Thursday, December 26, 2013

State of the Nutritionist 2013

Major Victory. Trans-Fats Go Bye-Bye.
We discussed the FDA's ruling banning trans-fats in-depth. The Museum of Science and Industry turned down our 33 year-old Hostess Cupcake, but are currently trying for the New York Food Museum.

Major Defeat. Eating Habits Getting Worse, Not Better.
Amazingly, Americans' eating habits deteriorated in 2013, as fewer adults report eating healthy all day "yesterday" in every month so far this year compared with the same months in 2012, according to the latest Gallup/Healthways poll. Moreover, healthy eating in most months this year has been at its lowest in Gallup trends since 2008.

In all honesty, it is not that amazing. Whenever we come out of a recession, we tend splurge on many things, including food and drink. However, what it really comes down to is, in order to continued improvement of our eating habits, we need to employ systemic environmental changes.

Our agricultural policy makes unhealthy foods ubiquitous and affordable. To really make an impact, we need to build a food environment where food education can thrive. The perfect example? The FDA removing trans fats from the food supply. You can educate consumers as much as you like, but often the best solution is to get bad foods out of the food supply. That's why policy, food laws and systemic change are so key for the overall health of Americans. Wish we could see the same policy with regard to GMOs, another huge battle that is going on between those for labeling and the corporations who are not.

Americans who report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times a week has dropped in eight out of 10 months so far in 2013. In line with these results, the adult obesity rate so far in 2013 is 27.2%, (up from 26.2% in 2012), and is on pace to surpass all annual average obesity rates since 2008. If fruits and vegetables were given the same subsidies as corn, wheat, soy, and dairy to compete cost-wise, I obesity rates would be half what they are today.

Major Victory. Overtesting and overtreating exposed. 17 medical societies released reports of 90 overused treatments and procedures, many ordered for asymptomatic patients. We have been reporting on this all year long in NCI Well Connect. This is a huge development for the patient. Look up the Choose Wisely campaign on the internet for details.

Major Defeat. New cholesterol guidelines may put billions more on statins worldwide.

Major Victory. The gluten-free trend did not go away as pundits predicted. Why? People feel good when they avoid gluten. It is as simple as that. While I am elated with all the attention being payed to gluten intolerance and celiac disease, I believe the wrong direction for optimum health is a diet based on gluten-free cookies, donuts, pastries, cakes, muffins etc. Hopefully, food manufacturers in 2014 will make gluten-free products healthier, with more whole grains and fortification, not just empty starches and refined grains. This is paramount because the next wave of gluten-free products will be featured in every aisle of the grocery store.
The USDA's new threshold for gluten-free labeling will help consumers make better choices when choosing gluten-free.

Major Defeat. Losing the ballot measures in California and Washington for labeling GMOs. However, Hawaii passed a partial ban and many other states (CT, MA, VT) are in the bullpen. It is just a matter of time before labeling happens nationwide.

Major Victory. Obesity is now considered a disease. This will allow insurance to cover well over 12 counseling sessions per year with a licensed health professional.

Major Defeat. The Dr. Oz Effect. His brand is said to be responsible for approximately $1.5 to $2 billion in sales of natural products and supplement in the past year. "America's Doctor" pitched the benefits of weight-management ingredients raspberry ketones and coffee bean extract, which all had ridiculous spikes after mention on his daytime TV show. In many cases, viewers lose because the products do not work and often come with side effects. The problem is that he does not take into account individual needs.

Major Victory. Numerous studies were published this year showing that too much, as well as too little, calcium was detrimental to health. The data supports what we have said forever: in most cases, between 400-800 mg. of absorbable supplemental calcium is ideal. 

Major Defeat. The FDA pulled the rug out from companies like Metagenics by changing what is considered a medical food. For two decades, Metagenics produced incredibly successful medical foods that could be covered by insurance. However, in a snap decision and without warning, the FDA changed what is considered a "medical food," thus acing out companies like Metagenics, who received a warning letter to boot. We believe that Big Pharma saw the medical food category as an emerging trend, was threatened by the success of manufacturers like Metagenics, and suggested changes to the FDA rules on medical foods.

Major Victory. The State of Supplements
Despite bad press, 85 percent of Americans - including those who don't take supplements - say they are somewhat or very confident in dietary supplements.

Equity capital is flowing into the industry. Large consumer products companies and even pharmaceutical giants are taking notice and some are even doubling down on their investments.

