Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Pill To Treat Multiple Sclerosis

A new drug for multiple sclerosis can dramatically reduce the chances of a relapse or a deterioration of the condition, according to a new study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Taking a course of cladribine tablets just a few times a year can reduce the chances of a relapse by well over 50 per cent. And patients who took part in the study suffered very few side effects.

If it becomes available to patients, cladribine will be the first licensed treatment for MS which does not involve regular injections. The new study involved over 1,300 MS patients who were followed up for nearly two years. Patients were given either two or four treatment courses of cladribine tablets per year, or a placebo. Each course consists of a single tablet per day for four or five days, adding up to just eight to 20 days of treatment each year. During the trial patients were monitored using MRI scans.

Compared to patients who were taking a placebo, those taking cladribine tablets were over 55 per cent less likely to suffer a relapse and 30 per cent less likely to suffer worsening in their disability due to MS.

Researchers will continue to follow the patients in the trial to see how they fare in the long-term. Cladribine tablets work by suppressing the immune system, reducing the risk of further damage to a patient's nervous system.

Steve - while this looks promising, you need more than two years to gauge any long-term effects.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

1700 could get swine flu in US


As people around the world anxiously refresh Internet maps showing new locations of suspected swine flu infections, a Northwestern University professor has already mapped out the worst case scenario for the outbreak.

In four weeks, around 1,700 Americans could be infected with the disease, according to a model programmed by Dirk Brockmann, associate professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at Northwestern. About 100 of those cases would be in Chicago, Brockmann said. But Brockmann said his model, based on direct and indirect measures of human mobility, predicts the spread of the disease as if no interventions are put in place to slow its spread.

Given the worldwide attention on the disease by public health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, he would expect actual numbers to be much lower.

Even the worst case scenario of 1,700 infections is a relatively low number given the media attention, Brockmann said, though he understands the growing fear.

"When people get this information, they immediately see themselves as one of the 1,700, not part of the other 299 million," Brockmann said.

Brockmann began creating computer models of pandemics in 2004 after the SARS scare in China, using data on air travel and the movement of dollar bills as measures of how humans move around the world and potentially carry disease. The models present a new analogy of how disease travels in our interconnected world, Brockmann said.

"If everyone traveled like they did in the 14th century, everything would spread like forest fires," Brockmann said. "But when modern travel is involved, the spatial-temporal pattern is much more complex. It's sort of like exploding stars."

Thus travel hubs like New York, Miami and Chicago should see the first cases of the disease, and Brockmann said he was not surprised to hear about the first suspected case in Chicago this morning. He reserved his surprise for the fact that his model agreed with a separate model from Indiana University researchers predicting the spread using completely different data.

"We were very happy that the modeling approach works," Brockmann said. "Of course in this context, saying we're very happy is weird."

-- Robert Mitchum

Whole Foods opening third largest store in Chicago's Lincoln Park in May

(Jean Lachat/Sun-Times)

The third-largest Whole Foods store in the world opens May 20 in Lincoln Park, introducing Chicagoans to a riverwalk, seven neighborhood-themed eateries, mix-and-match cookie and trail-mix stations, and express checkout lanes with a screen directing shoppers to the next open cashier.

The new 75,000-square-foot store includes a 420-car indoor parking lot (free with store purchase), a twice-as-big wine department, a cosmetics makeup counter and bath-salt bar, and bigger selections of goods for babies and children, including a line of frozen children's food.

True to Whole Foods' reputation for food as theater, shoppers enter a colorfully laid-out produce section ringed by old-style Chicago street lights, a faux water tower, loft-like high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling natural lighting. The seven eateries sport their own themes and decor: Wicker Park Subs, Pilsen Taqueria, Taylor Street Pizza, Asian Express, the retro Riverview Diner, Da Vine wine and cheese bar and the Chicago Smokehouse and Rotisserie.

The store has Wi-Fi, seating for 200 in the mezzanine, a lounge area, outdoor tables overlooking the river, and a stage for music and presentations at the entryway coffee and beer bar. If every seat were occupied, the eating and lounge areas would hold 400.

Steve - wow. I can't wait to see it. It sounds like a theme park.

"Good" cholesterol may guard against MS disability

High levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol may help protect against disabilities related to multiple sclerosis or MS. HDL has anti-inflammatory properties and thus it might benefit MS, a disease of chronic inflammation. Preliminary data to support this theory were reported today at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Seattle. The findings, study investigator Dr. Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, suggest that people with MS should have their HDL levels checked. If they're low, consider dietary and medical interventions, such as niacin and fish oil (omega -3) supplements, which are known to increase HDL levels. Further studies regarding the relationship between HDL levels and MS disease progression are warranted, the investigators conclude. Increase in HDL is an important factor known to prevent cardiovascular events but also appears beneficial in preventing chronic inflammation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More of Autsim's possible links

Children who are firstborn or breech or whose mothers are 35 or older when giving birth are at significantly greater risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder.

In the April 27, 2009, online issue of the journal Pediatrics, the researchers showed that women who give birth at 35 or older are 1.7 times more likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), compared with women between the ages of 20-34. Children diagnosed with ASD also were nearly 1.8 times more likely to be the firstborn child, the researchers found.

Although they didn't identify a causal relationship between breech births and autism, children diagnosed with the disorder were more than twice as likely to have been a breech presentation, meaning they were not born head first.

The study looked at 8-year-old children in Utah's three most populous counties—Salt Lake, Davis, and Utah—and used nationally accepted criteria for an ASD classification. The researchers compared birth records for children identified with an ASD with unaffected children born in those three counties in 1994. Of that group, 196 were identified with an ASD. Birth certificates were available for 132 of those children, and the researchers examined those records for possible prenatal, perinatal, and neonatal risk factors related to ASD.

Their investigation showed that the mother's age when giving birth (older than 34), breech presentation, and being firstborn were significant risk factors for the development of an ASD. The researchers also identified a small but significant relationship between the increased duration of education among mothers of those children.

Bonnie - the aspect of women over 35 is compelling, especially since recent studies showed older men having children shows a greater rate of autism as well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

When unhealthy foods hijack overeaters' brains

Food hijacked Dr. David Kessler's brain. Not apples or carrots. The scientist who once led the government's attack on addictive cigarettes can't wander through part of San Francisco without craving a local shop's chocolate-covered pretzels. Stop at one cookie? Rarely.

It's not an addiction but it's similar, and he's far from alone. Kessler's research suggests millions share what he calls "conditioned hypereating" _ a willpower-sapping drive to eat high-fat, high-sugar foods even when they're not hungry.

In a book being published next week, the former Food and Drug Administration chief brings to consumers the disturbing conclusion of numerous brain studies: Some people really do have a harder time resisting bad foods. It's a new way of looking at the obesity epidemic that could help spur fledgling movements to reveal calories on restaurant menus or rein in portion sizes.

"The food industry has figured out what works. They know what drives people to keep on eating," Kessler tells The Associated Press. "It's the next great public health campaign, of changing how we view food, and the food industry has to be part of it."

He calls the culprits foods "layered and loaded" with combinations of fat, sugar and salt _ and often so processed that you don't even have to chew much.

Overeaters must take responsibility, too, and basically retrain their brains to resist the lure, he cautions.

Unhealthy foods high in fat, sugar and salt tend to be cheap; they're widely sold; and advertising links them to good friends and good times, even as social norms changed to make snacking anytime, anywhere acceptable.

