Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Over-the-Counter Drug Label Warnings Overlooked

Consumers overlook warnings about potential tampering on over-the-counter medications at least 80 percent of the time, suggesting packages and labels need to be redesigned to attract attention and improve safety. Participants spent the most time focused on the brand names and product claims of nonprescription drugs. More than half of those surveyed also missed alerts about child safety on medicines that did not have child-resistant packaging, according to the research today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings raise doubts about whether the warnings meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements that they be “prominent” and “conspicuous,” the researchers said. Future studies need to look at whether changing package designs may help people’s eyes move more quickly to the notices or convey the information faster, said lead author Laura Bix. “Something is going on with conspicuousness and prominence,” said Bix, an assistant professor in the School of Packaging at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. “It’s definitely a chance to step back and look at the design of these labels and look at potentially educating consumers on the importance of the information.”

Steve - I cannot imagine what paltry percentage of Americans read the label inserts of prescription drugs.

A restaurant chain to keep an eye on

Jason's Deli. Everything is trans-fat and MSG-free. They even have organic items and ingredients.

Find one near you.

Treating an Illness Is One Thing. What About a Patient With Many?

Courtesy of NY Times

Mazie Piccolo has so many health problems it’s hard to keep track. Congestive heart failure makes her short of breath and causes her legs to swell. An abnormal heart rhythm raises her risk for stroke. Arthritis in her knees makes it hard for her to get around, and she can no longer drive. Mrs. Piccolo, 84, of Rosedale, Md., also has osteoporosis, and she has fallen several times in the past few years, once breaking her pelvis. On top of all these medical ailments and others — high cholesterol, high blood pressure, gastric reflux — she has a history of depression, and it is sometimes hard for her to care for her husband, who is even frailer than she is.

Strictly by the book, Mrs. Piccolo should be taking 13 different medications — an expensive, confusing cocktail that has proved too much for her to manage. Other medications that might be advisable cause intolerable side effects, and the more drugs she takes, the greater the risk of dangerous drug interactions.

What is striking about her predicament is not how rare it is, but how common. Two-thirds of people over age 65, and almost three-quarters of people over 80, have multiple chronic health conditions, and 68 percent of Medicare spending goes to people who have five or more chronic diseases. As a group, patients like Mrs. Piccolo fare poorly by any measure. They linger in hospitals longer, experience more serious preventable health complications and die younger than patients with less complex medical profiles. Yet people with multiple health problems — a condition known as multimorbidity — are largely overlooked both in medical research and in the nation’s clinics and hospitals. The default position is to treat complicated patients as collections of malfunctioning body parts rather than as whole human beings. “Very often, there is nobody looking at the big picture or recognizing that what is best for the disease may not be best for the patient,” said Dr. Mary E. Tinetti, a geriatrician at the Yale School of Medicine.

Bonnie - the key comment in this piece is "treat complicated patients as collections of malfunctioning parts rather than the whole human being." I usually get these patients when they are completely fed up with their myriad doctors and specialists and are at death's door. Getting to the root of the causes through diet, nutrients, and lifestyle make all the difference in getting these people their lives back. Until the allopathic model changes to treating the whole person, these cases will continue to deplete our health care resources.

FDA Alerts Consumers to Recall of Certain Pistachios

The FDA and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are investigating Salmonella contamination in pistachio products sold by Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc, Calif. The company has stopped all distribution of processed pistachios and will issue a voluntary recall involving approximately 1 million pounds of its products. Because the pistachios were used as ingredients in a variety of foods, it is likely this recall will impact many products. In addition, the investigation at the company is ongoing and may lead to additional pistachio product recalls.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Arena obesity drug disappoints

Arena Pharmaceuticals said its experimental obesity drug helped patients shed only about 10 pounds more than those taking placebos, sending its shares down 34 percent. The company is seeking U.S. approval this year for the drug, Lorcaserin, based on the long-awaited new data that it said was favorable by a statistically significant margin. "Although the results technically satisfy the FDA requirements for approvability, we consider the weight loss benefits to be underwhelming at best," JPMorgan said in a research note. Patients on the drug and placebo groups had to adhere to a program of moderate diet and exercise.

Bonnie - let's get real. You can lose ten pounds on moderate diet and exercise easily. You don't need the drug!

Fish oil pills don't boost benefit of heart drugs

The study tested a 1-gram daily dose of a prescription version of highly purified omega-3 fatty acid — the "good fat" contained in certain oily fish that is thought to help the heart.

Researchers led by Dr. Jochen Senges of the University of Heidelberg gave fish oil or dummy capsules to more than 3,800 people who had suffered a heart attack in the previous two weeks. About 90 percent were already receiving all the medicines recommended to prevent a second attack, including aspirin, anti-clotting and cholesterol drugs.

After a year, it made no difference whether these patients took fish oil or dummy capsules. In both groups, fewer than 2 percent had suffered sudden cardiac death, 4 percent had another heart attack, and fewer than 2 percent had suffered a stroke, according to results presented at an American College of Cardiology conference.

The research doesn't mean that fish oil is of no value. The prescription version used in the study, sold as Omacor and Lovaza in the United States and as Zodin in Europe.

Steve - two reasons for these results:

1) Omacor/Lovaza is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and contains partially hydrogenated fat (trans fat). There are no other quality fish oil products we know of that contain trans fat and it is anyone's guess how that can be counterproductive to the EPA/DHA.

2) The most likely reason is the study's structure. The subjects are already on three kinds of drugs that thin the blood enough. What do they think fish oil is going to do on top of that (and 1 gram only as it is)? I would have structured the study with half the subjects receiving 4 grams of fish oil daily with no medication and the other half of the subjects on the three medications with no fish oil. Now that would deliver some powerful results.

Sugar in Iodized Salt?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Thanks to a client who is an avid label reader, we discovered that iodized salt, even the healthier versions such as Hain Iodized Sea Salt, contains dextrose, a corn sugar. Dextrose is not an anti-caking agent, so why do they add it to sea salt? They say it is to "stabilize" the iodine. We think it is to mask the taste of the iodine.

