, aged people on very high doses. This is not the population base they should be studying.

  4. Curiously, these same researchers published an update (from their 2005 findings) to one of the 67 trials in April's International Journal of Cancer. The original study indicated that antioxidants can speed up the development of cancer. The researchers now admit that the only people in the study who were seeing their cancer return were smokers who refused to kick the habit while they were receiving radiation therapy.

Study finds that wellness programs are effective when used correctly

Despite the growing popularity of wellness programs at companies across the country, they won't work unless employers engage workers with gifts or other incentives to stay involved. At least that's the finding of a recent study by Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America. The study found that nearly half of employees who have participated in wellness programs in the past three years said their commitment trailed off. However, 68 percent of workers said incentives, such as cash, gifts and extra vacation days, can help shore up the willpower to adopt healthier behaviors such as exercising, eating properly and kicking their smoking habits.

Steve - only in America!

Water Trouble? Here are some filter tips.

As we finally discover that all of our man-made pollutants end up in our drinking water, we need options because we are not going to stop drinking water.


Carbon filters remove many organic chemicals and chlorine and radon. Carbon filters should be of good quality and maintained properly. Because bacteria can grow on some filters, it is imperative that carbon filters be changed frequently.

Reverse osmosis units remove most toxic minerals and organic chemicals but generally do not remove radon or chlorine. They should be used with carbon filters. Reverse osmosis units are slow and should only be used for drinking water at a spigot. The purified water becomes aggressive and can corrode the pipes of the delivery system. These pipes and faucets should not be made of lead or lead components.

Distillation removes pollutants by boiling water and cooling the steam so it condenses back into water. Distillation is slow and expensive and distilled water is poorly buffered. Therefore, distilled water can be highly aggressive and should be stored in glass or other inert containers.

Water softeners remove calcium and magnesium from hard water and make it clean better. However, calcium and magnesium are considered human nutrients.

The healthiest water is free of pollutants but contains beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium.

State Senate OKs trans fat ban at lunch

Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) touted the ban as a way to provide healthy food to schoolchildren, particularly those who may be receiving their only hot meals at school.

"This is the right thing to do," said Trotter, the bills' chief sponsor. "We have a responsibility. . .to give our children a healthy start in life, in schools, ensuring that they have the proper things to eat."

If the House and Gov. Rod Blagojevich go along, foods cooked with trans fat would be banned starting in July 2009. Such food would be prohibited in school vending machines a year later. State Board of Education spokesman Matt Vanover said the ban may not have a big effect on school menus because manufacturers have been shying away from the substance for several years. Trans fat is a man-made product that improves the taste and texture of foods, but is known to raise bad cholesterol while attacking good cholesterol. It also contributes to heart disease and diabetes.

Steve - this is a no-brainer. I disagree that it would not have that big of an effect. There are still many prepared foods that are included in school lunch programs that contain trans-fats, especially in baked goods.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Merck Wrote Drug Studies for Doctors

The drug maker Merck drafted dozens of research studies for the pain drug Vioxx, then lined up prestigious doctors to put their names on the reports before publication, according to an article published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. The article, based on documents unearthed in lawsuits over the embattled drug, provides a rare, detailed look in the industry practice of ghostwriting medical research studies that are then published in academic journals. The article cited one draft of a Vioxx research study that was still in want of a big-name researcher, identifying the lead writer only as “External author?”

Vioxx was a best-selling drug before Merck took it off the market in 2004 over evidence linking it to heart attacks. The lead author, Dr. Joseph S. Ross of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said a close look at the Merck documents raised broad questions about the validity of much of the drug industry’s published research, because the ghostwriting practice appears to be widespread. “It almost calls into question all legitimate research that’s been conducted by the pharmaceutical industry with the academic physician,” said Dr. Ross. Merck acknowledged on Tuesday that it sometimes hired outside medical writers to draft research reports before handing them over to the doctors whose names eventually appear on the publication.

Although the role of pharmaceutical companies in influencing medical journal articles has been questioned before, the Merck documents provided the most comprehensive look at the practice yet.

Bonnie - let's keep in mind that the FDA relies heavily on this research that Big Pharma spoon feeds them for drug approvals. To add insult to injury, if our present government has its way, Big Pharma will have legal immunity from lawsuits stemming from drug injuries that occurred post-FDA approval. An appeals court already ruled in favor of this in an antidepressant case last week and the Supreme Court is to rule on it next month.

Vitamin protects against PAD

According to a study published in journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, of 4389 adults who had their vitamin D blood levels screened, those in the lowest 25 percent were 80 percent more likely to have peripheral artery disease PAD) than those in the highest 25 percent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Government acknowledges danger of BPA

While long suspected, the National Toxicology Program, a government agency, concludes that there is "some concern" for neural and behavioral effects on fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures from Bisphenol A, a common component of plastics, including baby bottles. They also have "some concern" that exposure in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females.

