Friday, September 28, 2012

Chocolate fosters improved artery function

Flavanol-rich chocolate is beneficial for vascular and platelet function by increasing nitric oxide bioavailability and decreasing oxidative stress. As statins are ineffective in Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), alternative therapies are a clinical need. The effect of commercially available Flavanol-rich chocolate acutely improved vascular function in patients with CHF. According to the recent Eurpoean Heart Journal study, a sustained effect was seen after daily consumption over a four week period, even after 12 hours abstinence.

Bonnie: Don't forget, a 70% or more cocoa content is required to be effective.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why some bariatric procedures don't last

Bonnie: I have heard from a few clients who chose to have gastric bypass or other bariatric procedures to lose weight and/or eliminate diabetes. These procedures are a Catch-22. The surgery works for stopping diabetes because it immediately cuts off the negative epigenetic messages that push towards obesity and insulin resistance. Unfortunately, for individuals who do not strictly adhere to the major lifestyle changes needed to staying diabesity-free, five to six years later, the diabetes and/or obesity returns.

In clients who have had this happen and wonder why, I explain that the epigenetic signalling, which had previously been cut after the procedure, was rerouted so the negative messages once again could reach the genes responsible for diabesity. The eventual result is the return of diabetes and/or obesity. Unfortunately, you can outsmart the body for a while, but not forever! The sad thing is, in the clients I spoke to, this was never explained as a possibility prior to performing the procedures.

It is possible that with an optimal, individualized diet and lifestyle, the epigenes may not express negative messages and our genes will stay turned off. But how many people can and are willing to eat ideally? It takes hard work and will power.

The other issue to take into account when considering bariatric procedures is nutrient loss. People who have these procedures need be extremely vigilant with getting bloodwork and nutrient supplementation to make sure that they are absorbing key nutrients such as B-12, Vitamin D, and iron.

Low vitamin D leads to heart attack and early death

Bonnie and Steve: This is a study that you can really appreciate because of its longevity and focus on prevention. Appearing in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, the study investigated the links between vitamin D levels and the incidence of heart disease and mortality. Researchers took plasma 25(OH)D samples from 10,170 Danish women and men and followed them for an average of 29 years. They found that low levels of vitamin D compared to optimal levels were linked to 40% higher risk of ischemic heart disease, 64% higher risk of heart attack, 57% higher risk of early death, and to no less than 81% higher risk of death from heart disease. The lowest 25(OH)D levels of vitamin D were those with less than 15 nanomol vitamin per liter serum. Adequate levels of vitamin D were defined as more than 50 nanomol vitamin per liter serum. For those who doubted the importance of vitamin D for cardiovascular health, this study should put those doubts to rest.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wal-Mart, Humana to reward healthy food purchases

Steve: Now here is a novel idea!

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, is joining with healthcare insurer Humana Inc to trim the cost of healthy foods for some customers.
More than 1 million members of Humana's healthy rewards program will get a 5% credit on about 1,300 healthy food items at U.S. Walmart stores starting on October 15. The credit can be used against future Walmart purchases.
Walmart is striving to improve the nutritional value of the food it sells. Food accounts for more than half of Walmart's annual sales, and its clout in the U.S. market means that changes at its stores can influence other supermarket chains.
Walmart's products eligible for the credit include fresh fruits, vegetables, lean cuts of meat, skim milk, brown rice and packaged goods. The program works with a HumanaVitality card provided to members of Humana's rewards unit who receive points for meeting health goals.

Study alludes to greater celiac incidence in the US

In order to ascertain why celiac disease (CD) is an increasingly common disease that may affect as many as 1% of the North American population, researchers in a American Journal of Gastroenterology study used the active duty US military, a unique healthy worker population with essentially complete medical diagnostic coding, as an opportunity to describe trends in CD and deployment-related risk factors. The incidence of CD increased five-fold from 1.3 per 100,000 in 1999 to 6.5 per 100,000 in 2008, with the highest rates of increase among those over 34 years of age. If incidence of CD diagnosis in the US military rose that fast, and is six times higher than other population-based estimates, does this mean the estimates of general population are not accurate? We think so.

