Friday, December 18, 2009

Blog goes on vacation until 1/4

A happy, healthy holiday and New Year to all!

Bonnie and Steve

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Swine flu shots recalled

Hundreds of thousands of swine flu shots for children have been recalled because tests indicate the vaccine doses lost some strength. The shots, made by Sanofi Pasteur, were distributed across the country last month and most have already been used, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 800,000 pre-filled syringes that were recalled are for young children, ages 6 months to nearly 3 years. Dr. Anne Schuchat, a CDC flu expert, stressed that parents don't need to do anything or to worry if their child got one — or even two — of the recalled shots. The vaccine is safe and effective, she said. Health officials don't think children need to get vaccinated again, even if they got two doses from the recalled lots. The issue is the vaccine's strength.

Tests done before the shots were shipped showed that the vaccines were strong enough. But tests done weeks later indicated the strength had fallen slightly below required levels. Why the potency dropped isn't clear. Possibly, for some reason, the antigen — the key vaccine ingredient — may be sticking to the walls of those syringes, said Dr. Jesse Goodman, the FDA's deputy commissioner for science and public health. Another manufacturer, Novartis, in February recalled five lots of seasonal flu vaccine packed in pre-filled syringes under similar circumstances.

Bonnie - this sounds very fishy. If the doses had diminished strength, why shouldn't those children be vaccinated again?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where do nanomaterials go in the body?

Tiny, engineered nanomaterials can already be found in many consumer products, and have been hailed as having widespread future uses in areas ranging from medicine to industrial processes. However, little is known about what happens if these nanomaterials get into your body – where do they go? NC State researchers are working to answer that question under a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "There has been a great deal of research into the use of manufactured carbon nanomaterials in various products, but there are still a lot of questions about how these materials will interact with biological systems," says Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, a professor of investigative dermatology and toxicology at the Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics at NC State and lead investigator of the study. "There is a crucial need to understand how these manufactured carbon nanomaterials will act once they are in the body – particularly where environmental or occupational exposure can occur."

Steve - as we have said incessantly since nanomaterials have begun to be offered in foods and supplements, stay away until there is definitive data on their safety.

Inert ingredient in Roundup kills healthy cells

One of the inert ingredients in the popular herbicide Roundup has been found to kill human cells, especially embryonic and placental cells. Many consumers believe Roundup to be safe, and until a recent study, researchers focused solely on the health effects of a single active ingredient, glyphosate. New research has now found that the inert ingredients amplified the toxic effects on human cells.

Those so-called ‘inert’ ingredients found in many common consumer products sound so innocuous, simply because of what they are called, but it turns out that some of them may be highly toxic. The EPA’s interpretation of federal pesticide laws means that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose them on the labels, and over 4000 different inert ingredients can be found in products sold in the U.S.

Researchers at the University of Caen found that one specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was more deadly to human cells than the herbicide itself, and they said their finding was “astonishing.” POEA is a surfactant derived from animal fat, added to Roundup to help it to penetrate plants’ surfaces and make it more effective. The study compared the effects of the formulations (glyphosate with POEA) and then glyphosate and POEA alone. All of the formulations caused total cell death within 24 hours. While glyphosate alone also damaged cells, the researchers found that POEA amplifies toxicity induced already by glyphosate, and they state that POEA alone was more deadly to cells than glyphosate.

The results of the study concluded that the adjuvants in Roundup formulations are not chemically or biologically inert. On top of that finding, researchers said that the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and death in the residual levels to be expected in food and feed derived from Roundup-treated crops and on lawns and gardens.

The research team suspects that Roundup might also cause abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages by interfering with hormone production. “The authorizations for using these Roundup herbicides must now clearly be revised since their toxic effects depend on, and are multiplied by, other compounds used in the mixtures.” – Gilles-Eric Seralini, Ph.D, lead researcher.

Because 100 million pounds of Roundup are applied to U.S. farms and lawns each year, these findings are indeed disturbing. Monsanto, the manufacturer, says that the study’s methods “do not reflect realistic conditions” and contend that their product is safe when used as directed.

According to the EPA, POEA is not dangerous to public health or the environment. The ingredient is allowed to be used in products which are certified organic by the USDA. The study was published in the Journal of Chemical Research and Toxicology.

Increased risk of death in post-menopausal women taking antidepressants

Post-menopausal women taking antidepressants are at higher risk of suffering a stroke or of dying of any cause than are those who do not take such medications, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,

Since post-menopausal women make up the largest segment of patients in the United States on antidepressants, the resulting increases in strokes and deaths across the country could be significant. The findings emerged from the federally funded Women's Health Initiative, one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive studies of women's health. The study followed 136,293 post-menopausal women, age 50 to 79, for just under six years. During that time, 5,496 developed depression and were treated with antidepressant medication. During the span of follow-up, the women on antidepressants were 45% more likely than those not on such medication to have a stroke, and 32% more likely to die of any cause.

Bonnie - synthetic hormones, antidepressants...many classes of medications are not kind to post-menopausal women.

Aspirin to prevent miscarriage ineffective

Research presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology reveals that the practice of using the anticoagulants aspirin and heparin with the hope of preventing clots in placental blood vessels is ineffective for preventing unexplained, recurrent miscarriages.

Recurrent miscarriages are extremely traumatic and stressful for women, and, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the cause is unknown in more than 50 percent of cases. Though treatments to avoid these tragedies remain elusive, some practitioners suspect that abnormal clots in the blood vessels that nourish the placenta are responsible for many recurrent miscarriages, and thus they have increasingly used aspirin and low-molecular-weight heparin to prevent further miscarriages, even though evidence to support their use is not available.

A randomized clinical trial of 364 women between the ages of 18 and 42 who were attempting to conceive or were less than six weeks pregnant. The women had previously experienced at least two unexplained miscarriages by the 20th week of pregnancy.

During the study, three treatment groups were compared: aspirin and nadroparin (a low-molecular-weight heparin), aspirin alone, and placebo. The intention-to-treat analysis of the study showed that the live birth rate did not differ significantly among the three treatment groups: 54.5 percent of those in the aspirin and nadroparin group had a live birth (67 women), compared with 50.8 percent in the aspirin group (61 women), and 57 percent of the placebo group (69 women). Side effects, most notably skin reactions, also occurred more often in women assigned to the aspirin and nadroparin group.

"The study clearly demonstrates that aspirin combined with heparin and aspirin alone do not prevent recurrent, unexplained miscarriages and that we should not needlessly put these women through the inconvenience and risks associated with these blood-thinning medications," said lead study author Stef P. Kaandorp, MD, research fellow in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. "These results are extremely important because they will likely change the way some women at high risk for another miscarriage have been treated."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Milk Thistle cuts liver toxicity from all Chemotherapy

An extract from the milk thistle plant significantly reduced some signs of liver inflammation in children receiving chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and showed favorable trends in other measures, researchers said.

After 56 days of oral treatment with milk thistle in capsule form, children in a placebo-controlled trial showed significantly lower levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and trends toward lower alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and bilirubin, according to Kara M. Kelly, MD, of Columbia University, and colleagues.

The study "provides preliminary evidence that milk thistle may be a safe, effective, supportive-care agent," the researchers concluded in an online report in Cancer.