Bonnie - of course, this is old news to most of you. The government is years behind as usual. This is just another example of allowing a chemical into the human population that lacked adequate study and safety testing. If any of you are still using BPA baby bottles or products containing BPA, look for alternatives.

High dose vitamin E lengthens lives of Alzheimer's patients

According to a study that was presented to the American Academy of Neurology this week, of 847 subjects with Alzheimer's (average age 74) who were followed for 15 years to track survival rates, those who were taking 2000IU of vitamin E per day appeared to extend their lifespan by 26 percent. Those taking cholinesterase inhibitors, an Alzheimer's drug, and those who did neither the vitamin E or drug, showed no survival benefit. No adverse effects were seen in the subjects taking vitamin E.

Bonnie - this is a large amount of vitamin E and should only be prescribed under the auspices of a licensed health professional. A colleague and one of the foremost geriatric therapists in the country has touted vitamin E in high doses for years for Alzheimer's and dementia.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Only one in three kids' drugs FDA approved

Many parents do not realize less than one-third of drugs are U.S. government approved for children, researchers said.

A study by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health indicated 83 percent of parents believe the last medication prescribed for their child was U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved.

Not all medicines that are FDA approved for adults are safe and effective for children to use -- the dose of medicine, how fast the medicine is processed in the body and side effects of the medicine can be different for children than for adults, Davis said.

The survey of 2,131 U.S. adults indicated that 94 percent of parents said it was the doctor's responsibility to tell them if their child's medicine is not FDA-approved.

Steve - this is comforting, eh? We explored this issue years ago and nothing has been done about it.

Testosterone predicts profits on trading floors

Financial traders make more money when their testosterone levels are high. A study of male traders in the City of London financial district showed they made bigger profits on days when their testosterone levels were already high. The stress hormone cortisol seemed to be linked not with failure, but with uncertainty, the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers tested the saliva of 17 male City of London traders for eight consecutive business days. The samples were taken at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., before and after the bulk of the day's trading. Each trader also recorded his profit and loss (P&L). Daily testosterone was significantly higher on days when traders made more than their one-month daily average, the researchers found. "On days of higher 11:00 a.m. testosterone, traders made a P&L for the rest of the day that was significantly greater than on lower testosterone days," they wrote.

Steve - this explains why the financial markets are tanking. Too much estrogen in the environment!

All kidding aside, there is no doubt that testosterone levels in men have dipped in recent decades due to xenoestrogens in our environment, food supply, and medications. Men need to work extra hard to methylate as much estrogen as possible. We have found one beneficial, well-tolerated dietary supplement that can help with this: maca root.

Trans-fats increase breast cancer risk

An American Journal of Epidemiology study to be published of 25,000 women between 1995 and 1998 showed that the higher levels of trans-fatty acids in their diets, the more likely the women were to have breast cancer.

Bonnie - another reason to abolish chemically-altered trans fats from the food supply.

Advisory committee to be formed for 2010 Dietary Guidelines revisions

Steve - Here we go again. Calling all health professionals (or at least ones that support the USDA's interests)! It is highly unlikely that any major changes will be made after they spent so much time and money on the 2005 revisions and new food pyramid. The focus will likely be on food safety, so be prepared to here the words irradiation and viral adulteration ad nauseum.

Candy company to remove artificial colors by the end of 2008

Cadbury Schweppes announcement to remove artificial colors from their confectionery products is said to be based upon recent consumer concern over its possible effect on behavior.

Steve - is it surprising how easy it was for them to make this happen? These companies could have done it long ago, but did not need to until pubic pressure mounted. Now, they just have to remove the artificial flavors and sugar. Wait, then there would be nothing left of the confection, would there?

DASH diet reduces heart attacks, strokes in women

A 25 year study that followed 88,000 healthy women found that those following a diet similar to DASH, which is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based protein, low-fat milk, and healthy fats, showed 24 percent less risk of heart attack and 18 percent less risk of stroke compared with women following a Standard American Diet. The study appeared in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Bonnie - what's surprising is that the numbers are not greater for reduced risk when compared with the Standard American Diet. I still prefer a more balanced, protein-rich Mediterranean Diet over the long-term.

Monday, April 14, 2008

One example of how nanotechnology should be questioned

Silver nanoparticles could improve the safety of the world's food supply, according to a research project at Iowa State University. Silver nanoparticles cannot currently be added directly to foods as little is known about their adverse effects on human health and their impact on ecological systems.

However, the university's current research program is examining how silver nanoparticules could work as an antimicrobial in foods, with the goal of developing food-related applications such as microbe-resistant fabrics or non-biofouling surfaces.

