Friday, August 27, 2010

School Lunches Promote Obesity

Steve - more data proving why the current legislation for school lunch reform needs to pass. The following was funded by the USDA!

New research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that children who eat school lunches that are part of the federal government's National School Lunch Program are more likely to become overweight. The new study was published in the Summer issue of The Journal of Human Resources.

For their study, the researchers analyzed data on more than 13,500 elementary school students. Students were interviewed in kindergarten, first and third grades, and then again in later grades. "First, it is very difficult to plan healthy but inviting school lunches at a low price," the lead researcher said. "Second, given the tight budgets faced by many school districts, funding from the sales of unhealthy a la carte lunch items receives high priority."

Antihistamines Add Pounds.

People who use prescription antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms may be more likely than non-users to carry excess pounds. In a study of 867 adults published in Obesity, researchers found that among the 268 antihistamine users, 45% were overweight, versus 30% of the 599 study participants not on the medications. It's possible that some other factor explains the link, according to researchers. "There have been studies that show allergies and asthma themselves are associated with obesity, so these conditions themselves may have an effect."

Blocking histamine is a good thing when it comes to relieving hay fever symptoms -- but cells throughout the brain have receptors for histamine, and the chemical appears to have a hand in a number of physiological functions -- with appetite control and calorie burning being among them. So in theory, antihistamines could contribute to overeating and slower fat breakdown.

Bonnie - we reported on this last year and yet again reminds us to get to the bottom of allergies, and try to heal from the inside out. I still believe Claritin Reditabs are the safest antihistamine on the market.

Public Health Policy = Incessant Dysfunction

It is hard to contain the anger and disappointment we felt this week after taking the pulse of science and media. There were so many dismaying story lines that it was hard to encapsulate them into one commentary. Part of us vehemently dislikes making you aware of this incessant dysfunction. But simply, we feel that it has always been our job as public health professionals to bring you the truth, however disappointing it may be, so that you and your family can make the best, most educated health care decisions. Bonnie and Steve

Number Flu Deaths Reported Are Too High Says CDC.
36,000 - you have seen this number every year for decades in connection with flu deaths. This is the number the CDC trots out every year to scare the public into lining up to get the flu vaccine. As we have said for over two decades, this number is grossly overestimated. In fact, it really exposes the CDC's entire flu policy. This administration said it would really push hard for transparency, and in this case it is true. We are shocked the CDC released this data because they have hung their hat on 36,000 for so long.

The mean average deaths from 1976-2007 was 23, 607, 90% of those occurring in persons 65 and over. Every year was different depending on the dominant influenza strain. The lowest number of deaths was 3,349 and the highest number was 48,614.

What is startling is that if you look at the chart which lists deaths year by year, the number of deaths are much higher on average between 1997 to present. Alarmingly, this coincides with the CDC's recommendations to increase the number of Americans being vaccinated, not just the elderly. Furthermore, the flu strain believed to cause the highest rate of flu deaths from year to year (influenza A H3N2) has been most prevalent from 1997 to present.

This begs the question: if the number of vaccinated Americans has steadily increased during this period, and the H3N2 strain was included in each year's vaccine, why does it continue to be so deadly?

Dr. David Shay of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease said it best at his news conference: "Flu really is unpredictable. H3N2 mutates more rapidly. Even if you have been sick with it in the past, you are more likely to get a subsequent infection." Shay went on to say that there is no way to tell when flu season begins - or even a few weeks into the start of the season - which strain will predominate.

This is a disturbing comment because the World Health Organization is responsible for deciding (or should we say predicting) which strains will go into the flu vaccine nine months to a year before the flu season actually begins.

At the press conference, nobody pushed Dr. Shay on the H3N2 issue: if the strain is added to each year's vaccine formula, why does it still cause more deaths? Shouldn't we become more immune? If we go by Dr. Shay's initial comment that H3N2 mutates so rapidly from year to year that it is near impossible to catch to it, what does that say about the flu vaccine program?

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 8/27/2010

FDA Review Finds Antidepressants Only Marginally Efficacious Compared With Placebo and "Document Profound Publication Bias That Inflates Their Apparent Efficacy."
We take great umbrage with the tardiness in which the FDA made this statement. Not to mention that while Reuters reported on this, it received very little mass media attention.