It is critical that you get sufficient amounts of iodine. So for those of you who are corn-sensitive, what are your options?

Iodine was added to salt in the 1920's to benefit the thyroid and prevent goiters. Since salt is the one mineral everyone uses, U.S. public officials decided it would be the best delivery system. One teaspoon of iodized salt daily usually provides all the iodine you need. Development of iodine deficiency is rarely an issue because of this decision. In addition, landlocked regions receive produce grown in coastal areas where soil is rich in iodine.

For adults and teens, I recommend a daily intake of 150 micrograms (mcg.). For children, daily intake is 70 micrograms. Non-Iodized Sea Salt and Kosher Salt do not supply enough iodine. Although, I prefer you always use sea salt because it does not have as detrimental effect on blood pressure as does bleached rock salt.

Most of you who take multivitamins/minerals have enough iodine to prevent goiters. Check the label to make sure. For those of you who do not take a multi, or if your multi does not contain iodine, buy a separate bottle of iodine in pill form or get one or more of the following sources on a regular basis: kelp, sea vegetables, seafood, drinking water, and small amounts in eggs. The iodine content of fruits and vegetables is dependent upon soil content.

Note: given the fact that most Americans consume on average more than twice the daily recommended amount of salt (3500 mg per day instead of the recommended 2300 mg or less, and 1500 mg or less for hypertensive individuals), getting your iodine from non-salt sources like your multivitamin is a good thing. If you need further advice, schedule an appointment with Bonnie.

B-Complex, Folic Acid Give Migraine Relief

Long-term migraine sufferers experienced relief when they took vitamin B supplements and folic acid, according to a clinical trial from the Genomics Research Centre of Australia’s Griffith University. More than 50 long-term migraine sufferers received vitamin B supplements and folic acid for six months and the results showed a drastic improvement in headache frequency, pain severity and associated disability for those treated.

Previous research at the Centre showed people are more likely to suffer from migraines if they have a mutation or dysfunction in a gene known as MTHFR. The dysfunction causes people to have higher levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which can lead to migraines, stroke and coronary disease.

The recent trial was based on the theory that folic acid and B vitamins can reduce homocysteine, which can in turn, reduce migraines. The Centre’s next step will be a study to determine an effective dosage for folic acid and B vitamins for migraine sufferers.

Steve - we did not post this so much for the results of the study, more so for the reason behind the study. We have said for several years that a genetic mutation in the MTHFR gene that does not allow humans to absorb folic acid properly creates a host of long-term issues if not discovered. Metagenics makes a folate complex that contains all three forms of folate that bypasses this mutation and allows folate to be metabolized properly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Carolyn's Story.

My name is Carolyn Martinelli. I am 35 years old. I am Bonnie Minsky’s daughter and Steve Minsky’s sister. I want to tell my story about my medical catastrophe. My whole life I never thought I would ever have to be in a hospital. I thought I was invincible. I ate healthy, took vitamin supplements, exercised, and led a pretty stress-free life. I tried to avoid doctors, hospitals, etc. as much as possible. I brought my three sons into the world at home with the aid of a doctor and nurse-midwife. I was on top of the world.

Then came the fateful day in March of 2007 when all that came to a crashing halt. While en route to San Diego with my three sons in tow (flying without my husband), I began to feel quite sick. I had to run to the bathroom several times and thought I was coming down with the flu or food poisoning. Throughout the night I had horrible pains in my abdominal area. They were like nothing I had ever felt before. The pain was worse than childbirth. But, I still thought it was the flu or food poisoning. The next morning, I did not feel better. Later that afternoon, my mother was getting very worried because I wasn’t feeling any better. She said, “It sounds like an appendicitis attack to me.” You really need to go to an urgent care center or emergency room right away.”

While my mother watched the kids, my dad took me to the closest urgent care facility. The doctor did bloodwork, an abdominal X-ray, and a full physical exam. He told us, “There is no way this is appendicitis or pancreatitis. You have a bad case of the stomach flu. Try taking Immodium or Pepto Bismol to help with the symptoms. Hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation in San Diego”. What a relief, I thought to myself. The doctor had completed a thorough exam and ruled out appendicitis!"

For the next fourteen days, I still was not feeling well. My appetite was back, but I was very lethargic and still very irregular. I had lost about ten pounds and was wondering why I could not kick this “stomach flu”. On day fifteen, I developed a fever, the chills, and abdominal pain so severe that I doubled over in pain and couldn’t walk. My husband rushed me to the hospital. They immediately ushered me into a hospital room, bypassing triage and hooked me up to a saline I.V. (I am allergic to the corn in the glucose I.V.) and drew blood. The pain was so excruciating that I was given a large dose of pain medication. The E.R. doctor came in to ask questions and examine me. He recommended a C.T. scan because my white blood count was off the charts, which could indicate acute appendicitis. I told him that the doctor in San Diego ruled out appendicitis with an X-Ray. The nurse and doctor could not control their dismay. “An X-Ray? You need a CT scan to diagnose appendicitis.

I was wheeled away on a gurney to have my CT scan. I was so scared. What was wrong with me? I had never been in a hospital before (besides for an hour or two with a broken arm and stitches). The doctor came in about 20 minutes later and was speechless. He said I had “several large collections of fluid in the abdominal area”, but could not believe it was a ruptured appendix because I presented with symptoms two weeks ago. Most people would have become septic and died already. He ordered another CT scan, which concluded that it was indeed acute appendicitis that had formed several abscesses, which had perforated my colon. They brought in a surgeon who told me that I would be admitted to the hospital and would have to be on strong antibiotics to try and kill the infections. He would then, hopefully, be able to perform laproscopic surgery six weeks later to remove the ruptured appendix.