"Milk thistle needs to be studied further, to see how effective it is for a longer course of treatment, and whether it works well in reducing liver inflammation in other types of cancers and with other types of chemotherapy," Kelly said in a press release issued by the American Cancer Society, publisher of Cancer. "However, our results are promising as there are no substitute medications for treating liver toxicity."

Among the herb's purported benefits is limiting liver toxicity from cancer chemotherapy, but this had not previously been tested in a placebo-controlled trial.

The study was funded by the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Tamarind Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute.

Steve - milk thistle/silymarin has been a long-time supplemental staple of ours for any kind liver support. This is great to see and hopefully can help many people with the devastating effects of chemotherapy.

Menopause, as brought to you by Big Pharma

By Natasha Singer and Duff Wilson
New York Times

Menopause, As Brought to You by Big Pharma

Steve - The reporters do a phenomenal job taking you through the process of how a drug company creates a condition to support their drug. This piece concentrates on menopause, but you could just as easily plug in osteoporosis, high cholesterol, and depression, to name a few.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vitamin D's effect on cancer

It is estimated that approximately 1 billion people worldwide have blood concentrations of vitamin D that are considered suboptimal. Much research has been conducted over the past 30 years linking low vitamin D serum concentrations to both skeletal and nonskeletal conditions, including several types of cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, upper respiratory tract infections, all-cause mortality, and many others. Several observational studies and a few prospectively randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that adequate levels of vitamin D can decrease the risk and improve survival rates for several types of cancers including breast, rectum, ovary, prostate, stomach, bladder, esophagus, kidney, lung, pancreas, uterus, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Individuals with serum vitamin D concentrations less than 20 ng/mL are considered most at risk, whereas those who achieve levels of 32 to 100 ng/mL are considered to have sufficient serum vitamin D concentrations. Vitamin D can be obtained from exposure to the sun, through dietary intake, and via supplementation. Obtaining a total of approximately 4000 IU/d of vitamin D3 from all sources has been shown to achieve serum concentrations considered to be in the sufficient range. Most individuals will require a dietary supplement of 2000 IU/d of vitamin D3 to achieve sufficient levels as up to 10 000 IU/d is considered safe. Vitamin D3 is available as an over-the-counter product and is relatively inexpensive, especially when compared with the demonstrated benefits.

American Journal Lifestyle Medicine

Bonnie - why is this public health emergency not a priority of our government health officials. I think we all know the answer to this. Vitamin D is cheap, readily available, and not a moneymaker. If there was a patentable drug that was as broad-based as vitamin D in its positive effects, you would be reading about it in the media and hearing it from your doctors daily.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

JAMA takes harsh position on artificial sweeteners

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston, wrote commentary in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, recapping the evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners breaks the physiological link between hunger and satiety. Studies have found that people who consumed more diet beverages were more likely to be overweight or obese and had an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Of course, it’s hard to say whether the diet soda was to blame, or whether people who were overweight and trying to shed pounds turned to diet soda. Data from rats were not encouraging. A study published last year found that rats fed saccharin-sweetened yogurt gained 20% more weight than rats that ate yogurt made with glucose. It also found that the saccharin-eating rats experienced a smaller increase in body temperature after their meals, indicating that their bodies were less revved up to burn off extra calories.

Brain scans of people have found that real and fake sweeteners both activate the amygdale, which registers sensory pleasure. But only consumption of real sugar lighted up another part of the brain called the caudate. Scientists aren’t sure why, but they see it as a sign that the unconscious brain can tell the difference between sugared and diet drink.

In his essay, Ludwig concludes that more studies are needed, especially long-term clinical trials that make head-to-head comparisons of sugared drinks, diet drinks and unsweetened drinks. In the meantime, he advises people to think of artificially sweetened beverages as a temporary crutch to help make the transition to drinking “minimally sweetened beverages like water, mineral waters, teas, and coffee."

Bonnie - huge! Music to my ears!

Antioxidants boost colon health

Over 400 people participated in the study, which saw them receive either placebo or a antioxidant-rich supplement containing selenomethionnine, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E. At the end of the study, people in the antioxidant group experienced a 40 per cent reduction in the incidence of new polyps of the large bowel.

The research findings are being presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference. Adenomatous polyps (or adenoma) are benign lesions of the large bowel that, in time, could progress to cancer, explain the researchers. Even though only a small proportion of adenomas will develop into cancer, it is said that almost 70 to 80 per cent of colorectal cancer stems from an adenoma.

The supplement provided daily doses of 200 micrograms of selenomethionnine, 30 milligrams of zinc, 6,000 IU of vitamin A, 180 milligrams of vitamin C, and 30 milligrams of vitamin E. All the participants had already undergone surgery to remove one or more colorectal adenomas.

According to the researchers, “It is noteworthy that the benefit observed after the conclusion of the trial persisted through 13 years of follow up.”

Steve - another wonderful example of a long-term, prevention-based study.

State of the Nutritionist

2009 in Review.

Three topics dominated the public health landscape:

  1. H1N1 (Swine) Flu.
    While the story is still playing itself out, it has been nine months and H1N1 is no more virulent than the seasonal flu, even less so, according to most experts.
  2. Health Care Reform.
    Of the $2.2 trillion we spend on health care in the US, $660 billion is spent on hospital care, $462 billion on doctors, and $220 billion on drugs. Where is the piece of the pie for prevention? When we asked this question, the White house wrote back and basically referred us to Forty percent of the nation pays out-of-pocket for complementary and integrative therapies. A recent survey found that 71 percent of Americans favored more investment in disease prevention and 44 percent in prevention. 96 percent of primary care physicians believe that treating and managing chronic disease should focus on nutrition. However, 80 percent refrain from addressing it due to the lack of reimbursement for nutrition services. While studies continue to prove the best way for improving the health is diet and lifestyle, disease-driven care dominates this legislation. The bottom line is: Big Pharma and Health Insurance lobbies are too powerful to accomplish sweeping reform.

  3. Wellness and Prevention.
    Despite the lack of reimbursement and a horrible economic year with many Americans cutting back, statistics show that prevention and wellness are thriving. Confidence in dietary supplements is at an all-time high. Whether by necessity or choice, many are shunning medications and surgical procedures and taking responsibility for their health via diet and lifestyle changes. If our clients are an indicator of what can occur with continued vigilance in adhering to a healthy diet and lifestyle, then Nutritional Concepts should be a model for the rest of the country. In a “Lifestyle Habits” survey performed earlier this year, our clients were asked if they adhered to five healthy lifestyle habits: exercise at least twelve times monthly, eat five or more fruits and vegetables daily, maintain a healthy weight (BMI of 30 or less), mild alcohol use, and no smoking. To our delight, 75% answered yes and 25% said no. Any public health professional in this country would salivate at those numbers.

Wellness Victories.
It is always makes me proud to see wellness principles that I have touted forever become mainstream.

  • Mediterranean-style cuisine that balances lean protein, carbohydrates that are lower in gluten grains and higher in fruits and vegetables, as well as heart healthy fats, is preferred for a healthy human population.
  • Probiotics, Omega-3’s, and vitamin D are now part of standard medical vernacular because their positive effects on overall health cannot be ignored.
  • As predicted in last year’s issue, stevia has exploded onto grocery store shelves and is eating up artificial sweeteners’ market share.
  • Researchers finally admit that currently, the only effective method to treat Alzheimer’s disease is prevention through diet and lifestyle modification. Furthermore, the increased use of anti-psychotics has caused numerous unnecessary deaths.
  • Experts now tout foods that act as pain relievers. Does anyone recall when I published my Pain Relief Diet Action Plan? This is real old news!
  • Antibiotic use is down 25 percent, confirming that a much-maligned public health campaign is finally producing results.
  • As I alluded to in last year’s issue, scientists have confirmed that genetic analysis is essentially useless in predicting a person's risk of cancer, heart attack or other common diseases. Rather, it is how genes are expressed through diet and lifestyle (Epigenetics) where scientists will be focusing future research.
  • Closest to my heart were numerous studies confirming that meeting frequently with a nutrition/dietary professional should be treated as importantly as meeting with your primary care physician.