When the researchers analyzed the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) trial, the largest antidepressant effectiveness trial ever conducted, they found that "the effectiveness of antidepressant therapies was probably even lower than the modest one reported...with an apparent progressively increasing dropout rate across each study phase."

The researchers found that out of the 4041 patients initially started on the SSRI [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor] citalopram in the STAR*D study, and after 4 trials, only 108 patients had a remission and did not either have a relapse and/or dropped out by the end of 12 months of continuing care.

"In other words, if you're trying to look at sustained benefit, you're only looking at 2.7%, which is a pretty jaw-dropping number," added lead author Dr. Ed Pigott. Overall, "the reviewed findings argue for a reappraisal of the current recommended standard of care of depression," write the authors. "I believe there are likely some people where [antidepressants] are truly beneficial beyond placebo. The problem right now is that we simply have no way of knowing who those people are," noted Dr. Pigott. "My hope is that this kind of analysis creates 'more oxygen' for looking at other kinds of approaches to treatment." The study was published in the August issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics and was passed along to officials at the Food and Drug Administration.

How will the public react to the fact that the billions of dollars they have spent on antidepressants do little more than placebo in most? It is hard to react when the story is non-existent. This topic is especially frustrating when we know there are natural alternatives to antidepressant therapy.

Giving Up Gluten To Lose Weight? Not So Fast.
Diet Is Effective in Treating Celiac Disease, Wheat Allergies, But Not for Shedding Pounds

This story by Melinda Beck of the Wall Street Journal made our blood boil.
The article said people can gain weight on a gluten free diet with no evidence to back up her statement. I am quite certain that if you ever got to the bottom of who pitched the idea for this article, the Wheat Council would be our first guess.

During meetings of the new USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee, they discussed focusing more on fruit and vegetables and less on grains. The two committee members vehemently against this recommendation had ties to the dairy and wheat councils. When wheat and corn growers found out what the committee was discussing, the hate mail started flowing in like a tidal wave. Thus, you will probably not see any changes in this regard, even though the committee knows that nutritionally it's the best thing to do.

We would like to know how you feel after digesting these topics. You can comment below.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Statin effect dubious for prevention

Excerpts courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

24 million Americans take statins — marketed under such commercial names as Pravachol, Mevacor, Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor — make tens of billions a year for their manufacturers. In 2009, U.S. patients filled 201.4 million prescriptions for statins, double the number in 2001.

Statins were initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of repeat heart attacks and strokes in patients with high cholesterol who had already had a heart attack. Then physicians came to believe statins could also reduce the risk of a first heart attack in people who have high LDL cholesterol but are nonetheless healthy. This use of statins — called "primary prevention" — has driven the growth in the market for statins over the last decade. Today, a majority of people who use statins are doing so for primary prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It is this use of statins that has come under recent attack.

"There's a conspiracy of false hope," says Harvard Medical School's Dr. John Abramson, who has cowritten several critiques of statins' rise, including one published in June in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "The public wants an easy way to prevent heart disease, doctors want to reduce their patients' risk of heart disease and drug companies want to maximize the number of people taking their pills to boost their sales and profits."

The relationship between cholesterol-lowering and heart disease is still not perfectly understood. Archives of Internal Medicine recently argued whether statins prevent, safely and at a reasonable cost, the development of cardiovascular disease in people who are still healthy but are considered to be at high risk of a heart attack or stroke. In the first of three studies, medical researchers found that, contrary to widely held belief, statins do not drive down death rates among those who take them to prevent a first heart attack. A second article cast significant doubt on the influential findings of a 2006 study, called JUPITER, that has driven the expansion of statins' use by healthy people with elevated blood levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation. A third article suggested potential ethical, clinical and financial conflicts of interest at work in the execution of the JUPITER study and concluded the widely hailed trial was "flawed" and raises "troubling questions concerning the role of commercial sponsors." "Tens of billions of dollars of revenue for the sponsor over the patent life of the drug were at stake in the JUPITER trial, as well as potentially millions of dollars in royalties for the principal investigator," wrote Dr. Lee Green of the University of Michigan Medical School in an editorial accompanying the trio of studies.

Bonnie - if you must take a statin, we have a quick tip for how to speak with your physician about lowering your dose in our subscription eNewsletter. Contact our office for details.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dyslipidemia and added sugars

Dietary carbohydrates have been associated with dyslipidemia, a lipid profile known to increase cardiovascular disease risk. Added sugars (caloric sweeteners used as ingredients in processed or prepared foods) are an increasing and potentially modifiable component in the US diet. This JAMA study examined the association between the consumption of added sugars and lipid measures.

