Friday, May 30, 2008

Mediterranean diet also protects against diabetes

The Mediterranean diet, which is famously beneficial for the cardiovascular system, also helps protect against diabetes, according to a paper published Thursday by the British Medical Journal. Researchers at the University of Navarra in northern Spain recruited 13,753 people with graduate-level education between December 1999 and November 2007 and who had no history of diabetes when they were enrolled. Their health and dietary habits were then tracked in detail over the following months and years. During the follow-up period -- an average of 4.4 years over the range of participants -- 103 people became diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, with a large preponderance of cases among those who did not follow the basics of the Med diet. Those who adhered to the diet most strictly enjoyed a relative reduction of 83 percent in the risk of diabetes. Intriguingly, many people in this group also had the biggest accumulation of risk factors for the disease -- they were older, were fatter, had a family history of diabetes, more sedentary lifestyle or were ex-smokers. But they appear to have been shielded by the diet, the authors say.

Steve - well, the well-researched benefits of a Mediterranean diet is now one of the worst kept secrets in nutrition. If you have been unaware of it until now, start taking advantage of it!

Whole Foods Red Flags.

Can it be? Unfortunately, yes. As the years have gone by, it seems that Whole Foods Markets have allowed more questionable ingredients into their private label products as well as other brands. While they are still the unquestioned leader in clean food, you still have to read labels!

Here is a list of the most egregious ingredients we have found in many of their products. We know there are others. Feel free to email us any others you have found that are not on this list. Note: make sure to look on the labels of all of their prepared foods as well as packaged.
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (MSG derivative)
  • Sodium Phosphate (preservative)
  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract (MSG derivative)
  • Cornstarch
  • Dextrose

Vitamin D levels should be multiplied by ten for children

Raising current vitamin D levels from 200 International Units (IU) to 2,000 IU could boost bone health amongst children and have long-term health benefits.

Only children given the equivalent of 2,000 IUs a day of vitamin D3 increased their blood levels of the vitamin to the level considered optimal for adults, according to results of a placebo-controlled study to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"In children, similarly to adults, the mean 25(OH)D response to each 100 IU of additional oral vitamin D3 is approximately 1 ng/mL (2.5 nmol/L). Therefore, in children with a serum 25(OH)D concentration below 20 ng/mL (less than 50 nmol/L), a vitamin D dose equivalent to 2000 IU per day, preferably as vitamin D3 as opposed to vitamin D2, would be an advisable replacement dose.

"The high prevalence of hypovitaminosis D worldwide across all age groups, the fact that many diseases of adulthood are rooted in the pediatric age group, and the safety data available to-date render it quite compelling to modify the current recommendations regarding adequate vitamin D intake not only for adults but also for children," researchers concluded.

Both the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommend an adequate daily intake of 200 IUs of vitamin D for children.

Bonnie - this is why we for children often recommend a multi that contains vitamin D and Cod Liver Oil to enhance what is already in vitamin D-enriched foods.

FDA proposes new drug label system for pregnant women

Women and their doctors may soon have better information about the safety of drugs taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday proposed replacing a 30-year-old system for classifying drugs in favor of labels that provide far more detailed information about a medication's risks and benefits.

More than 90% of nursing mothers take medication during the first week after delivery. People often mistakenly assume all the drugs in one category are equally safe, says Harvard Medical School professor Michael Greene, who led an advisory committee for the FDA about the change. Women take an average of three to five medications during pregnancy. Because half of the nation's six million pregnancies are unplanned, many women take medications before they realize they are pregnant.

The FDA hopes to begin rolling out new labels "as soon as possible," although approving each new change may take some time.

Bonnie - it is not surprising that our infant death rate is so high. Twenty years ago, the March of Dimes recommended no drugs during pregnancy unless the benefits far outweighed the risks.

Low-carb diets work for overweight diabetics

Overweight people with type 2 diabetes can keep their weight and blood sugar under control over the long term by following a low-carbohydrate diet, Swedish researchers report.

The participants in the study limited their carbohydrate intake to 20 percent of total calories. The most significant effect of this low-carb diet is the absence of hunger. The consequent reduction in food intake allows the body to use its own stores of fat for fuel, which results in weight reduction.

Moreover, avoiding starch-rich bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, and breakfast cereals minimizes the glucose spikes that make it necessary for people with diabetes to take insulin.

Nielsen and colleagues had previously reported superior weight loss and glucose control over a 22-month period among 16 obese patients with diabetes who followed a low-carbohydrate diet compared with 15 similar patients following a diet containing 55 to 60 percent of energy from carbohydrates.

In their current study, in the BioMed Central journal Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers reported 44 months of follow up data.

"Of the 16 patients, five have retained or reduced bodyweight since the 22 month point and all but one have lower weight at 44 months than at start," the investigators report. Furthermore, glucose levels dropped soon after starting the diet and have stayed down over the 44 month period.

"Advice to obese patients with type 2 diabetes to follow a 20% carbohydrate diet with some caloric restriction has a lasting effect on bodyweight and glycemic control," the investigators conclude.

Bonnie - while a small number of subjects, the results should not be surprising. While this is an extremely low percentage of carbohydrates for one's diet, it may be prudent to implement in obese or overweight diabetics.

New MRI technique could catch cancer early

Courtesy of Reuters

A new imaging technique that relies on naturally occurring baking soda in the body could help pinpoint cancer earlier and quickly gauge if drugs to kill tumors are working, British researchers said on Wednesday.

The non-invasive method uses magnetic resonance imaging to measure changes in pH -- or acidity -- in tissue that is often the hallmark of cancer and other conditions such as heart disease and strokes, said Kevin Brindle of the University of Cambridge, who led the study.

Currently there are no safe ways to measure pH levels in humans but doing so is important because tumors, for example, are far more acidic than surrounding tissue.

"You are imaging not just tissue structure but tissue function," said Brindle, whose study is published in the journal Nature. "We wanted to measure tissue pH, which is a surrogate for disease."

The researchers injected mice with a tagged form of bicarbonate -- an alkali more commonly seen in baking soda -- that occurs naturally in the body and balances acidity, Brindle said.

They used MRI to see how much of the tagged bicarbonate was converted into carbon dioxide within the tumor. In more acidic tumors, more bicarbonate is converted into carbon dioxide.

The researchers measured pH levels using an emerging technique called dynamic nuclear polarization that boosts MRI sensitivity more than 10,000 times.

The next step is testing the technique in humans in early stage clinical trials expected to start in 2009, he added in a telephone interview.