Spirituality and Quality of Life

A groundbreaking study in the September 11 issue of Health and Quality of Life Outcomes suggests that there has been very little research with regard to spirituality as a salient quality of life determinant for many individuals. In the current study, researchers used a model in which physical activity, spirituality, and social support were hypothesized to influence global quality of life in paths mediated by self-efficacy and health status. Data were collected from a sample of 215 adults over the age of 50. The results support previous findings of an efficacy-mediated relationship between physical activity and quality of life. Interestingly, they also found that spirituality may also influence health and well-being via a similar, efficacy-mediated path, with strongest effects on mental health status. These results suggest that those who are more spiritual and physically active report greater quality of life, and the effects of these factors on quality of life may be partially mediated by perceptions of self-efficacy.

Big food's next holy grail for kid marketing: Apps

Vigorous exercise key to reduce childhood heart risk

An Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine study aimed to determine the association between physical activity intensities and cardiometabolic risk factors in a sample of 605 youths aged 9 to 17 years. Body mass index score, waist circumference, and systolic blood pressure decreased and cardiorespiratory stamina increased. Achieving more than 7 minutes of vigorous PA daily was associated with a reduced ratio of overweight status and elevated systolic blood pressure. The odds of overweight status and elevated blood pressure decreased with increasing time and intensity of PA. Only vigorous PA was consistently associated with lower levels of all factors, underscoring the importance of vigorous PA in guidelines for children and adolescents.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Furor over rats fed GMO corn

A hot debate is occurring over a French study that showed rats fed genetically modified corn greatly increased liver and kidney failure, cancerous tumor growth, and early death compared with rats who did not eat the GMO corn.

We rarely comment on animal studies, and we will not debate the specifics of this study because both sides of the argument have valid points.

The reason we are posting about this is to shed light on the major issue: 

GMOs have not been tested in humans! 

We won't know if GMOs will create one of the largest food supply calamities in history until it is too late. If this study tells us anything, it is that GMOs need to be tested in humans in a controlled environment, and at minimum, should be labeled so consumers can make a choice.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Testosterone Frenzy Is All Too Familiar

Bonnie: Have we not learned from the thousands of needless cancers from HRT in women?

Courtesy of AP

"Are you falling asleep after dinner?" "Do you have a decrease in libido?" "Have you noticed a recent deterioration in your ability to play sports?" "It could be Low-T."

Welcome to the latest big marketing push by U.S. drug companies. In this case, it's a web page for Abbott Laboratories' Androgel, a billion-dollar selling testosterone gel used by millions of American men struggling with the symptoms of growing older that are associated with low testosterone, such as poor sex drive, weight gain and fatigue.

Androgel is one of a growing number of prescription gels, patches and injections aimed at boosting the male hormone that begins to decline after about age 40. Drugmakers and some doctors claimtestosterone therapy can reverse some of the signs of aging — even though the safety and effectiveness of such treatments is unclear.

"The problem is that we don't have any evidence that prescribing testosterone to older men with relatively low testosterone levels does any good," says Dr. Sergei Romashkan, who oversees clinical trials for the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health conglomerate of research centers.

Low testosterone is the latest example of a once-natural part of getting old that has become a target for medical treatment. Bladder problems, brittle bones and hot flashes have followed a similar path: from inconvenient facts of life, to ailments that can be treated with drugs. The rise of such therapies is being fueled by both demographics and industry marketing.

Baby boomers are living longer and looking for ways to deal with the infirmities of old age: Life expectancy in the U.S. today is 78 years, up from 69 years a half-century ago. And companies have stepped up their marketing to the older crowd: Spending on print and television ads promoting testosterone by firms like Abbott and Eli Lilly has risen more than 170 percent in the last three years to more than $14 million in 2011, according to advertising tracker Kantar Media.

Doctors say that's led to an increase in men seeking treatment for low testosterone. Prescriptions for the hormone have increased nearly 90 percent over the last five years, according to IMS Health. Last year, global sales reached $1.9 billion.