The transition to dietary supplement Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), although certainly not inexpensive or without adjustment, has been a relatively smooth one. And by working to understand and comply with these requirements, these firms now have external validation that they are producing well-made, thoroughly tested products that deliver in the bottle what is on the label, consistently made to high-quality standards.

Since the passage of DSHEA nineteen years ago, it has only been amended twice: the adverse event reporting law in 2006 and the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011 that help ensure the quality of the food supply. However, we are still not doing a good job of weeding out those who do not comply with supplement safety.

Major Defeat. The State of Supplements
In the past five years, FDA has issued warning letters, recalls and seizures for more than 400 products that were marketed as dietary supplements, but according to FDA, contain undisclosed prescription medicines, anabolic steroids, and in some cases, illegal drugs.

We know these are not products represent a tiny part of the industry, but the reality is that many consumers don't know the difference. And when the consumer media report on these incidents, they don't distinguish between the fringe and the mainstream industries. 

We continue to see negative press reporting that dietary supplements don't work, or even worse, that they may hurt you, generated from research studies that, at best, have limitations and weaknesses that don't get discussed-or at worst, the researchers have their own agenda for generating sensational headlines to advance their own careers. Of course, the wonderful research that comes out on a daily basis is rarely reported.
Dietary Trending in 2014  
  • Semi- homemade meals made with fresh, high-quality ingredients.
  • Better-for-you snacking
  • Increased focus on high-protein breakfasts
  • Expect dramatic changes from the FDA to the Nutrition Facts Panel seen on food packaging by early 2014.
  • FDA will further define what is and is not considered whole grain.
  • Food Addiction counseling will gain traction among certain segments of the public, but will take several more years to become mainstream.
What's Next after Stevia?
Monk fruit and coconut palm sugar have already made their mark and are growing quickly. However, look out for two new sweeteners in 2014. Details on them are available to NCI Well Connect subscribers.

Dietary Trending in 2014 (continued)  
  • Lemon: used as a main ingredient in juice or preserved form.
  • Tea Leaves: to add a healthy, flavorful twist to dinner, desserts and other products.
  • Middle Eastern seasonings: sumac, za'atar and marash to expand the flavor profile of traditional Mediterranean cuisine.
  • Nut-derived milk: made from cashews, almonds and peanuts for dairy-free flavors in sauces, drinks and dinners.
  • Egg yolk: in place of cheese, dairy and sauces.
  • Poaching and steaming innovations: wine, coffee, beer and smoky liquids to replace water for more flavorful dishes.
  • Seaweed innovations: as a snack, umami-rich seasoning, etc.
  • Pasta innovations: noodles made from alternative flours, seasoned with global spices and formed into new shapes and sizes.
  • Farm-to-table flavors: exotic meat-goat, rabbit and pigeon-raised by small-scale producers for new feel-good protein choices.
  • With the farm to table trend, people are looking for fresh herbs and spices, basil, cilantro, lemongrass, things that are fresh-tasting.
  • The simplification of product formulations, an increasing level of transparency and greater degrees of personalization.
Dietary Trending Beyond 2014
  • Cricket bars. Seriously. Insects will be the new protein source.
  • Matrix 'swapping' uses novel techniques to exchange certain compounds within whole foods to reduce sugar, add bioactives, and input exchanges with key sweeteners. The future will be about delivering the best that cocoa, cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry and so many other whole foods have to offer with extremely low to no sugar.
  • This is the end of the exclusive reign of macronutrients as energy providers and metabolic response modifiers as new non-carb, non-fat, in-between compounds emerge to pare with standard proteins perhaps, or even more interestingly, with amino derivatives and human metabolites.
  • Finally, the one-size-fits-all dietary advice will bow to 'personalized diet discovery' based on the realization that the saying, 'one man's food is another man's poison,' is startlingly more accurate than we currently appreciate. Expect to see the 'special diet' category explode as old dogma and institutional wisdom is blown away by the 'food as information molecule revolution.' A deluge of research will continue to pour out on how food compounds, large and small (molecular weight wise), 'talk' to our systems biology self and interacts with our immune systems in at least three phases: immediate antibody response, delayed antibody response, innate response.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Supplement Makers Behind Risky Products.

Bonnie and Steve: We applaud USA Today for outing the criminals who make up a small, but devastating, percentage of the supplement industry. This is exactly why we never, ever, recommend self-prescribing dietary supplements. You need to trust a licensed health professional with knowledge in prescribing high quality, safe dietary supplements. 