Bonnie - while this technique has only been used on mice so far, it is so significant in explaining how an overacidic host can be the cause of myriad health issues. I think the path these researchers are on is brilliant. This should be a lesson to those of us in the know that we need to do everything we can to create an acid/alkaline balance in our bodies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kids using melatonin

Courtesy of USA Today

Parents who have tried melatonin say the pill has been nothing short of miraculous in getting their children to sleep. It's a trend that is occurring despite doctors' general reluctance to endorse melatonin as a sleeping aid for healthy children. "We have seen tremendous growth of the use of melatonin by parents," says Susan Zafarlotfi, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep-Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. "Melatonin is very useful for some teens who cannot get to sleep." Zafarlotfi says occasional use of melatonin for children is fine as long as the dosage does not exceed 3 milligrams. She does not recommend giving it to kids younger than 10.

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, helps regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle, and its production is determined by light and dark. When darkness falls, the gland produces more melatonin, which promotes sleep. After reviewing numerous studies, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2005 concluded that melatonin supplements are safe if used for days or weeks. The studies on children have been small and only focusing on those with attention deficit disorders, and there are no reports on the long-term effects of melatonin in children.

This is not a treatment for the healthy child who just doesn't want to go to bed or the child with occasional trouble falling asleep," says Marcia Buck, clinical pharmacy specialist at the University of Virginia Children's Hospital in Charlottesville.

Bonnie - I err on the side of caution with melatonin. There is no doubt that melatonin is effective. However, it is a hormone. Unless that hormone level is out of range (which can be easily be detected with a salivary test), I would never recommend it long-term, especially on children. More often than not, there are underlying reasons why the child is not sleeping. I always opt for getting to the root of the cause.

Vitamin D levels should be increased for children

Raising current vitamin D levels from 200 International Units (IU) to 2,000 IU could boost bone health amongst children and have long-term health benefits, says new research.

Only children given the equivalent of 2,000 IUs a day of vitamin D3 increased their blood levels of the vitamin to the level considered optimal for adults, according to results of a placebo-controlled study to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Both the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommend an adequate daily intake of 200 IUs of vitamin D for children.

Reports in prestigious journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have called for raises to the recommendations.

Because of the low dietary amounts, and lack of sunshine in northern climates, some estimates claim that as much as 60 per cent of northern populations may be vitamin D deficient.


Vitamin D deficiency in childhood can show up later as broken bones or a weakened immune system prone to disease. Two out of five U.S. children aged 8 months to 2 years who took part in a 380-patient study at Children's Hospital Boston had less-than-optimal blood levels of vitamin D.

The main risk factors were not drinking enough fortified milk, not taking vitamins and being overweight, said the report published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Lead researcher Catherine Gordon of Children's Hospital Boston said the 40 percent deficiency rate "is higher than expected in a country that has vitamin D fortified milk."

The study also found that 6 percent of the children fed fortified formula were vitamin D deficient. The researchers said this raised questions about whether the fortification was sufficient.

Bonnie - this is why we often recommend a multi with vitamin D and Cod Liver Oil in prenatal/pregnant women, nursing mothers, and in young children to enhance what is already in the fortified milk, milk substitutes, and fish.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Highlights - May

  • Nutritional deficiencies are very common in gastric bypass patients despite supplementation with the standard multivitamin preparation. Therefore, careful follow-up is indicated to detect and treat those deficiencies. Bonnie - it is inexcusable that studies and data have not already determined whether injections/sublingual supplements are necessary.

  • Consumption of supplemental doses of turmeric can significantly increase urinary oxalate levels, thereby increasing risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.

  • High glycemic index, load carbohydrates are associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk among overweight women and women with large waist circumference.

  • There is no association between dietary fat intake and prostate cancer risk.

  • A positive association exists between dietary acrylamide and renal cell (kidney) cancer risk.

  • A higher intake of flavanoids, dietary components with anticarcinogenic activities, may be associated with lower non-Hodgkins lymphoma risk. Bonnie - Quercetin, citrus bioflavanoids, coffee, tea are great examples. I am also finding that undiagnosed celiac is becoming a major cause of this NHL.

  • Based upon a male runner subject study, the risk of gout is lower in men who are more physically active, maintain ideal body weight, and consume diets enriched in fruit and limited in meat and alcohol.

  • Long-term intake of cereal foods with differing insulin responses may be a factor that modulates the inflammatory status in individuals with metabolic syndrome. For example, rye bread generates a lower insulin response than does wheat bread, even thought the glucose response remains unchanged. Modification of carbohydrate intake by consuming cereal products that elicit a low insulin response can lower inflammation expression, even in the absence of weight loss.

  • Special Insert: Protein Summit 2007
    • Elevated protein intake may represent an effective and practical weight-loss strategy for increased satiety, increase thermogenesis (energy expenditure), and increase fat-free body mass.

    • Optimal protein intake for bone health is likely higher than current recommended intakes, particularly in the elderly. Concerns about protein on acid production are minor. Concern should be on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption to increase alkalinity.

    • High protein, reduced carbohydrate diets have positive effects on individuals exhibiting atherogenic dyslipidemia of metabolic syndrome and glycemic imbalance.

    • The USDA Dietary Guidelines did not address the issue of protein, much less its role in optimal health. It should have received a much higher priority.

Whitaker on Cholesterol

There were some interesting comments from Dr. Julian Whitaker in his June issue of Health & Healing. For those of you who don't know, Dr. Whitaker is a wellness pioneer. In the newsletter, he questions if cholesterol really matters. According to Whitaker:
  • High cholesterol is not a reliable sign of an impending heart attack.
  • Does not recommend statins because except for a very limited number of people, there is no evidence that they protect against heart attack or premature death. If you are over 65, there is no benefit at all even if your cholesterol goes down.
  • Numbers Needed to Treat (NNT) - describes the number of patients who would need to be treated with a medical therapy in order to prevent one bad outcome. Experts consider an NNT over 50 to be "worse than a lottery ticket." The statin Lipitor is 100. That would mean that 100 people must be treated with Lipitor in order for just one heart attack to be prevented.
  • Statins are riddled with side effects.
  • Inflammation, not high cholesterol, is the primary cause of heart disease.
Steve - do these comments sound familiar? The NNT was something we had not heard about before.

Best and worst of conventional produce

Steve - we usually publish this every few years for updates. While we always suggest organic produce, we emphatically suggest staying away from the most heavily pesticide-laden produce.

Highest in Pesticides
Sweet bell peppers
Grapes (imported)

Lowest in Pesticides
Sweet corn 9frozen)
Sweet Peas (frozen)

As wth everything else, organic labeling can be confusing

The USDA Organic Seal is used voluntarily by producers whose products meet the federal requirements for "100 percent organic" or "Organic" for labeling to provide assurance of organic integrity. Find below a breakdown of how certain labeling terms are defined.

"100 Percent Organic"
Products must contain only organically produced ingredients, but may contain added water and salt. These products may use the green USDA Organic seal.

Products must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. These products may also use the organic seal.