Brehm-Stecher, an Iowa State University assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, admitted that the science of silver nanoparticles on food is currently at a basic point. Brehm-Stecher hopes that his research could change this.

Despite the potential that nanotechnology could hold for the food sector, the technology has suffered from a lack of public understanding and consumer concerns over the safety of some of its applications.

As a result, recent research and development efforts have focused on the impact of further developments in the uses of nanotechnology on health and the environment.

Bonnie - I would never recommend the use of a metal like silver in nano form unless there has been extensive safety research. The track record of its parent, colloidal silver, is not good. The thought of tiny pieces of rogue metal roaming around in our cells does not sit well with me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Soy compound linked to lower breast cancer risk

Researchers found that among more than 24,000 middle-aged and older Japanese women, those with the highest levels of genistein, were only one-third as likely as other women to develop breast cancer over 10 years. Genistein is one of the major isoflavones, plant compounds found in soybeans, chick peas and other legumes that are structurally similar to the hormone estrogen, and are believed to bind to estrogen receptors on body cells. While some studies have linked soy consumption with a lower risk of breast cancer, others have found no protective effect. Some animal research, in fact, has suggested that genistein might spur tumor development and growth. The new findings, reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, suggest that this is not the case in women, at least when genistein is consumed through food alone. "This finding suggests a risk-reducing rather than a risk-enhancing effect of isoflavones on breast cancer, even at relatively high concentrations within the range achievable from dietary intake alone," write the researchers, led by Dr. Motoki Iwasaki of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo. The study included 24,226 women ages 40 to 69 who gave blood samples and completed a dietary assessment, then were followed for an average of 10 years. During that time, 144 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. When Iwasaki's team separated the women based on their blood levels of genistein at the study's start, they found that the one-quarter with highest levels were 65 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than the quarter of women with the lowest genistein levels.

Bonnie - this is consistent from what we have seen. Keep in mind several factors. Japanese women almost exclusively eat fermented soy (tofu, tempeh, miso, natto, etc.). Most of the soy consumed in the U.S. is NOT fermented. So please don't go running out to buy tons of soymilk, soynuts, soybeans, etc.

Reuse of Plastic Bottles

Steve - If you guys did not know this already, the only plastic bottles you can reuse are #'s 2, 4 and 5. It's okay to use #1's once, but not for reuse. #2's are even questionable because they are banned in 14 countries around the world.

Statins: Q10 counter worst effects

Thousands of people stop taking their cholesterol-lowering statin medication because of the drug's debilitating side effects, such as pain and muscle weakness. Harvard scientists have confirmed that a CoQ10 supplement can counter these effects. Statin drugs have a toxic effect on mitochondria, the specialized structures found in all cells that are responsible for the body's energy supply. In the new study, three statin drugs - fluvastatin, lovastatin, and simvastatin - interfered with the body's energy production, and the problem was magnified if the patient was also taking propanolol, a hypertensive. As a result, around 2.3 per cent of patients taking a statin stop their medication. Nature Biotechnology, 2008; 26: 343-51.

Steve - hmm, where have we we heard this before?

Yoga helps older women balance

Elderly women showed measurable improvements in their walking speed and balance after a nine-week yoga program -- and they gained a centimeter in height, on average, according to research presented at the Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society's Annual Meeting. 24 women aged 65 and older were enrolled in their study. The women performed an hour-and-a-half yoga session twice a week, gradually building up the intensity of the exercise. After the program, the women walked faster, used longer strides, and could stand for a longer time on one leg. They also felt more confident in their ability to balance while standing and walking.

Steve - Tai Chi is wonderful as well. It is also a little less strenuous on the body.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cruciferous veg again linked to bladder cancer protection

An increased intake of cruciferous vegetables may slash the risk of bladder cancer by 36 per cent (benefits were limited to raw vegetables), according to a report in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, while no benefits were observed for the consumption of fruit and other vegetables.

The Roswell Park researchers collected dietary data from 275 hospital-based bladder cancer patients and 825 cancer-free people, and found that those who consumed the highest consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables was associated with a 36 per cent reduction in bladder cancer risk.

Furthermore, stronger protective effects were observed among current and heavy smokers with an intake of three or more servings of raw cruciferous vegetables per month associated with a 54 and 40 per cent reduction, respectively.

"Cooking can substantially reduce or destroy isothiocyanates, and could account for study inconsistencies," stated the authors.

Spring cleaning … for your nose

Nasal irrigation can relieve sinus symptoms safely and cheaply, according to a University of Michigan Sinus Center. Nasal irrigation refers to rinsing the nose and nasal passages with a solution, typically salt water. The solution can be as simple – and cheap – as a quarter-teaspoon of kosher salt, eight ounces of warm tap water and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda.