However, we do have one question. Will the USA Today ever put this much investigative effort into outing almost every single pharmaceutical manufacturer in the world who have committed criminal acts which have maimed and killed thousands?

The huge settlements and executives who have already been jailed or are up on charges make the news, but not as much as they should for the devastation rendered. Maybe the USA Today would not have enough room in their paper to report on the litany of manufacturers involved in criminal activity?

The supplement industry certainly deserves its share of coverage, but when comparing a 28 billion industry to a one TRILLION industry, the coverage is far from fair and balanced.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Here's a novel idea for breast cancer prevention: stop eating too much sugar!

According to researchers in the Journal of Investigation, "a dramatic increase in sugar uptake could be a cause of cancer. Furthermore, through a series of painstaking analysis, we have discovered two new pathways through which increased uptake of glucose could itself activate other oncogenic pathways. This discovery provides possible new targets for diagnosis and therapeutics."

They examined the expression of glucose transporter proteins in human breast cells. The focus was on the glucose transporter known as GLUT3, the concentrations of which showed are 400 times greater in malignant than in non-malignant breast cells. Overexpression of GLUT3 in the non-malignant human breast cells activated known oncogenic signaling pathways and led to the loss of tissue polarity and the onset of cancerous growth.

These researchers began exploring the relationship between aerobic glycolysis and malignant cells more than 40 years ago. However, the hypothesis became controversial. Even now the majority view holds that increased sugar uptake in cells is the result of the intense metabolic demands of tumor cells and not a cause of malignant transformation.

The findings help explain why blood sugar disorders in diseases such as obesity and diabetes can raise the risk of breast and other cancers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Vitamins Old, Old Edge

Why balanced meals are so important.

If you were to switch from vegetarianism to meat-eating, or vice-versa, chances are the composition of your gut bacteria would also undergo a big, swift change.

The research, published Dec. 11 in the journal Nature, showed that the number and kinds of bacteria -- and even the way the bacteria behaved -- changed within a day of switching from a normal diet to eating either animal- or plant-based foods exclusively.

Not only were there changes in the abundance of different bacteria, but there were changes in the kinds of genes that they were expressing and their activity.

The study suggests that this bacterial community and its genes -- called the microbiome -- are extraordinarily flexible and capable of responding swiftly to whatever is coming its way.

In the study, participants who switched from their normal diet to eating only animal products, including meat, cheese and eggs, saw their gut bacteria change rapidly within one day.

While the participants were on the animal-based diet, there was an increase within their guts in the types of bacteria that can tolerate bile (a fluid produced by the liver that helps break down fat), and a decrease in bacteria called Firmicutes, which break down plant carbohydrates.

Gut bacteria also tended to express (or "turn on") different genes during the animal-based diet, ones that would allow them to break down protein. In contrast, the gut bacteria of another group of participants who ate a plant-based diet expressed genes that would allow them to ferment carbohydrates.

The differences between the gut bacteria of the people on the plant-only and animal-only diets "mirrored the differences between herbivorous and carnivorous mammals.

Bonnie: Having all the bacteria at our disposal to break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins is crucial. This is why going vegan or going strictly paleo is too extreme! Balance is everything. This study also shows us how devastating antibitoics can be because they wipe out ALL bacteria and completely obliterate our microbiome.

Here's a novel idea for flu prevention: minimize sugar!

Reducing glucose metabolism dials down influenza viral infection in laboratory cell cultures, providing an entirely new approach for combating seasonal flu, according to new research in the journal Virology.

While annual flu shots are based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's predictions of the viruses that will be in widest circulation each flu season, the new approach targets one metabolic requirement of all influenza viruses: glucose.

Reducing viruses' glucose supply weakens the microbes' ability to infect host cells. To infect cells, the influenza virus is dependent upon the actions of the cell's own proteins, and so another strategy for slowing viral infection would be to target essential viral needs, for example, their dependence on cellular glucose.

When researchers boosted glucose concentrations in the laboratory cell cultures, influenza infection rate concomitantly increased. Treating the viral cells with a chemical that inhibits glucose metabolism significantly decreased viral replication in the lab cultures.

Steve: Influenza viral infection of cells could be increased by giving cells more glucose than normal. Surprised? We're not. The ease with which the researchers could dial viral infection down by controlling glucose levels just shows the need to dramatically reduce our sugar consumption, especially during flu season. However, especially around the holidays, most of us eat more sugar than at any other time of the year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Acidophilus/Bifidus combo we know well shines again

A study to investigate the ability of a unique probiotic formulation to reduce potential gastrointestinal side effects of antibiotic treatment has found significant benefits from a dietary supplementation combination of lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus.