6113 US adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2006 were grouped by intake of added sugars using limits specified in dietary recommendations.

Among the subjects, 15.8% of consumed calories was from added sugars on average. Among participants consuming less than 5%, 5% to less than 17.5%, 17.5% to less than 25%, and 25% or greater of total energy as added sugars, adjusted mean HDL-C levels were, respectively, 58.7, 57.5, 53.7, 51.0, and 47.7 mg/dL, mean triglyceride levels were 105, 102, 111, 113, and 114 mg/dL, and LDL-C levels were 116, 115, 118, 121, and 123 mg/dL among women (no significant trends in LDL-C levels among men).

Among higher consumers (more or = 10% added sugars) the odds of low HDL-C levels were 50% to more than 300% greater compared with the reference group. In conclusion, there is a clear correlation between dyslipidemia and excess carbohydrate consumption from added sugars.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Your Allergist May Have a Secret

Your allergist may be keeping a secret from you.
With the media's assistance, they will be unable keep it from us much longer.

Allergy sufferers: what if we told you that instead of going to the allergist's office several times a week for allergy shots, you could put a few drops/tablets under your tongue every day and achieve the same or better results? What if we told you with these drops, in 2-3 years, it is possible that your allergies could clear up or, at worst, be markedly improved? Most of you would jump at the chance.

Sublingual Immunotherapy.
In Europe, it has been an approved allergy therapy for over a decade. The results have been amazing. The philosophy is similar to desensitizing shots, in that the drops/tablets contain minute amounts of the allergen(s) and over a 2-3 year period, the pharmacy increases the amount to the point that your immune system does not overreact. The largest amount of data has been compiled for environmental allergens (grass especially). However, data has been trickling in recently for food allergens as well.

Why Such a Secret?
Money, plain and simple. Allergists' bread and butter are weekly office visits for desensitizing shots. Revenue would plummet if office visits were replaced by drops/tablets. That said, sublingual therapy is bound to take over. There are too many reasons for it not to. Allergy patients often give up desensitizing therapy because they are unable to adhere to the rigorous schedule. Patients become easily discouraged when they do not see results and find it hard to wait years for improvement. The ability to administer drops/tablets at home, office, or while traveling will greatly improve compliance.

What Savings!
In our opinion, sublingual immunotherapy would create billions of dollars in health care cost savings. There would be a reduced reliance on allergy and asthma medications (and, in turn, less side effects). There would be less allergy/asthma-related hospital and emergency room visits. Of course, there would be less allergist visits. The question is, will the allergists and drug companies allow sublingual immunotherapy to flourish?

Why Is Sublingual immunotherapy Non-Existent in the U.S.?
In most states, is not covered insurance and it is not cheap (it is covered in Wisconsin). A three month supply of drops/tablets costs $250-$350. That adds up over a two or three period. In Europe, it is covered by insurance.

Ongoing Case Studies
We are currently following a group of clients (as well as Steve's son) with major environmental allergies who are on sublingual immunotherapy. Along with adherence to a diet/nutrient regimen that removes cross-reacting foods during the height of the four major allergy seasons (trees, grass, ragweed, and mold), the results have been very impressive.

For example, Steve's son, who has a severe grass allergy and moderately severe tree and ragweed allergy, has been medication (except for the occasional Claritin Reditab) and symptom-free while following the protocol for six months.

Course of Action?
Strongly encourage your allergist to provide sublingual immunotherapy or find one that does! Currently, there are few allergists in the U.S. that offer it. One allergy drop compound pharmacy we trust is
Allergy Choices. They have an allergist listing by state.

This therapy addresses IgE (true food allergy) only, not IgG (food intolerance).

Associated Content
While we have tracked numerous studies we over the last five years, here are a few recent media pieces on sublingual immunotherapy.

Oral alternative to allergy shots improves hayfever.

In the Works: Immunotherapy for food allergies.

Pills to Treat Non-Food Allergies on the Horizon.