The Battles Still Rage On.

  • While the number of children on antidepressants and attention deficit medication has dropped, 1 in 10 Americans still take antidepressants. ADHD med use has expanded to college students and adults who want to maintain focus on less sleep.
  • The luster is wearing off on exotic superfruits such as acai, mangosteen, and goji. However, there are more in the pipeline: baobab, breadfruit, chupa chupa, jackfruit, maqui, miracle berry, and yumberry. Like other industries, supplement companies have to continually come up with the “next big thing.” My advice: stick with berries and pomegranate.
  • Despite public outcry, few restaurants disclose the ingredients and caloric/nutrient content in their dishes. Getting them to print this information on menus is even further away. The National Restaurant Association is a powerful lobby. They know that if the public were to see the amount of fat, sodium, carbohydrates, and cholesterol on restaurant menus, they would go ballistic. Check out the shocking numbers on PF Chang’s website.
  • Despite numerous studies discouraging healthy persons from taking aspirin as a preventative, it is still one off the most common recommendations doctors make to their patients.
  • Finally, while the new regime at the FDA is making progress, prescription drugs and immunizations are still being approved and consumed by the pubic well before their safety has been established. Based upon the billions paid in recent injury and off-label marketing settlements, Big Pharma has not exactly built up trust with the American people.
-->Vitamin K. While it will not come close to the kind of heat vitamin D has garnered, vitamin K will be the next under-appreciated vitamin to receive its due. We will break down vitamin K in one of our early 2010 eNewsletters. What Did We Accomplish in 2009?
Bonnie privately counseled over 350 new clients. We consulted for several local school districts, creating and implementing Wellness Plans. We have published 23 Action Plans to date, including the newest installments: Best of the Mediterranean, Improve Your Mood, and Sports Nutrition Optimized. We posted a record 650 blog entries and emailed 30 eNewsletters. Our eNewsletter reaches 3000 subscribers. We are on Facebook and Twitter. Our Far Infrared Sauna continues to provide valuable healing for many of our clients’ maladies. Our continued effort to provide a wide variety of high quality, effective, and price sensitive dietary supplements makes it very easy for our clients to adhere to their daily regimen.

What's in Store for 2010?
It is hard to believe that we are celebrating our 25th year in business. Many of you have been with us from the beginning. Whether or not you have utilized our services recently, it is an exciting time for us. We have a plethora of exciting activities and prizes planned this year to celebrate our quadrennial. To receive notices throughout the year, you must register to receive our eNewsletter, check our website monthly, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Work With a Dietary Professional.
    Nothing is more important than diet. Having a trusted expert by your side to help navigate the dietary peaks and valleys is paramount. The first order of business for 2010: get you and your family’s nutrition and wellness goals in order with a consultation. You should fine-tune your diet, supplements, and blood work every year minimum. Research says that you should visit your nutritionist as often as you visit your primary care physician. For many, that may mean 2-4 times per year. A consult early in the year sets the tone for a very successful and productive 2010.
  • Truth in Advertising, Labeling.
    After the Cocoa Krispies fiasco, where Kellogg had to remove language on its boxed cereal claiming to “boost childhood immunity,” the government is stepping up its efforts to crack down on manufacturers misrepresenting their products. The FDA is creating its own front-of-pack labeling system because many manufacturers have created their own, thus confusing the consumer and allowing for a wide interpretation of what is considered healthful.
  • GMOs and Pesticides Are “On the Clock.”
    A ruling barring Monsanto from growing genetically modified beets may be a barometer of what is to come regarding GMOs. While it is impossible to remove GMO crops already in the food supply, most of which do not have proper safety studies, we can prevent new ones from being introduced. The USDA has promised to take a harder look. The Obama administration’s announcement that a 33-year-old law governing how the Environmental Protection Agency controls toxic chemicals is inadequate to protect Americans is a major first step.
  • Eat for Longevity.
    You’ll be hearing this phrase a lot in 2010, especially after a recent study found that subjects with the best diets reduced their risk of death by up to 25 percent over a 10-year period. What better impetus could there be to eat well?
  • Good Manufacturing Practices for Dietary Supplements (cGMP) go into effect for all dietary supplement manufacturers. This directive has already weeded out some of the large “bad apples” that adulterate or skimp on quality in their products. Now some of the small and medium players will have to “shape up or ship out.” Vitamin K. While it will not come close to the kind of heat vitamin D has garnered, vitamin K will be the next under-appreciated vitamin to receive its due. We will break down vitamin K in one of our early 2010 eNewsletters.

Has Nutritional Concepts Improved Your Life?
We encourage you to post your story on our client comment "Wall," send us an email, or write a letter.

Come Celebrate with us January 7th!
To thank you for your continued support, we have set aside a day for Client Appreciation. It is the actual 25th birthday of our incorporation. Share food, fun, prizes, free gifts, and of course, plenty of nutrition and wellness advice. Please Make Your Reservation Here.

Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday & New Year,

Bonnie, Steve, Carolyn, Sharron, and Lilo

Bonnie in Pioneer Press

A toast to health: Pioneer Press' Irv Leavitt and Northbrook nutritionist Bonnie Minsky at Prairie Grass Cafe. Prairie Grass uses the Tallgrass Beef that Bill Kurtis raises, which he claims is high in vitamins, with a better balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, Formula 409's and Indy 500's.
(Allen Kaleta/for Sun-Times Media)

MegaBites heeds call to eat small

December 10, 2009

Pioneer Press

If not, Now hear this: Do not eat a 3-pound cheeseburger! Do not eat 42 scoops of ice cream, even if you get it free! All the restaurants involved in my weekly excursions sell other choices that are better for you. Eat those instead. Or share the big things. Or take some of it home. It's probably OK to eat something too big once in a while. But make it a special occasion. Call us. Maybe we'll put it in the paper.

Every few weeks, we hear from a well-meaning person who criticizes the big food feature. A sort of read-and-get-fat phenomenon. So just to make sure you know we're not trying to kill our readers, Pioneer sent me, the perpetrator of the fat-promoting features, on a five-day week -- Thanksgiving week -- of healthy eating. It's documented in the food diary below.

Before I began, I sought advice from Northbrook nutritionist Bonnie Minsky and an Evanston counterpart, Monique Ryan, which I have mangled, truncated and discounted in the following story. You can learn actual facts about their work at and

In the meantime, eat a salad. They're good with lots of bacon.

Monday, 9:15 a.m., Kappy's Pancake House, 7200 Dempster St., Niles:
A month before, I agreed to an interview here by a college student, fondly anticipating one of the world's great breakfasts: Kappy's Lox Benedict. That's Eggs Benedict with lox standing in for Canadian bacon. It can make a whole week better. But not this week. I got oatmeal. For $5.99, it came festooned with bananas and various berries. And walnuts. Walnuts? Eating oatmeal shouldn't make noise. But it was palatable, more so after I sprinkled a little brown sugar in it. The kid ate biscuits and gravy with bacon and eggs. I hope he flunks.