The triple-blind, dose-response study, published in Vaccine Journal, concludes that the probiotic combination lowered the risk and duration of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). A decrease in gastrointestinal symptoms – fever, bloating and abdominal pain – also was observed compared to the placebo group.

While the low-dose group clearly experienced fewer antibiotic side effects than the placebo group, the incidence of AAD in the high-dose group was, at 12.5 percent, close to half that of the placebo group (24.6 percent).

The high-dose group similarly had a considerably lower rate of fever and gastrointestinal discomfort. In addition, the study indicates a tendency toward reduced Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea – Clostridium difficile being the pathogen responsible for 10-25 percent of AAD episodes and almost all episodes of antibiotic-induced pseudo-membranous colitis.

Few probiotics, if any, have been shown to reduce the duration and severity of AAD.

Bonnie: We have prescribed these strains of probiotic for over 15 years.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dad's to be? Treat your children well.

Mothers get all the attention. But a study led by a McGill researcher suggests that the father's diet before conception may play an equally important role in the health of their offspring. It also raises concerns about the long-term effects of current Western diets and of food insecurity.

The research focused on vitamin B9, also called folate, which is found in a range of green leafy vegetables, cereals, fruit and meats. It is well known that in order to prevent miscarriages and birth defects mothers need to get adequate amounts of folate in their diet. But the way that a father's diet can influence the health and development of their offspring has received almost no attention.

Now research for the first time suggests that the father's folate levels may be just as important to the development and health of their offspring as are those of the mother. Indeed, the study suggests that fathers should pay as much attention to their lifestyle and diet before they set out to conceive a child as mothers do. Fathers who are eating high-fat, fast food diets or who are obese may not be able to use or metabolize folate in the same way as those with adequate levels of the vitamin.

Comparing the offspring of fathers with insufficient folate in their diets with the offspring of fathers whose diets contained sufficient levels of the vitamin, they found that paternal folate deficiency was associated with an increase in birth defects of various kinds in the offspring, compared to the offspring whose fathers were fed a diet with sufficient folate.

There was an almost 30 per cent increase in birth defectsby fathers whose levels of folates were insufficient. While the study was done on mice, they saw some pretty severe skeletal abnormalities that included both cranio-facial and spinal deformities.

The research shows that there are regions of the sperm epigenome that are sensitive to life experience and particularly to diet. And that this information is in turn transferred to a so-called epigenomic map that influences development and may also influence metabolism and disease in the offspring in the long-term. 

Although it has been known for some time that there is a massive erasure and re-establishment that takes place in the epigenome as the sperm develops, this study now shows that along with the developmental map, the sperm also carries a memory of the father's environment and possibly even of his diet and lifestyle choices.

Bonnie: As we have said incessantly, fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come. We don't need a mouse study to tell us this. It has and will continue to occur until parents-to-be prepare themselves optimally for fertility.

Sugar and endometrial cancer in women

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reflux drugs create serious B12 deficiency

Not like any of you should be surprised, but it is nice to see headlines bringing the seriousness of this issue to the forefront. I just wish they would have also mentioned the FDA's warning of serious magnesium deficiency as well.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Healthy diets cost $1.50 more per day

This should not surprise us. The system is rigged for cheap, empty caloric fare. Until the fundamentals of our food system are altered to make it a level playing field, this will continue. That said, it is possible to sacrifice certain lifestyle choices that would allow most of us to free up an extra $1.50 per day for healthier food.

For example, how about eliminating soda, juice, and/or any other empty caloric beverage? What about losing the foo-foo coffee drink and instead, choose simple black coffee. Not only will you benefit from lowering caloric content and sugar, but with black coffee, you are gaining a healthful food. Any other suggestions out there?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Allergy Shots a Thing of the Past?

For most of you who have followed us for years, this should not be surprising. For others, allergy drops are a thrilling upgrade!

A little education can go a long way.

The knowledge and skills required to change poor nutrition and health behavior choices are often unavailable to those living with financial limitations. Competing demands on time and resources may pose obstacles to their achieving better diets. However, two researchers at the University of Minnesota recently completed a study that looked at the effects that three educational sessions might have on knowledge and behaviors of low-income women of ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The researchers developed and taught three classes to lower income women of predominantly American Indian, African American, and white ethnicities. They used a holistic approach and experiential learning, as well as providing clear sets of instructions. The first class covered the "nuts and bolts" of nutrition, including shopping, budgeting, and basics of macro- and micro-nutrients. In the second class, cooking techniques were emphasized, and in the third, participants learned about resources to increase food security, which included gardening.