"All of a sudden you've got these big players with a lot of money using consumer directed marketing to change the landscape," said Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, a male reproductive specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "They see the potential, they see the market growth annually and it's very impressive."

But government researchers worry that medical treatments have gotten ahead of the science.

In addition to concerns about testosterone's effectiveness, the long-term side effects of the hormone are not entirely understood because most trials to date have only followed patients for a few months. But the most serious risks include heart problems and prostate cancer. In fact, all testosterone drugs carry a warning that the hormone should not be given to men who have a personal or family history of prostate cancer.

In 2010, researchers at Boston University's school of medicine halted a large study of testosterone in senior men because patients taking the hormone were five times more likely to suffer a serious heart event, including congestive heart failure, than those taking placebos. A review of 19 testosterone trials in 2006 found that prostate cancer was significantly higher among men taking testosterone.

Also in 2006, the Endocrine Society published the first physician guidelines for prescribing testosterone for men with androgen deficiency. All six of the co-authors had received consulting fees or research funding from drug makers that market testosterone. Despite those ties, the authors took a cautious tone, stressing the difficulty of accurately diagnosing low testosterone and acknowledging that they were unable to reach an agreement about when doctors should begin therapy. They also recommend doctors have an "explicit discussion of the uncertainty about the risks and benefits of testosterone therapy."

History has shown that hormone replacement therapy can be dangerous. That hit home for women in 2002 when a landmark study shook up the conventional wisdom about the benefits of estrogen replacement therapy for menopause, the period when women stop producing eggs and the hormone estrogen. The federal study found that women taking hormone pills were more likely to suffer heart attacks, breast cancer and strokes. Doctors now generally recommend hormones only to relieve severe menopause symptoms — in the lowest possible dose and for the shortest possible time.

"We really 'medicalize' seniors so much that they think the secret always has to be scientific," says Dr. Nortin Hadler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has written four books on excessive medical care. "We need another perspective to understand the secrets to healthy aging."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Consumer Reports Warns of Arsenic in Rice and Juice

Bonnie and Steve: This is not anything new. We addressed this issue several months ago and in late 2011. In general, you should be eating less rice and more fruits, vegetables, wild rice and quinoa. We cannot tell you how many people begin reacting to rice when they overload with it. The reactions are almost always due to rice's components and not excess arsenic. That said, rice has always been a crop higher in arsenic because it grows submerged in water, which not only leeches arsenic from the soil and agricultural runoff, but the water itself often contains high levels of arsenic. There are safer areas where rice is grown (California) than others (the South and China). If you are concerned, contact the brands you use to see where they get their rice from.

Too much consumption of any grain is not recommended, rice included. Eating grain in moderate amounts, per what is suggested in our Circle of Health Food Chart, is not going to overload you with arsenic. However, if you are worried that you or a family member has retained too much arsenic and heavy metals, you can get tested through hair, blood, or urine samples.

P.S. For anyone that is worried about arsenic in the Nature's One Baby's Only Formula, there was no detectable amounts. Here is the press release.

From February 2012:

Bonnie and Steve: An Environmental Health Perspectives study released ahead of print today found high levels of arsenic in brown rice syrup products, including two organic infant formulas. Similar to a study about arsenic found in apple juice, this definitely has the public uneasy.

The study did not released the brand names of the cereals, energy bars, athletic food products, and infant formulas. For our clients: the baby formula we recommend, Baby's Only, states their products do not have detectable arsenic levels.

Hopefully, we can learn more about the brands in question. If you are worried about any products you consume with brown rice syrup, contact the manufacturer and ask them if their brown rice syrup comes form California. If it does, then it should be fine. This was one study was on brown rice syrup, not brown rice. That is a major distinction. Feel free to avoid any products you may consume with brown rice syrup until this is sorted out.

If you are concerned for yourself or your child, you can do a simple serum or hair analysis test to screen for arsenic.

From February 2012
You Tube Segment on Arsenic in Rice/Baby's Only Formula Issue

From December 2011:

Two recent media stories exposed potentially high levels of arsenic in two major American foodstuffs: rice and apple juice. Should their be cause for concern?