Monday, 1:30 p.m., Glenbrook Hospital, 2100 Pfingsten Road, Glenview:
Time's short, so it's a late lunch in the cafeteria, a two-minute drive away. But the pizza, chicken cacciatore, pork loin and Buffalo chicken wrap didn't look like health food. From what remained, it took me all of two seconds to choose the salad bar over the Boca Burgers. Not very hungry, I just got two-thirds of a pound of various vegetables and tofu, with oil and vinegar. It took almost as long to dig the $4.32 out of my pocket to pay for the salad as it did to eat it. And it was a long walk through the parking lot and the building to the cafeteria to eat a tiny lunch, so I'm guessing I burned all the calories I consumed by the time I got back to the car.

Monday, 5 p.m.: Prairie Grass Cafe, 601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook: I liked Minsky's choice for a healthy dinner to repay her for her advice. They have real meat here. Prairie Grass uses the Tallgrass Beef that Bill Kurtis raises, which he claims is high in vitamins, with a better balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, Formula 409's and Indy 500's. The $39 tenderloin tasted so good I chewed with my eyes closed to discourage people from talking to me while I ate. Kurtis' product seems spectacular now, but it really just tastes like beef did 40 years ago, before the USDA started upgrading meat so that Gaines-Burgers could pass for people food. Co-Chef Sarah Stegner came by and related that Kurtis' outfit uses ultrasound on living cows to discern if the meat is marbled enough before actually opening the container. This would have been impressive in my old neighborhood, where half the population thought ultrasound to check pregnancies was a frill. Minsky and I had ordered a couple of salads as starters, one of which she kept telling me "may be the best salad I have ever had." It was good, but I can't get that excited about a salad that doesn't have lobsters or uranium in it.

Tuesday, 10 a.m., Taco Burrito King, Harlem Irving Plaza, Norridge: Another old appointment: Three of us tried foot-long burritos for Mega Bites. We all got the chicken flavor, easy on the cheese and sour cream. One of our tasting partners said her burrito seemed lean and healthy, especially since she'd expected something greasy. I ate half a burrito, and I was good for hours.

Tuesday, 8:15 p.m., Lulu's Dim Sum and Then Sum, 804 Davis St., Evanston: Nutritionist Ryan said even the crispy stuff here is OK, being only "lightly fried." So over the roar of gabbing Northwestern students, I ordered three fried vegetable spring rolls for $5.99 and a $4.99 bowl of vegetarian hot and sour soup. The soup was heavily laden with about 20 different kinds of vegetables, including many I could not name on a bet. But it tasted like hot and sour soup is supposed to, which was a relief. The little fried things, each the size of a roll of dimes, were crunchy and tasted nice in their hot mustard/sweet chili sauce puddle. But minutes later, I got that "When do we eat?" sensation. Steve Goodman's old line from "Chicken Cordon Bleus" came rushing back: "Can you see that old dog out in the street/He's got a big smile on his face/Cause they let him eat meat." So I bought an order of Chicken Shao Mai ($5.99), wontons filled with minced chicken and soy ginger. They looked like four badminton shuttlecocks, but they did the trick.

Wednesday, 4:38 a.m., home: I jerked awake so hungry that the lining of my stomach was trying to eat itself. I tiptoed into the kitchen and nuked a half-cup of oatmeal, and added garlic salt, which is the way I like it. I also like cheese, but that's some sort of crime, according to Minsky. Then I remembered: When I told her about Monday's oatmeal, she said I could have also had an egg-white omelet with one yolk. Good, but I was afraid of using fire while half-asleep. Ever stir a raw egg into a bowl of oatmeal? You could do worse.

Wednesday, 1 p.m., Blind Faith Cafe, 525 Dempster St., Evanston: I invited former wrestler Ed "Haystacks" Ross of Wilmette, a devotee of barbecue and giant hamburgers whose gustatory prowess helped us launch the first Mega Bites last June. When he got his Bibim Bop -- a Korean vegetable and rice bowl that typically has meat and a fried egg on top -- the 6 foot 8 man-mountain pointed delicately at some gray rectangles, scattered over the brown rice, that were neither meat nor egg. "What the hell is that?" he asked. Tofu, the waitress said. He looked ticked. Would you like to switch? I asked. Yeah. "But I still don't think I've made out on the deal," he added, eyeing the Mongolian Stir Fry and its grilled seitan. "This is trying so hard to be meat," he said, chewing on the wheat gluten. "It's never gonna be meat." He approved of one of the appetizers -- a fried risotto cake -- but when asked what he liked best, he silently placed a finger on a glass of lemonade. I liked the Bop, and finished it off. Ross didn't eat much, so he bought a vegan cupcake. "Something missing," he said. "That would be butter," the waitress giggled. "Or eggs."

Wednesday, 2:30 p.m., Whole Foods, 1111 Chicago Ave., Evanston: "See her about a turkey," a grocer told me, nodding at a woman sitting at a desk placed awkwardly in the middle of the store. "What's your name? What kind of turkey did you want?" she asked, with the wary, measured voice of someone who's spent the day solving the Thanksgiving turkey troubles of a multitude. Before I could respond, she perceived that I had no reservation, and was one of those people who thought he could just waltz in and get a fresh Thanksgiving turkey, like he was the mayor or Adam Lambert or somebody. She sent me back to the original gent, who in 10 minutes somehow found me an 11-pound turkey -- free-range and hormone- and antibiotic-free -- but at $1.99 a pound, not otherwise free. Among my other purchases were an 11-dollar pound of "wild-caught" cod and a couple of organic Yukon Gold potatoes for Wednesday dinner. Also, since my daughter Megan, 9, won't eat fish, I bought a $6.99 package of grass-fed beef hot dogs and a $3.99 pack of organic multigrain buns to go with them. Wednesday, 7 p.m., home: Dinner was baked cod with lemon and garlic, roasted potatoes and microwaved spaghetti squash. I had to get that big yellow gourd out of the refrigerator to make room for the turkey. The fish was a little overcooked, the potatoes a bit underdone, and the spaghetti squash had to be reheated. Otherwise excellent. "This hot dog is not very good," Megan said.

Thanksgiving Day, home, 11 a.m.: Minsky had told me people eat too much wheat bread, and the only name-brand she would recommend was Ezekiel 4:9 Bread, which is sprouted and flourless. By definition, it sounds like it's something other than bread. But I had bought a $3.69 loaf at Whole Foods, anyway, and made sandwiches for lunch. They were filling. My wife was done after half of a ham sandwich. I made a sandwich out of the leftover fish, and was good 'til turkeytime. I made a bologna sandwich for Megan, and she gave me a big thumb's up as I took a picture of her eating it. She then ate the baloney and left the bread behind. She wouldn't let me take a picture of that, however. "Why not? Isn't that the truth?" I asked. "The truth stinks," she said.

Thanksgiving Day, home, 5 p.m.: We started off with squash soup from a recipe of Minsky's, which combined baked squash, carrots, onions, chicken stock and pinches of allspice and garlic. Reviews ranged from "This is a little too spicy" to "This is good. It's a little spicy." The turkey was the juiciest we remembered, and a looker. The organic sweet potatoes turned out good, but the organic pumpkin pie was a bit bland. I ate more than I had all week, but compared to previous Thanksgivings, it was like a fast. Megan won't eat turkey, so Helen baked a one-pound canned ham for her. She didn't eat the ham, either.