"Made with Organic Ingredients"
Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may use this phrase and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the primary display panel. The USDA Seal may not be used anywhere on the package.

"Free Range" or "Free Roaming"
Poultry must have been allowed outdoor access. Note that certain farmers will limit the space their poultry can roam.

Products must contain no artificial ingredients or added color, and should only be minimally processed (the raw form of the product cannot be fundamentally altered).

"No Hormones" (Pork or Poultry)
Hormones are not allowed at all in raising hogs and poultry, so this label can be misleading. It would be like saying that apples are now cholesterol-free. Therefore, the claim "no hormones added" cannot be used on the labels of these items unless it is followed by the line "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."

"No Hormones" (Beef)
Producers must provide documentation that says no hormones were used in the animal's lifetime.

"No Antibiotics" (Red Meat & Poultry)
Producers must provide documentation that says no antibiotics were used in the animal's lifetime.

Bonnie - I get questions all the time about labels. The aforementioned is a great reason why I always say to be an educated consumer. Priority number one is to read the labels. The second priority is to know what the labels mean!

Breast-Feeding Protects Against Arthritis

Courtesy of the NY Times

A Swedish study suggests yet another health advantage of breast-feeding, this time for the mother: it reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers compared 136 women with rheumatoid arthritis with 544 healthy women of similar age. After controlling for factors including smoking and education level, they found that women who breast-fed for 1 to 12 months reduced their risk of arthritis by 25 percent, and that those who breast-fed for more than a year cut their risk in half. Although the mechanism is not clear, the scientists write that the protective effect may come from long-term changes in the mother’s immune system induced by breast-feeding. The study appeared online May 13 in The Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.

Artificial sweeteners: why they can make you put on weight

Scientists have discovered that the artificial sweeteners cause a disassociation in the brain between energy and sweetness, and disrupt its ability to accurately assess the calories we’re consuming.

Researchers found that sugar can stimulate the areas of the brain related to expectation and satisfaction, so switching off the desire for more sweetness. Using brain imaging, they discovered that artificial sweeteners were not activating the same neural pathways. The study was published in February's journal Neuroimage.

Steve - in 1987 around 70 million Americans were taking artificial sweeteners, and this grew to 160 million by 2000. Over the same period, obesity levels rose from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. Interesting theory.

Study says to make additive removal usual for hyperactive kids

Cutting out colors and preservatives from the diets of hyperactive children should be standard part of dealing with the disorder. Certain artificial colors and the preservative sodium benzoate have been under the spotlight in the last year since a study conducted at Southampton University and funded by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) found an adverse link between certain cocktails of additives and behavior in children drawn from the general population.

In its initial advice following the study's publication in The Lancet, the FSA issued mildly worded advice to parents - that eliminating the suspect additives from the diet could have some benefits for hyperactive kids or those with ADHD.

Professor Andrew Kemp of the University of Sydney writes in the British Medical Journal that removing additives from the diet of children with ADHD, in a properly supervised trial, should not be considered an alternative treatment.

Steve - we wholeheartedly concur with Professor Kemp.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Food Allergy Translation Card

Steve - a client of ours told us about this website. Very useful!

"Whether you travel with a nut allergy, peanut allergy or you are a vegetarian or celiac (gluten-free diet), a food allergy translation card will make your next trip easier.

We provide online food allergy and special diet language translations into a credit card-sized dietary card to be used as an alert tool in restaurants, grocery stores, hotels and catered events. Whether backpacking through Europe, a business trip to Italy ,or a vacation to any country of a foreign language, avoid complications wherever you eat with your own food allergy translation cards."

Gluten-Free at Ina's

Bonnie - Gluten-free can be delicious. On May 7th, a favorite restaurateur of ours, Ina Pinkney, served a trans fat-free fried chicken coated with potato starch, tapioca flour, and two types of rice flour. She also served mashed potatoes, gluten-free rolls, and even gluten-free beer and vodka.

The next gluten-free fried chicken day will be June 11th and every second Wednesday of the month. For more info, go to her website

Diet, exercise can delay diabetes for years

Courtesy of Reuters

Drinking less alcohol, eating more vegetables and exercising can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, showing that lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Diet and exercise reduced the incidence of diabetes by about 43 percent over 20 years among 577 high-risk Chinese adults, researchers reported in the journal Lancet. At the end of the 20 years, 80 percent of those who changed what they ate and exercised more had diabetes, compared with 93 percent who made no changes.

The volunteers were assigned to either a control group or one of three groups that included an improved diet, better exercise or a combination of both. The researchers did not say what specific foods or amount of exercise contributed to the health improvements but said the findings provide an effective strategy to deal with a disease that kills about 3 million people worldwide each year.

Steve - while I would have expected a more dramatic result, a controlled long-term study like this does show that lifestyle changes can make a big difference in developing chronic disease.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A group for safe cleaning products

Women’s Voices for the Earth, an environmental group based in Missoula, Mont., made headlines last year with a report that common household cleaners contained obscure chemicals — mostly in small amounts as fragrances or surfactants — that it considered unsafe. While it is deeply serious about persuading people to consider alternatives to chemical-laden cleaning products, the parties are not merely dutiful.

As fear of global warming has given new clout to a tattered environmental movement, and as companies like Clorox have responded by bringing out “green” product lines, groups like Women’s Voices have responded by saying there’s no need to pay $4.99 for a bottle of cleaner with ingredients the company won’t name when you can make your own with well-known ingredients for pennies. The organization sends out packets to help get the party started, including recipe cards and a DVD describing its findings.

Women’s Voices has written to many manufacturers, asking them to specify which chemicals were in their products. Most declined, saying their formulas were secret, although all said their products were safe. Women’s Voices argues that some chemicals, particularly those found in air fresheners and fabric softeners, such as phthalates, monoethanolamine and quaternary ammonium compounds, have been linked to low sperm counts, birth weights and other problems when large doses are fed to laboratory animals, and that janitors and others exposed through constant use at industrial-strength applications have higher rates of asthma. However, there is no scientific proof that the typical home exposure from off-the-shelf cleaning is risky. “We’d love to have that data, but that kind of research just hasn’t been done,” said Alexandra Gorman Scranton, science director for Women’s Voices. “That’s where our concerns come in. We don’t know the effects they could have over a lifetime.”

Steve - over the years, we have compiled a comprehensive list of
Safe Household Products.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nanotechnology cancer risk found

Certain types of carbon nanotubes -- microscopic graphite cylinders used in a small but growing number of Space Age applications -- could pose a cancer risk similar to that of asbestos if inhaled, scientists reported Tuesday.

Researchers found that mice injected with nanotubes quickly developed the same biological damage associated with early exposure to asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen.

The study showed "the potential to cause harm if these things get into the air and into the lungs," said coauthor Andrew Maynard, a physicist at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Maynard said the nanotubes posed the greatest danger to workers who could inhale the dust-like particles during manufacturing. In finished products, the nanotubes are embedded in other material and thus pose less risk to consumers.