Low LDL Not Enough

Patients whose heart disease worsens even after their high LDL levels are brought under control are said to be suffering from 'residual risk' - and new research shows that risk is strongly and perhaps synergistically linked with high triglyceride levels and low HDL cholesterol. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health reported in the American Journal of Cardiology that subjects with LDL levels considered low normal, but had clinically low HDL, had a 40% greater risk of heart disease. Subjects with high triglycerides had a 20% greater risk. The low LDL subjects who had both high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol interacted synergistically to increase the cardiac risk ten-fold.

Bonnie - it is well known that statin therapy does not increase HDL or lower triglycerides. If you are at risk for heart disease and are taking a statin, make sure your HDL, triglycerides, and CRP are normal. If not, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of diet, lifestyle, and specifically targeted supplements to address them all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pesticides, ADHD linked

Maternal exposure to organophosphate pesticides such as diazinon during pregnancy was correlated with ADHD symptoms in their children five years later, researchers said. Led by Brenda Eskenazi, PhD, of the University of California in Berkeley, the researchers also identified genetic variants that may make children more susceptible to neurodevelopmental abnormalities from exposure to organophosphates. The studies, published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, add to a growing body of evidence linking the chemicals to ADHD and other developmental problems. Organophosphates -- a group of compounds that also include the sarin and VX nerve gases -- irreversibly inhibit acetylcholinesterase. Those used as commercial insecticides have low potency and degrade rapidly in the environment, but human toxicity from acute exposure is well established.

Earlier this year, a different group of researchers reported that children with high levels of dialkyl phosphate metabolites -- an objective measure of organophosphate exposure -- had a significantly increased the likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis.

Bonnie - deservedly, this study has received a ton of media exposure. I hope they remember the study the next time they question the benefits of eating organic!

Even modest weight gain harms blood vessels

Mayo Clinic researchers found that healthy young people who put on as little as 9 pounds of fat, specifically in the abdomen, are at risk for developing endothelial cell dysfunction. Endothelial cells line the blood vessels and control the ability of the vessels to expand and contract.

For the study, which was published in this week's Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers recruited healthy Mayo Clinic volunteers with a mean age of 29 years. They were tested for endothelial dysfunction by measuring the blood flow through their arm arteries. The volunteers were assigned to either gain weight or maintain their weight for eight weeks, and their blood flow was tested. The weight-gainers then lost the weight and were tested again.

Among those who gained weight in their abdomens (known as visceral fat), even though their blood pressure remained healthy, researchers found that the regulation of blood flow through their arm arteries was impaired due to endothelial dysfunction. Once the volunteers lost the weight, the blood flow recovered. Blood flow regulation was unchanged in the weight-maintainers and was less affected among those who gained weight evenly throughout their bodies.

The researchers note that physicians should know that the location of fat is important. Greater attention should be given to the circumference of a patient's waistline, not just their body mass index (BMI). The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Non-invasive treatment for uterine fibroids

Magnesium, natural substances for headaches

Bonnie - it is a pleasure to read about physicians and journals, such as Neurology, coming over to our side!

Nutrients and Herbs for Migraine Attacks
Dr. David Dodick, Mayo Clinic
New York Times

Q. These days I get one or two migraines a month. I used to get migraines much more frequently. At some point, my doctor prescribed niacin for other reasons (cholesterol control), and I decided to do some research to see if that would be a trigger for more. What I found was a short paper from someone at the Mayo Clinic saying that there is anecdotal evidence that niacin can prevent migraines, but no studies had been done. After I started taking niacin (and magnesium) daily, the frequency of attacks dropped radically. So: has anyone gotten around to studying the effects of niacin (or magnesium) on migraines? Thanks. AJ, Berkeley, CA

Q. Does the herbal remedy feverfew help to alleviate some forms of migraines? Cathy, Sterling, Mass.

A. Dr. Dodick responds: Thank you for your questions. Although case reports suggest that the B vitamin niacin is effective in reducing the frequency of migraine attacks, it has not been formally studied in rigorous placebo-controlled trials. Regarding the effectiveness of other nonprescription alternative therapies, new evidence-based guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology, which will be published soon in the journal Neurology, indicate that several nutritional and alternative remedies may be effective.

The guidelines state that Petasites, the purified extract from the butterbur plant, is effective at a dosage of 75 milligrams twice daily and should be offered for migraine prevention. The guidelines also say that several other remedies are “probably” effective and should be considered for migraine prevention. These remedies are magnesium (at a daily dose of 300 milligrams), MIG-99 (an extract of the herb feverfew) and riboflavin (400 milligrams daily).