Researchers recommend that patients who are new to nasal irrigation use an eight-ounce squeeze bottle, and squirt four ounces of the mixture into each nostril. The solution exits through the opposite nostril. To prevent the solution from coming out of your mouth, open your mouth and make a “K” sound, which closes off the mouth and throat. Other methods include a device called a neti-pot, which resembles a miniature teapot. Saline sprays can also be purchased at drug stores (make sure they are thimerosal-free).

For most patients, the benefit of nasal irrigation is that it does a great job of treating symptoms that otherwise aren’t well treated with medicine. Nasal irrigation can be considered a first-line treatment for common nasal and sinus symptoms. It’s often more effective than medications. For people with mild allergies, nasal irrigations alone may be enough to control the symptoms. Others may need to avoid food cross-reactors and use medications in addition to nasal irrigation.

Researchers led a study in which her team found that saline irrigation is very effective at controlling sinus symptoms, more so than saline sprays. “Patients who used nasal irrigation,” she says, “experienced as much improvement as some patients with chronic sinusitis get with sinus surgery.” Nasal irrigation can be used in children with a smaller amount of the solution.

Steve - these recommendations are right on. We have heard from many clients that nasal irrigation is extremely helpful. I have seasonal allergies that are kept under control by avoiding cross-reactors, nasal irrigation, and specific supplemental nutrients.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Vitamin K2, not K1, linked to lower prostate cancer risk

A large nine year study that appears in April's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that an increased intake of vitamin K2 (ascertained by food frequency questionnaires) was associated with a 35 percent risk of prostate cancer, including a 63 percent reduction in advanced prostate cancer risk.

Steve - what's the best way to get a healthy dose of vitamin K2? Supplementing with healthy flora...probiotics. Vitamin K2 is synthesized in the gut by healthy microflora. Another reason to take your probiotics.

Omega-3's offers Crohn's no benefits

According to a study that appears in the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association, those who took four grams of omega-3's for 58 weeks showed very little risk in preventing a relapse of Crohn's than those on placebo.

Folks, Crohn's is a serious gastrointestinal disorder which in no way can prevent relapse just by taking omega-3. Omega-3 is definitely part of an integrative approach to healing symptoms, but without focusing on dietary modification, no amount of omega-3 in the world will help. of course, this study did not address dietary modification.

Once again, a poorly structured study using a single substance to act as a cure.

NOTE: a significant drop in triglycerides was seen in those taking the omega-3's versus the placebo. This is something that omega-3 is known for and has been copiously researched.

The media explores abusing dietary supplements

Two stories on a rarely discussed form of "substance abuse," related to the overuse of dietary supplements, brings to light an important subject. One story that appeared on CBS News was very well done. The other story, written by Jane Brody at the New York Times, was not. Ultimately, the message the two articles want to convey is that people can abuse dietary supplements, just like any other substance.

I have seen this first hand with new clients who have taken it upon themselves to "self-medicate." More often than not, these individuals were mega-dosing on certain nutrients, which very well could have been contributing to the symptoms they came to see me for.

I have said it a million times...please work with a licensed health professional who has expertise in the use of dietary supplements. Unfortunately, many doctors do not have the expertise so make to sure to ask them up front if they have the knowledge.

Dietary Supplements can help you safely achieve optimal wellness results if taken properly for you as an individual.

Two safe, non-invasive acne treatments to try

  1. Milk of magnesia, applied on affected areas before showering (do not wash off face until the end of the shower), appears to help in some cases.

  2. Photopneumatic therapy, in which the skin is suctioned with a vacuum-like device, bringing the bad stuff to the surface, then beamed with intense pulsed light. The process stuns and deactivates hyperactive oil glands and kills the bacteria they nourish. The process is performed by dermatologists and takes twenty minutes.

Food Freedom: A Celiac’s Passover Story

By Elissa Strauss
The Jewish Daily Forward

Tell a Jew you have celiac disease, and the response is almost always: “So like Passover, but year-round?”

Yes, I reply, but without the matzo.

Indeed, life with celiac disease — the autoimmune deficiency in which gluten, the proteins found in wheat, rye, oats, barley and malt, cannot be tolerated — is much like Passover year-round. Of course, the obvious comparison, the unappealing one, involves a long list of doughy things that are off-limits. But good similarities, like the stirring of creativity that happens when one must make do when faced with restrictions, exists, too. There is also the constant element of restraint, and a bit of the enlightening humility that comes as a result.

But there is one major twist. For Jewish celiacs, the days of Passover feel less like a sacrifice and more like a massive carbohydrate fest. No, we cannot have matzo brei or matzo balls. But what we can have is an ever-expanding selection of cookies, cakes, jelly rolls and other ambrosial desserts, all wheat-free.