The damage results when the body's defenses repeatedly try and fail to expel the fibers, eventually leading to mutations that can cause cancer decades later.

In the current study, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, nanotubes were injected into the abdominal cavities of mice. The tissue of these cavities is similar to the lining of human lungs.

Steve - while seemingly unrelated, this is a perfect reason why we have taken a wait and see attitude before recommending nanotech foods and supplements. There is very little research on its safety.

All-Organic Baby Formula is sweet

Bonnie - this story on the Similac Organic Baby Formula was big news nationally. I have never recommended it to my clients. It does show once again the truth lies in the labeling. Even though you have an organic product, something like sucrose can still be lurking. While better than corn sugar, it is unbelievable that they cannot use brown rice syrup, like they do in the Baby's Only Pediatric Formula by Nature's One, which I recommend. For your information, they call it Pediatric Formula because they want women to breast-feeding for the first year.

Supplements a solution for B6 deficiency

Researchers at Tufts University have suggested deficient vitamin B6 levels across large sections of the US population which could be reduced via supplementation. It is one of the largest epidemiological studies to evaluate B6 levels.

The study identified four groups as being particularly deficient in the nutrient: women of reproductive age especially current and former users of oral contraceptives; male smokers; non-Hispanic African-American men; and over-65s.

"Across the study population, we noticed participants with inadequate vitamin B6 status even though they reported consuming more than the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin B6, which is less than two milligrams per day," said Martha Savaria Morris, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

Vitamin B6 has been linked to heart health and immune system function and is important for red blood cell performance. Deficiencies can cause anemia.

"The question our study raises is whether, due to aging, genetics, or exposures, some population subgroups need supplements to achieve the current biochemical definition of adequate status," the researchers wrote.

The study, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analysed blood samples of a varied sample of 7822 men and women aged one year or older, some of whom were supplement users.

The data was collected from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and looked for plasma pyridoxal 5'- phosphate (PLP) levels, which is a co-factor in many important bodily functions such as amino acid metabolism and some enzymatic reactions.

Eleven per cent of supplement users and nearly a quarter of non-users demonstrated plasma PLP blood levels of less than 20 nmol/L, with a higher incidence among the highlighted sub-groups.

Contraceptive-using women of child-bearing age (ages 13 to 54), recorded significantly lower PLP levels.

"When we looked specifically at the plasma PLP levels in women of childbearing age, we noticed they were significantly lower than in males in approximately the same age group," said Morris.

"Most importantly, the data suggest oral contraceptive users have extremely low plasma PLP levels. Three quarters of the women who reported using oral contraceptives - but not vitamin B6 supplements - were vitamin B6 deficient."

Menstruating women also recorded lower PLP levels but the researchers would not be drawn on a direct link between contraceptive use and vitamin B6 deficiency.

"The vitamin could be stored elsewhere in the bodies of the oral contraceptive users, or in a different form, since our study only examined plasma PLP," they said.

Bonnie - there are a multitude of reasons for B-6 deficiency. Stress, medications, and poor diet are the main culprits. I often prescribe
Pyridoxal 5'- phosphate supplements, the more active form of B-6, especially in these population groups. Contraceptive-using women of child-bearing age should take supplemental magnesium, B-6, folic acid, and zinc. All of these nutrients are depleted by birth control pills.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nutritional Concepts Launches New Service

Solutions for Reducing Your Toxic Load is a free and fee-based analyzing tool to assess, as a first line of defense, your toxic load. Calculate Your Toxic Load is a free two-page questionnaire that will estimate your level of toxicity. If your levels are deemed high, then you have the option of further testing with your health professional or contracting Nutritional Concepts to do a Toxic Load Written Evaluation. After filling out a second questionnaire, you will receive a written, detailed analysis of what you can do to pinpoint what toxins are causing the elevated score and what steps you can take to reduce them. The fee is $50. For more information, visit this link.

Deep-vein thrombosis linked to pollution

Long-term exposure to the tiny, dirty particles in polluted air seems to increase the risk of deep-vein thrombosis, blood clots in the thighs or legs, an Italian study finds. Particles released by vehicle exhaust cause inflammation in the lungs that increases the formation of blood clots. The Archives of Internal Medicine study adds to other findings linking air pollution with heart attack and stroke.

Chronic diseases top causes of deaths globally

Chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke, often associated with a Western lifestyle, have become the chief causes of death globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. The shift from infectious diseases including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria -- traditionally the biggest killers -- to noncommunicable diseases is set to continue to 2030, the U.N. agency said in a report. "In more and more countries, the chief causes of deaths are noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and stroke," Ties Boerma, director of the WHO department of health statistics and informatics, said in a statement. The annual report, World Health Statistics 2008, is based on data collected from the WHO's 193 member states. It documents levels of mortality in children and adults, patterns of disease, and the prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption. "As populations age in middle- and low-income countries over the next 25 years, the proportion of deaths due to noncommunicable diseases will rise significantly," it said.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, in a speech to the WHO's annual assembly on Monday, voiced concern at the growing toll of chronic noncommunicable diseases. "Diabetes and asthma are on the rise everywhere. Even low-income countries are seeing shocking increases in obesity, especially in urban areas and often starting in childhood," Chan said.

Steve - while amazing to ponder, it makes sense. The developed Western nations have exerted their influence throughout the world. That influence includes diet, in particular, high fat, high carb, low nutrient, convenience foods.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Needs of senior consumers often overlooked

Despite possessing more than 75% of the nation's wealth, the needs and preferences of the country's 78 million Baby Boomers, and other members of the senior market, are often overlooked.

Through focus groups, a nationwide study and polls of manufacturers, Varsity Marketing is working to create a predictive model based on the emotional mindset and physiological needs of consumers over 55. So far, it's learned that the top issues among members of the age group when shopping in retail are: Items are hard to reach (54%); items are hard to find (27%); crowds are difficult to navigate (27%); and prices are hard to read (22%). Other preliminary findings reveal that buy-one, get-one-free offers don't appeal to members of the group since they're looking for smaller portions; items like half a loaf of bread could support higher prices for this reason; and the font used for on-package messages alerting shoppers of easy-open tabs needs to be larger.

Steve - businesses better start changing their practices for the betterment of this part of the population as well as for their bottom line.

Highlights from ACN Journal

Two interesting studies were published in the February Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
  • Overweight/obese pre-pubertal children who met with a nutritional consultant weekly over a six week period to follow a low glycemic load diet showed positive modified body fat content and improved cardiovascular risk factors.

  • Subjects with unfavorable serum lipid and lipoprotein profiles benefit even more from plant stanols than people with more favorable profiles.