Steve - where was this David Kessler when he was the head of the FDA from 1990-1997? You could postulate that the numerous public health problems we face today were compounded during his tenure with the various incarnations of the deplorable Dietary Guidelines for Americans and sucking up to Big food, the same lobby he calls out in the aformentioned piece.

Meditation helps depression

People with severe and recurrent depression could benefit from a new form of therapy that combines ancient forms of meditation with modern cognitive behavior therapy, early-stage research by Oxford University psychologists suggests.

The results of a small-scale randomized trial of the approach, called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), in currently depressed patients are published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.

28 people currently suffering from depression, having also had previous episodes of depression and thoughts of suicide, were randomly assigned into two groups. One received MBCT in addition to treatment as usual, while the other just received treatment as usual. Treatment with MBCT reduced the number of patients with major depression, while it remained the same in the other group.

Study links ADHD medicine with better test scores

Children on medicine for attention deficit disorder scored higher on academic tests than their unmedicated peers in the first large, long-term study suggesting this kind of benefit from the widely used drugs. The nationally representative study involved nearly 600 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder followed from kindergarten through fifth grade. Children's scores on several standardized math and reading tests taken during those years were examined. Compared with unmedicated kids, average scores for medicated children were almost three points higher in math and more than five points higher in reading. The difference amounts to about three months ahead in reading and two months in math, the researchers said. Both groups had lower scores on average than a separate group of children without ADHD. The researchers acknowledged that gap but said the benefits for medicated youngsters were still notable. "We're not trying to say in this study that medication is the only answer," but the results suggest benefits that parents, educators and policy-makers shouldn't ignore, said Richard Scheffler, the lead author and professor at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Public Health. The researchers agreed that other treatment ADHD children often receive — including behavior therapy and tutoring — can help, but the study didn't look at those measures. Most ADHD drug users in the study were on stimulants; the study didn't identify which ones. About 4 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with ADHD. About half of them take prescription medication — often powerful stimulants like Ritalin — to control the extreme fidgetiness and impulsive behavior that characterize the condition. Often, kids with ADHD struggle in class and get lower grades than their classmates. They also have higher dropout rates. American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines say stimulant drugs are effective but that behavior techniques should also be used. Teachers often advocate medication because it can calm disruptive behavior. But it's a contentious issue for many parents, worried about putting their kids on drugs that can have side-effects including decreased appetite, weight loss and insomnia. Previous evidence suggests teachers give higher grades to ADHD kids on medication, but the study authors said that might simply mean teachers prefer them because they're better behaved than unmedicated children. They said theirs is the largest, longest-duration study based on objective standardized academic tests suggesting that medicated kids may be better learners, too. Psychiatrist Dr. Bennett Leventhal, who was not involved in the study, called the results impressive. "It doesn't mean that every child with ADHD should be taking medication," but previous studies have suggested that most affected kids can benefit, said Leventhal, a University of Illinois-Chicago psychiatry professor. The study appears in the May issue of Pediatrics, released Monday. A federal grant paid for the research; the authors said they have no financial ties to ADHD drugmakers. Dr. Louis Kraus, a psychiatrist with Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, said he worries the study will make parents turn to medication without considering other options.

Bonnie - the philosophy behind this study sets a dangerous precedent and opens up the "can of worms" which is the ever-widening abuse of these class of medications.

For those of you who did not read last week's New Yorker, it exposes a sobering new world where these medications are considered "neuroenhancers" by those who abuse them. The piece argues the idea of these attention drugs being accepted as part of the framework of creating a "more productive" society.

These medications are being abused by millions who do not have attention deficit issues, but take them to get ahead by staying more alert and focused on less sleep. Who is to say that parents who learn of this study will not consider trying to access these medications for perfectly healthy children because they want them to get ahead?

In this ever-intense world where technology pushes society at light-speed, if these class of medications can increase output 3 or 4 percent by allowing us to sleep less and focus more, how many would resist, even knowing that there are no studies about the long-term efects on healthy persons?

Keep an eye on this issue, it will be huge.

Organic apples beat conventionals on antioxidants

Organically produced apples have a 15 per cent higher antioxidant capacity than conventionally produced apples, according to findings published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. A report published in March 2008 by the Organic Center at America’s Organic Trade Association argued that organic produce is 25 per cent more nutritious than conventional foodstuffs. However, these claims were countered by Joseph Rosen, emeritus professor at Rutgers University and scientific advisor to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) who said the data was selective, and that, when recalculated, the data used in the original report showed that conventional products are actually 2 per cent more nutritious than organic varieties.

Study details Watzl and his co-workers compared the polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity of Golden Delicious apples grown under organic and conventional conditions over a three year period (2004-2006).

Steve - the debate goes on. As far as we are concerned, however, there is no debate. Organic all the way.

FDA warns of salmonella in sprouts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told people on Sunday not to eat raw alfalfa sprouts, saying they may be contaminated with salmonella. The contamination appears to be in seeds so washing the sprouts may not help, the FDA said in a statement. "Other types of sprouts have not been implicated at this time," the agency said. "FDA will work with the alfalfa sprout industry to help identify which seeds and alfalfa sprouts are not connected with this contamination, so that this advisory can be changed as quickly as possible." The FDA said 31 Salmonella Saintpaul infections have been seen in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia. "Some reported eating raw sprouts at restaurants; others reported purchasing the raw sprouts at the retail level," the FDA said. "This outbreak appears to be an extension of an earlier outbreak in 2009. In February and March, an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul infections occurred in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota," the FDA added.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vitamin D and BMD

Among men and women, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] status seemed to be the dominant predictor of bone mass density (BMD) relative to calcium intake according to (J Bone Miner Res. 2009;24:935-942). To study the relative importance of dietary calcium intake and 25(OH)D status in regard to hip BMD, 4,958 community-dwelling women and 5,003 men 20 years or older in age from the U.S. NHANES III population-based survey were studied. Calcium supplement users and individuals with a prior radius or hip fracture were excluded.

A higher calcium intake was significantly associated with higher BMD only for women with 25(OH)D status less than 50 nM, whereas calcium intake beyond the upper end of the lowest quartile (more than 566 mg/d) was not significantly associated with BMD at 25(OH)D concentrations more than 50 nM. Among men, there was no significant association between a higher calcium intake beyond the upper end of the lowest quartile (626 mg/d) and BMD within all 25(OH)D categories. Among both sexes, BMD increased stepwise and significantly with higher 25(OH)D concentrations. Only women with 25(OH)D concentrations less than 50 nM seem to benefit from a higher calcium intake.

Sleeping pill consumption on the rise

Excerpts Courtesy of the NY Times

More than one in four Americans say they are literally losing sleep over the economic downturn — tossing and turning over personal finances, the economy, job security or health care costs. Those were the results of a poll released last month by the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit group. It is little surprise, then, that some over-the-counter sleeping pills have been doing a brisk business in recent months.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that 30 percent of Americans have trouble sleeping and 10 percent have some form of insomnia; their daytime symptoms include moodiness as well as impaired concentration and memory. But economic factors do weigh heavily. According to a recent report by the market research firm Packaged Facts, the age group most likely to suffer from insomnia are people 55 to 64 years old, who may suffer from arthritis or other ailments and are 26 percent more likely than the average consumer to buy pain-relieving sleep aids. “Not only does this age group have to deal with the pains of getting old, but they are also most affected by the financial crisis, a huge headache in and of itself,” the Packaged Facts report said.

Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the sleep disorders program at Northwestern University, says she has had patients for whom over-the-counter pills have been effective, but she added that the medicines were not risk-free and discouraged using them more than occasionally. “If you take something like Advil PM intermittently when you have pain and can’t sleep, that’s a reasonable approach,” Dr. Zee said. “But I don’t think there really have been long-term studies to look at their safety and efficacy when taken on a long-term basis.” In a 2005 report about insomnia, the National Institutes of Health cited “significant concerns about risks” of such antihistamine sleeping pills, including “residual daytime sedation, diminished cognitive function and delirium, the latter being of particular concern in the elderly."

Steve - there are numerous natural therapies that can be explored for sleep issues as we outlined in our recent Sleep Well Action Plan.

Which antioxidants are stable when cooking vegetables

Some vegetable cooking methods may be better than others when it comes to maintaining beneficial antioxidant levels, according to a new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists. Results showed that, depending on the vegetable, cooking on a flat metal surface with no oil (griddling) and microwave cooking maintained the highest antioxidant levels.

Fruits and vegetables are considered to be the major contributors of nutritional antioxidants, which may prevent cancer and other diseases. Because of their high antioxidant levels and low-calorie content, consumers are encouraged to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Researchers examined how various cooking methods affected antioxidant activity by analyzing six cooking methods with 20 vegetables. The six cooking methods were boiling, pressure-cooking, baking, microwaving, griddling and frying. Their findings showed the following:

  • The highest antioxidant loss was observed in cauliflower after boiling and microwaving, peas after boiling, and zucchini after boiling and frying.
  • Green beans, beets, and garlic were found to keep their antioxidant levels after most cooking treatments.
  • The vegetables that increased their antioxidant levels after all cooking methods were green beans (except green beans after boiling), celery and carrots.
  • Artichoke was the only vegetable that kept its high antioxidant level during all the cooking methods.

Griddle- and microwave-cooking helped maintain the highest levels of antioxidants, produced the lowest losses while “pressure-cooking and boiling [led] to the greatest losses,” says lead researcher A. M. JimĂ©nez-Monreal. “In short, water is not the cook’s best friend when it comes to preparing vegetables.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Painkillers May Increase Dementia

New research suggests that older people who want to avoid Alzheimer's disease by taking daily doses of painkillers such as ibuprofen and naproxen might not be the best idea. "If people are thinking, 'Should I take these to prevent dementia?', the answer based on our study would be no," said study author Dr. Eric B. Larson, executive director of the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle. The findings appear in the April 22 online issue of Neurology.

In their study, the drugs in question include ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) and others. People who used the drugs extensively were 66 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who didn't, according to statistics that were adjusted to account for the number of participants with certain medical conditions. The drugs themselves may not be the problem. Instead, Larson suggested, they could be a sign of chronic medical problems. "The heavy users [of painkillers] had more diabetes, more arthritis, more signs of heart failure," he said. "It's very likely that what you're seeing is people using these medications because they're beginning to fail in their life."

Steve - maybe so, but painkillers are DEFINITELY not the answer for these subjects.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Burned meat linked to pancreatic cancer

People who regularly eat burned or charred red meat, like that cooked on a grill, have a 60 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer. The finding is one of the strongest yet linking very well-done meat, especially red meat, to cancer. "Our findings in this study are further evidence that turning down the heat when grilling, frying, and barbecuing to avoid excess burning or charring of the meat may be a sensible way for some people to lower their risk for getting pancreatic cancer," Kristin Anderson of the University of Minnesota, who led the study, said in a statement. "I've focused my research on pancreatic cancer for some time to identify ways to prevent this cancer because treatments are very limited and the cancer is often rapidly fatal," said Anderson.

Charred meat contains several known cancer-causing chemicals, including heterocyclic amines. Many studies have linked these compounds with cancer risk, although they have mostly been based on people remembering what they ate in the past. Anderson's team started with 62,000 healthy people and documented what they actually did eat. Over nine years, 208 were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When divided into five groups based on how much charred meat such as hamburgers they ate, the people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer were far more likely to be in the top two groups. "Those with the highest intake of very well-done meat had a 70 percent higher risk for pancreatic cancer over those with the lowest consumption."

Steve - we talked about this in one of our recent Soy & Red Meat: Pros & Cons blog entry.

Even a Dietitian Can Find It Hard to Craft a Diet That Covers All the Bases

by Jennifer Huget
Washington Post

My challenge: To meet all the daily nutrition standards in the federal government's guidelines without taking a multivitamin or other dietary supplement.

My accomplice: Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian based in Fairfax.

As I popped my multivitamin the other morning, I got to wondering how hard it would be to consume all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients recommended by the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans without the help of that daily pill. Like many people, I've used my multivitamin as a safety net to ensure that my body gets what it needs to stay healthy even when my diet isn't all it should be. But talking with experts and reading medical studies has made me question whether nutrients delivered in supplement form pack the same punch as those same nutrients delivered via real food. If possible, I'd prefer to go the real-food route. But how hard would it be to fit everything in without consuming more calories than I should?

Danielle Omar was curious, too, and joined the challenge with gusto. She proposed creating a day's menu for a hypothetical 35-year-old, 5-foot-4-inch woman who weighs 130 pounds and exercises three times a week. (Not quite my profile, but Omar thought it was a good model to use.) That woman would require 1,800 calories per day to maintain her weight. That ought to be do-able, right? But the project proved more challenging than we expected.

Omar took a first pass without doing all the math; she used her general knowledge to devise a basic plan that she figured would cover all the nutritional bases. She aimed to exclude processed foods and all caloric beverages other than milk. She tried not to cop out by offering just a salad for lunch, opting instead for a turkey sandwich and a cup of soup. When she crunched the numbers, though (using the calculator at, she found that some parts of her plan were out of whack. She wasn't offering nearly enough iron, Vitamin D or potassium, and she'd gone way overboard on sodium: about 4,500 milligrams more than the recommended limit of 1,500. The potassium/sodium mix is particularly important in regulating hypertension: Too much sodium raises blood pressure in most people, while potassium lowers it.

So Omar went back to the drawing board. At first it looked like a lot of food. But on closer inspection it seemed awfully meager, more like a weight-loss diet than a maintenance regimen. That piece of salmon weighs four ounces before it's cooked; it's a lot lighter by the time it reaches your plate. And measure out that half-cup of rice: It's a lot smaller than the portion most of us are accustomed to. There's no wiggle room, either. Squeezing all those nutrients into 1,800 calories means no dessert and no alcohol, not even a glass of wine with dinner. And even with eliminating cheese and substituting low-sodium foods for regular versions wherever possible, Omar still couldn't wrestle the sodium down to the target; her menu contains more than 1,000 more milligrams of sodium than the recommended limit. Although she has eight years of experience as a professional dietitian, Omar found this exercise eye-opening.

Here are some tips she learned, if you want to try the no-supplement route yourself:

-- Resign yourself to eating some processed foods, such as cereal and bread, but be selective. When choosing a processed food, Omar suggests, be sure it's helping you meet your goals by delivering fiber, protein or potassium; many processed foods are fortified with calcium, folic acid and other needed nutrients. And read nutrition-facts panels carefully: Omar says she couldn't have met the goal for iron without trading traditional slow-cooking oatmeal, which she would have preferred for its lack of sodium, for packaged microwave oatmeal, which is fortified with that mineral. The trade-off: Processed foods -- including that microwave oatmeal -- are often full of sodium.