As my days in the hospital went on, things went from bad to worse. The plethora of mistakes that were made would boggle your mind. My doctor saw me only two times in the first four days in the hospital (even though I hovered at death’s door). He would place my care in the physician assistant’s hands. The only thing my doctor would say when he came in my room was, “I can’t believe you look so good, but your CT scan shows you should be in the ICU or dead.” Every time I would get my bloodwork results or CT scan results, they would be worse. The first two days I could take nothing by mouth. After the third day in the hospital, the doctor recommended that I try eating. Liquid first, then soft foods, and if that was tolerated, regular food. Not only was the hospital fare inedible, it was full of preservatives and artificial ingredients. My family would bring me my meals, vitamins, and liquids. After tolerating liquids and soft foods (or so I thought), they told me I could eat anything I wanted. Guess what they offered me for my first dinner? Barbequed beef tips! For a woman with a perforated colon! Of course, I opted for my own meal of homemade chicken soup, which my mother made sure was made with all organic ingredients.

On my fourth day in the hospital, after having a drainage catheter inserted in my abdominal area to drain the fluid, I started to vomit again with uncontrollable bowel movements. I didn’t understand this. I was just starting to feel better! After six hours, the nurses told me the doctor was recommending I have a tube inserted down my nose and into the stomach. I looked up at the I.V.’s bags and was very troubled when I noticed a Glucose bag (with dextrose) hanging up on the hook and being pumped into my system. I showed my husband and he then asked the nurse, “Why does she have a dextrose I.V. when she is deathly allergic to corn? We told you this the first day and every I.V. has been saline up to this point.” The nurse explained that the physician assistant had recommended a dextrose I.V. When the nurse told him that I was allergic to corn, he insisted that the glucose I.V. was not derived from corn and that I couldn’t be reacting to it.

As my husband’s rage was trying to be controlled by my doctor on the phone at midnight, he kept insisting the I.V. did not contain corn. When the pharmacist finally got a hold of the doctor and explained that dextrose is indeed corn sugar, he still kept insisting that I could not have had that type of reaction to corn sugar.

The pain of having a tube inserted through my nose into my stomach cavity was something I would like to forget. Being that is was 2:00AM, the nurse on staff had never done this procedure before. My husband insisted that I have an experienced nurse perform the procedure. The next day, we fired our surgeon and interviewed a new one who had come highly recommended by family and friends.

The first thing my new doctor did was switch my antibiotic. The one I had been on for five days was not working because the infections were not subsiding. Next, he took me off of all food and liquids by mouth and worked with my mother and the TPN doctor to formulate a TPN bag that would not contain any corn, dyes, or preservatives, but would have all the vitamins and minerals needed to heal. He then recommended another drainage catheter and was able to take out the stomach tube two days later. Unfortunately, my reaction to the dextrose I.V. was so severe that it had affected my small bowel.

Each day that I spent in the hospital brought more errors, even though my family was there questioning everything. I had nurses running down the hall to stop me from taking a medication that they had given me minutes earlier, I.V.’s poked into the wrong places, and false hope that one day I would return to normalcy. I knew that to get well, I had to get out of the hospital. After constant urging, my family and I finally convinced my doctor that I could do the I.V. bags at home and promised I would eat or drink nothing by mouth. After two weeks of a horrific hospital stay, I was finally on my way home! I had lost twenty pounds by then. Even though my husband stayed with me at the hospital every night (in fear they would make a fatal mistake), being away from my sons for that long was excruciating. I started to imagine what it was like for a person who did not know about proper healthcare and optimum nutritional support needed for healing. How do they get well? Who looks after their care?

From the minute I got home, I felt better. With each passing day, I could feel my strength coming back. Even though it was very rough for my whole family with the TPN bags that needed mixing, the antibiotics that needed to be administered, and my inability to keep up with my son’s busy schedules, we made it through and my CAT scans were finally showing improvement. After one month of no food by mouth, I was finally able to begin eating again slowly. After the second month, I was off of the antibiotics. Six weeks later, my CT scan showed no more infection, no sign of an appendix, and a healed small bowel and colon.

My mother made sure that everything I took in by mouth was easy to digest and packed full of nutrients. I did not have to have laproscopic surgery. There was no more appendix to be removed, it had dissolved maybe because my doctor had given me such a long time to heal. The body is an amazing machine. If given the right nourishment and enough time, it can often heal without major surgery. I couldn’t help but think, why did this happen to me? Why didn’t they catch the appendicitis in San Diego? Why did they give me a dextrose I.V. that caused me to have NO food by mouth for a month? Why did I miss my son’s three year old birthday because I was stuck in a hospital bed? These questions haunted me until I realized that if I could help one person to avoid an experience like mine, all of it would be worth what I went through. If I could tell my story so that an individual could realize that a doctor’s diagnosis is not always correct, medications need to be checked and rechecked before they are administered, that food and chemical intolerances need to be taken seriously, and that technicians can and will make mistakes- it was worth it.

Please know that every doctor is different. Healthcare today is a tricky business. Know your body- it can tell you what you need. I could not have gotten through this experience if it weren’t for my family and friends. I am blessed to have a husband whose unwavering support and love in my time of need will never be forgotten. I am blessed to have a mother and brother who know how to heal the human body with nutrition and the proper vitamins/minerals; who spent hours of their time researching my condition and making sure I was getting the proper care. I am blessed to have a father who would not take no for an answer and found the doctor who would finally allow my body to heal. I am blessed to have family and friends whose love and wishes helped me get through the worst experience of my life. I am blessed to have three wonderful sons that I knew I had to get well for so I could be their mother again. Thank you is not enough. I bless these people. I hope my story will empower you to be your own advocate. Know that you are in charge of your body and only YOU can decide what is truly best for you. Being healthy and alive is God’s greatest gift to humanity.

Carotenoids linked to fewer hip fractures

Increased intakes of antioxidant pigments from plants may lower the risk of hip fracture in older men and women, according to a 17-year study from the US. Of the individual carotenoids studied, lycopene was found to have the greatest protective effect, while beta-carotene had a weak association with fewer hip fractures, according to data published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Researchers from Tufts University, Hebrew SeniorLife, and Boston University, studied data from 370 Caucasian men and 576 Caucasian women with an average age of 75 participating in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. The participants were followed for 17 years. “We found protective associations of total carotenoid and lycopene intake with hip fracture and non-vertebral osteoporotic fracture over 17-years of follow-up,” wrote the authors. “We found that those consuming greater than 4.4 servings/week of lycopene had significantly fewer fractures.”