There is virtually no data or oversight on naturally-occurring arsenic, or any heavy metal in rice for that matter. We applaud scientists for wanting to exploring the issue. It is a complex one that depends on many factors before a consensus can be drawn. For instance, the location of the rice field has a lot to do with the amount of heavy metals in the soil. Are the fields sprayed with pesticides or near farms that do? Do the farmers use well water, usually higher in arsenic, or receive runoff from rivers or tributaries high in heavy metals? Additionally, soil in different areas of the world have varying amounts of arsenic. For instance, California soil has less arsenic in its soil than Texas.

In our opinion, there is no cause for alarm at the moment. The new study scientists' cite to is small and has many confounding variables. If you are worried, purchase organic rice. This way, you can check off pesticides as one less potential contributor to high heavy metals. If you are gluten intolerant or celiac and consume rice, do not deviate for what works. If you are worried, you can always do a hair analysis or serum blood test to rule out high arsenic or other heavy metals.

Apple Juice
In the case of apple juice, there is more data to draw from and depending on the brand of apple juice, there may be cause for concern. Additionally, because apple juice is a processed food, it is much easier to perform arsenic testing before releasing the product to the public. The fact that the FDA is considering more oversight means that it is an issue. We would also suggest going organic in this case if you drink apple juice. However, we are not big advocates of juice in any form because of its high glycemic index and load. We always prefer consuming the real thing!

LDL is not the boogeyman

by Jack Wolfson, MD
Wolfson Integrative Cardiology
Paradise Valley, Arizona

Over millions of years human beings have evolved. Take a minute to realize all that the human body can do: create, destroy, laugh, cry, run, jump, see, hear, taste etc. Human organs are so intricate and complex that despite technology, they cannot be duplicated.

Now think of one good reason why the human body has evolved over this amount of time and saddled itself with the “burden” of the LDL molecule. LDL stands for low density lipoprotein. It is not synonymous with cholesterol although this molecule does contain cholesterol. LDL is made by the liver to transport cholesterol and other fat soluble molecules throughout the body.

LDL is not the “Boogeyman”. LDL has been created by the body for a reason, actually many reasons which will be discussed shortly. Challenge the doctor, especially the one who states cholesterol or LDL is too high. Ask him/her what LDL does? Ask what cholesterol does? If these constituents are harmful and cause coronary disease, why are they manufactured by the body. Why does the liver use so much energy to create LDL? The liver is an amazing organ that makes protein, fat, and sugar. It also detoxifies the body and aids in digestion. Evolution gave humans the liver along with eyes, ears, mouths, noses, sex organs, and all the rest. Mankind evolved developing LDL and the cholesterol it carries. Without this molecule, man cannot live.

The LDL molecule is analogous to a bus. This “bus” is made in the liver. It drives out of the liver when somewhere in the body needs the LDL’s help. The LDL travels to the area of need and drops off passengers. The passengers on the bus are mostly cholesterol. CoQ10 is also on the bus. In fact, lipoproteins carry vitamins A, D, E, and K. Without LDL, the body cannot move cholesterol to areas of need. HDL is the bus that picks up the excess cholesterol and brings it back to the liver.

Cholesterol is the root molecule of many hormones. Cortisol is the main energy hormone of the body. Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar (critical in times of stress); suppress the immune system; and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. Cortisol also maintains blood pressure. Thyroid hormone is responsible for temperature maintenance, cell metabolism and energy. Testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen all come from the base cholesterol molecule.

Most people have heard the publicity that vitamin D is critical to health. It builds strong bones, normalizes blood pressure, boosts immune function, and decreases the risk of cancer. How is it made? Cholesterol is coursing through the skin where sunlight converts it into vitamin D.

A large percentage of the brain is made up of cholesterol. Cholesterol is used to coat the peripheral nerves in what is called the myelin sheath. Cholesterol is secreted by the liver into the bile ducts to help digest food.

Cholesterol is an integral part of the cell membrane in every single cell in the body. Infants can live for years on breast milk alone. Breast milk is loaded with cholesterol. Would the human body secrete a deleterious substance to nurse its young? A chicken cannot grow inside an egg without the cholesterol in the yolk. Every single cell in the human body contains cholesterol. So why do doctors want to lower LDL and cholesterol?