-- Sneak in as many fruits and vegetables as you can. Add spinach to your sandwich; dip baby carrots in your hummus. But be aware that you're still likely to fall short: For instance, it would take 11 bananas to meet the target for potassium. (Beans, potatoes and orange juice are other prime sources of this nutrient.)

-- Avail yourself of ground spices and herbs, which are surprisingly rich sources of such essentials as iron and potassium. Omar says cinnamon, thyme, rosemary and paprika are particularly rich in those minerals.

-- Be aware that the daily values listed on food packages are based on a 2,000-calorie diet, so you should use the percentages listed there just to ballpark your intake of calories, fat, fiber and other items. Also note that each person's requirements are different and are affected by such factors as sex and age.

In the end, Omar concluded that supplementing your diet may be prudent, particularly when it comes to Vitamin D, which most of us don't get nearly enough of and which we're learning is more important in maintaining health and preventing disease than we thought. Omar adds that we might want to also consider supplementing with calcium, Omega-3 fatty acids (for cardiovascular health) and folic acid.

Bonnie - as I have always said, diet is 75% and supplements are 25%. You need supplements. Believe me folks, to get a registered dietitian to say you need supplements is a miracle! I do not agree with many of her suggestions, but it just shows that it is near impossible to get all the nutrients needed through food alone. It also shows why you need an expert to individualize your supplemental nutrient needs.

IBS linked to Celiac Disease

In patients meeting diagnostic criteria for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the prevalence of biopsy-proved celiac disease was more than quadruple that in control individuals without IBS, according to the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis reported in the April 13 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Prevalence of biopsy-proved celiac disease in cases meeting diagnostic criteria for IBS was more than 4-fold that in controls without IBS," the study authors write. "If screening is to be undertaken, then EMA or tTGA testing should be preferred to IgA class AGA testing because of a higher positive predictive value, although the yield will depend on the prevalence in the population being studied."

Bonnie - this makes perfect sense to me based upon my clinical experience with IBS.

Lab study shows how fish oil protects us from Parkinson's

Dr. Nicolas Bazan, Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence, Boyd Professor, and Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Chair of Retinal Degenerative Diseases Research at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, will present new research findings showing that an omega three fatty acid in the diet protects brain cells by preventing the misfolding of a protein resulting from a gene mutation in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's. He will present these findings for the first time on April 19, 2009 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Nouvelle C Room, at the American Society for Nutrition, Experimental Biology 2009 Annual Meeting.

With funding from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Bazan and his colleagues found that the omega three fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), protects cells from a genetic defect. Dr. Bazan's laboratory discovered earlier that neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), a naturally-occurring molecule in the human brain that is derived from DHA also promotes brain cell survival. In this system NPD1 is capable of rescue the dying cells with the pathological type of Ataxin-1, keeping their integrity intact. "These experiments provide proof of principle that neuroprotectin D1 can be applied therapeutically to combat various neurodegenerative diseases," says Dr. Bazan. "Furthermore, this study provides the basis of new therapeutic approaches to manipulate retinal pigment epithelial cells to be used as a source of NPD1 to treat patients with disorders characterized by this mutation like Parkinson's, Retinitis Pigmentosa and some forms of Alzheimer's Disease."

Steve - something to keep an eye on. For those of us already eating fatty fish and supplementing with EPA/DHA, we are getting the benefit already.

Higher Intake of Beta-Carotene Lower Metabolic Syndrome Risk

Higher total carotenoid intakes, mainly those of beta-carotene and lycopene, were associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and with lower measures of adiposity and serum triglyceride concentrations in 374 middle-aged and elderly men (40-80 years) in a Journal Nutrition study. Higher total carotenoid, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lycopene intakes were associated with lower waist circumferences and visceral and subcutaneous fat mass. Higher lycopene intake was related to lower serum triglyceride concentrations.

Low magnesium levels may increase stroke risk

Low blood levels of magnesium may increase the risk of stroke by 25 per cent, suggest findings from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. More magnesium, potassium and calcium has been inversely linked to hypertension in some observational studies. The new study supports the potential of magnesium to reduce the risk of stroke possibly via an anti-hypertensive mechanism, A large portion of adults does not meet the RDA for magnesium (320 mg per day for women and 420 mg per day for men). Study details Over 14,000 men and women aged between 45 and 64 took part in the study, and during the course of 15 years of follow-up the researchers documented 577 cases of ischemic stroke. The incidence of stroke was highest amongst diabetics and people with hypertension, added the researchers. Blood levels of magnesium were negatively associated with the risk of stroke.

A recent study by researchers at Stockholm's Karolinska Institutet, reported that for every 100 milligram increase in magnesium intake, the risk of developing type-2 diabetes decreased by 15 per cent (Journal of Internal Medicine).

Bonnie - a long, prevention-based structure such as this is exactly how nutrient studies should be performed. While the results are not surprising to me, it does the heart good to see such positives for my favorite nutrient.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FTC shreds claim that Mini-Wheats help kids concentrate

It looks like Frosted Mini-Wheats don't improve kids' attention span, after all.

Kellogg Co. has agreed to a deal to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that accused the cereal maker of making unsubstantiated health claims about the sugary cereal.

The FTC had accused Kellogg of falsely claiming the attentiveness of children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats at breakfast improved by nearly 20 percent, compared with kids who skipped breakfast.

But the study the ads refer to found a benefit from eating Frosted Mini-Wheats in only half the children studied, and only 11 percent of the kids' attention improved by 20 percent, according to the FTC.

Steve - if you have kids that watch Disney, Nickelodeon, etc., you know there are numerous examples of this. For those who do not frequent these channels, watch for just an hour. You will be appalled at the junk food marketing.

Breastfeeding 'protects mother'

Women who breastfeed their babies may be lowering their own risk of a heart attack, heart disease or stroke, research suggests. A US study found women who breastfed for more than a year were 10% less likely to develop the conditions than those who never breastfed. Even breastfeeding for at least a month may cut the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The research features in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them

The latest US study, by the University of Pittsburgh, focused on nearly 140,000 post-menopausal women. On average, it had been 35 years since the women had last breastfed - suggesting the beneficial impact lasts for decades. As well as cutting the risk of heart problems, breastfeeding for more than a year cut the risk of high blood pressure by 12%, and diabetes and high cholesterol by around 20%. Fat stores It has been suggested that breastfeeding may reduce cardiovascular risk by reducing fat stores in the body. However, the researchers believe the effect is more complex, with the release of hormones stimulated by breastfeeding also playing a role. Researcher Dr Eleanor Bimla Schwarz said: "We have known for years that breastfeeding is important for babies' health; we now know that it is important for mothers' health as well.

Bonnie - wow. If this cannot compel a woman to sacrifice for a year to breastfeed, I don't know what will.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Melatonin May Ease Sleep Problems in Autistic Children

Over-the-counter melatonin supplements may help treat sleep problems in children with autism, a small U.S. study shows. The study included 12 children, aged 2 to 15 years, with autism spectrum disorder, fragile X syndrome (FXS), or both. The participants were randomly selected to take melatonin or a placebo for two weeks. After they completed the first two weeks of the study, the children were switched over to the alternate treatment for another two weeks. Taking the melatonin increased sleep duration by 21 minutes, shortened sleep-onset latency by 28 minutes, and reduced sleep-onset time by 42 minutes, compared to the placebo. The findings were published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Bonnie - while a very small study, it could be very helpful to parents and their children that have autism. I would recommend that they be tested for their melatonin levels before taking it, however.