One in Ten Children Using Cough, Cold Medications

Researchers from Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center have found that approximately one in ten U.S. children uses one or more cough and cold medications during a given week. These findings were presented at the 2008 Pediatric Academic Societies’ & Asian Society for Pediatric Research Joint Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Pediatric cough and cold medications are widely marketed in the U.S. but surprisingly little is known about just how often they are used in children. This information is especially important in light of recent revelations that cough and cold medications are responsible for serious adverse events and even deaths among children.

In terms of active ingredients contained in these medications, exposure was highest to decongestants and antihistamines (6.3 percent each), followed by anti-cough ingredients (4.1 percent) and expectorants (1.5 percent). Exposures to cough and cold medications was highest among 2 to 5 year olds, but was also high among children under 2 years of age.

According to the researchers the especially common use of cough and cold medications among young children is noteworthy. “Given concerns about potential harmful effects and lack of evidence proving that these medications are effective in young children, the fact that one in ten U.S. children is using one of these medications is striking,” said lead author Louis Vernacchio, MD, MSc, an assistant professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.

Bonnie - you really need to think twice before using these meds on young children. There have been too many instances where I have heard about adverse effects, some of them catastrophic. Our good intentions to reduce the suffering of our sick young ones can sometimes backfire. There are many safe remedies one can use to mitigate the symptoms while allowing the immune system to do the job it was intended to.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Omega-3 linked to lower colorectal cancer risk

Regular and long-term consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and oil fish may slash the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 40 per cent. Over an impressive 22 years of study, both omega-3 and fish intake were associated with cancer risk reduction in the colon and rectum, according to findings by researchers from Harvard and Columbia University published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Researchers followed 21,376 men participating in the Physicians' Health Study (PHS) trial (started in 1982) for an average of 22 years. The men's intake of fish, and subsequently omega-3 fatty acid intake, was calculated from an abbreviated food-frequency questionnaire.

Over the course of the study, 500 cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed. In terms of fish intake, the highest average intake was associated with a 40 per cent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, this link was relevant for both colon and rectal cancers.

When the scientists focussed on omega-3 fatty acid consumption, they found similar associations, with the highest intakes linked to a 26 per cent reduction in colorectal cancer risk, compared to the lowest average intake.

Bonnie - I think this study is significant, even though derived from food frequency questionnaires. First of all, it makes perfect scientific sense. Omega 3's reduce inflammation, which lowers cancer risk. So it should not be a surprise to any of us that the colon cancer risk was reduced in these subjects. In addition, it is not very difficult for a study subject to recall average fish consumption over a 22 year period, as opposed to recalling what their calcium intake was. The length of the study really mirrors what diet, nutrient, and lifestyle choices should prove, that prevention does save lives.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Americans are taking presription medications

For the first time, it appears that more than half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems. The most widely used drugs are those to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol — problems often linked to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. The numbers were gathered last year by Medco Health Solutions Inc., which manages prescription benefits for about one in five Americans.

Experts say the data reflect not just worsening public health but better medicines for chronic conditions and more aggressive treatment by doctors. For example, more people are now taking blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medicines because they need them, said Dr. Daniel W. Jones, president of the American Heart Association. In addition, there is the pharmaceutical industry's relentless advertising. With those factors unlikely to change, doctors say the proportion of Americans on chronic medications can only grow. "Unless we do things to change the way we're managing health in this country ... things will get worse instead of getting better," predicted Jones, a heart specialist and dean of the University of Mississippi's medical school.

Americans buy much more medicine per person than any other country. Medco's data show that last year, 51 percent of American children and adults were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition, up from 50 percent the previous four years and 47 percent in 2001. Most of the drugs are taken daily, although some are needed less often. The company examined prescription records from 2001 to 2007 of a representative sample of 2.5 million customers, from newborns to the elderly. Medication use for chronic problems was seen in all demographic groups: • Almost two-thirds of women 20 and older. • One in four children and teenagers. • 52 percent of adult men. • Three out of four people 65 or older. Among seniors, 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men take five or more medicines regularly.

The biggest jump in use of chronic medications was in the 20- to 44-year-old age group — adults in the prime of life — where it rose 20 percent over the six years. That was mainly due to more use of drugs for depression, diabetes, asthma, attention-deficit disorder and seizures. Antidepressant use in particular jumped among teens and working-age women.

Bonnie - I cannot think of a better study to indict the current state of public health in the United States. The vicious circle involves five main players:

  • Big Pharma - their reach dominates almost every aspect of our culture; with the new Medicare/Medicaid law, there reach will be ever reaching; multimedia advertising assures that drugs stay in our minds incessantly.
  • Government - it is no secret of how linked government and Big Pharma are. Until this relationship changes, these numbers will only increase.
  • The Patient - most of us look for the quick-fix and do not have the time or meddle to get to the root of the cause. Patients often pressure their doctors to take medications that they have seen or read about. We all need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and ask the question, "Do we want to be on these medications for our entire lives, just mask the symptoms? Or, should we discover what is really ailing us and implement the lifestyle changes to cure it?"
  • Doctors - the current health care system does not allow doctors to give the time needed to get to the root of the cause. Their handouts from and cozy relationships with Big Pharma have taken some luster off their reputation
  • Researchers - they are culpable as well for handouts and cozy relationships with Big Pharma. Allowing Big Pharma to fund studies for their own drugs, allowing Big Pharma to ghostwrite research to improve study results, getting kickbacks for appearances, are some of the reasons why research cannot be trusted until the current system is corrected.

Estrogen Hormone Therapy May Raise Risk of Reflux

The results of a Swedish population-based twin study provide evidence that postmenopausal estrogen hormone therapy (HT) increases the risk of gastroesophageal reflux symptoms, independent of heredity, body weight, and tobacco use. "The role of progestin HT, combined HT, and oral contraceptives is more uncertain," reports the research team in the April issue of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Helena Nordenstedt from Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, and colleagues investigated the relationship of oral contraceptives and postmenopausal HT to the risk of reflux symptoms using cross-sectional and prospective nested case-control analyses involving 4365 female twins with reflux and 17,321 without reflux. In the cross-sectional analysis, they found that the risk of reflux was increased by 32% in ever users of estrogen HT (odds ratio, 1.32).

The positive association between HT and reflux symptoms was stronger among past users than among current users, suggesting that "previous exposure might actually be involved in the true etiology of the reflux disease," Dr. Nordenstedt and colleagues suggest. The use of oral contraceptives was not associated with an increased risk of reflux symptoms. If confirmed in future studies," the postmenopausal woman considered for HT should be informed that reflux symptoms are a possible side effect, and if a woman who uses HT develops reflux symptoms, a treatment alternative to antireflux medication might be an attempt to stop using HT, particularly among obese women," the researchers conclude.

Bonnie - the hits keep on coming for synthetic HRT.