Friday, 7:45 a.m., home: Oatmeal. Garlic salt.

Friday, 2:30 p.m., Pioneer Press, 3701 West Lake Ave., Glenview: I'm sick of restaurants. I'm kind of sick of food in general. So last night, I just made tabbouleh , which I haven't done since Mega Bites started. Boiling water went into salted bulgur wheat. Cooled it off, added garlic and chilled it overnight. Added lime and cilantro (definitely better than lemon and parsley) in the morning, plus chopped Kirby pickles, green onions and tomatoes. Time to eat: cubed feta cheese on top. Minsky might argue, but my 1977 Moosewood Cookbook recommends it. So there. I felt great after the tabbouleh, and I had enough left over for two more meals over the weekend. But Monday, I was back at Kappy's. And I had already had enough oatmeal to last a while.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Children with persistent AOM have poor response to vaccines

Poor responses to Hemophilus influenza B (HiB) and pneumococcal (PCV)-7 vaccines are common among children with persistent acute otitis media (AOM) or rhinitis, according to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 2009 Annual Scientific Meeting.

In addition, poor "natural" immunity to these organisms was found among patients of all age groups with recurrent infections."Those who suffer from recurrent [AOM] or sinusitis are often evaluated for nasal allergies. However, qualitative humoral immunity evaluations are rarely done." Researchers said that findings among pediatric patients in their practice led to this study. "We found that among children with recurring infections, particularly ear and nose infections, a lot of them failed to respond appropriately to their pediatric vaccinations," said researchers. "Also, a lot of these children were not making natural antibodies to strep pneumonia, particularly. Since that organism is found many times in those diseases, we felt that this information was clinically relevant."

"We report for the first time that, among children with recurrent AOM or sinusitis who have received 4 immunizations with PCV-7 and HiB, poor responses to these vaccines are common. In addition, poor immunity to pneumococci and HiB appeared to be evenly distributed throughout all age groups, suggesting that the inability to generate effective natural immunity to these polysaccharide-encapsulated organisms may be lifelong," researchers summarized.

When asked about the study's take-home message, researchers said: "In our practice, it's been very useful to check for whether or not a child has responded to pneumococcal vaccine and to find out if they're making any natural antibodies. If they're not, clinicians need to consider the possibility that additional vaccination is the right thing to do."

Responses from other at the meeting: "You get a lot of kids with ear and sinus infections who've been sent to an allergist to see if allergies are the cause of their problems. We can do a number of different tests, but if they come back negative, what do we do then? What they started doing was checking response levels to routine vaccinations." "They found that in kids who have recurrent infections, their responses to these vaccines aren't that strong, based on the criteria they used. Unfortunately, they didn't check these same levels in healthy kids. So it's hard to really compare. Is it the property of the vaccine itself, or is it the patient?" "Overall, it's interesting to note that perhaps these vaccines aren't as effective in this subset of patients, for whatever reason — genetic or environmental — compared to kids who don't get infections."

American Dietetic Association position on supplements

"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that the best nutrition-based strategy for promoting optimal health and reducing the risk of chronic disease is to wisely choose a wide variety of foods. Additional nutrients from supplements can help some people meet their nutrition needs as specified by science-based nutrition standards such as the Dietary Reference Intakes."

Bonnie - first of all, this is a major step for the ADA to admit that dietary supplements may be necessary. However, they are taking the most conservative position possible.

In a "perfect world," with no degeneration or immune-system deficiency disease, the ADA's position would be ideal. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in and a healthy diet cannot be one-size-fits-all. It must be based upon individual needs.

A recent survey of dietitians support my comments and shows just how out-of-touch the ADA has been with its members:

Eight in 10 registered dietitians said they view dietary supplements as important for maintaining health, according to new research from the “Life…supplemented” 2009 Healthcare Professionals (HCP) Impact Study. The study shows 81 percent of registered dietitians agree most people have gaps in their diets that can be filled with vitamins and other dietary supplements. Many include themselves in this group, with 76 percent agreeing that supplement use can address their own diet gaps.

Nine in 10 (96 percent) report taking supplements and recommending them to their clients (97 percent).

Seventy-four percent of registered dietitians taking the study identified themselves as members of the American Dietetic Association, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.

Tamiflu benefits scarce in healthy people

A study in BMJ cast doubt not only on how safe and effective the antiviral Tamiflu is, but on the drug regulatory system that approved it. According to the researchers, "Governments around the world have spent billions on a drug that the scientific community now finds itself unable to judge." They go on to say that at best, the drug may shorten flu symptoms by about a day, but shows little evidence that it reduces complications like pneumonia. Finally, they suggest that authorities should consider its side effects before using the drug in healthy people.

Furthermore, Roche, the manufacturer of Tamiflu, has made it impossible for scientists to assess how well the anti-flu drug stockpiled around the globe works by withholding the evidence the company has gained from trials, doctors alleged.

Steve - yet another example of why we tell clients to wait on taking drugs that are new and have very little safety studies. More about Tamiflu in this Atlantic piece.

Coffee may reduce prostate cancer risk

Drinking coffee regularly may help lower the risk of advanced prostate cancer, according to a study presented to the American Association for Cancer Research.

Men who drank the most coffee were nearly 60% less likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than non-coffee drinkers, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health discovered when analyzing information from the Health Professionals' Follow-Up Study, which included data on the coffee-drinking habits of nearly 50,000 men from 1986 to 2006. During that time period, 4,975 of the men developed prostate cancer. The results showed men who drank the most coffee (six or more cups per day) had a 59% lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer (fatal or advanced disease) compared to non-coffee drinkers. But researchers say it's not just the caffeine that's responsible for the prostate cancer prevention benefits. The study showed men who drank decaffeinated coffee also had a similar reduction in aggressive prostate cancer risk. Researchers say coffee also contains many other potentially beneficial compounds such as antioxidants and minerals that may play a role in preventing prostate cancer and more research is needed to confirm these results.

Bonnie - wow. I have always been an advocate of moderate coffee consumption for energy, concentration, blood sugar, and antioxidant benefits. The data is very encouraging because it is a very large, long-term population study.

Balancing protein intake may be key to long life

Getting the correct balance of proteins in our diet may be more important for healthy aging than reducing calories, new research funded by the Welcome Trust and Research into Aging suggests.

Researchers state in the journal Nature, "We've shown here that in flies -- and this is likely to be the case for other organisms -- the balance of amino acids in the diet can affect health later in life. If this is the case for humans, then the type of protein will be more important. "It's not as simple as saying 'eat less nuts' or 'eat more nuts' to live longer -- it's about getting the protein balance right."

Bonnie - the reason I recommend complete proteins (predominately from animal sources) as opposed to incomplete proteins (plant sources) is that all the amino acids are available to the body to use.

You have to be crazy to try a new drug

Bonnie - as I have said many teams, I never recommend a client try a new drug until it has been on the market at least a few years. Maybe I have to rethink that advice and make it four or five years based upon the following reports.
  1. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Food and Drug Administration still hasn't restructured its staff to better monitor drug safety, more than three years after experts recommended key changes in the wake of the Vioxx scandal. The GAO found that the FDA has yet to follow through on changes suggested in 2006 to help the agency detect problems with drugs taken by millions of Americans. Those recommendations came after the embarrassing and dangerous episode with Vioxx, a blockbuster pain drug the FDA approved in 1999, only to pull from the market in 2004 after linking it to heart attack and stroke.