Tons of released drugs taint US water

Courtesy of Associated Press

U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water - contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drugmaking: For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder; nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives.

Federal and industry officials say they don't know the extent to which pharmaceuticals are released by U.S. manufacturers because no one tracks them — as drugs. But a close analysis of 20 years of federal records found that, in fact, the government unintentionally keeps data on a few, allowing a glimpse of the pharmaceuticals coming from factories.

Read the full piece here.

Steve - this should come as no surprise to anyone as periodic reports about this have filtered in over the last few years. Filtered water is a must!

Parkinson's partially linked to pesticides

UCLA researchers have provided strong new evidence linking at least some cases of Parkinson's disease to exposure to pesticides. Researchers have suspected for some time that pesticides may cause the neurodegenerative disorder, and experiments in animals have shown that the chemicals, particularly the fungicide maneb and the herbicide paraquat, can cause Parkinson-like symptoms in animals. But proving it in humans has been difficult because of problems in assessing exposure to the agents.

To explore a potential connection to pesticides, researchers studied public records of pesticide applications in California's Central Valley from 1974 to 1999. Every application of pesticides to crops must be registered with the state. Working with Myles Cockburn of USC, they developed a tool to estimate pesticide exposure in areas immediately adjacent to the fields. They then identified 368 longtime residents who lived within 500 yards of fields where the chemicals had been sprayed and compared them to 341 carefully matched controls who did not live near the fields. They reported in the current issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology that people who lived next to fields where maneb or paraquat had been sprayed were, on average, about 75% more likely to develop the disease. But those who developed the early-onset form of the disease -- contracting it before the age of 60 -- had double the risk of contracting it if they were exposed to either maneb or paraquat alone and four times the risk if they were exposed to both.

Lack of vitamin D linked to increase in Caesarian births

Pregnant women with a deficiency of vitamin D are more likely to give birth by cesarean section, according to researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine. They measured the amount of vitamin D in 253 women after they gave birth. Of those women, 43 (17 percent) had caesarian section births. The study (J Clin Endocrinol Metab) found the women the women who gave birth via caesarian had lower levels of vitamin D than the women who did not have the cesarean section. Those deficient in vitamin D were nearly four times more likely to deliver by cesarean section than women with higher levels of vitamin D. The investigators noted cesarean delivery among 28 percent of the women deficient in vitamin D, but in just 14 percent of those with vitamin D levels above 37.5 nanomoles per liter.The women in the study were about 25 years old on average and lived in the Boston area for their entire pregnancy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

We have greens

For those who have known us for a while, you have never seen us endorse a Greens Supplement (we are asked about Juice Plus incessantly) before. Most are loaded with allergens, preservatives, artificial ingredients, or sugar.

Metagenics Phytoganix is the one we can finally feel good about! It is a phytonutrient-rich blend of certified organic superfruits, vegetables, herbs, and fiber. Better yet, it tastes delicious.

Learn more about Phytoganix and its the ingredients. Order here.

How do we suggest it be used?
  1. You want your fruit and veggie colors? A daily dose of Phytoganix contains every color of the phytonutrient spectrum. Just add water.
  2. A welcome nutrient-powered addition to a morning protein shake.
  3. Should be a staple whenever you do a cleanse or detox.
  4. A replacement for our "Green Drink" recipe that you find in our Action Plans and recipes.
As with any food, if you have specific allergies or intolerances, please check with us first if you are unsure if you can consume this product.

Natural Body Care: Bargain Basics

We are painfully aware that people are very particular about their body care products. For this reason, we rarely delve into the topic. This piece is not intended to dissuade you from using what you feel comfortable with. Our motivation is simple:
  1. People are looking to save money.
  2. People are looking to use safe products that are effective, but free of harmful chemicals, toxins, and allergens.


Milk of Magnesia (Original Flavor)
  • Consists of magnesium hydroxide and water.
  • Magnesium is a natural antiinflammatory, thus making it an ideal topical remedy to reduce swelling and redness for those with acne and pimples.
  • Milk of Magnesia can be used as a makeup primer because it absorbs excess oil.
  • Apply when you step into shower. Wash off when you are just about to finish.
  • Apply several times daily or as need.
  • Economic benefit: large bottle costs $6.49 and should last you for 6-8 weeks.


Aloe Vera Gel
  • Aloe Vera gel, usually used for sunburn, is the ideal shaving gel. Shaving creates skin burn and irritation. So what better to prevent this than applying aloe vera gel right before you shave?
  • Raises hair follicles for clean shave.
  • Brands vary widely. Make sure you find a product that contains 98% aloe vera or higher.
  • Economic benefit: Jason brand 16 oz. canister costs $12.95 and lasts for 4-6 months depending on how much you shave.


Dr. Bronner Soap
  • This organic, hypoallergenic soap offers a wide variety of scented and unscented versions.
  • Comes in liquid or bar form.
  • Contains no preservatives or harmful ingredients.
  • Eco-friendly and comes in small to very large quantities.
  • Can be used as shampoo as well as conditioner
  • Economic benefit: 1 gallon (yes, gallon) costs $30.00.


Baking Soda/Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Of course, this is as natural as it gets.
  • None of us have used this method, but have heard several accounts from clients.
  • Use one tablespoon of baking soda per one cup of warm or hot water. You can double or triple the recipe if you have very, very long or thick hair. But do not use more baking soda, your hair will become hard, dry or feel brittle if you use too much. You can put this mix in a recycled shampoo bottle, and apply to your hair with warm water. The mix should not feel gritty, and should be a liquid. Pour the mixture onto your hair and work it in. Let it sit about a minute, and then rinse. You may find it easiest to make a liquidy paste in the palm of your hand with about half a tablespoon, and then sprinkle and massage into dripping wet hair. Experiment and see what works best for you. For a typical rinse, make up a solution of one to two tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar per cup of water. Apply to wet hair, massage into scalp and rinse off with water. You don't always have to apply a rinse with every wash.
  • Economic benefit: for pennies, you can have clean hair for months.
J.R. Liggett's Original Shampoo Bar
  • Hand-made from old New England recipe
  • Ideal for chemically sensitive individuals
  • 100% biodegradable
  • Economic benefit: $6.99 - because it is a bar, it is the equivalent to a 24 oz. bottle of liquid shampoo.


Crystal Deodorant Stick for Men
  • It works for women as well. They do the product a disservice to market it just to men.
  • For most, natural, aluminum-free deodorants on the market work perfectly fine. However, there are those in need of something stronger who could use antiperspirant protection. This is the only product we have found that contains ammonium alum, not aluminum chlorohydrate. Ammonium Alum is an aluminum salt whose molecules are too large to be absorbed into the skin (unlike aluminum chlorohydrate).
  • Apply liberally (15-30 seconds) to wet underarms when you get out of the shower and let air dry.
  • Economic benefit: one $7 stick lasts a year or longer.
We encourage you to share any positive experiences you have had with bargain basic natural body care. Type in the comments box below (you may need to register).

Back-to-Basics Cleaning

Real Simple Magazine's April 2009 issue has a great article listing 78 all-natural solutions for cleaning. The article is not available on its website as of yet, so you have to pick up the magazine. it is worth the $5.

Germany Bans Cultivation of GM Corn

The sowing season may be just around the corner, but this year German farmers will not be planting gentically modified crops: German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner announced Tuesday she was banning the cultivation of GM corn in Germany.