After participating in the three classes, the women had increased vegetable intake, decreased fast food intake, and read labels more often. Data indicated that there were nine behaviors that improved after the session, as well as measures of knowledge. Increased knowledge and behavioral changes in a low-income population of women may help narrow inequalities in health, based on socioeconomic status.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Red Meat Increases Inflammation, Glucose Imbalance in Women

A study appearing in the February 2014 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined diabetes-free female participants in the Nurses’ Health Study for consumption total, unprocessed, and processed red meat intakes with plasma C-reactive protein (CRP), ferritin, adiponectin, fasting insulin, and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). All of these markers indicate glucose imbalance and inflammation.

Greater total, unprocessed, and processed red meat intakes were associated with detrimental effects on all plasma markers except adiponectin. The takeaway? If you eat red meat one or twice weekly maximum, and it is not a necessity, make sure it is grass-fed. Grass-fed beef greatly reduces the inflammatory properties because that fat has a higher omega-3 concentration.

Vitamin combo slows HIV progression

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fish oil supps help men with prostate cancer risk

New research has found that men with prostate cancer who ate a low-saturated fat diet and took fish oil supplements had lower levels of pro-inflammatory substances in their blood and a lower cell cycle progression score, than men who ate a typical Western diet.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, is important because lowering the cell cycle progression score, a measure used to predict cancer recurrence, may help prevent prostate cancers from becoming more aggressive.

The men were able to change the composition of their cell membranes in both the healthy cells and the cancer cells in the prostate. They had increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and decreased levels of the more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in the cell membranes, which directly affect the biology of the cells.

Sesame seeds becoming more of an allergy problem

Women's mercury levels dropping,0,4433487.story

Taking up exercise at retirement triples healthy aging

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GERD? Colic?

More often than not, it is just an infant's digestion system maturing and will work itself out without meds.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's really in that McRib?

Milk for Teenagers Disappoints

The role of milk consumption during adolescence for hip fracture prevention has not been established. Researchers wanted to find out of high consumption may adversely influence risk by increasing height. A JAMA Pediatrics study, published this week examined over 22 years of follow-up in more than 96,000 white postmenopausal women and men aged 50 years and older, found that each additional glass of milk per day during teenage years (13-18) was associated with a significant 9% higher risk of hip fracture in men. Teenage milk consumption was not associated with increased hip fractures in women, but did not prevent them either.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Doctors told to get serious about obesity

Have copper water pipes? Read this.

If Monday's eNewsletter did not convince you optimize your zinc levels, maybe this will.

Copper imbalances have been associated with a number of pathological conditions, including cancer. Publishing in PNAS, scientists have found that copper in drinking water -- given at the maximum levels permitted in public water supplies -- accelerated the growth of tumors in mice. On the other hand, reducing copper levels reduced tumor growth. The study strongly suggests that copper is an essential factor for the growth of tumors in humans as well.

Importantly, the researchers do not think that copper causes cancer. Exposure of healthy mice to the same amount of copper via drinking water for up to two years did not result in an increased incidence of cancer. The authors suggest that copper levels could be monitored in cancer patients. They propose that minimizing copper in the patient's system may be beneficial in cancer therapy, especially when combined with drugs that block glycolysis. This two-step strategy would starve cancer cells.

Steve: While this study asserts that high copper levels only affect individuals with cancer, we have seen many other studies showing neurological and autoimmune damage from too much copper in healthy persons.

This does not mean that those with copper pipes have to retrofit their homes. You must be aware, however, that copper and zinc are inextricably linked. If you copper levels are high, it is probable that your zinc levels are low. You can test for copper and zinc through, serum, urine, or hair analysis. If your zinc level is low, the only way to raise it is through supplementation. An amino acid chelate is the best absorbed form of zinc. Please seek the advice of a licensed health professional because just as too much copper can be toxic, so can zinc if not supplemented properly.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lack of dietary protein leads to overeating, weight gain

Lack of dietary protein is a key factor in the global obesity epidemic, with individuals' total calorie intake increasing as the percentage of protein in their diets decreases, according to a new study in Obesity Reviews.

Researchers found that regardless of weight, age or the time frame of a diet, reducing the percentage of dietary protein will result in increased total energy intake, contributing to overweight and obesity.