Prostates protected by vitamin D

The benefits of vitamin D for prostates may be due to the action of the vitamin on a specific gene, suggests new research that deepens our understanding of how nutrients and genes interact.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center report that the active form of vitamin D in the body, 1,25-hydroxylvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D), may link with a gene known as G6PD, which releases an antioxidant enzyme and protect DNA from damage.

The study is published in the International Journal of Cancer.

The new study, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, appears to provide further compelling evidence of the potent anti-cancer benefits of 1,25(OH)2D.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Epigenetics may hold clue to suicide risk

People who are prone to suicide may have genetic alterations in their brains that could one day be identified by a diagnostic test, a Canadian study says. It also found that childhood abuse may cause neurological changes that could impact how critical genes express themselves in an area of the brain responsible for mood and stress, says the McGill University paper.

The groundbreaking study was published yesterday in the online journal Public Library of Science. Moshe Szyf, a professor of pharmacology at McGill, says his team examined the brains of 13 Quebec men who committed suicide to look for differences in their neurological DNA. They found that the chemical coating on the DNA that tells its chromosome genes how and when to work – the so-called epigenetic component – was altered in the 13 men, all of whom had a history of childhood abuse. "The genetics we inherit, these are the letters of the book of life," says Szyf, the study's principal author. "The epigenetics are actually the punctuation marks of this book."

In the case of the suicide victims, Szyf believes the troubled childhoods of the suicide victims started a "cascade" of significant biochemical reactions in their brains. Further research will be needed, but Szyf said the findings suggest it may be possible to test a living person's blood to see if the telltale epigenetic changes are present. Towards that goal, Szyf says scientists can now study people who have shown suicidal tendencies to see if there are differences in their blood-borne immune systems that would suggest the brain alterations.Szyf says if people could be identified as high risk, they might be treated psychologically or chemically to mitigate their suicidal tendencies.

Szyf says the study's main contribution is to show that environmental factors can change the epigenetic programming in humans, as well as animals.

Steve - amen.

Brown rice wins FDA health claim

Brown rice has been added to the FDA-approved list of whole grains that may make health claims including reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Brown rice, along with many other grains was previously excluded because its dietary fiber content was considered too low, but this requirement has been relaxed.

The health claim means brown rice products will be able to bear a whole grains logo and information pointing out the benefits of consuming whole grains.

Steve - I suspect that this announcement was more about the FDA trying to get Americans to eat more whole grain than it was about brown rice itself. It is a joke that brown rice was not on the approved list until now. Recent surveys show that Americans are getting the message about making smarter decisions with diet. Unfortunately, they have not turned the messages into action as of yet.

Omega-3 EPA linked to less depression

Increased blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may reduce the severity of symptoms of depression. A study of 1390 subjects from Bordeaux in France reports that EPA levels in people with depressive symptoms were on average 0.16 per cent lower than in normal people, according to data published in this month's issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Symptoms of depressions were evaluated using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale, while blood samples were taken in order to measure fatty acid levels in the blood.

The Bordeaux study adds to a small but growing body of studies reporting benefits of the polyunsaturated fatty acids on mental health. Last year, researchers from Norway reported that regular and long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acid-rich cod liver oil may protect people from symptoms of depression.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, followed 21,835 subjects aged between 40 and 49 and 70 and 74 years, and found that the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 29 per cent lower in regular cod liver oil users than the rest of the population.

Moreover, a joint Anglo-Iranian study reported that depression ratings were cut by 50 per cent following daily one gram supplements of EPA, an effect similar to that obtained by the antidepressant drug fluoxetine, according to findings published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Steve - with the multitude of benefits that EPA/DHA provides, if it is not a staple in your dietary and nutrient regimen, it should be.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vitamin D and cancer

Ensuring levels of vitamin D never get low could be a way of protecting against cancer, suggests a new study. Death from fatal cancer was reduced by 55 per cent amongst people with higher vitamin D levels, according to data collected from 3,299 patients taking part in the Ludwigshafen Risk and Cardiovascular Health study and reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"These data support other studies suggesting that vitamin D supplementation might be promising for the treatment and/or prevention of cancer and are in line with the national recommendation of the Canadian Cancer Society for the supplementation of 1,000 IU/d vitamin D for all adults during winter and for persons at high risk for vitamin D deficiency all year-round," wrote lead author Stefan Pilz from University of Heidelberg.

Blood levels of 25(OH)D and 1,25-(OH)2D were measured in the study participants, and over the course of 7.75 years, 95 patients deaths due to cancer were documented. The most common cancers were lung, colon, and pancreas.

After adjusting for various potential confounding factors, the researchers report that people with the highest level of 25(OH)D (76.3 nanomoles per litre) were 55 per cent less likely to die form fatal cancer than those with the lowest levels (18.1 nmol/L).

Moreover, every increase of 25 nmol/L in 25(OH)D levels was associated with a 34 per cent risk reduction, added the researchers.

However, no association was observed between levels of 1,25(OH)2D and cancer risk.

"Our finding that 1,25(OH)2D was not associated with increased risk of fatal cancer does not argue against a crucial role of 1,25(OH)D in the prevention of cancer because intracellular 1,25(OH)2D levels can best be estimated by serum 25(OH)D concentrations, which are rate limiting for the conversion of 25(OH)D to 1,25(OH)2D," stated the researchers.

Bonnie - it is important to note that as we summer approaches, most of us should continue taking supplemental vitamin D because I would be hard-pressed to find a large part of the population that spends 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen at least five days a week. That is the minimum needed if you want to get all of your vitamin D from the sun.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Study hails 'caveman diet' benefits

Eating like a caveman may trim the waist and protect against heart disease, a study suggests. Volunteers were put on a stone-age diet of berries, nuts, lean meat, fish and vegetables while cutting out cereals, dairy products and refined sugar. After just three weeks they had lost five pounds in weight, their waistlines were slimmer, and their blood pressure was lower.T hey also had dramatically reduced levels of a clotting agent in the blood linked to heart attacks and strokes. The Palaeolithic diet was what the hunter gatherer ancestors of modern humans lived on 30,000 years ago before the development of farming. Since the wheels of evolution turn slowly the human body may still be most suited to this kind of food, some experts believe.The five men and nine women taking part in the Swedish study had to stick to a food list which included lean meat, unsalted fish, fresh or frozen fruit, berries, vegetables - but not beans - most kinds of nuts, canned tomatoes, lemon or lime juice, spices, and coffee or tea without milk or sugar. Dairy products, beans, peanuts, salt, pasta, rice, sausages, sugar, fruit juices and alcohol were all banned. As a concession the volunteers were allowed up to two potatoes a day, as well as some dried fruit, cured meats and a weekly portion of fatty meat. After three weeks their systolic blood pressure readings, which measure the pressure during heart beats, had fallen by an average of three millimetres of mercury. The study was carried out by scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Huddinge, Sweden.