Under the new regulations, the cultivation of MON 810, a GM corn produced by the American biotech giant Monsanto, will be prohibited in Germany, as will the sale of its seed. Aigner told reporters Tuesday she had legitimate reasons to believe that MON 810 posed "a danger to the environment," a position which she said the Environment Ministry also supported. In taking the step, Aigner is taking advantage of a clause in EU law which allows individual countries to impose such bans.

Steve - this is a bold move, considering that Monsanto's political influence is far-reaching. We will keep an eye on this.

Low vitamin A and C levels may boost asthma risk

Low dietary intakes of vitamins A and C may increase the risk of developing asthma, suggests a review of 40 studies and 30 years of research. Low blood levels of vitamin C and lower dietary intake of vitamin C-containing foods were associated with a 12 per cent heightened risk of asthma, say findings published online in Thorax.

The researchers note that the new findings are plausible since vitamin A and C have well-known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. The Nottingham researchers searched the literature for peer reviewed research, abstracts of conference proceedings on asthma and wheeze, and vitamin intakes. A total of 40 studies were identified. The pooled results showed that vitamin A dietary intakes were significantly lower among asthmatics than in those who had not been diagnosed with the disease. The average intake of 182 micrograms of the vitamin was equivalent to between 25 and 33 per cent of the RDI. The researchers noted that people with severe asthma had significantly lower vitamin A intakes than people with mild asthma. When Leonardi-Bee and his co-workers considered vitamin C they found low blood levels of the vitamin and low dietary intakes of vitamin-C foods were associated with a 12 per cent increase in the risk of asthma. With regards vitamin E, intakes were not associated with asthma, but severe asthmatics were found to have significantly lower blood levels than mild asthmatics, and 20 per cent lower than the RDI, said the researchers. Correlation or causality? The authors point out that their research does not prove cause and effect, but they suggest that an earlier large review, which found no association between antioxidants and asthma risk, was limited in its scope (Cochrane Database Syst Rev., 2004; (3): CD000993).

Steve - we posted this because it shows how meta-analyses can be interpreted differently, based upon the researchers motivations. The Thorax review was positive, yet the Cochrane Review was not. Using meta analyses are not the ideal way to make definitive conclusions.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Genetic testing provides few easy answers

Courtesy of WSJ

If scientists could use one gene — or even a combination of five or 10 — to predict a person’s likelihood of developing a certain type of cancer, there might be fast progress toward developing drugs and finding other ways to help people avoid the disease. But some genetics experts are saying it may take a combination of hundreds of genes to make clear predictions. “With only a few exceptions, what the genomics companies are doing right now is recreational genomics,” Duke University geneticist David Goldstein told the New York Times. “The information has little or in many cases no clinical relevance.”

Goldstein was one of three writers of three commentaries on the issue in the current New England Journal of Medicine. Here are quotes from each:

Common Genetic Variation and Human Traits,: If effect sizes [of particular genes] were so small as to require a large chunk of the genome to explain the genetic component of a disorder, then no guidance would be provided: in pointing at everything, genetics would point at nothing.

Genetic Risk Prediction — Are We There Yet?: The availability of highly predictive and reasonably affordable tests of genetic predisposition to important diseases would have major clinical, social, and economic ramifications. But the great majority of the newly identified risk-marker alleles confer very small relative risks … Even when alleles that are associated with a modest increase in risk are combined, they generally have low discriminatory and predictive ability.

Genomewide Association Studies — Illuminating Biologic Pathways: Ultimately, the usefulness of genetic information for prediction will depend not on the absolute fraction of heritability explained but rather on how much this additional information can shift the cost–benefit ratios of available clinical interventions. For diseases without potential therapies, even perfect prediction might not be clinically useful. By contrast, for diseases with effective preventive measures that are too costly or for which the risk–benefit balance is nearly neutral, small increments in predictive power could help effectively target preventive efforts, with substantial clinical impact. As we’ve noted before, plenty of genetic experts believe predictive gene-based tests aren’t ready for wide use. Even genome guru Craig Venter has expressed skepticism about the relevance of any given variant.

Steve - do not waste your $ on the genetic lifestyle kits. What we DO know right now is that managing epigenetic pathways so as to not express genes negatively is sound science. Diet, lifestyle, and nutrients can calm those epigenetic pathways. How exciting!

Multivitamins improve nutritional status

Multivitamin supplementation raised serum vitamin B12 and folate concentrations and increased serum 25(OH)D, which was accompanied by an apparent positive effect on bone density, according to a study published in the April issue of European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study’s design comprised two groups matched on mobility levels, randomized to receive a daily multivitamin or placebo tablet for six months. There was a greater increase in the MV versus P group for serum 25(OH)D, folate and vitamin B12. Adequate 25(OH)D concentrations were found among 77 percent of participants in the MV group versus 10 percent taking P. Adjusting for baseline levels, the increase in quantitative heel ultrasound was greater in the MV versus P group. There was a trend toward a 63-percent lower mean number of falls in the MV versus P group. Researchers also found a trend towards a reduction in falls and this could contribute to a reduction in fractures.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Home births 'as safe as hospital'

The largest study of its kind has found that for low-risk women, giving birth at home is as safe as doing so in hospital with a midwife. Research from the Netherlands - which has a high rate of home births - found no difference in death rates of either mothers or babies in 530,000 births. Home births have long been debated amid concerns about their safety. UK obstetricians welcomed the study - published in the journal BJOG.

The research was carried out in the Netherlands after figures showed the country had one of the highest rates in Europe of babies dying during or just after birth. It was suggested that home births could be a factor, as Dutch women are able and encouraged to choose this option. One third do so. But a comparison of "low-risk" women who planned to give birth at home with those who planned to give birth in hospital with a midwife found no difference in death or serious illness among either baby or mother. "

In the UK, the government has pledged to give all women the option of a home birth by the end of this year.

Allergies to fruits and veggies on the rise in UK

Dr Pamela Ewan, an allergy consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said the rise in cases appears to be outstripping even peanut allergies.

Dr Ewan, who sees more than 8,000 people with allergies a year, said most patients with reactions to fruit and vegetables were youngsters.

Symptoms include swelling in the mouth and throat, and breathing difficulties.

She said: "We have seen a big rise in the number of cases in the past four to five years.

"It is a bit like the peanut allergy was the epidemic of the 1990s. I think fruit and vegetables are becoming the epidemic now.

"In term of numbers, fruit and vegetables are the new form of peanut allergy."

Other specialist centres in the UK have confirmed to the BBC that allergies to fruit and vegetables is a growing problem.

Dr Adam Fox, a consultant paediatric allergist at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London, said: "We are certainly seeing lots of oral allergy syndrome.

"This affects people who are actually allergic to pollen - such as birch pollen.

"There is a cross-reactivity between the protein in that pollen with those in fruit and vegetables, so people start getting a reaction to fruits such as apples and pears. The chance of cross-reactions with fruits increases with the larger number of types of fruit to which we are exposed."

Bonnie - this should not come as a surprise. As temperatures rise around the globe, pollen in the air becomes more profuse. Thus, those allergic have more severe symptoms (especially if consuming cross-reactors). Right before and during the height of the spring and fall allergy seasons, one must be extra vigilant about avoiding fruit, vegetable, and grain cross-reactors. Refer to my Spring Allergy To-Do List.