The highest average intake of all carotenoids was associated with a significantly lower risk of hip fracture, said the researchers. The researchers then looked individual carotenoids and found that higher lycopene intake was associated with a lower risk of hip fracture, and non-vertebral fracture. Furthermore, a weak but statistically un-significant protective trend was recorded total beta-carotene, but only for hip fractures.

Bonnie - this should provide one simple message: eat your vegetables and fruits in a wide variety of colors. It should also put into question bogus research years back that associated beta carotene with increased risk of fractures.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

High-Tech Ways to Extend Your Life

From the Oprah Winfrey Show:

The next life extension tool that Dr. Oz wheels onto Oprah's stage can help you burn 700 calories…without lifting a finger.

Dr. Oz says his in-laws introduced him to the infrared sauna, which is slightly different than a normal sauna. "It makes the same rays that come from the sun and filters out the UV radiation, so it only gives you the infrared radiation," he says. "That radiation that's infrared goes a little bit into your skin so, without heating you up and the external environment too much, it heats the body up."

After a few minutes in the sauna, Oprah says she's starting to feel the heat. Dr. Oz says the high temperature helps lower blood pressure and increase blood circulation. "It gets your heart to beat faster, and it burns calories," Dr. Oz says. "It raises your metabolism a little bit, and also when you sweat, you sweat out toxins through the skin."

Steve - you heard it hear first. We have had an infrared in our office for 18 months already.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Guard Against Advanced Prostate Cancer

Omega-3 fatty acids could help protect men against advanced prostate cancer. Eating fish at least once a week may reduce the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer even if one is genetically predisposed to developing the disease. "Eating a healthy diet that includes dark fish and other sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may decrease risk of more advanced prostate cancer even if one has a cox-2 genetic predisposition to the disease," said lead researcher John S. Witte, a professor in the Institute for Human Genetics, Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. The report is published in the April issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

The researchers found that men who had the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids had a 63 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer compared with men with the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Then the researchers looked at the effect of omega-3 fatty acid in men with a cox-2 variant called rs4647310, a known inflammatory gene. Among men with low omega-3 fatty acid intake and this variant, the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer increased fivefold. However, men who had a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids had a significantly lower risk, even if they had the cox-2 variant.

Steve - this is very positive because the researchers took into account inflammatory genetic polymorphisms. The positive effect explains fish oil's epigenetic effect in not allowing those polymorphisms to express themselves negatively.

'Cleansing' diets lure celebs, but not health experts

Excerpts Courtesy of USA Today

For years, cleansing diets and detox plans have been in the spotlight, fueled by stories of celebrities who followed these strict regimens to lose weight quickly for a movie or an awards show. BeyoncĂ© Knowles has reported losing 20 pounds on the Master Cleanse diet — a plan that involves eating no food but drinking a mixture of fresh lemon juice, organic maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water — for her role in Dreamgirls. Gwyneth Paltrow followed a week-long detox diet after the holidays, cutting out dairy, caffeine and processed foods and drinking a beet-carrot-apple-ginger juice, according to People magazine. Oprah Winfrey blogged about her experiences on a 21-day vegan cleansing diet that was free of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten and animal products.

The plans are supposed to remove chemical and dietary toxins from the body. But weight-loss experts have long been skeptical about the claims, saying there is no scientific evidence such programs do a better job than the body's own organs. They also say many of the plans are deficient in protein and other nutrients. "These kinds of diets are not a reasonable approach to weight loss, and there is no data that they do what they claim," says Gary Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is concerned that the cleanses could be harmful to people who suffer the medical consequences of obesity, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian in New York City, says: "People are always doing them, and it's disheartening because they are sophisticated, smart people who know better, but they are so desperate for a quick fix. You don't experience long-term success on them. You may be less bloated. You may feel lighter. You may be losing some weight, but much of it is water weight."

Bonnie - as I have said before, most detox diets and colon cleanses are not worth their salt. I created two food-based plans called Smart Detox and Smart Cleanse that use food and real nutrients to help cleanse. They do not rely on gimmicks or severe calorie deprivation.

Americans falling short on Vitamin D

Analyzing data from federal health surveys, researchers in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine report that three out of four Americans have "insufficient" levels of vitamin D, up from about one out of two 20 years ago. Insufficient levels were nearly universal among African Americans and Hispanics. Taking supplements is one way of increasing vitamin D levels, as is getting 10 minutes of sunlight on exposed arms and legs two to three times a week.

Bonnie - suffice it to say that the evidence is now overwhelming that there is a vitamin D deficiency epidemic.

Red meat linked to increased mortality

Choosing between red and processed meat, and white meat, may affect how long you live, according to new findings from a study with half a million people. Writing in the new issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from the US’ National Cancer Institute (NCI) report that increased consumption of red and processed meat may have a modestly increased risk of death from all causes and also from cancer or heart disease.

In contrast, high white meat intake and a low-risk meat diet was associated with a small decrease in total and cancer mortality. The study analyzed data from 500,000 participants of the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study aged between 50 and 71 years at the start of the study.

The researchers note that meat may increase mortality rate via several mechanisms. One is the formation of carcinogenic compounds during high-temperature cooking, while another is linked to the high levels of saturated fat.

Bonnie - they fail to mention that processed meats that are loaded with additives that have been linked to carcinogenic activity. They also fail to mention that these mortality rates would NOT be anywhere near these levels if the red meat had been pasture/grass-fed instead of corn and soy fed.