Lions, tigers, elephants, horses etc. all have LDL and cholesterol. Why don’t they have heart disease? Animals do not have heart disease because LDL and cholesterol are NOT the problem. Inflammation of the arterial wall from toxic food and chemicals causes arterial damage. Cholesterol is part of the repair crew that heals damaged tissue. The goal of physicians should be to teach techniques to lower inflammation that wreaks havoc on the body. Pharmaceuticals such as the statin class of drugs have an overblown benefit and a plethora of side effects. At best, statins only benefit the vascular system while inflammation damages the entire body. Appropriate nutrition, detoxification, chemical avoidance, chiropractic care, supplements, acupuncture, and many other modalities will lower the inflammatory burden. That is the path to true health. The cause is the cure.

Steve Minsky: Dr. Wolfson did a very good job of explaining how vital cholesterol is. Following are several other instances where cholesterol is vital, and, why low cholesterol is not a good thing.

Cholesterol Is Needed To Prevent Aggression: It has been known for almost 30 years that low serum cholesterol levels are associated with habitually violent tendencies of homicidal offenders under the influence of alcohol. One of the possible explanations for this association is that low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors. Since membrane cholesterol exchanges freely with cholesterol in the surrounding medium, a lowered serum cholesterol concentration may contribute to a decrease in brain serotonin, with poorer suppression of aggressive behavior.

Cholesterol Is Needed To Prevent Hemorrhagic Stroke: There are two types of stroke: 1) Ischemic, associated with lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain 2) Hemorrhagic, associated with the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, and bleeding. The risk for the former, in theory, could be raised in the presence of excessive oxidized cholesterol. However, it is the risk for the second, hemorrhagic stroke, which is increased when cholesterol levels are low.

Cholesterol Is Needed for Memory: Low HDL cholesterol has been identified as a risk factor for deficit and decline in memory in midlife. Even in Parkinson's disease, higher total serum cholesterol concentrations are associated with slower clinical progression of the disease. Statin drugs, which inhibit the production of cholesterol, hence severely affecting the brain, are now required by the FDA to display the black box warning that they may adversely affect the memory.

Cholesterol is Needed for Longevity: In a fascinating study published in PLoS in 2011, telomere length – the shoestring cap-like ends of the chromosomes which prevent DNA damage associated with cellular aging – was linked to higher LDL and total cholesterol levels. The longer the length of these protective caps, the higher the cholesterol.

Cholesterol Helps Us Fight Infection: It has been observed that a cholesterol-rich diet improves patients with tuberculosis, leading researchers to suggest "cholesterol should be used as a complementary measure in antitubercular treatment." Cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins showed recently, exhibit immunosuppressive and potent immunotoxic properties, likely in part due to their cholesterol depleting effects.

Given that cholesterol is essential for all animal life and that each cell is capable of synthesizing it from simpler molecules, we should not be surprised by examples provided above of cholesterol's significant health benefits.

Hail to the avocado

Bonnie: Music to our ears. It has been a long time coming for the avocado.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adding milk really does destroy benefits of tea.

Steve: We have reported on this numerous times as more research becomes available. Don't forget that sugar negates tea's effects as well.

Most sore throats viral. No antibiotics needed.

The majority of throat infections are viral and should not be treated with antibiotics, according to new guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Published in the September issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, the guidelines are aimed at limiting treatment of viral infections with antibiotics and correctly identifying and treating cases of group A streptococcal pharyngitis ("strep throat").

Up to 70% of Americans with a sore throat receive antibiotics. However, bacteria are responsible for only 20% to 30% of pediatric cases and 5% to 15% of adult cases.

Researchers in the study state that strep throat is a common disease, but viral infections are more common. It is important to differentiate them, so that patients do not get unnecessary antibiotics, which can carry side effects for the individual, and also increases the chance that the next infection (whether in the same person or the next) will become resistant to the antibiotic. It may also help kids avoid unnecessary surgery for recurrent sore throats.