Children whose celiac disease is detected early do better over time

Identifying celiac disease through population-wide screening leads to improved health for those who are diagnosed, and as a result, establishing these types of programs on a limited scale should be considered, according to a study in the April Pediatrics.

"The earlier the better, I truly believe," said Rima Kittley, MD, a family physician in Lufkin, Texas. "There's a whole lot of damage that happens over years, and if you get it diagnosed early, you prevent a lot of the chronic misery." She herself has celiac disease but was not affiliated with the study.

For example, the American College of Gastroenterology's guidelines on managing irritable bowel syndrome direct that people with this condition, should routinely be tested for celiac. These principles were published in the January American Journal of Gastroenterology. Additionally, practice guidelines from the World Gastroenterology Organization issued in February 2005 suggest advising first- and second-degree relatives of those with celiac disease that serological testing may be appropriate.

For the recent paper, researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands followed for 10 years 32 children diagnosed with celiac disease. Their diagnoses occurred between the ages of 2 and 4 in the course of a screening program for everyone in that age range.

After a decade, 26 had adhered to a gluten-free diet, and 17 of them had improved their health status. All 26 bettered their health-related quality of life after one year. After a decade, their quality of life was similar to those without the disease.

"A lot of people think that, if they go on a gluten-free diet, their quality of life worsens. It really does not worsen. It actually makes it better for them," said Dr. Ritu Verma, section chief of clinical gastroenterology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who was not connected to the paper. "These children are more used to just eating gluten-free foods, and they don't have to see another doctor for bellyaches."

Study at a glance

When celiac is detected through mass screening, how do children fare?

Objective: Assess the impact on long-term health and quality of life when detecting celiac disease through mass screening of toddlers.

Methods: Researchers followed 32 children ages 2-4 whose disorder was detected through screening of the general population in 1998. Their health was assessed in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2007.

Results: After a decade, 26 children adhered to a gluten-free diet. Of this group, 17 experienced improvement of health status. All 26 experienced an improvement in health-related quality of life after one year. After 10 years, their quality of life was similar to those without the disease. For six participants, treatment after screening would not have improved their health because they had no symptoms when the disorder was detected. They stayed symptom-free without changing their diets for the duration of the study.

Conclusions: Mass screening and treating those with the symptoms of celiac disease improves health status and health-related quality of life. Limited screening programs should be considered. Delaying treatment for children who test positive but have no symptoms is an option, but longer-term studies are needed to determine the effects of decades of untreated asymptomatic celiac disease.

Source: Pediatrics April 2009

Bonnie - this is welcome, yet long overdue news. now that it has been suggested, will it take another decade to be implemented?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Taking Statins? Five Ways to Boost Your Energy

I guess the mainstream public is beginning to catch on!

Aspirin Linked to Brain Microbleeds

A Dutch study finds an increased incidence of tiny bleeding episodes in the brains of people who regularly take aspirin.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations of 1,062 people found a 70 percent higher incidence of "microbleeds" among those taking aspirin or carbasalate calcium, a close chemical relative of aspirin, than among those not taking such anti-clotting drugs, according to an April 13 online report in the Archives of Neurology from physicians at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam. The research was expected to be published in the June print issue of the journal.

No increased incidence of microbleeds was seen in people taking clot-preventing drugs that act in different ways, such as heparin, the researchers noted.

The report adds information to a still unfolding medical story about the causes and effects of microbleeds, said Dr. Steven M. Greenberg, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Hemorrhagic Stroke Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"It is not clear at this point what significance we can attach to seeing microbleeds," Greenberg said. Some studies have shown an association between microbleeds and an increased risk of major bleeding events in the brain, but those studies have included only small numbers of people, he added.

There also is some data indicating that microbleeds are associated with reduced brain function, but their role is unclear, because "they tend to travel together with other kinds of small-vessel brain disease," Greenberg said.

The most that can be said is that the study "is a little bit of a warning for us to think about antiplatelet drug therapy as a risk for hemorrhagic damage to the brain," he said.

Rise in multiple allergy patients in UK

Courtesy of the BBC

Specialist UK clinics have told the BBC they are seeing a significant rise in the number of patients suffering from several allergies at once. They are also finding symptoms are becoming more severe, causing acute pain and in some cases even death. Many of those afflicted are reported to be children.

Staff from specialist clinics in Liverpool, Cambridge, Cardiff, Birmingham and London are among those to confirm the rise. Dr Jonathan North, a consultant immunologist in Birmingham, said: "We used to say that 15% of the population had an allergy of some sort, now the figure is nearer 40%. "As well as the well-documented increase in prevalence, the proportion of complex/multiple allergy cases is increasing."

The reasons for the rise are not fully understood. According to Dr Nasser, climate change is largely to blame. "Global warming is causing an increase in fungal spore levels as well as pollen, so this is something we are going to see more of. The season is also starting earlier and finishing later.

The UK has one of the highest diagnosed allergy rates in the world. Dr Nasser says the reasons for the growth in allergies are several and complex. He cites the hygiene hypothesis as one that is widely supported by the medical profession. "The UK is a developed society and allergies affect westernized countries. If a country passes from a rural to an urban society then the existence of allergies escalates. "The hygiene hypotheses is that in a developed society we avoid exposure to bacterial infection at an early age. This is unlike rural environments", he explains. As Dr Nasser said: "Some say modern life is making us allergic."

Steve - of course missing from "reasons not fully understood" is the fact that Western diets support using a few food staples that appear in just about everything. It should not come as a surprise that wheat, soy, milk, corn, and egg are the most allergenic substances. We eat them every day, several times a day, usually.

The UK and US have very similar public health patterns. So if the UK is seeing this spike in allergies, you can bet the numbers are higher here as well. Of course, this does not even address the food intolerance part of the equation.

C. Difficile becoming more virulent

Tara Parker Pope's column in the New York Times this morning about C. Difficile illustrates the continuing issues we have with the overuse of antibiotics. Here are some excerpts from the piece.

Clostridium difficile is a contagious and potentially deadly bacterium. Although the illness is difficult to track, health officials estimate that in the United States the bacteria cause 350,000 infections each year in hospitals alone, with tens of thousands more occurring in nursing homes. While the majority of cases are found in health care settings, 20 percent or more may occur in the community. The illness kills an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people annually.

What is so frightening about C. difficile is that it is often spurred by antibiotics. The drugs wipe out the targeted illness, like a urinary tract or upper respiratory infection, but they also kill off large portions of the healthy bacteria that normally live in the digestive tract. If a person comes into contact with C. difficile, or already has it, the disruption to the beneficial bacteria creates an opportunity for the harmful bacteria to flourish.

The public health community has been sounding the alarm for years about the overuse of antibiotics and the emergence of “superbugs” — bacteria that have developed immunity to a wide number of antibiotics. “One of the things that we counsel consumers about is to make sure that an antibiotic is really necessary,” said Dr. Dale N. Gerding, an infectious disease specialist at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University in Chicago. “There are many good reasons for taking an antibiotic, but an illness like sinusitis or bronchitis winds up being treated with antibiotics even though it will go away by itself anyway.” Even appropriate use of antibiotics can put a person at risk. Dr. Gerding said his own adult son came down with a C. difficile infection after taking antibiotics for tonsillitis.

The typical treatment for C. difficile is another course of antibiotics, typically the drug vancomycin. But the situation can quickly turn tragic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported on several cases of pregnant and postpartum women who developed life-threatening C. difficile infections after being treated for minor infections. In some instances, a C. difficile infection can be treated only by emergency surgery to remove the patient’s colon. Doctors say many patients report that they continue to suffer from regular bouts of diarrhea even after the infection is gone. About 20 percent of patients with the infection suffer a relapse, and C. difficile support groups have emerged on the Internet.