Early soy diet may protect against breast cancer

Asian-American women who ate a lot of soy as children had a 58 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer. "Childhood soy intake was significantly associated with reduced breast cancer risk in our study," said Dr. Larissa Korde of the National Cancer Institute, whose study appears in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Historically, breast cancer rates among white women in the United States are four to seven times higher than in women in China or Japan. But when Asian women emigrate to the United States, their risk for breast cancer rises over several generations, suggesting something other than genetics was at play.

Researchers interviewed nearly 1,600 women of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino descent who were living in San Francisco, Oakland, or Los Angeles, California, or Hawaii. Some 600 had breast cancer and the rest were healthy. If the women had mothers living in the United States, they asked the mothers about their daughter's soy consumption in childhood. Women who consumed the highest amounts of soy in childhood had 58 percent less risk of breast cancer compared with those in the lowest groups.

Bonnie - this makes perfect sense because as I have said for the longest time, fermented soy products are staples of the diet of Far East women. When Asian women emigrate to the U.S., their diet becomes more Westernized, hence, a reduction in fermented soy consumption and the rise in breast cancer over generations.

I want to emphasize that soy milk and soy protein, which are staples in the U.S., do not have the same effect as do fermented soy products like tofu, tempeh, natto, miso, etc.

Stress May Encourage E. Coli Illness

Researchers say they have found a possible link between stress-induced sickness and a diarrhea-causing strain of the E. coli bacterium.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center say the newly discovered QseE receptor, found on the enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) strain, picks up signals when stress hormones are released in the body. Once activated, this pathogen -- which usually enters the body through contaminated food such as raw meat -- sets off a series of reactions that release toxins into the body. This process changes the makeup of other cells and robs the body of nutrients.

"The bacteria get what they want -- nourishment -- and the person ends up getting diarrhea," study senior author Vanessa Sperandio, UT Southwestern associate professor of microbiology, said in a news release issued by the school.

QseE, which is found only in intestinal bacteria, works with the known previously found QseC sensor kinase (enzyme) on the EHEC bacterium. QseC, discovered by Sperandio's lab about three years ago, provides the timing for the bacterium's actions, including the regulation of the genes necessary for EHEC to cause diarrhea. It appears to have a key role in other disease development because its senses stress cues, mostly from body chemicals generally linked to blood poisoning, also known as sepsis.

The findings were published online March 10 and are scheduled to be published in a future print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The human body usually hosts millions of potentially harmful bacteria that stay dormant until they receive a signal that it's to release their toxins. If those signals never arrive, the bacteria pass through the body without harm.

Bonnie - another byproduct of stress. Isn't it just like a pathogen to pick up on our stress on the wreak havoc!

Researchers Hunt Causes of Non-responsive Celiac Disease

A recent study used lactulose hydrogen-breath assays to show that small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is likely a routine cause of non-responsive celiac disease.

A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine recently set out to assess the rates and significance of SIBO in celiac disease based on the results of quantitative culture of intestinal aspirate.

The team was made up of Alberto Rubio-Tapia, M.D., Susan H. Barton, M.D., Joseph A. Murray, M.D., of the Mayo’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Jon E. Rosenblatt, M.D., of the Mayo’s department of Laboratory Medicine and pathology. Their efforts were supported by the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) International Training Grant 2006 (ART) and the NIH grants DK-57892 and DK-070031 (JAM).

The team set out to examine the causes of non-responsive celiac disease by looking at people with celiac disease in whom culture of intestinal aspirate was assessed for the presence of both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. They defined bacterial overgrowth as culture >105 colony forming units/mL.

In all, they evaluated 149 people with biopsy-confirmed celiac disease. They took intestinal aspirate samples from 79 (53%) patients with non-responsive celiac disease, 47 (32%) as initial work-up for mal-absorption, and in 23 (15%) with asymptomatic treated celiac disease.

The team diagnosed 14 cases of SIBO (9.3%), nine cases of non-responsive celiac disease (11%), five cases at initial work-up for mal-absorption (11%), and 0 cases in asymptomatic treated celiac disease. Patients with a positive culture showed signs of worse mal-absorption. 67% of patients with both non-responsive CD and bacterial overgrowth showed a coexistent disorder.

The results showed that nearly 1 in 10 celiac patients had SIBO as diagnosed by quantitative culture of intestinal aspirate (9.3%). This figure included both patients with symptomatic treated or untreated CD. This shows that SIBO may exist along with other maladies associated with non-responsive celiac disease.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fruit extract shows promise as weight-loss aid

An extract derived from a West African fruit may help overweight people shed pounds and lower their cholesterol, a new study suggests.

The extract comes from Irvingia gabonensis, also known as African mango, a fruit commonly eaten in West Africa. Lab research has shown that extracts from the plant's seed may inhibit body fat production, through effects on certain genes and enzymes that regulate metabolism.

For the current study, researchers at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon randomly assigned 102 overweight adults to take either the plant extract or a placebo twice a day for 10 weeks. The study participants did not follow any special diet and were told to maintain their normal exercise levels.

By the end of the study, the extract group had lost a significant amount of weight -- an average of roughly 28 pounds -- while the placebo group showed almost no change.

At the same time, they showed declines in "bad" LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Dr. Julius E. Oben and his colleagues report the findings in the online journal Lipids in Health and Disease. The Fairfield, California- based Gateway Health Alliances, Inc. supplied the Irvingia gabonensis extract and partially funded the research.

The study is the first well-controlled clinical trial of the extract's effectiveness as a weight-loss aid, the researchers note. But the findings, they write, suggest that Irvingia gabonensis could offer a "useful tool" for battling the growing worldwide problem of obesity and its related ills.

A few patients on the extract reported side effects, including headaches, sleep problems and gas, but the rates were similar in the placebo group.

The findings, Oben's team concludes, should "provide impetus for much larger clinical studies."

Steve - it boggles the mind that this study made news. It was partially funded by the company providing the product and was a very small survey size. Mark my words. You will be hearing about this substance like you heard about "hoodia" several years ago. As did hoodia, this Irvingia will fizzle out after millions have wasted their money.