Bonnie - sound familiar? While this was a minute study, if controlled like this on a larger scale, I venture to think that the there would be the same result.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nutrition message still not reaching Americans

The findings of FDA's latest survey on health and nutrition underscore that while US consumers have good health intentions, this does not carry through to their dietary habits.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) worked with the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to track American attitudes, knowledge and behavior regarding nutrition and physical activity in the Health and Diet Survey: Dietary Guidelines Supplement.

The results reveal there is still room for food manufacturers to leverage consumers' good intentions and desire to be healthy, with easy-to-understand healthy food offerings.

According to the finding, most respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with the statements, "Healthy eating habits are very important to me" (95 percent) and "I am actively trying to eat a healthy diet" (90 percent).

FDA found in the survey that women were more likely than men to agree that nutrition is important and were also more likely than men to take on healthier habits. Of the respondents, 70 percent of women agreed that nutrition is important to take into consideration while food shopping, while only 54 percent of men thought so.

Despite increased health marketing during their generation, the youngest group of the survey's respondents were the least likely to consider nutrition very seriously while grocery shopping.

In the 18-34 age bracket, 52 percent considered nutrition to be very important, followed by 64 percent of those in the 35-54 bracket, 69 percent for 55-64 year olds, and 71 percent of those 65 or older.

Diet linked to risk of Barrett's Esophagus

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of Barrett's, compared to a Western-style diet. Patients who adhered to a health-conscious diet had 65% lower risk. Barrett's esophagus is a condition in which the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food and saliva from the mouth to the stomach, changes so that some of its lining is replaced by a type of tissue similar to that normally found in the intestine. This process is called intestinal metaplasia.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Risks of Sleeping Pills

by Melinda Beck, Wall Street Journal

One woman woke up with a paintbrush in her hand, having painted her front door in her sleep. People have set fire to their kitchens while trying to cook, cursed their bosses on the phone and crashed their cars into trees -- all in a sleeping-pill-induced haze and with no memory afterward. A flurry of such cases prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year to require that Ambien, Lunesta and other "sedative-hypnotic" drugs carry strong warnings. But that scarcely dampened enthusiasm. U.S. sleep-aid prescriptions grew 10% last year, according to IMS Health, thanks in part to generic Ambien.

Now, an analysis of adverse-event reports filed with the World Health Organization suggests that some side effects of this generation of sleep medication, which debuted in the 1990s, may be nearly as problematic as the older generation, including Halcion, which was banned in some countries. The WHO Collaborating Center for International Drug Monitoring received 867 reports from 24 countries of people encountering amnesia, often coupled with confusion, agitation and other behavior disturbances, while taking the newer sleeping aids, called nonbenzodiazepines (NBZs) through March, 2007. That compares with 1,032 adverse reports with the older class of benzodiazepines (BZs), even though they have been on the market for decades longer.

"We've moved from one problem drug to another," says Ralph Edwards, director of the Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden, which monitors adverse-event signals for the WHO. "The older pills are much more likely to cause daytime sedation, addiction and withdrawal symptoms," says P. Murali Doraiswamy, chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical School and the lead author of the study, presented Monday at the American Psychiatric Association conference in Washington. But, he says, the reports of amnesia and erratic behavior appear to be similar with both kinds of drugs. "We still don't have a good handle on how common these events are -- some people may be particularly vulnerable," he says.

A spokeswoman for Sanofi-Aventis, which makes Ambien, the leading brand-name NBZ, says the company couldn't comment since it hadn't seen the report. She says somnambulism occurred in fewer than 1 in 1,000 patients in clinical trials, and wasn't necessarily caused by the medication.

Experts aren't sure what prompts some people to eat, walk, make phone calls or get behind the wheel in their sleep. But some speculate that sleep medication may act on brain circuits unevenly, leaving the parts that govern "automatic" behaviors like eating and driving active while shutting down the centers of judgment and control. "It's like the parents are away and now the little kids can do whatever they want," says Dr. Doraiswamy. And, as with most dreams, the events aren't being stored in the brain's memory circuits, hence the amensia. "It's like a self-erasing tape," says Mark Mahowald, medical director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dr. Mahowald notes that some people do engage in such odd sleep behaviors even when they aren't taking medications. "One common form is for a man to get up to go to the bathroom in his sleep and only make it to the closet. But people seldom report that," says Dr. Mahowald, though he adds that it's far more likely to occur on sleeping medication that off.

Psychiatrist Carlos Schenck, also at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, has studied some 40 cases of Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (SRED), and found that it's more common in women than men and often accompanies a mood disorder. Some patients he studied have cut themselves with knives, consumed inedibles like buttered cigarettes and woken up gasping for air with their mouths full of peanut butter, a particular sleep-eating favorite.

Experts all recommend trying non-drug means to combat insomnia -- such as exercise, stress reduction and avoiding caffeine. But if you need to resort to medication, there are ways to minimize the risks: One is to get into bed immediately. Sleeping pills can work in 10 or 15 minutes. Never take more than the maximum dose. Never mix sleeping pills with alcohol. And never attempt to drive while taking them. "We've had some cases where people are leaving a party, and they're afraid they are going to have insomnia, so they take one before they get in the car," says Dr. Mahowald. He also cautions against taking a sleeping pill if you are the sole caregiver for a small child or are expecting an important phone call. In fact, a ringing phone may trigger a sleepwalking event, so unplug it if possible. Stash your car keys in an unusual spot, suggests William C. Head, an Atlanta attorney who has defended sleeping-pill users who went on unplanned drives. Dr. Schenck also suggests putting an alarm on your bedroom door. "That $14 could save your life," he says.

Bonnie - I have heard many accounts like these from clients on sleeping pills, in addition to side effects, some severe. The other problem is that it is very difficult to wean oneself off of the pills when trying to discover a natural sleep cycle.

Vitamin D to boost mood in older adults

Increasing your vitamin D intake may lead to mood improvements and protect against depression. Low levels of vitamin D and higher blood levels of the parathyroid hormone (PTH) were associated with higher rates of depression among 1,282 community residents aged between 65 and 95, according to results published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"This large population-based study shows, for the first time, an association of depression status and depression severity with decreased serum 25(OH)D levels and increased serum PTH levels in older subjects," wrote lead author Witte Hoogendijk from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

If the study can be repeated in further study, it may see brain health added to the long list of health benefits reported for the vitamin, ranging from bone and cardiovascular health, to protection against certain cancers, and improved muscle strength.

Recently, a review by Bruce Ames and Joyce McCann from the Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland highlighted the role of the vitamin in maintaining brain health, noting the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain.

According to the review (FASEB Journal, Vol.22, pp. 982-1001), the vitamin has been reported to affect proteins in the brain known to be directly involved in learning and memory, motor control, and possibly even maternal and social behavior.