Bonnie: We need many more studies so it can be pounded into the public's head that antibiotics are not the answer in the majority of cases. I have of that patients dropping their physicians because they refused to prescribe an antibiotic for a viral infection.

Breathing technique no help for hot flashes

Despite the widespread belief that taking slow, deep breaths can relieve the discomfort of hot flashes during menopause, women in a Journal of General Internal Medicine study found no benefit from the technique. Slow breathing, also called paced respiration, involves taking six to eight breaths every minute. The method is commonly encouraged for relaxation, and is thought to affect the autonomic nervous system. The North American Menopause Society and many physicians encourage women to practice the technique twice a day for 15 minutes at a time, and also at the onset of a hot flash.

Bonnie: I would not stop this practice because slow breathing is good for stress relief, lowering blood pressure, and allows your mind and body to pause during the day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

GM Wheat Is Scary Stuff

Bonnie: This comes from a scientist who had worked for the NIH to study genetically modified agriculture. After reading this, you will have yet another reason to avoid wheat completely.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vitamin D Excites for Hair Growth

Panel: ovarian screenings do more harm than good

The United States Preventive Services Task Force said this week that tests commonly recommended to screen healthy women for ovarian cancer do more harm than good and should not be performed. The screenings - blood tests for a substance linked to cancer and ultrasound scans to examine the ovaries - do not lower the death rate from the disease, and they yield many false-positive results that lead to unnecessary operations with high complication rates.

The advice against testing applies only to healthy women with an average risk of ovarian cancer, not to those with suspicious symptoms or those at high risk because they carry certain genetic mutations or have a family history of the disease.

The recommendations are just the latest in a series of challenges to cancer screenings issued by the panel, which has also rejected P.S.A. screening for prostate cancer in men and routine mammograms in women under 50. The task force is a group of 16 experts, appointed by the government but independent, that makes recommendations about screening tests and other efforts to prevent disease. Its advice is based on medical evidence, not cost.

The recommendations against screening for ovarian cancer were published on Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Fish Oil: Media Takes the Bait Again

Bonnie and Steve: If you have not already, you will see it all over the headlines today. "Fish Oil is Worthless." "Fish Oil Doesn't Prevent Heart Attacks." This is based upon a meta-analysis published today in Journal of the American Medical Association that found no benefit to fish oil supplements in preventing cardiac-related events. 

This sounds eerily similar to media coverage in June when a New England Journal of Medicine meta-analysis came up with the same conclusion. What about the media outrage in April that resulted from an Archives of Internal Medicine meta-analysis that also came to the same conclusion? 

See a pattern here?

Does the fact that three prestigious journals, using the same methodology, all coming up with the same conclusion, finally convince you that fish oil is worthless for heart health? Uh...let's, we are far from convinced. In fact, as the years go by, we are more convinced than ever that fish oil is worth every penny of preventive investment.

Because our comments on the JAMA meta-analysis are virtually identical to our comments from the last two meta-analyses, we provide the following links for your perusal.

Comments on NEJM study from June 2012

Comments from AIM study from April 2012 

Comments on Why Meta-Analysis Don't Work

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dairy foods for weight management

Steve: "Dairy consumption per se has no clinically meaningful effect on energy balance to promote weight loss." 

You would think this quote came from an independent scientist or a a person who is not swayed by the dairy industry. However, this comment, published in an editorial in the September issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was written by Thomas AB Sanders, a member of the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Global Dairy Panel. 

Sanders goes on in his editorial stating, "Butter should be used sparingly. It remains sensible to limit full-fat cheese to less than one ounce per day and to limit the amount of cheese in processed foods like pizza."

Sanders is right on, although, I can't help but wonder if his days on the dairy-backed advisory panel are numbered.

Painkillers are a killer for heart attack survivors

Common painkillers such as ibuprofen increase the risk of dying or having a second heart attack among heart attack survivors. This study in journal Circulation confirms previous research which found the painkillers are linked to a raised risk of heart attacks or stroke when taken in high doses for a long periods of time. The drugs included ibuprofen, sold over the counter in the UK with the brand name Nurofen, naproxen and Celebrex. Among those receiving an NSAID, risk of death from any cause was 59 per cent higher one year after their heart attack, and 63 per cent higher after five years. The risk of having another heart attack or dying from coronary artery disease was 30 per cent higher one year later and 41 per cent higher after five years.