Chronic steroid use can cause osteoporosis

Courtesy of The Daily Herald

Q. Most of my life, my doctors have prescribed steroids for my eczema and psoriasis. Now, a bone-density test shows that I have the bones of an elderly woman. (I am only 50.) I am 5 feet 5 inches and 110 pounds, and this greatly concerns me. I will never take osteoporosis medication because the side effects are terrifying. How can I reverse this? Will sunshine and calcium help?

A. Chronic use of steroids can lead to osteoporosis. I assume this is the cause of your problem. I urge you to start taking 1,000 milligrams to 1,500 milligrams of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D daily immediately.

I recommend you discontinue the steroid medications. Ask your dermatologist about nonsteroid treatments. While psoriasis and eczema are annoying, they are harmless, and home remedies such as medication chest rubs or banana peels can help.

As for osteoporosis medications, speak to your physician or an endocrinologist, who will be able to answer your questions and quell your concerns.

Dr. Peter Gott

Stress can make you sick

Stress can make certain people sick, two new studies have found.

One found that stress triggers spikes in blood sugar among African-American women who carry extra weight around their middles.

The other showed that some men have a genetic predisposition to produce extra stress hormones when they're angry, causing not only blood sugar to rise, but also blood pressure.

Both studies were presented at the recent American Psychosomatic Society conference in Chicago.

"Stress will bring out an underlying disease process in people who are predisposed for some other reason," said Dr. Richard Surwit, chief of Duke University's division of medical psychology and co-author of the study about black women and diabetes.

A second study, by another Duke team, found some men have a genetic variant causing them to release twice as much of the stress hormone cortisol when angered. Cortisol is also released by the adrenal gland and is known to trigger elevated blood sugars and blood pressure.

Understanding mental illness through gene-environment interactions

New studies in Biological Psychiatry address the role of epigenetic mechanisms in controlling behavioral function and dysfunction. Recent findings demonstrate that individuals' life experiences drive changes in the central nervous system, particularly in relation to learning and memory. Mutations of genes are involved in the regulation of histone lysine methylation, a type of epigenetic modification, that are associated with neurodevelopmental diseases, including mental retardation, autism and schizophrenia. They include novel approaches on examining how these mechanisms operate in a healthy or diseased brain. Researchers examine the epigenetics of Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes mental retardation and autistic-like behavior, as it arises from mutations in a gene that is believed to alter synaptic transmission.

In all, these epigenetics papers provide fundamental new insights into the complex issues of gene-environment interactions and will aid future work that attempts to advance our understanding of mental illness.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Improve Your Mood Action Plan

The lack of effectiveness of antidepressants in many persons and side effects that accompany drug therapy has still not curtailed consumption. Unfortunately, more psychiatrists are abandoning the couch for the prescription pad. Therefore, it becomes more important in difficult emotional times to inform our clients about what antidepressant therapies can be successful before choosing medication.

Improve Your Mood Action Plan

We have put together the finest clinical and research-based Action Plan that relies on non-pharmacological therapy to prevent, improve, and overcome Anxiety, Depression, and Stress. Here is a sneak peek:

  • Overcoming Anxiety, Depression and Stress
    For most adults, anxiety and stress are common at some point in their lives. But with the financial climate we’re faced with in the United States at this time in history, anxiety and stress have escalated to an alarming degree. People are losing their jobs, their homes, and their self-respect. Until the financial climate changes, we all need to have tools to deal with these facts of life so that we don’t become clinically depressed. This is one goal our Action Plan hopes to accomplish.

  • Food-Mood Balancing Menu Ideas
    Based upon the best research information regarding types of food, times of day, and amounts of protein/carbs/fats to perfectly balance body chemistry for most people. For instance, raw fruits/vegetables work better during the day to optimize digestion, while cooked vegetables and fruits work best in the evening. A snack is a must to counteract a biorhythm change in mid-afternoon (think about your 3:00-4:00 sleepiness and/or sugar cravings). Fewer carbs are recommended before mid-afternoon for mental alertness, while more are recommended thereafter for a calming/relaxation effect. It is okay to mix and match drink choices, but the protein/carbs/fats should not be interchanged for optimum benefits.
  • Forms, Symptoms, Causes and Tools to Manage Stress
  • Anxiety Therapies
  • Diagnostic Criteria and Non-pharmacological Therapy for Depression

Improve Your Mood Action Plan covers myriad complementary therapies based upon individual need, and does so in laymen terms. We sincerely hope that you use this as your first-line mood disorder therapy.

Probiotics help irritable bowel

Probiotic products, which contain living microbes that aid digestion, may help relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, according to the authors of a study in the journal BMC Gastroenterology.

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common disorder affecting up to 30 percent of the population by some estimates. Symptoms may include chronic abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

Treatment duration ranged from 4 weeks in six studies to 6 weeks in two studies, 8 weeks in three studies, and 6 months in two studies, plus one study of 20 weeks.

Combined data from the studies suggested a modest improvement in overall symptoms after a few weeks of treatment, the authors report. As many as half of the trials reported significant improvements in abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating, and quality of life.

Only a few trials reported side effects connected to treatment, but there were few differences between probiotics and placebo groups in this area.

Steve - nice to see the research for reaffirmation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stressing plants produce stronger functional nutrients?

Stressing plants to induce their natural defences could lead to a new range of functional foods enriched with a plant's natural defensive compounds, phytoalexins. Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture report that stress can lead plants to produce higher levels of these beneficial compounds, which may possess antioxidant and anti-inflammation activity, and maybe even anticancer activity. Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the USDA researchers state that phytoalexins have been largely ignored as nutritional components in human foods. “We propose a new area within functional food research called phytoalexin-enriched foods that utilize induced plant compounds or phytoalexins created either pre- or post-harvest that have been traditionally viewed only as plant defensive compounds, but have beneficial health effects,” wrote lead author Stephen Boue.