They say that coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 (300 milligrams daily), is “possibly” effective and may be considered for migraine prevention.

There is a scientific rationale for why these products were studied for migraine prevention, and a plausible explanation for a mechanism of action that is relevant to the biology of migraine. For example, some studies suggest that the metabolic capacity of the brain cells in migraine sufferers may not be sufficient to meet the demands of a migraine attack. Therefore, nutrients like CoQ10 and riboflavin, which are “metabolic enhancers” that increase the capacity for each cell in the body, and presumably the brain, to manufacture energy more efficiently, may be helpful. In addition, in placebo-controlled studies, several of these therapies were found to be superior to placebo.

It is important to recognize that all of these treatments are meant to be taken daily to prevent or reduce the occurrence of attacks. None of these treatments are effective for the acute treatment of an attack after it has begun.

Bonnie - we have known about butterbur and feverfew for a while now. However, for many of our clients, they can create strong allergic reactions. We find magnesium and B-vitamins to be much safer alternatives.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Judge puts a dent in GMO machine

A federal district court judge revoked the government’s approval of genetically engineered sugar beets, saying that the Agriculture Department had not adequately assessed the environmental consequences before approving them for commercial cultivation. The decision, by Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco, appears to effectively ban the planting of the genetically modified sugar beets, which make up about 95 percent of the crop, until the Agriculture Department prepares an environmental impact statement and approves the crop again, a process that might take a couple of years. The decision came in a lawsuit organized by the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that opposes biotech crops. Judge White ruled last September that the Agriculture Department’s approval of the beets violated the National Environmental Policy Act, but he did not specify a remedy.

Steve - finally, someone with some semblance of environmental sensibility. Hopefully, this will serve as a detractor to Monsanto and the USDA to assess the environmental impact of a brand new, artificially created plant species, before exposing it to the environment and food supply.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vegetarian-equals-green? Not so fast.

This is a must read for vegetarians/vegans who think they are going green with this dietary choice.

Free statins with your fast food?

Steve - once in a while, you come across a study that leaves you with inexorable doom. This asinine study struck that chord in me.

Fast food outlets could provide statin drugs free of charge so that customers can neutralize the heart disease dangers of fatty food, researchers at Imperial College London suggest in a new study published in the American Journal of Cardiology. Dr Darrel Francis and colleagues calculate that the reduction in cardiovascular risk offered by a statin is enough to offset the increase in heart attack risk from eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake. According to Francis, "We've worked out that in terms of your likelihood of having a heart attack, taking a statin can reduce your risk to more or less the same degree as a fast food meal increases it. Everybody knows that fast food is bad for you, but people continue to eat it because it tastes good. We're genetically programmed to prefer high-calorie foods, and sadly fast food chains will continue to sell unhealthy foods because it earns them a living. When people engage in risky behaviors like driving or smoking, they're encouraged to take measures that minimize their risk, like wearing a seatbelt or choosing cigarettes with filters. Taking a statin is a rational way of lowering some of the risks of eating a fatty meal."

Steve - please share your reaction in the comment box below.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tougher to get pregnant when stressed

A new study in the current issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility lends credence to a link between stress and time to conception, and not just in couples dealing with infertility. The study involved 274 British women 18 to 40 years old in the Oxford Conception Study, which examined whether information from fertility-monitoring devices would improve their chances of conception. They were followed for six menstrual cycles or until they got pregnant, whichever came first. On Day 6 of each cycle, they collected saliva samples. Researchers measured their levels of alpha amylase and cortisol, two substances that serve as barometers of how the body reacts to physical or psychological stress. After accounting for couples' ages, intercourse frequency and alcohol intake — all factors that could influence pregnancy chances — the scientists found that women with highest concentrations of alpha amylase in the first cycle were 12% less likely to conceive than women with the lowest. On average, couples have a 30% chance of conceiving each cycle. (Few of the women smoked, the lifestyle factor most strongly linked to time to conception.) Cortisol levels were not associated with the women's chances of conceiving.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

JAMA: focus on real food, not dietary guidelines

According to commentary in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, U.S. Dietary Guidelines are not working. One reason suggested is that Americans aren't paying enough attention to real food.