Luckily for celiacs, there are some Jews who will not eat gebrokts — matzo that comes in contact with water after it is baked — during Passover. This leaves anything made from matzo meal forbidden. Therefore, potato-starch becomes the base for non-gebrokts baked goods, and strictly observant Jews, celiacs and Jewish celiacs are all very happy.

Certain non-gebrokts bakeries like Shabtai and Schicks, which are located in New York City but serve customers all over, are aware of the appeal of wheat-free products to celiacs, and they now market some goods year-round. (Shabtai’s rainbow cookies took me right back to those I ate as a wheat-tolerant child at my synagogue. The promise of those layered delights kept me going through Friday night services.)

Every year, around Passover, I try to get hold of non-gebrokts goods as soon as possible, and I’ve usually polished off a box or two before the holiday commences. Unfortunately, when the sugar high fades, I am left with some real questions. While dessert time poses no problem for celiacs during Passover, the Seder is more complicated. Jews are commanded to eat matzo during Passover, and in order for matzo to be official, it must be made with one of the five grains: wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt. Most celiacs forgo the matzo mitzvah and instead use a homemade surrogate; my favorite is made of almond paste, potato starch and shortening. (Catholic celiacs experience a similar dilemma; in order to make communion, one must eat wafers made of wheat. One solution is a wafer made with 0.01% wheat, not likely to bother any celiac.)

Over the past few years, a celiac-friendly matzo made from a newly discovered breed of gluten-free oats has hit the market at a few small companies. This presents a solution for many celiacs, as it allows them to fulfill their religious obligation without breaking their dietary restrictions.

As for Jews who are more observant, I am sure they celebrate this new matzo, but I am a bit wary. It costs nearly $30 a box, because of the intense production process, and it is rumored to have a bitter taste. That, coupled with the fact I am still not comfortable putting oats in my mouth, even though these oats are said to be gluten-free, has prevented me from buying it.

To tell the truth, not eating matzo is not the only rule I break. While chametz, or leavened bread, is off-limits to me all year long, kitniyot — foods not eaten by Ashkenazic Jews during Passover, including rice, corn and soy — are my lifeline. If I were Sephardic, these would all be permitted, but I claim no such roots.

My Passover is a mash-up of customs, sacrifices and indulgences. I eat rice, corn and soy, but still avoid any product made of these ingredients that resembles what would be forbidden, if it is made of wheat. But whatever dietary or culinary handicaps this presents is quickly diminished by a thick slice of Passover pound cake or some fluffy almond macaroons.

The act of eating matzo instead of chametz is supposed to teach us humility. We learn to be nothing like the latter, so arrogant, so full of “hot air.” Instead we eat humbly, building a foundation of moral and spiritual integrity. (Although I am not so sure that a freezer full of baked goods helps me feel any more humble, even if I lay off the gluten-free bagels for a week.)

Even though my Passover is a bit muddled, I can still see the wisdom here. When eating is circumscribed, be it by disease or by religion, things like humility and gratitude really can be better understood.

Elissa Strauss is a writer living in New York City.

Food allergies have doubled in last 10 years

One in 25 Americans has a food allergy, and for children younger than 3, the ratio is 1 in 17. "All types of allergies are increasing," said Anne Munoz-Furlong, the founder and CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. "We're better at diagnosing food allergies." Symptoms, whether mild or severe, occur quickly, within a few minutes to two hours of eating. In the most severe cases, they progress to anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal condition in which the allergic reaction overtakes the entire body.

Allergists say any food can cause an allergic reaction, but 90 percent of the time it's one of the "big eight" foods - milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, walnuts), shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster) and fish (tuna, salmon, catfish).Some health professionals think that food allergies are increasing because we're all exposed to more of the "big eight" allergens through processed foods.

Bonnie - bingo! The last comment hit it on the head. Milk, wheat, soy, and corn (which is still not considered an allergen) are in everything Americans eat. Keep in mind these statistics do not take into account food intolerances, which are different than food allergies.

New Web site lets patients check up on doctors

The state has launched a new Web site that lets you research doctors' professional background and see whether they've been disciplined. Physician Profile is accessible from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's site at Launched Friday, the site has already gotten more than 85,000 hits. You can find out, among other things, where doctors went to school, what insurance they take and whether any legal or disciplinary action has been taken against them in the last five years. You also can compare doctors in the same specialties. The state already provides some of this information online, but the new site is more detailed. Doctors create their own profiles. The state doesn't verify the information given, but "if we were to learn that there was inaccurate or untruthful information, the doctor is subject to disciplinary action," said Sue Hofer, a spokeswoman for the agency. The site now includes information on 44,000 doctors -- more than 85 percent of those licensed in Illinois. Hofer said the rest should have profiles up by July.