Production of the phytoalexins would be achieved by biotic and abiotic elicitors – substances that elicit the production of the phytoalexins – as well as other stress-inducing techniques. This would be done both before harvest and after harvest, they said. The various methods for production of such plants include organic cultivation, which reportedly leaves plants more susceptible to pathogen and insect attack. This may subsequently lead to increases in secondary metabolites as the plants defend themselves. “It is tempting to speculate that in modern agriculture we are limiting at least to some extent the production of health-promoting compounds in our diets that may be present at higher levels in organically grown foods or have been at higher levels in foods grown before the advent of modern agricultural pest control,” wrote the researchers.

Bonnie - it is shocking that this is coming from the USDA. There are some loaded comments here. I would be fine with using the extracts for medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, as we commented on last year, stressed plants also produce more salicylic acid, which many people have problems with.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prostate Cancer Screening Found to Save Few, if Any, Lives

Courtesy of The New York Times

The PSA blood test — the screening test for prostate cancer — saves few if any lives and exposes large numbers of men to risky and unnecessary treatment, two large and rigorous studies have found. The findings raise new questions about the rapid and widespread adoption of the test, which measures a protein released by prostate cells. It was introduced in 1987 and quickly became a routine part of preventive health care. Experts debated its value, basing their views on data that often involved statistical modeling and inferences. Now, with the new data, cancer experts said men should carefully consider the test’s risks and benefits before deciding to be screened.

Some may decide not to be screened at all. The studies, said Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, are “some of the most important studies in the history of men’s health.” For years, the cancer society has urged men to be informed before deciding to have a PSA test. “Now we actually have something to inform them with,” he said. “We’ve got numbers.” Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth who studies cancer screening, also welcomed the new data. “We’ve been waiting years for this,” he said. “It’s a shame we didn’t have it 20 years ago.”

Both reports were published online on Wednesday by The New England Journal of Medicine. One involved 182,000 men in seven European countries; the other, by the National Cancer Institute, involved nearly 77,000 men at 10 medical centers in the United States. In both, participants were randomly assigned to be screened — or not — with the PSA test, whose initials stand for prostate-specific antigen. In each study, the two groups were followed for more than a decade while researchers counted deaths from prostate cancer, asking whether screening made a difference. The European data involved a consortium of studies with different designs.

Taken together, the studies found that screening was associated with a 20 percent relative reduction in the prostate cancer death rate. But the number of lives saved was small — seven fewer prostate cancer deaths for every 10,000 men screened and followed for nine years.

The American study, which had a single design, found no reduction in deaths from prostate cancer after most of the men had been followed for 10 years. Every man has been followed for at least seven years, said Dr. Barnett Kramer, a study co-author at the National Institutes of Health. By seven years, the death rate was 13 percent lower for the unscreened group. The European study saw no benefit of screening in the first seven years of follow-up.

The reason screening saved so few lives, cancer experts say, is that prostate cancers often grow very slowly, if at all, and most never endanger a man if left alone. But when doctors find an early-stage prostate tumor, they cannot tell with confidence whether it will be dangerous so they usually treat all early cancers as if they were life-threatening. As a result, the majority of men, whose early-stage cancers would not harm them, suffer serious effects of cancer therapy but get no benefit. Others, with very aggressive tumors, may not be helped by screening because their cancer has spread by the time it is detected.

In the European study, 48 men were told they had prostate cancer, and needlessly treated for it, for every man whose death was prevented. Dr. Peter B. Bach, a physician and epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, says one way to think of the data is to suppose he has a PSA test today. It leads to a biopsy that reveals he has prostate cancer, and he is treated for it. There is a one in 50 chance that, in 2019 or later, he will be spared death from a cancer that would otherwise have killed him. And there is a 49 in 50 chance that he will have been treated unnecessarily for a cancer that was never a threat to his life or health.

Prostate cancer treatment can result in impotence and incontinence when surgery is used to destroy the prostate, and painful defecation or chronic diarrhea when the treatment is radiation. When the American and European studies began, in the early 1990s, PSA testing was well under way in the United States, and many expected that the screening test would make the prostate cancer death rate plummet by 50 percent or more.

In the meantime, Dr. Brawley said, “I certainly think there’s information here that’s food for thought.” The benefits of prostate cancer screening, he said, are “modest at best and with a greater downside than any other cancer we screen for.”

Bonnie - this is so sad and frustrating to read. I have had countless male clients who received unnecessary procedures because of high PSA's. If you have read my blogs and eNewsletters, you know that I have been very wary of PSA's since the beginning. This is yet another example of "putting the cart ahead of the horse." Billions of dollars in medical procedures and who knows how many life-impaired males later, we are left with a screening "with a greater downside than any other cancer we screen for."

Nutritional Concepts Wins Award.

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Obesity can trim 10 years off life

Weighing too much may take as much as a decade off your life, according to a Lancet study of 900,000 people. Adults who are obese — about 40 or more pounds over a healthy weight — may be cutting about three years off their lives, mostly from heart disease and stroke. Those who are extremely obese, about 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight, could be shortening their lives by as many as 10 years. Being extremely obese is similar to the effect of lifelong smoking, says Richard Peto, one of the lead researchers and a professor of medical statistics at Oxford University in England.

Michael Thun, emeritus vice president of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society. "What is particularly worrisome in the United States is that more than a third of people now qualify as obese, and a subset of people are becoming progressively more obese."