    The FDA continues to give the bulk of its decision-making power to scientists who approve new drugs, rather than those who monitor the side effects of drugs on the market.

    The GAO did note that the FDA is making progress on other safety initiatives, including:
    • Revamping the computer system used to track and sort reports of drug side effects.
    • Gathering more reports about possible drug safety issues from federal agencies and private medical systems.
    • Developing a system to resolve drug safety disagreements between staffers.

  2. Wall Street Journal: "Premature Ejaculation: Marketing the Condition Before the Drug"
    Folks from Sciele Pharma spoke to WSJ about the company’s potential treatment for premature ejaculation. They were making the rounds at newspapers and magazines in an effort to raise awareness of the condition and their product, even though the company hasn’t asked regulators for approval yet.

    The visit was a reminder about how drug makers can try to lay the groundwork for sales well before a new therapy hits the market. That is especially true when the product will be aimed at treating a condition that carries a stigma.

    Hence, the effort for Sciele’s treatment, a spray that goes by the moniker PSD502 for the time being. Sciele, which is a unit of Japanese pharma Shionogi, has been pursuing two tracks to raise awareness. For months, it has sought to educate physicians about premature ejaculation, making presentations at medical meetings. Last month, after Phase 3 studies finished, the company launched a Web site for bloggers with information about the condition and scientific milestones in their product’s development. While the Web site is intended for blogger types, anyone searching for information about premature ejaculation can find the material.

    Once Sciele asks the FDA to approve the product — it expects to file by the end of March — the company plans on launching a Web site dedicated to explaining the condition. “It’s not well recognized. It’s not well understood. We know we have to spend a tremendous amount of time and effort,” said Donna Gibson Dell, a Sciele official.

    All this effort begs the question whether Sciele is acting prematurely. Analysts say the FDA has taken a tougher line on so-called lifestyle drugs. In 2005, the FDA rejected Johnson & Johnson’s request for approval of a premature ejaculation drug called dapoxetine. Sciele officials expressed optimism about the prospects for PSD502, while allowing that they can’t predict what the FDA will do. The experimental treatment combines two local anesthetics, lidocaine and prilocaine. Sciele officials emphasized that it has an entirely different mechanism of action than dapoxetine, which was made from the ingredient in an antidepressant that attracted regulatory scrutiny.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Two factors that may increase autsim in a developing fetus

Commonly prescribed beta 2 adrenergic agonist drugs for the treatment of asthma in pregnant women as well as pre-term labor may increase the incidence of autism-spectrum disorders, psychiatric pathology, cognitive problems and poor school performance in their children, according to a new study published in the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Beta 2 adrenergic agonist drugs as a class are widely used in obstetrics as tocolytics to inhibit or slow down labor and bronchodilators, but may act as functional and behavioral teratogens when given continuously in the mid to late second or early third trimesters. By correlating the basic science and clinical data, investigators observed that when given prenatally, these drugs can cause functional and behavioral disorders by permanently altering the balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic tone in the individual.

The researchers state, "Given the risk of long-term neurophysiologic and behavioral impairment, the use of beta 2 adrenergic agonists should be limited to proven indications when alternate drugs are ineffective or unavailable and the risks of the untreated disease to the mother and fetus are greater than the risk of the beta 2 adrenergic agonist. Treatment duration should be as short as clinically feasible. Further ongoing surveillance of the use of these agents in pregnancy is needed to refine the parameters for their safe use in pregnancy. Future pharmacogenetics research is also needed to better characterize the highest risk group for teratogenesis from these agents."

Hit breast cancer cells where it hurts

A new study finds that compounds derived from the spices turmeric and pepper could help prevent breast cancer by limiting the growth of stem cells, the small number of cells that fuel a tumor's growth. Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that when the dietary compounds curcumin, were applied to breast cells in culture, they decreased the number of stem cells while having no effect on normal differentiated cells. "If we can limit the number of stem cells, we can limit the number of cells with potential to form tumors," says lead author Madhuri Kakarala,

Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel the tumor's growth. Current chemotherapies do not work against these cells, which is why cancer recurs and spreads. Researchers believe that eliminating the cancer stem cells is key to controlling cancer. In addition, decreasing the number of normal stem cells -- unspecialized cells that can give rise to any type of cell in that organ -- can decrease the risk of cancer. In this study, a solution of curcumin and piperine was applied to the cell cultures at the equivalent of about 20 times the potency of what could be consumed through diet. The compounds are available at this potency in a capsule form that could be taken by mouth.

This paper, published online in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, is the first to suggest these dietary compounds could prevent cancer by targeting stem cells. Researchers are planning an initial Phase I clinical trial to determine what dose of curcumin or piperine can be tolerated in people. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

Steve - this study is extremely important for two reasons. First, this treatment can apply to many forms of cancer because if it hits at the heart of the cancer cell's fuel source, it will have a much harder time spreading. Second, the study was funded by NIH, which will give it much more validity to the allopathic community.

My one worry about this discovery: Big Pharma will find a way to make the natural, active chemicals into synthetic chemicals. We have seen over time that synthetic substances do not always work the same way as the natural and sometimes come with much greater side effects.

What Big Pharma does not realize is that over time, plants and humans have evolved together.
Because of this symbiotic relationship, our bodies recognizes the natural chemicals in curcumin and puts them to good use. The way we react to unrecognizable, synthetic chemicals is much different.

Now does this mean that all of us should go out and buy curcumin? Absolutely not. It needs to be prescribed on an individualized basis. Because it is high in salicylic acid, there is a significant part off the population that do not tolerate salicylates, especially at supplemental doses.

Acrylamide's effect taking shape

Steve - as we reported back in September, Acrylamide: Public Enemy Number One, regulators' policies on acrylamide are taking form.

Acrylamide has been added to the candidate list for inclusion on the European Union’s Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) following a unanimous decision by an expert panel. Under the ECHA proposal, acrylamide has been listed as a category two carcinogen and a category two mutagen.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering issuing guidelines on acrylamide content in food and is currently seeking comments from industry on the issue.

Tolerable intakes of acrylamide should be set at 2.6 micrograms per kilogram of body weight to avoid the cancer risk, says a new toxicology study from the US. This would be equivalent to 182 micrograms for a 70 kg human as a tolerable daily intake (TDI) for carcinogenic levels. The TDI for neurotoxicity was found to be higher, at 40 micrograms per kg per day, or 2,800 micrograms per day for a 70 kg human. Both levels vastly exceed levels estimated by various national agencies or studies. Health Canada, for example, estimates the average exposure of adults to acrylamide in food to be between 0.3 and 0.4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day, while a study from Sweden estimated intakes of about 0.5 micrograms per kilogram of bodyweight. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated intakes to be around 0.4 micrograms per kilogram of bodyweight per day. The study was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another study showing magnesium's heart benefits

Increased intakes of magnesium may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in men. And with the mineral being implicated in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, and toxicity issues being rare “oral magnesium supplementation is recommended”, conclude researchers from the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

“Maintaining a high normal serum magnesium level has been shown to have very few side-effects and is clearly beneficial after the diagnosis of CHD to prevent further complications of heart disease,” added researchers.