Written by two nationally recognized experts in nutrition and nutrition-related illness, they state that the nation has gone astray by focusing on the nutritional components of food, such as various types of fat, sugars and vitamins. Instead, people should be advised to focus on foods, such as emphasizing the consumption of whole foods over processed foods, which would reduce salt intake among other benefits; and fruits and vegetables, which would increase fiber intake.

For example, the authors said, the dietary guidelines focus on advice such as "avoid too much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol." But, despite attempts to simplify food labels, "few individuals can accurately gauge daily consumption of calories, fats, cholesterol, fiber, or salt."

Moreover, the dietary guidelines are often misused by food manufacturers. Based on the addition of a few ingredients, foods can be advertised as healthy. "Taking the nutrient approach to self-serving extremes, the food industry 'fortifies' highly processed foods, like refined cereals and sugar-sweetened beverages, with selected micronutrients and recharacterizes them as nutritious," wrote the authors, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian and Dr. David S. Ludwig, both of Harvard Medical School."

Nutritional science should not be abandoned, they said. But the focusing on nutrient details over real foods "contributes to confusion, distracts from more effective strategies, and promotes marketing and consumption of processed products that normally meet selected nutrient cut points but undermine overall dietary quality."

Bonnie - hmm, where have I heard this before? Eating real food is one of my number one mantras! Then, let the experts deduce what specific macro and micronutrients an individual needs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Declinig cardiac function accelerates brain aging

Courtesy of Medscape Medical News

Declining cardiac function is associated with lower total brain volume, shows a new report using data from the Framingham Offspring Cohort. The findings are preliminary, but link reduced cardiac index with neuropsychological and imaging markers of increased brain aging. "Generally speaking, it seems that heart and brain health are related, so proper management of cardiovascular risk factors may have important implications on brain health," lead investigator Angela Jefferson, PhD, from the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, told Medscape Medical News. The results were published online August 2 in Circulation.

"Whether lower cardiac index leads to reduced brain volumes and accelerates neurodegeneration on an eventual path to dementia is not yet clear. What is known is that various vascular risk factors, including decrements in cardiac function, are determinants of dementia — both Alzheimer disease and variants of vascular cognitive disorders. This provides opportunities to find interventions that modify the course of these diseases predicted to be of major impact on our aging population." Dr. Jefferson acknowledged additional research is needed.

Bonnie - Why is this a surprise to researchers? Of course the two are connected. Just as the heart is dependent on the brain regulate its wiring, the brain is dependent on the consistent, dense, energized blood flow from the heart. Any deficiency in cardiac function will affect the brain adversely.

I can see drug companies taking this and pushing statins even more than they have already. There's one problem though: one side effect of statins that has emerged (and I have seen in clients) is memory impairment.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A cartoon that helps kids eat healthier

Popeye cartoons, tasting parties and junior cooking classes can help increase vegetable intake in kindergarten children, according to new research published in the journal Nutrition & Dietetics. Researchers found the type and amount of vegetables children ate improved after they took part in a program using multimedia and role models to promote healthy food. The children planted vegetable seeds, took part in fruit and vegetable tasting parties, cooked vegetable soup, and watched Popeye cartoons. Researchers also sent letters to parents with tips on encouraging their kids to eat fruit and vegetables, and teachers sat with children at lunch to role model healthy eating.

Vegetable intake doubled and the types of vegetables the children consumed increased from two to four. Parents also reported their children talked about vegetables more often and were proud they had eaten them in their school lunch. She said there was no significant change in the kinds of fruit eaten by the children, but this was probably because they were already eating more fruit than vegetables at the start of the study.

Bonnie - Popeye became invincible when he ate his spinach. Many of us who grew up watching Popeye cartoons have this indelibly imprinted in our minds, just as the last few generations have fast food and junk food indelibly imprinted in their minds. Things could change if the vegetable and fruit growers associations had enough of a marketing budget to advertise on television!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Sugar feeds pancreatic cancer cells

Pancreatic cancers use the sugar fructose to activate a key cellular pathway that drives cell division, helping the cancer to grow more quickly. Although it's widely known that cancers use glucose, a simple sugar, to fuel their growth, this is the first time a link has been shown between fructose and cancer proliferation. "The bottom line is the modern diet contains a lot of refined sugar including fructose and it's a hidden danger implicated in a lot of modern diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and fatty liver," said researchers. The study appeared in the Aug. 1 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Research. Sources of fructose in the Western diet include cane sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a corn-based sweetener that has been on the market since about 1970. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Hirschberg Foundation and the Jonsson Cancer Center.