Egg study flawed

Bonnie - the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in their April issue showing that middle-aged males who eat more than seven eggs per week were at a modestly greater risk for all-cause mortality and greatly increased risk in diabetics. While we have professed our love for this journal for years, and still do, we are scratching our heads over the publishing of this study. The authors, as well as the accompanying editorial, all but apologizes that they study was performed. Nevertheless, Reuters picked up on the story and the media will probably run with it.

There were so many limitations. Here are the important points:
  • First of all, of the 21327 participants who were followed over 20 years, only 8 percent ate more than one egg per day. That is a very small cohort. The most important thing to note is that less frequent intake (less than one egg per day) DID NOT INFLUENCE RISK for all-cause mortality. How many of us eat eggs every day?

  • The study suffers from lack of detailed dietary information, such as, how were the eggs prepared (fried, scrambled, hard-boiled, in egg salad)? This is extremely important when taking into account all-cause mortality.

  • The participants with higher egg intake were older, had higher BMI (body mass index), smoked more cigarettes, drank more alcohol, were less physically active, and had a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes. Think this may have contributed to all-cause mortality?

  • Egg consumption in any amount was NOT associated with increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, or cardiovascular disease.

  • The authors profess that they did not track the amount of calories and major nutrient intake of the participants, where as other egg studies did.
In short, the chances are very high that the terrible lifestyle choices in the participants who ate more than 7 eggs per week (diabetic and non-diabetic) contributed to the all-cause mortality than the eggs themselves. I suspect (because the researchers did not take this into account) that these participants ate their eggs in the Standard American Breakfast way: prepared in butter accompanied by pancakes or waffles, hash browns or toast, etc. It is shocking to me that the numbers were not higher!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Antidepressant use is linked to diabetes risk

The use of antidepressant medication is strongly associated with the risk of developing diabetes, according to findings published in the March issue of Diabetes Care. Dr. Richard R. Rubin, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues point out that among diabetics, the risk of depression is 50 to 100% greater than in the general population. In 3187 participants in the randomized Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study, Dr. Rubin's team sought to determine whether depression symptoms or antidepressant use were associated with progression to type 2 diabetes. The mean follow-up was 3.2 years. Compared with no use, continuous antidepressant use during the study was associated with diabetes risk. Intermittent antidepressant use during the study was associated with diabetes risk. "If antidepressants prove to be an independent diabetes risk factor, clinicians will need to consider this when prescribing depression treatment in patients at high risk for diabetes," Dr. Rubin said in an interview with Reuters Health. "One possibility is to consider psychological treatment to avoid potential iatrogenic effects of antidepressants (although limited resources may often make this unfeasible)," he explained. "In one study of depressed patients with diabetes who had high A1c levels, cognitive behavioral therapy counseling was associated with improved glycemic control; this suggests a potential benefit for patients at high risk for developing diabetes."

Courtesy of Reuters.

Bonnie - if long-term studies corroborate this initial discovery, it is another crushing blow for this widely used class of drugs.

No quick end for cloning product moratorium: USDA

The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Monday it will not lift a voluntary moratorium on selling meat and milk from cloned animals to consumers any time soon. In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that products from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe as milk and meat from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers had followed a voluntary ban on the sale of cloned products. After the FDA's ruling, USDA asked the cloning industry to prolong the ban for a transitional period expected to last several months. "We have asked those companies to continue with that voluntary moratorium," Bruce Knight, USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said at the National Association of Agriculture Journalists conference. "I do not have an end date on that."

Monday, April 07, 2008

UK organization says no to nanofoods/cosmetics

The UK Soil Association has become the first in the world to prohibit nanomaterials - particles less than 100 nanometers in dimension - from all foods, textiles, and cosmetics it certifies.

The Associations' claims are based upon several criteria:

1) products containing nanomaterials are not required to have labeling to warn consumers
2) of the scant research that is available to demonstrate the safety of nanotechnology, some has been negative
3) no regulation of these materials is on the horizon

The UK Soil Association is one of the largest and most prestigious certification organizations for labeling organic, safe, and sustainable food.

Steve - I applaud their stand on this issue. However, I fear that this technology is going down the same road as genetically-modified food.

Low Inflation Diet follow-up

Their ears must have been buzzing!

On March 25th, we wrote The Low Inflation Diet, which explains why "health food" does not seem as pricey as it once was because inflation has raised the cost of common foodstuffs. Wouldn't you know that on April 2nd, the New York Times came out with a piece called "Some Good News on Food Prices."