Bonnie: Doesn't acupuncture look better for chronic pain? It is crucial to get the message out to clinicians taking care of patients with cardiovascular disease that NSAIDs are harmful, even several years after a heart attack.

Half of women in study have sleep apnea

According to a European Respiratory Journal study of 400 Swedish women, half given overnight sleep tests had mild-to-severe sleep apnea. Half experienced at least five episodes an hour when they stopped breathing for longer than 10 seconds, the minimum definition of sleep apnea. Among women with hypertension or who were obese - two risk factors for sleep apnea - the numbers were even higher, reaching 80 to 84 percent of women.

Sleep apnea is tied to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and early death. Among women aged 20-44, one quarter had sleep apnea, compared to 56 percent of women aged 45-54 and 75 percent of women aged 55-70.

Sleep apnea is often thought of as a condition of men, but identifying women with it is important because experts believe prejudice of excluding women (as potentially having sleep apnea) has been rampant for a long time.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Ginkgo does not prevent Alzheimer's

The report in the Sept. 6 edition of The Lancet Neurology details results from 2,800 people aged 70 and older who reported having memory problems. These patients were randomly assigned to take ginkgo biloba extract or an inactive placebo. After five years, 61 (4 percent) of those taking ginkgo biloba developed Alzheimer's as did 73 (5 percent) of those taking a placebo. This difference was not statistically significant, the researchers noted. In addition, there were no significant differences between the groups in the number of strokes or deaths, the investigators found.

Bonnie: If you or anyone you know are taking ginkgo for this purpose, you are wasting your money. Ginkgo has consistently underwhelmed for this issue. We have not recommended it for years.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Milk Sales at Lowest Level in 30 Years :)

Sales of milk as a beverage have fallen to the lowest level in nearly 30 years - with more than half of U.S. adults no longer consuming it. While Americans consume about the same number of gallons of beverages as they did in the past, they're drinking a lot less milk. Milk has lost out to other beverages, primarily bottled waters, teas, and energy drinks.

Not giving up, the dairy industry has chosen "breakfast-at-home" as one of its battlegrounds for increasing milk sales. Americans still drink more milk at the breakfast table than during any other time. Consumption of chocolate milk as a sports recovery drink is another area the industry is promoting. 

According to Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc., a national organization that promotes dairy products and is funded by dairy farmers, "If we don't see fundamental changes in the milk business, and I don't mean incremental changes, then milk is going to become an irrelevant beverage at some point".

However, it may be too much for the industry to halt the trend of fallen sales of milk as a beverage, especially with people trying to reduce the calories they consume and the fat in their diet. Fearful of antibiotics and synthetic hormones used in the dairy industry, many people have simply stopped drinking milk.

In addition, experts admit that dairy-free diets are a long-term trend rather than a fad.

Bonnie: I have waited a long, long time for as this data to appear in print.

Makers of Thalidomide Apologize...50 Years Later.

Excerpts from USA Today

The German manufacturer of a notorious drug that caused thousands of babies to be born with shortened arms and legs, or no limbs at all, has issued its first ever apology — 50 years after pulling the drug off the market.

Gruenenthal Group's chief executive said Friday the company wanted to apologize to mothers who took the drug Thalidomide during the 1950s and 1960s and to their children who suffered congenital birth defects as a result.

"We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn't find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being," Harald Stock said. "We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us."

The drug is a powerful sedative and was sold under the brand name Contergan in Germany. It was given to pregnant women mostly to combat morning sickness, but led to a wave of birth defects in Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan. Thalidomide was yanked from the market in 1961 and was also found to cause defects in the eyes, ears, heart, genitals and internal organs of developing babies.

"It's a disgrace that it's taken them 50 years to apologize," said Astbury, of the Thalidomide U.K. agency, an advocacy group for survivors. "I'm gobsmacked (astounded)," he said. "For years, (Gruenenthal) have insisted they never did anything wrong and refused to talk to us."