Looking at the bigger picture, researchers noted that “magnesium may be helpful for other disease states”, including a reduction in the risk of stroke, improved skeletal growth and development, and a reduced risk of pre-eclampsia in women. “Because magnesium is relatively safe, affordable, and vital for many functions in the body, oral magnesium supplementation is recommended,” they wrote.

Monolaurin tampons may reduce toxic shock

Glycerol monolaurate (GML) in tampons inhibits Staphylococcus aureus exotoxin production and hence may reduce the impact of menstrual toxic shock syndrome, researchers report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. As senior investigator Dr. Patrick M. Schlievert told Reuters Health, "The paper shows that GML has two effects: it reduces production of bacterial toxins vaginally, and it reduces vaginal inflammation. The first property makes it possible for tampons to have less risk associated with menstrual toxic shock syndrome." "The second property...suggests that GML may be useful in reducing transmission of a variety of sexually transmitted infections," he added, noting that his group's recent paper in the journal Nature showed that reduction in inflammation reduces the risk of viral transmission.

Bonnie - as we have reported for many years, Monolaurin has antiviral and antibacterials properties. Staph Aureus has been one of the most well researched bacteria strains showing effectiveness by administering Monolaurin. What a great, natural way to reduce the susceptibility to toxic shock.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Tai Chi effective for arthritis

The results of a new analysis have provided good evidence to suggest that Tai Chi is beneficial for arthritis. Specifically, it was shown to decrease pain with trends towards improving overall physical health, level of tension and satisfaction with health status.

Tai Chi, is a form of exercise that is regularly practiced in China to improve overall health and well-being. It is usually preformed in a group but is also practiced individually at one’s leisure, which differs from traditional exercise therapy approaches used in the clinic.

Recently, a new study in Arthritis Care and Research examined the effectiveness of Tai Chi in decreasing pain and disability and improving physical function and quality of life in people with chronic musculoskeletal pain. The results demonstrate that Tai Chi improves pain and disability in patients suffering arthritis. The authors state, “The fact that Tai Chi is inexpensive, convenient, and enjoyable and conveys other psychological and social benefits supports the use this type of intervention for pain conditions such as arthritis.”

Bonnie - one of the easiest, most economical ways , especially for older persons, to stay fit and to reduce pain.

Low vitamin D involved in dementia

Inadequate vitamin D levels may be involved in cognitive dysfunction and dementia. Two papers show in separate populations that low levels of vitamin D are associated with cognitive impairment and cerebrovascular disease, including stroke. The papers will appear in the January issue of Neurology.

"What should we make of these studies?" Joshua Miller, PhD, from the University of California in Sacramento, asked in an accompanying editorial. "First, it is evident that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is very high among older adults."

The authors conclude that vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk for dementia and cerebrovascular disease and that vitamin D may have vasculoprotective properties. Neurologists, general practitioners, and geriatricians should be aware of the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in their patient populations and the possibility that supplementation could be beneficial.

Bonnie - if you are an older individual, or, if you have friends, family, or coworkers who are, you must implore them to get their vitamin D3 levels tested.

Certain antibiotics increase bith defect risk

Some antibiotics can cause severe birth defects in pregnant women according to a study in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Antibiotic use is common among pregnant women, and doctors have believed they do not affect the growing fetus, but a new study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has discovered that two types of the drug can cause several severe birth defects. One group, the nitrofurantoins, are regularly given to pregnant women who are resistant to other antibiotics, and they include the drug Furadantin. The other group, the sulfonamides, include diuretics such as Bumetanide and Clopamide, and COX-2 painkillers such as Celecoxib. Other antibiotics, such as penicillin, were also associated with birth defects, but the effect was negligible, say the CDC researchers. They made the discovery after analyzing the records of 13,155 women who gave birth to a child with one or more defects.

Fever a main side effect of Glaxo's swine flu shot

The European Medicines Agency warns that young children given GlaxoSmithKline's swine flu shot may get a fever after their second dose. In a statement issued Friday, the European drug regulator said data from GlaxoSmithKline PLC showed a higher number of children aged six months to 3 years had a fever after their second dose of the Pandemrix vaccine, compared with the first. Kids were also more likely to have side effects like muscle pain, drowsiness, and irritability. The European regulator recommends children get two doses of swine flu vaccine, though Glaxo says one dose is enough. Glaxo's vaccine contains an adjuvant, a chemical compound to boost the immune response. It is sold across Europe and Canada. Another formulation of Glaxo's vaccine, without the adjuvant, is available in the U.S. Vaccines with adjuvants usually cause more side effects. No flu vaccines with adjuvants are licensed in the U.S. Last month, Glaxo advised health authorities not to use one batch of its Canadian-manufactured swine flu vaccine in case it triggered life-threatening side effects like anaphylactic shock.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Even the most common medications pose threats

The story can be found at this link at the LA Times.

Excess omega-6 oil consumption leads to ulcerative colitis

People who were the heaviest consumers of omega-6 PUFA were more than twice as likely to develop ulcerative colitis as those who consumed the least, according to a study that appears in Gut. Researchers found that eating more eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and fish oils, was associated with a lower risk of the disease. While people need a certain amount of omega-6 to survive, excess amounts are taken up into the lining of the colon, and if they're released, they can promote inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acid does the opposite.

The analysis included 203,193 men and women 30 to 74 years old with follow-up which ranged from about 2 to 11 years.

Steve - for those following this blog, these results should come as no surprise.

Maternal folic acid shown important once again

Folic acid supplements during pregnancy may not only reduce the risk of birth defects but also protect the children from congenital heart defects. Children of women who took at least 400 micrograms per day during pregnancy were about 20 per cent less likely to develop congenital heart defects (CHDs), compared to children of women who did not take additional folic acid, according to findings published this week in the European Heart Journal.

The Dutch researchers analysed data from over 3,000 mothers and infants for their case-control study. Children of women who took additional folic acid, defined as a daily single supplement or as a multivitamin containing a folic acid dose of at least 400 micrograms, were found to have an 18 per cent lower risk of CHDs. In a subgroup analysis, additional folic acid was associated with a 38 per cent reduction in isolated septal defects, said the researchers. With such obvious benefits for the child, the researchers said that their findings may have important implications for public health.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Resveratrol has phytoestrogenic effects

According to a study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers compared the effectiveness of resveratrol to genistein, glystein and daidzein, all derivatives of soy, to see if any one outperformed the other in killing off tumor cells (cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis).

While the researchers found that the soy derivatives were effective in initiating cell death (particularly genistein and glystein), they found that resveratrol was better than all the rest, mimicking the effectiveness of estrogen in its "proapoptotic effects," minus the side effects.

Outside of resveratrol supplements, foods and drinks rich in resveratrol include red grapes (the skin), red wine, peanuts (small amount) and grape juice.

Bonnie - while this seems to be encouraging data, if resveratrol has this strong of an effect, there may be many individuals (especially men) with no hormone issues, who are running the risk of accelerated healthy cell death and overstrogenization if taking it as a supplement. This study could begin to explain why wine consumption seems to be more effective in women than men.

As I have stated from the beginning with resveratrol, I am taking a cautious approach by waiting to see more data. My hunch was correct that this is certainly not a substance that should be taken by everybody, as some would like you to believe.