Bonnie - vitamin D and EPA/DHA fish oil are the perfect combo for depression. How can you get them in the same nutrient? Take Cod Liver Oil!

Low thyroid output tied to heart attacks in women

Women with a slightly underactive thyroid gland appear to be at increased risk for death from heart attacks and other types of heart disease, according to findings from a Norwegian study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Emerging evidence suggests that as thyroid function drops, blood pressure and cholesterol levels rise as does the risk of heart problems, according to a study of 17,311 female and 8002 male participants in the Nord-Trondelag Health Study who were free of heart disease, thyroid disease, and diabetes when the study began.

Subjects were over 40 years old between 1995 and 1997, when levels of thyrotropin, a hormone that gauges thyroid function, were measured. During follow-up through 2004, 192 women and 164 men died of heart disease who appeared to have normal thyroid function. That is, none of the patients had any signs or symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid gland. Among subjects with seemingly normal thyroid function, women with the least active glands were 69 percent more likely to die from heart disease than women with more active glands. No similar association was seen in men. "To our knowledge, no clinical trial has tested whether (treatment with thyroid hormone) could protect against heart disease," the authors note.

Bonnie - interesting study and makes a lot of sense. Excess stress taxes the endocrine system, including the adrenals and thyroid. When the endocrine system, via thyroid and adrenals, fail to send out calming stressor signals to the rest of the body, it makes sense that health risks would increase. The heart would be one of the first organs to be most at risk. I have always screened for thyroid and endocrine function in my clients.

FDA approved irritable bowel drug with constipation

Amitiza, developed by Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, was approved for women over 18 years old, but not for men, because effectiveness in them was not conclusive. Safety studies ranged from 9-13 months. Side effects reported were nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Bonnie - huh? I thought abdominal pain was a symptom of IBS. So now you go from constipation to diarrhea and you cannot even leave your house!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Common drugs hasten decline in elderly

Courtesy of Reuters

Elderly people who took commonly prescribed drugs for incontinence, allergy or high blood pressure walked more slowly and were less able to take care of themselves than others not taking the drugs. U.S. researchers said people who took drugs that block acetylcholine -- a chemical messenger in the nervous system critical for memory -- functioned less well than their peers. "These results were true even in older adults who have normal memory and thinking abilities," said Dr. Kaycee Sink of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, who led the study of 3,000 people of whom 40 percent were taking more than one anticholinergic drug. "The effect is essentially that of a three- to four-year increase in age. So someone who is 75 in our study and taking at least one moderately anticholinergic medication is at a similar functional level to a 78 to 79-year-old," Sink said in an e-mail.

Sink's findings, presented at American Geriatrics Society Meeting in Washington, add to a growing body of research that suggests these so-called anticholinergic medications can hasten functional and cognitive declines in elderly people. Some of the most common such drugs in the study included the blood pressure drug nifedipine (sold as Adalat or Procardia), the stomach antacid ranitidine or Zantac, both with mild or moderate anticholinergic properties, and Pfizer Inc's incontinence drug tolterodine or Detrol, which is highly anticholinergic. "The tricky part ... is that many useful drugs from many different classes of medications have anticholinergic properties," Sink said.

Dr. Jack Tsao, a neurologist with the U.S. Navy, reported last month at a American Academy of Neurology meeting that elderly people who took anticholinergic drugs had a 50 percent greater rate of memory decline than people in a long-term study who did not take the drugs.

In a separate study this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Sink found that older nursing home residents who took drugs for dementia and incontinence at the same time had a 50 percent faster decline in function than those treated only for dementia. "I would encourage patients to bring in a list of everything they take (even over-the-counter medications) to their doctor and have them review it at least yearly," Sink said. "Physicians should try to decrease anticholinergic burden whenever possible."

Bonnie - finally, we are beginning to see some research on this issue. The elderly are usually on more medications than any other part of the population. In many cases, it becomes a vicious circle where one medication is prescribed to counter the side effects from another medication. As I always say, it does not matter what age you are, discuss with your physician how to take the minimum number of meds (if any at all) that are medically necessary.

CoQ10 may cut muscle injuries for athletes

Levels of markers associated with increased wear and tear in the muscle, like creatine kinase and lipid peroxide, were significantly lower in elite Japanese kendo athletes after consuming co-enzyme Q10 for 20 days, compared to placebo. Researchers from University of Tsukuba, University of Tokyo, and Kobe Gakuin University report their findings in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Michihiro Kon and co-workers recruited 18 elite Japanese kendo student athletes and randomly assigned them to receive daily supplements of CoQ10 (300 mg) or placebo for 20 days. The study was double-blind, meaning neither volunteers nor researchers knew who was receiving the active or placebo dose.

The volunteers had daily training sessions of five and a half hours per day for six days during the intervention period. At day three and five of the six day training period, the researchers report that both groups experienced increased in serum creatine kinase activity and the concentration of myoglobin, but these increases were significantly lower in the group receiving the CoQ10 supplements. Elevated levels of the creatine kinase enzyme are indicative of muscle damage and injury. Moreover, levels of lipid peroxide, a marker of oxidative stress, were also lower in the CoQ10 group after three and five days of training, said the researchers.

Steve - while a very small study, it adds to the ever-growing body of research showing CoQ10's importance in muscle function (including the heart, the body's most important muscle).

Seniors Benefit from Tai Ji

Since it is both entertaining to practice and effective, the no-impact Chinese exercise Tai Ji is an excellent way to tone muscle, increase endurance, and gain balance. In a recent study in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers concluded that the movements associated with Tai Ji helped seniors improve their physical functioning. Study participants who took Tai Ji twice a week for a six-month period noticed a significant improvement in their ability to accomplish daily tasks such as carrying groceries, walking up stairs, or moving medium-sized objects. It was concluded that the 6-month Tai Ji exercise program was effective for improving functional status in healthy, physically inactive older adults. Most notably, those who took Tai Ji were less likely to fall--one of the largest causes of serious injury for seniors.

Because it is a no-impact exercise, Tai Ji has three major components: movement, meditation, and deep breathing. All major muscle groups are utilized to articulate the gentle, slow movements of Tai Ji. Further, its movements improve strength, flexibility, coordination, and muscle tone. The exercise may help reduce slow bone loss, and prevent osteoporosis. The meditative aspect of Tai Ji soothes the mind, reduces anxiety, enhances concentration, and lowers blood pressure. The deep breathing releases tension, enhances blood circulation to the brain, and supplies the body with fresh oxygen. For older adults seeking an effective, no-impact exercise with a multitude of benefits, Tai Chi is an excellent choice to free the mind and energize the body.

Bonnie - I have been an ardent supporter of this exercise for years. This is a truly wonderful mind and body exercise choice for seniors.