Bonnie - the Corn Refiners Association's, which is behind the PR campaign trying to put HFCS in a better light, completely dismissed the study, of course. Our clients should not be surprised with the findings of this study.

Probiotic supplementation is urgently needed

by Maggie Fox

Germs living in the gut may cause higher rates of allergies, chronic stomach upsets and even obesity among children living in rich industrialized countries. Researchers compared intestinal bacteria between European Union children and young villagers in remote Burkina Faso, and found enough differences to help explain disparities in chronic disease and obesity.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may support the development of probiotic products to help restore the ancient balance and keep humans leaner and healthier, the researchers said. "Our results suggest that diet has a dominant role over other possible variables such as ethnicity, sanitation, hygiene, geography, and climate, in shaping the gut microbiota," Paolo Lionetti of the University of Florence in Italy and colleagues wrote. "We can hypothesize that the reduction in richness we observe in EU compared with Burkina Faso children, could indicate how the consumption of sugar, animal fat, and calorie-dense foods in industrialized countries is rapidly limiting the adaptive potential of the microbiota."

The study builds on a body of evidence that human health relies heavily on the trillions of microorganisms living in and on our bodies. Only a fraction cause disease directly -- many more help digest food, affect other bacteria and may influence hundreds of biological functions. Several recent studies have found that certain bacteria cause inflammation that can affect appetite as well as inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn's disease and colitis, including a study published in Science in March.

"Western developed countries successfully controlled infectious diseases during the second half of the last century, by improving sanitation and using antibiotics and vaccines," the researchers wrote. "At the same time, a rise in new diseases such as allergic, autoimmune disorders, and inflammatory bowel disease both in adults and in children has been observed," they added Lionetti's team studied the DNA of the gut bacteria of children in Burkina Faso, who are breast-fed up to age two and eat a diet likely similar to stone-age humans. The Western diet, in contrast, is heavy in processed grains, sugar and fat. The Italian team found the African children had many bacteria that help break down fiber, but the European children were lacking these microbes. The ratios were similar to studies comparing the gut bacteria of lean people to obese people. This bacterial balance could even be causing obesity, the researchers said. It may also be useful to test children for these bacteria to see if they are at high risk of becoming obese, they said.

"Reduction in microbial richness is possibly one of the undesirable effects of globalization and of eating generic, nutrient-rich, uncontaminated foods."

Steve - it will take a long, long time, for the majority of the industrialized world to change its dietary habits. In the interim, this study, and the thousands that came before it, emits an urgent call for the supplementation of probiotics.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Doctor calls out his own profession

According to Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tens of thousands of people are dying unnecessarily because of the arrogance of many doctors. Dr. Pronovost, a patient safety expert, expressed his opinion in a recent issue of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

He argues no measurable, achievable and routine strategies to prevent patient harm even exist in the health care industry. In fact, he states there are too many barriers in the way to attain workable ways to protect patients -- and at the top of the list is the arrogance of doctors "who are overconfident about the quality of care they provide or always believe things will go right and aren't prepared when they don't, and of hospital officials who fail to aggressively address problems like hospital-acquired infections."

Dr. Pronovost points out that each year about 100,000 people die from health care-associated infections, another 44,000 to 98,000 die of other preventable mistakes and tens of thousands more die from diagnostic errors or failure to receive recommended therapies. "It's unconscionable that so many people are dying because of these arrogance barriers," Dr. Pronovost said in a statement to the media. "You can't have arrogance in a model for accountability."

Dr. Pronovost introduced a simple checklist into hospital intensive care units (ICUs) at Johns Hopkins and then the entire state of Michigan. Wherever the checklist was consistently used, life-threatening infections were reduced to almost zero. Dr. Pronovost admits it wasn't only his checklist that led to the dramatic improvements in patient safety in these ICUs. The infection rate was reduced in ICUs where nurses were finally allowed and even encouraged to question doctors who had previously been treated as god-like experts who were not to be challenged. When nurses spoke out about physicians who might have skipped a step or otherwise violated safety protocols, infection rates plummeted.

Dr. Pronovost says the bottom line is this: patient safety must be put ahead of individual egos.

Bonnie - Wow. Hats off to Dr. Pronovost. I could not have said it better myself.