Calcium, vitamin D promotes healthy colorectal cells

Supplements of calcium and vitamin D were found to normalize the health of cells in the colon and rectum, according to findings in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Researchers conducted a pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial in 92 men and women with a history of benign colorectal tumors. Led by Veronika Fedirko, the researchers randomly assigned the participants to receive daily calcium (2.0 g) and/or vitamin D3 supplements (800 IU), or placebo for six months. Markers of the health of cells were found to increase by 201, 242, and 25 per cent in the calcium, vitamin D, and calcium plus vitamin D groups relative to the placebo, said the researchers. “These results indicate that calcium and vitamin D promote colorectal epithelial cell differentiation and may ‘normalize’ the colorectal crypt proliferative zone in sporadic adenoma patients, and support further investigation of calcium and vitamin D as chemopreventive agents against colorectal neoplasms,” wrote researchers.

Antipsychotic's side effects not only in elderly

As we reported last week concerning antipsychotics' negative effects in the elderly, a number of antipsychotic medications are associated with weight gain, and for some, hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia. In the current issue of Biological Psychiatry, researchers discuss this particular concern because there is a higher cardiovascular mortality among the severely mentally ill compared to the general population.

Systemic inflammation has recently emerged as an important marker of cardiovascular risk, but the effects of antipsychotics on inflammatory markers in the blood have not been extensively studied until now. Their findings provide evidence that antipsychotic medications, particularly olanzapine (Zyprexa®, Eli Lilly and Co.) and quetiapine (Seroquel®, AstraZeneca), increase the levels of C-reactive protein, E-selectin, and intercellular adhesion molecular-1 (ICAM-1). Increased levels of C-reactive protein in particular are associated with increased risk for the development or progression of many illnesses including heart disease, and stroke.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Research Highlights December

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  • Early age at puberty onset may predispose an individual to many currently prevalent diseases, including cancer and adiposity. The objective was to investigate whether early life exposures influence the timing of puberty, as defined by both early and late markers, in healthy German girls and boys. Children who had gained weight rapidly between birth and 24 mo experienced pubertal growth spurt 4 months earlier than those who had gained weight normally. Rapid weight gain was also associated with an earlier peak height velocity. In both boys and girls, intrauterine and early postnatal growth factors appear to influence both early and later markers of puberty onset.
  • Elevated serum triglyceride and low HDL-cholesterol concentrations have been reported in persons with HIV. Diet and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation dramatically reduced serum triglycerides, decreased arachidonic acid in the phospholipids fraction, and appeared to decrease the de novo lipogenesis associated with the metabolic syndrome in the intervention group.
  • Low vitamin B-12 is associated with more pronounced metabolic evidence of vitamin B-12 deficiency when folate is elevated than when folate is not elevated. These data should be considered when assessing the potential costs, risks, and benefits of folic acid and vitamin B-12 fortification programs.
  • The 12-year incidence of central geographic atrophy and age-related macular degeneration in participants at moderate-to-high risk of these outcomes was lowest for those reporting the highest consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. These results may guide the development of low-cost and easily implemented preventive interventions for progression to advanced AMD.
  • The consumption of a diet consistent with the principles of the Mediterranean-style diet may protect against metabolic syndrome in Americans.
  • A more frequent consumption of green tea was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in the community-dwelling older population.
  • A small positive effect of protein supplementation on lumbar spine BMD in randomized placebo-controlled trials supports the positive association between protein intake and bone health found in cross-sectional surveys. Therefore, while there is a small benefit of protein on bone health, the benefit may not necessarily translate into reduced fracture risk in the long term.
  • Our results show no association between current use of multivitamins and risk of allergic disease but suggest that supplementation with multivitamins during the first years of life may reduce the risk of allergic disease at school age.
Journal Nutrition
  • The microbial metabolism of dietary phytoestrogens varies considerably among individuals and influences the final exposure to bioactive compounds. In view of the increasing number of food supplements combining several classes of phytoestrogens, the microbial potential to activate various proestrogens within an individual was evaluated in 3 randomized dietary crossovers (soy, hop, and/or flax-based food supplements). The bioavailability of phytoestrogens, especially when given in mixtures, is subject to high interindividual variation. These findings support the importance of personalized screening when assessing the efficacy of such products and mixtures.
  • An Inflammatory Index was developed based on the results of an extensive literature search. Results based on continuous measures of hs-CRP suggested that an increasing Inflammatory Index score (representing movement toward an antiinflammatory diet) was associated with a decrease in hs-CRP. Analyses using hs-CRP as a dichotomous variable showed that an antiinflammatory diet was associated with a decrease in the odds of an elevated hs-CRP. The results are consistent with the ability of the Inflammatory Index to predict hs-CRP and provide additional evidence that diet plays a role in the regulation of inflammation, even after careful control of a wide variety of potential confounders.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association
  • The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the differences in weight control behaviors, dietary intake, and physical activity between overweight adolescents who lost weight and overweight adolescents who did not lose weight. Results showed that adolescents who lost weight were more likely to report using healthful weight control behaviors such as drinking less soda and increasing their exercise level, self-weighing, consuming diets higher in protein, and spending less time watching television compared to overweight adolescents who did not lose weight.

  • Currently, little is known about the home food environment. This cross-sectional study was designed to describe the food sources of calories and key nutrients in the households of 100 families with at least one child aged 12 years or younger and compare nutrient availability to recommended levels. Participating households were food secure, ate dinner at home at least three times weekly, had parents who were married or living as domestic partners and not employed in a health-related profession, and resided in New Jersey.

    Protein, carbohydrate, and fat in the households supplied an average of approximately 15%, 57%, and 29% of calories, respectively. Saturated fat and total sugar accounted for an average of approximately 10% and 20%, respectively, of calories. Mean nutrient adequacy ratio for nutrients recommended to be maximized (ie, vitamins A and C, protein, dietary fiber, iron, calcium) was less than optimal, and mean ratio for those recommended to be minimized (ie, total fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar) exceeded recommendations.

    Categorization by food group revealed that the greatest availability of calories, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, total sugar, sodium, and iron was from grains. Dairy products contained the greatest quantities of saturated fat and calcium.
American Journal Preventive Medicine
  • Menu-labeling legislation is a proposed public health intervention for poor diet and obesity that requires chain restaurants to provide nutrition information on menus and menu boards. The restaurant industry has strongly opposed menu-labeling legislation. Using scientific evidence, this paper counters industry arguments against menu labeling by demonstrating that consumers want chain restaurant nutrition information to be disclosed; the current methods of providing nutrition information are inadequate; the expense of providing nutrition information is minimal; the government has the legal right to mandate disclosure of information; consumers have the right to know nutrition information; a lack of information reduces the efficiency of a market economy; and menu labeling has the potential to make a positive public health impact.
Environmental Working Group
  • Ordinary school cleaning supplies can expose children to multiple chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, and other documented health problems and to hundreds of other air contaminants that have never been tested for safety. Lax labeling requirements mean that schools often don't know what they're purchasing. Many would be alarmed to learn that when used as directed, Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser, a product commonly used in both schools and private homes, released more than 100 air contaminants, including chloroform, benzene, and formaldehyde. In response to these concerns, many schools have turned to safer cleaning supplies that have been independently certified to meet protective health and safety standards. Eight states have passed legislation requiring or encouraging use of these green cleaning products in schools. Many other forward-thinking school districts have adopted green cleaning policies, replacing toxic products with safer, effective alternatives with no increase in costs.