Bonnie - the results of this study should be not come as a surprise. We need to continue to push for fundamental changes starting with:

-More variety in the food we grow (i.e. vastly increase growing of fruits and vegetables)
-Reduce the amount of heavily processed food
-Alter the USDA Food Pyramid and Dietary Guidelines from being grain/milk-dominated to a more Modified
Mediterranean style

-Improve the national school lunch program
-Create transparency in restaurant food by putting nutritional labeling on the menus
-Further educate physicians and other health professionals who receive little nutritional training
-Severely curtail junk food/brand marketing to children
-Increase public awareness about nutritional prevention

There are many other detailed suggestions, but without the aforementioned, they do not hold much weight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

EWG Shopper's Guide to Pesticides

Environmental Working Group

Most Contaminated Produce: THE DIRTY DOZEN

Consistent with two previous EWG investigations, fruits topped the list of the consistently most contaminated fruits and vegetables, with seven of the 12 most contaminated foods. The seven were peaches leading the list, then apples, nectarines and strawberries, cherries, and imported grapes, and pears. Among these seven fruits:

  • Nectarines had the highest percentage of samples test positive for pesticides (97.3 percent), followed by peaches (96.7 percent) and apples (94.1 percent).
  • Peaches had the highest likelihood of multiple pesticides on a single sample - 87.0 percent had two or more pesticide residues — followed by nectarines (85.3 percent) and apples (82.3 percent).
  • Peaches and apples had the most pesticides detected on a single sample, with nine pesticides on a single sample, followed by strawberries and imported grapes where eight pesticides were found on a single sample of each fruit.
  • Peaches had the most pesticides overall, with some combination of up to 53 pesticides found on the samples tested, followed by apples with 50 pesticides and strawberries with 38.

Sweet bell peppers, celery, kale, lettuce, and carrots are the vegetables most likely to expose consumers to pesticides. Among these five vegetables:

  • Celery had the highest of percentage of samples test positive for pesticides (94.1 percent), followed by sweet bell peppers (81.5 percent) and carrots (82.3 percent).
  • Celery also had the highest likelihood of multiple pesticides on a single vegetable (79.8 percent of samples), followed by sweet bell peppers (62.2 percent) and kale (53.1 percent).
  • Sweet bell peppers had the most pesticides detected on a single sample (11 found on one sample), followed by kale (10 found on one sample), then lettuce and celery (both with nine).
  • Sweet bell peppers were the vegetable with the most pesticides overall, with 64, followed by lettuce with 57 and carrots with 40.

Least Contaminated Produce: THE CLEAN FIFTEEN

The vegetables least likely to have pesticides on them are onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

  • Over half of the tomatoes (53.1 percent), broccoli (65.2 percent), eggplant (75.4 percent), cabbage (82.1 percent), and sweet pea (77.1 percent) samples had no detectable pesticides. Among the other three vegetables on the least-contaminated list (asparagus, sweet corn, and onions), there were no detectable residues on 90 percent or more of the samples.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on any of these least contaminated vegetables. Tomatoes had the highest likelihood, with a 13.5 percent chance of more than one pesticide when ready to eat. Onions and corn both had the lowest chance with zero samples containing more than one pesticide.
  • The greatest number of pesticides detected on a single sample of any of these low-pesticide vegetables was five (as compared to 11 found on sweet bell peppers, the vegetable with the most residues on a single sample).
  • Broccoli had the most pesticides found on a single type of vegetable, with up to 28 pesticides, but far fewer than the most contaminated vegetable, sweet bell peppers, on which 64 were found.

The fruits least likely to have pesticide residues on them are avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, papayas, watermelon and grapefruit.

  • Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples had detectable pesticides on them, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue.
  • Though 54.5 percent of grapefruit had detectable pesticides, multiple residues are less common, with only 17.5 percent of samples containing more than one residue. Watermelon had residues on 28.1 percent of samples, and just 9.6 percent had multiple pesticide residues.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mushrooms, green tea may lower breast cancer risk

Women who get plenty of mushrooms and green tea in their diets may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. The study, of more than 2,000 Chinese women, found that the more fresh and dried mushrooms the women ate, the lower was their breast cancer risk.

The risk was lower still among those who also drank green tea everyday.

It's known that the rate of breast cancer in China is four- to five- times lower than rates typically seen in developed countries -- though the rate has been climbing over the past few decades in the most affluent parts of China.

The current findings suggest that traditional diets -- and specifically, large quantities of mushrooms and green tea -- may help explain China's lower breast cancer incidence, according to lead researcher Dr. Min Zhang, of the University of Western Australia in Perth.

She and her colleagues report the findings in the International Journal of Cancer.

The study was conducted in southeast China and involved 1,009 breast cancer patients between the ages of 20 and 87, and an equal number of healthy women the same age. All completed a detailed dietary questionnaire that asked them how often they ate specific foods.

Overall, Zhang's team found, women who ate the most fresh mushrooms -- 10 grams or more per day -- were about two thirds less likely to develop breast cancer than non-consumers of mushrooms. Meanwhile, women who ate 4 grams or more of dried mushrooms per day had half the cancer risk of non-consumers.

Finally, mushroom eaters who also drank green tea everyday had only 11 to 18 percent of the breast cancer risk of women who consumed neither.

Bonnie - while we are not going to eat 10 grams or more of mushrooms daily, what is most telling in this study is the revelation that affluent parts of China are seeing increases in cancer. The diets of these groups are more Westernized and less Chinese.

Calcium may boost weight loss

Calcium supplements for obese people with low calcium levels could produce weight loss of up to six kilograms, says a new study from the British Journal of Nutrition. Researchers from the Université Laval report that additional calcium from a supplement affected appetite in obese women with average daily calcium intakes of less than 600 milligrams.

Overweight and obese women (average age 43, average BMI 32 kg/m2) were assigned to a 15-week weight-reducing program supplemented with either a daily calcium plus vitamin D supplement (1200 mg calcium and 10 micrograms vitamin D), or placebo. All the women had daily calcium intakes of less than 800 mg. At the end of the study, the researchers reported that the calcium plus vitamin D supplements had no statistically significant improvement in fat loss, relative to placebo. However, when the researchers limited their analysis to women with very low-calcium intakes, defined as less that 600 milligrams, they found that weight loss was almost 6 kg, compared to 1 kg for women in the control group. The change in the women’s fat mass was related to a change in lipid intake, they added. “We propose that this change in lipid intake could be influenced by a calcium-specific appetite control,” wrote the researchers. Dr Tremblay added that sufficient calcium consumption is therefore important to ensuring the success of any weight loss program. Over 50% of obese women who come to the clinic run by his research team do not consume the recommended daily intake, he added.

Bonnie - this shows that you do not need dairy calcium to encourage weight loss.