C. difficile is not a new illness, but it appears to be spreading at an alarming rate. The rate of C. difficile infection among hospital patients doubled from 2001 to 2005, according to an April 2008 report from the C.D.C. The rise in C. difficile cases around the world is linked with the growing use of all antibiotics, particularly a class of drugs called fluoroquinolones, which came into widespread use around 2001. The use of acid-suppressing drugs, including proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec, also may be a risk factor, although studies have been contradictory.

In addition to becoming more common, C. difficile is also becoming more deadly. Several years ago, the mortality rate from a C. difficile infection was around 1 to 2 percent. But today, various studies estimate that the death rate is 6 percent. The reason is that a hypervirulent strain has emerged that emits higher levels of toxins than earlier strains.

Bonnie - as is the case with the rise of a more well known superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (M.R.S.A), C. Difficile is directly related to the overuse of antibiotics. As I have said incessantly, antibiotics should be administered only if it is absolutely essential. I cringe when I read about drug stores and pharmacies giving out free antibiotics as a promotional tool.

The other crucial lesson taken away from this piece is that anyone who has to go on an antibiotic must supplement with high dose probiotics to lower the risk of losing their healthy gut flora. My clients who have adhered to this philosophy have seen vastly improved outcomes.

My general recommendation during antibiotic therapy is as follows:
  • Take 250 mg. saccharomyces boulardii (with each antibiotic dose) to reduce antibiotic-induced damage to probiotic populations
  • Take a nutraceutical-grade probiotic (lactobacillus acidophilus strain preferred) at least two hours away from antibiotic 2-4 times daily
  • Continue with this regimen for at least 1-2 weeks after you finish antibiotic therapy
In conclusion, I am now recommending that most people supplement with a maintenance dose of probiotics (lactobacillus acidophilus and bifido bacterium minimum) on a daily basis. There are so many outside forces that pound away at our healthy gut flora. We need reinforcements!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Osteoporosis drugs linked to heart problems

Popular osteoporosis drugs - which have been widely used since the 1990s - may be the unsuspected cause of serious heart problems, researchers have discovered this week.

Drugs such as Boniva, Fosomax, Reclast and Actonel may cause serious heart rhythm problems, which increase the risk for stroke and heart attack.

The drugs contain bisphosphonates, which a research team from Wake Forest University School of Medicine has pinpointed as the cause of the heart problems.

According to the studdy in Drug Safety, 2009; 32: 219-28, the researchers made the discovery after they tracked the health records of 13,000 patients, who were compared with a further 13,000 people who were given a placebo.

More Americans experiencing medical mismanagement

A new Consumer Reports poll finds that 18 percent of Americans say they or an immediate family member have acquired a dangerous infection following a medical procedure and more than one-third report that medical errors are common in everyday medical procedures.

"Healthcare-acquired infections and medical errors can devastate American families who are already struggling with the cost of health care,” said Consumers Union President Jim Guest. “These preventable errors and infections can cost families hundreds—if not thousands—of extra dollars each year, and add tens of billions of dollars to our national health care costs. It is imperative that Congress pass health care reform legislation that includes simple safety provisions to help save lives and fix our broken health care system."

The new poll was released in conjunction with a Congressional briefing on health care delivery system reform with the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association. The poll was performed March 12-16, 2009, and interviewed more than 2,000 adults on issues such as acquired infections, medical errors, and preventive care.

Bonnie - we hear it every day from clients as well as experienced it first-hand with my daughter Carolyn

Soy & Red Meat: Pros & Cons

Soy and red meat are two of the most heavily scrutinized food staples for good reason.

The following sheds light on why they are so controversial, how we can optimize their benefits, and avoid their risks.


Few foods have exhibited such polarizing research data as soy.

Most of the positive data on soy, especially as a cancer and heart disease preventive, was performed on subjects from the Far East, whose diet is predominately organic fermented soy from sources such as tofu, tempeh, and miso. Soy consumption in the West is predominately nonfermented soymilk, fresh soybeans, concentrated soy meat substitutes, and soybean oil. Most of the processed soy foods you find, even at health food markets, such as soy burgers and soy dogs, contain hidden monosodium glutamate (MSG) labeled as textured soy protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, or autolyzed yeast.

Conventional soy is one of the most heavily sprayed crops (with pesticides). Soy protein concentrate products, such as soy protein and soy protein powder added to shakes and smoothies have been shown in research to be cancer-causing, especially for hormonal cancers of the breast. In large doses, soy also interferes with the drug Tamoxifen.

Soy is also problematic because it is one of the three most allergenic foods (wheat and milk are the other two). What further exacerbates this issue is that soy derived ingredients seem to be in everything.

From a genetic standpoint, soy may not be utilized well as a protein source. This is one of the reasons why some of the new clients we see who are vegetarian/vegan are in very poor health.

Soy may interfere with thyroid function and inhibit the gland's ability to do its job among those who are iodine deficient. Soy may also reduce the absorption of thyroid medication.

Thus, we recommend the following:
  1. Consume organic, fermented soy in the form of tofu, tempeh, and miso. Organic enriched soymilk and edamame may be okay in moderation.
  2. High dose soy isoflavone supplements are not recommended. It may be warranted only as an adjunct therapy in small doses for bone loss or menopausal symptoms.
  3. Avoid soy protein concentrates, especially if you thyroid or hormonal cancer issues (or in your family history).

Red Meat has a public relations problem and for good reason. In its current state, it is not a healthy food, especially if consumed more than once weekly, and even more so if cooked rare or charred.

With red meat it really boils down to one simple issue: how are the cattle being raised?.

A beef cow's natural diet comes from grass found on vast green pastures. When they eat their natural diet, the beef contains much less saturated fat and produces an ideal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Unfortunately, the diet of most cattle in the U.S. is predominately soybeans and corn, which create beef that is much higher in saturated fat and produces an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Most of you are aware that high levels of omega-6 and low levels of omega-3 can create a chronic inflammatory state. So we should not be surprised that study after study reveals how unhealthy consuming red meat really is. It should be noted that many of these studies focused heavily on processed red meat, laden with excess saturated fat, nitrates, and harmful additives.

The tide is turning, albeit on a minor scale. Many farmers are going back to raising cattle exclusively on pasture. For example, a local celebrity in Chicago, Bill Kurtis, founded Tall Grass Beef. All of his cattle are grass-fed. The cost is very competitive with conventional beef.
Even superstores like Costco are carrying it. Grass-fed lamb raised in Australia and New Zealand are exclusively grass-fed, making it another acceptable red meat source. If you consume grass-fed red meat instead of conventional, you could probably eat it several times weekly. Red meat is an excellent protein source. Four ounces of lean meat equals between 30-40 grams of complete protein.

When cooking red meat, leaving it rare or charring creates another set of health issues. Rare meat leaves you more susceptible to contracting virulent intestinal pathogens or bacteria. ALWAYS cook your meat thoroughly, but not to excess. Charring red meat, to the point where parts of it are chalky black, creates cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines. Especially in individuals who genetically have impaired detoxification, charred meat is highly contraindicated in their diets.

To recap:
  1. Eat grass-fed red meat exclusively.
  2. Avoid processed meats.
  3. Do not eat rare or charred red meat.