Sleep more to slim down, scientists say

An extra hour of sleep at night may help stabilize weight. The relation to lack of sleep and weight gain is often under-estimated. Two key hormones produced at night help regulate appetite. Grehlin makes people hungry, slows metabolism and decreases the body's ability to burn body fat, and leptin, a protein hormone produced by fatty tissue, regulates fat storage. Less sleep (two four-hour nights) has been shown to cause an 18 percent loss of appetite-cutting leptin and a 28 percent increase of appetite-causing grehlin. Such hormonal changes make people hungry for foods heavy in fats and sugars such as chips, biscuits, cakes and peanuts. The sleep loss caused a 23 to 24 percent increase in hunger, translating into an extra 350 to 500 calories a day.

A journal Obesity study released in February showed children lacking shut-eye faced a greater risk of becoming obese than kids who got a good night's sleep. Each extra hour of sleep cuts a child's risk of becoming overweight or obese by nine percent, according to an analysis of epidemiological studies by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. By contrast, children who got the least sleep had a 92 percent higher chance of being overweight or obese than children who slept enough. Some research recommends that children under five years old sleep 11 hours or more a day, while children age five to 10 should get 10 or more hours of sleep, and children older than 10 should sleep at least nine hours.

Cancer operations fail to make the grade

According to a study that flew under the radar in the February issue of Archives of Surgery, tumor cells were left in 70% of the 222 patients who underwent 'curative' surgery for colorectal cancer.

Health Professionals & Public unprepared to make use of genomic medicine

According to a study by the RAND corporation that appears in last month's Journal of the American Medical Association, while advances in genomic medicine have been vast, primary care physicians feel woefully under prepared to integrate genetics into their practice. This includes having neither the time nor the skill necessary to obtain and interpret family histories that may detect disease patterns that merit a referral for genetic testing. There are also very few experts available to meet growing demand.

Additionally, there have been no studies showing if genetic testing does prevent the disease. There are also no studies showing what might be the est system for providing genetic services fr chronic adult illnesses.

Steve - while all of the above is evident, the most important point is that researchers still do not have all the information they need to know how multitudes of genes, not just one or two, increase one's risk of chronic disease. That will take many more years.

Consumers want better industry efforts to combat obesity

Food manufacturers are not proving to consumers they are dedicated to cutting fat, sugar and salt levels in their products, suggests a new survey. According to a public opinion survey commissioned by the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), 82 percent of Americans think food companies should be making a greater effort to reformulate for more better-for-you products.

The survey, which gathered answers from more than 1,000 individuals found that only 17 percent of Americans thought food manufacturers do not need to make any greater efforts to reformulate. 60 percent of Americans thought food companies are not doing enough to limit their junk food advertising to children. Furthermore, 57 percent of American respondents said the government should take more action in helping overcome childhood obesity and other health problems.

Steve - the survey also should have included the question, "Do you think you personally could be doing more to combat obesity in you, your family, and/or friends?"

Big Pharma's legal shield. Get ready.

Steve -

An article that appears in today's New York Times covers a topic that should deeply unsettle us.

Next term, the Supreme Court is to rule on a case that could make pre-emption a legal standard for drug cases. Pre-emption means that if the Food & Drug Administration approves a drug, then a citizen cannot sue the drug company if it proves to cause injury and death. Those who favor the doctrine, such as the Bush administration, claim that the FDA is the only agency with enough expertise to regulate drug makers and that its decisions should not be second-guessed by courts.

Hypothetically, even though Merck withheld negative results of studies on Vioxx showing an increase in heart attack risk, the FDA approved the drug. So the pre-emption rule indemnifies

Thud. That is the sound of my jaw hitting to the floor.

If we cannot rely on the courts for justice, our only line of defense is...

  • The underfunded FDA.
  • The undermanned FDA.
  • The scientifically-challenged FDA.
  • The special interest FDA who relies on drug makers to report the results of their own studies completely and honestly.
  • The agency that relies on drug makers to report potential problems with drugs that have already been introduced into the market.
  • The 10 years behind the times FDA.
  • The agency whose top brass, after their tenure, move into cushy lobbying and executive positions for Big Pharma.
  • The agency who "may not be adequate to regulate the food and drugs of the 21st century," according to its own commissioner.
Folks, a precedent has already been set by the Supreme Court. In February, they already ruled that lawsuits against the makers of medical devices like pacemakers are pre-empted.

________. That is me shaking my head in utter disbelief.

April 9 Update: Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline won an appeals court ruling (2-1 opinion) shielding them from liability in lawsuits over the adequacy of warning labels on antidepressants approved by U.S. regulators.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Drug costs rise as economy slides...

and Drug costs rise as poisoning deaths on the rise.

We know that drug companies have raised their prices as demand has gone down and generics have become more competitive. Now it getting more difficult for Americans to make their drug co-pays because of the exorbitant costs.