Rise in child food allergies: an allergist's hypothesis

According to allergists Milo F. Vassallo, MD, PhD and Carlos A. Camargo Jr, MD, DrPH, who's study recently appeared in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, April 2010 , the prevalence of food allergy is rising, and etiologic factors remain uncertain. Evidence implicates a role for vitamin D in the development of atopic diseases. Based on seasonal patterns of UV-B exposure (and consequent vitamin D status), we hypothesized that patients with food allergy are more often born in fall or winter.

They studied 1002 patients with food allergy. Of younger children with food allergy (age <5 years), but not older children or adults, 41% were born in spring or summer compared with 59% in fall or winter. This approximately 40:60 ratio differed from birth season in children treated in the ED for non–food allergy reasons. Children younger than 5 years born in fall or winter had a 53% higher odds of food allergy compared with controls. This finding was independent of the suspected triggering food and allergic comorbidities.

Food allergy is more common in Boston children born in the fall and winter seasons. We propose that these findings are mediated by seasonal differences in UV-B exposure. These results add support to the hypothesis that seasonal fluctuations in sunlight and perhaps vitamin D may be involved in the pathogenesis of food allergy.

Bonnie - for many more reasons besides this one, it is criminal that there has not been a government-sponsored vitamin D awareness campaign.

How lifestyle and breast cancer interact

Researchers have found that epigenetic changes to DNA in breast cancers are related to environmental risk factors and tumor size,according to a study in PLoS Genetics. The researchers found that epigenetic profiles of tumors had a direct association with diet, alcohol, and tumor size.

Epigenetics refers to the control of patterns of gene expression in cells, which give rise to the necessary differences responsible for creating the complex and interacting tissues in the body.

The study measured epigenetic profiles in stage I to IV breast tumors from 162 women enrolled in the Pathways Study, a study of breast cancer survivorship based at Kaiser Permanente of Northern California. The researchers took a detailed assessment of an individual's demographic and dietary information, as well as breast cancer tumor characteristics. The study's data show the promise of tumor epigenetic signatures to provide more detailed tumor staging, and eventually prediction of prognosis. In particular, the study found that alcohol consumption, folate intake (vitamin B9), and tumor size are each independently associated with epigenetic profiles of tumors. "By investigating epigenetic patterns in tumors from patients we have extensive lifestyle data on, we are helping to bridge the gap between environmental research and translational research." said Karl Kelsey, professor of community health at Brown, director of CEHT, and a contributing author on the paper.

Celiac disease up four-fold

Studies from the United States, Europe, and elsewhere indicate that the prevalence of celiac disease (CD) has increased significantly in the last 3 decades - possibly by as much as a factor of 4.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic report the increase has affected young and old people. It suggests something has happened in a pervasive fashion from the environmental perspective. Not only is the mortality raised in patients with [CD] but also in those individuals with latent [CD]. It can be asymptomatic; have so-called traditional symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, failure to grow (in children), fatigue, and malnutrition; and have nontraditional symptoms such as osteoporosis, depression, adverse pregnancy outcome; and increased risks of both malignancy and death. The onset of certain autoimmune disorders including autoimmune liver disease, thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, and Addison's disease can actually signal CD. This means that clinicians should consider CD in a number of symptoms and disorders because to this point, in most countries, at least two thirds of individuals with CD have not received a diagnosis by a doctor.

At this time, researchers said, the gluten-free diet remains the cornerstone of treatment for CD. However, in the future, alternative treatment strategies may be available. The recent discovery of the structure of transglutaminase 2 may help in designing inhibitors of transglutaminase 2 to treat CD. There is also ongoing research on the topic of decreasing the bowel's permeability to gluten. However, the safety and efficacy of these approaches are unclear.

Finally, agricultural research may mean that we can modify the gluten structure in wheat to produce a kind of wheat that will not illicit an immune response in patients with CD.

Counseling patients about gluten-free diets is critical. In patients with CD who do not become better on a gluten-free diet, the most common reason is probably that the patients do not eat a strictly gluten-free diet. According to Mayo researchers, it is not enough to say,"you've got CD, be gluten-free, goodbye. CD requires follow-up."

Bonnie - Why would anyone be surprised about the rise in celiac in the US? Wheat is in everything. The wheat lobby's coup, getting the USDA to recommend that Americans eat 3 or more servings of whole grains daily (whole wheat in particular, which has the highest gluten content of any food), assures that celiac will continue to be on the rise.