Astbury said the drug maker should apologize not just to the people affected, but to their families. He also said the company should offer compensation. "It's time to put their money where their mouth is," he said. "For me to drive costs about 50,000 pounds ($79,000) for a car with all the adaptations," he said. "A lot of us depend on specialist care and that runs into the millions."

A German victims group rejected the company's apology as too little, too late.

"The apology as such doesn't help us deal with our everyday life," said Ilonka Stebritz, a spokeswoman for the Association of Contergan Victims. "What we need are other things."

Thalidomide is still sold today, but as a treatment for multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer and leprosy. It is also being studied to see if it might be useful for other conditions including AIDS, arthritis and other cancers.

Bonnie: Appalling. Could this apology be preparing us for thalidomide's approval for some of these other conditions discussed in the piece? Sadly, I can believe anything when it comes to pharmaceuticals.

Are Americans ready to solve the weight of the nation?

Adolescent weight directly linked to school food standards

Adolescents in states with strict laws regulating the sale of snacks and sugary drinks in public schools gained less weight over a three-year period than those living in states with no such laws, according to a new study in Pediatrics.

Strong laws were defined as those that set out detailed nutrition standards. Laws were weak if they merely offered recommendations about foods for sale, for example, saying they should be healthy but not providing specific guidelines.

Students who lived in states with strong laws throughout the entire three-year period gained an roughly 2.25 fewer pounds for a 5-foot-tall child, than adolescents in states with no policies. Obese fifth graders who lived in states with stronger laws were more likely to reach a healthy weight by the eighth grade than those living in states with no laws. Students exposed to weaker laws, however, had weight gains that were not different from those of students in states with no laws at all.

Steve: New government nutrition standards for school meals go into effect this year, raising the bar for the first time in more than 15 years. Schools must meet the standards to get federal meal reimbursements. Hopefully, the aforementioned study will spur them on to adhere quicker to the new standards.

Weight management keys during menopause

Changing behavior to focus on specific types of foods was correlated with short- and long-term weight loss in menopausal women, according to a study in the September issue of Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Weight loss at 6 months had significant associations with fewer desserts, sugar-sweetened drinks, and fried foods, and dining out less often, as well as increased fish consumption. At 48 months, weight loss had significant associations with reduced intake of desserts, sugar-sweetened drinks, and cheeses, along with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Bonnie: Elementary stuff, but always good for reaffirmation.

Plants can see, smell, and cry?

Israeli plant geneticist Daniel Chamovitz believes that plants are more similar to humans than previously realized and even have similar senses. Chamovitz is Director of Tel Aviv University’s Manna Center for Plant Biosciences, and has written a new book called What a Plant Knows detailing his findings, which may lead us to rethink what we know about biology with implications for research into food security and human diseases.

While investigating how plants respond to light, Chamovitz found a group of genes that allow plants to tell whether they are in the light or the dark. Surprisingly, these genes were later identified in humans and animals. “First, they control the circadian rhythm, the biological clock that helps our bodies keep a 24-hour schedule,” he explained. “Second, they control the cell cycle—which means we can learn more about mutations in these genes that lead to cancer.”

According to Chamovitz, plants “see” light signals, including color, direction, and intensity, and use this information to decide on a behavioral response, such as opening their leaves to absorb nutrients.

Plants also exhibit a sense of smell. For instance, a ripening fruit releases a pheromone which nearby unripe fruit can detect, triggering them to ripen too.

Plants and humans have other proteins and genes in common, such as the genes that cause breast cancer. They are therefore a potential biological model, and could be used instead of or alongside animal models for research into some human diseases.

In addition, eggs of insect pests deposited on plants trigger the production of scents by plants that affect different plant community members probably helping the plant to get rid of the pest before it becomes harmful. The results are reported the journal PLoS ONE.

Butterfly egg deposition triggers highly specific chemical and structural changes in the plant that attract different parasitic wasps attacking either butterfly eggs or caterpillars but repel egg-laying butterflies.