This comes on the heels of a new federal report showing that drug poisonings are the second leading cause of injury deaths in the US. According to March Health E-Stats, it is not the "kid drinking Drano" poisonings that are spiking the number of deaths, they are prescriptions from painkillers such as methadone and Oxycontin.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is not natural says FDA

While music to our ears, this is sure to cause a firestorm of opposition from HFCS proponents. In essence, what the FDA is saying is that HFCS should be treated as an artificial sweetener (as it should be). It is prepared from a high dextrose equivalent corn starch hydrolysate by partial enzymatic conversion of glucose to fructose using synthetic fixing agents.

This is one time we can say way to go FDA, too bad it came twenty years or so too late!

Micronutrients to end world hunger?

According to the Copenhagen Consensus, sponsored by The World Bank, spending just 1.2 billion a year on dietary supplements and education about the food needs of babies, the world could take a big step towards ending world hunger. In addition, $15 billion could be saved in lower health bills and longer, more productive lives.

For example, adding micronutrients to flour such as iron and folic acid, providing vitamin A capsules to help children's eyesights and immune systems are a few of the steps needed to be taken.

State Senate panel OKs bill to label cloned foods

A proposal for mandatory labeling of all food from cloned animals passed its first test in the California Legislature Wednesday when the Senate Health Committee endorsed it by a 6-3 vote. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Carol Migden, D-San Francisco, would require every merchant along the food supply chain, from livestock producers to grocery store operators, to tell their customers that a product came from a cloned animal or its offspring. Whether any state law on cloned foods ever takes effect might depend on the federal government's power to pre-empt state legislation on food labeling, a question that may only be settled in court. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cited the pre-emption issue when he vetoed a similar bill that Migden sponsored last year. Even if all state proposals are defeated, one avenue remains for a labeling law. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is trying to enact similar labeling requirements on the federal level. Her proposal is an amendment to the Consumer Product Safety Commission bill, S2663. The provision has not yet come up for a vote.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Relaxation skills help some skip hypertension meds

Learning stress management techniques could help people with a type of high blood pressure common among the elderly to eliminate their need for antihypertensive drugs. Individuals with the condition, known as isolated systolic hypertension, who participated in relaxation training had a better chance of being able to drop at least one of their blood pressure drugs than individuals in a control group who did not participate in relaxation training. If the findings are confirmed in patients with other types of hypertension, Dr. Jeffrey Dusek and colleagues conclude, the benefits in preventing stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and other ill effects of high blood pressure -- as well as reducing spending on drugs -- would be "incalculable."

The study, which appeared in the March 2008 issue of Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, was to determine whether learning stress management techniques could help people manage systolic hypertension without drugs, the researchers randomized 122 hypertensive men and women aged 55 and older to 8 weeks of relaxation response training or a control group. All were taking at least two antihypertensive drugs at the study's outset. Individuals in the relaxation response group participated in weekly sessions that included 15 minutes of instruction in how to produce the response (such as mindfulness meditation and deep breathing), along with a guided 20-minute relaxation response session. They were instructed to listen to a 20-minute relaxation response tape every day. Patients in the control group listened to a series of 20-minute tapes of instructions on lifestyle modification techniques. At the end of 8 weeks, 44 people in the relaxation response group and 36 control group participants had reduced their blood pressure to target levels and were eligible for an additional 8 weeks of training that included supervised antihypertensive medication elimination. Thirty-two percent of the study participants in the relaxation group were able to keep their blood pressure at the recommended level while eliminating one or more of their anti-hypertensive drugs, compared to 14 percent of those in the control group. After the researchers controlled for various characteristics of people in each group, they found that being in the relaxation response group increased a person's chances of being able to drop at least one medication more than four-fold.

Heavy mobile phone use linked to brain tumors

According to a top Australian neurosurgeon, who conducted a 15 month critical review of the link between mobile phones and malignant brain tumors, says that heavy use for more than ten years can more than double the risk of brain cancer.

Vini Khurana, MD, has called for immediate and decisive steps by industry and government to reduce people's exposure to invisible electromagnetic radiation emitted by handsets.

Dr. Khurana says that by 2008-2012, we will have reached an appropriate length of follow-up time to begin observing the impact of mobile phone use and incidence of brain cancer. He went on to say that there is already enough definitive evidence to warrant industry and governments to act.

Do you know your produce labels?

Those little stickers on produce tell you a lot. For most of us, it has become increasingly important to know if you produce is conventional, organic, or genetically modified. We mentioned this last year in our blog, but once again, here are simple tips to discern their origins:
  • Organic produce has a five digit number that begins with 9 (for example, 94060 for broccoli).
  • Conventionally grown produce always has a four digit code.
  • Genetically modified produce has a five digit number that begins with 8.
Memorize this!