When you consume things like soft drinks, which are fairly low in proportion of protein but high in calories, your energy intake will increase because you'll need to keep eating to get the protein you need. If you add a soft drink to your lunch then you've added a lot of calories, but you'll still have to eat the same amount of food.

When people are trying to lose weight, they need to look at macronutrient composition, not just calories. If you cut out calories but don't consider protein intake, you're going to be hungry and your diet won't be successful.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

FDA drafts guidance to reduce acrylamide in food

French Fries, Baked Goods, Potato Chips - all things that may include high amounts of acrylamide, a substance created when certain foods are cooked at very high temperatures. The FDA finally admits that too much may be harmful to your health. They are offering guidance and want feedback from the public as to how best to reduce it.

Low Vitamin E May Mean Higher Fracture Rate

A study of the much maligned, but misunderstood, vitamin E has shown that low intake and low serum levels of alpha tocopherol, one component of vitamin E, increased the risk of hip fracture in elderly men and women.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study examined over 63,000 men and women over a 19 year period. This is how nutrient studies should be structured to get a true preventive effect.

Whenever supplementing with vitamin E, we always recommend taking a mixed tocopherol, which contains all the components of vitamin E, as opposed to just taking one or several tocopherols.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Zinc starves deadliest of infections

Researchers have found that zinc can 'starve' one of the world's most deadly bacteria by preventing its uptake of an essential metal. The finding opens the way for further work to design antibacterial agents in the fight against Streptococcus pneumoniae, responsible for more than one million deaths a year, killing children, the elderly and other vulnerable people by causing pneumonia, meningitis, and other serious infectious diseases.

Published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, the researchers describe how zinc "jams shut" a protein transporter in the bacteria so that it cannot take up manganese, an essential metal that Streptococcus pneumoniae needs to be able to invade and cause disease in humans.

It's long been known that zinc plays an important role in the body's ability to protect against bacterial infection, but this is the first time anyone has been able to show how zinc actually blocks an essential pathway causing the bacteria to starve. Without manganese, these bacteria can easily be cleared by the immune system. With this new information, researchers can start to design the next generation of antibacterial agents to target and block these essential transporters.

Bonnie: "With this new information, researchers can start to design the next generation of antibacterial agents to target and block these essential transporters." This means that they can create a patentable synthetic chemical that performs the same function as zinc. Zinc, of course, is not patentable.

Utilizing the benefits of zinc, especially during cold and flu season, is critical.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Much Sleep Does It Take to Save Your Heart?,0,865847.story

Tearless Onion: GMO Double Standard?

Onions, a key ingredient in recipes around the globe, come in a tearless version that scientists are now reporting could pack health benefits like its close relative, garlic, which is renowned for protecting against heart disease. They published their laboratory analysis, which suggests a similar heart-friendly role for the tearless onions, as well as a possible role in managing weight gain, in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Researchers note that the onion has a unique chemistry that leads to its tear-inducing effects when cut. Its pungency has driven cooks to don goggles, clench wooden spoons in their mouths and try other usually futile techniques to prevent crying at the cutting board. An answer could arrive in the form of a new type of onion that makes less of the protein blamed for making eyes burn and tear up.

The research team has developed such a version, which instead makes a sulfur compound similar to one found in cut garlic that may be the key to its cardiovascular benefits. Many people eat garlic cloves or take it as a nutritional supplement in pill form to reduce the clumping of platelets in the blood, which can lead to blood clots and clogged arteries. Garlic also has been shown to reduce weight gain. They wanted to know whether the new onion might also have similar positive effects on health.

The scientists found that in lab tests, extract from the tearless onion significantly reduced platelet clumping, compared to regular onions or even garlic. Other results showed that the new onion had about the same anti-inflammatory properties as the original. Also, preliminary testing in rats showed that the tearless onion could help control weight gain -- more so than regular onions or garlic.

Steve: Here is the conundrum. A tearless onion seems like a beneficial thing for us, right? Unfortunately, because the onion has been genetically altered to produce more sulfur and less tear-inducing protein, and it has not been rigorously tested for safety, don't we have to put it in the same category as any other genetically modified organisms? Without adequate safety testing, I think we must err on the side of caution.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

FDA to Ban Trans Fats

Excuse us if our tone is not celebratory. We knew this day would come eventually. Unfortunately, it has come far too late (over thirty years to be exact). We find the decision anticlimactic because most manufacturers have removed trans fats from their products already. The FDA waited more than seven years to render this decision so food manufacturers could get their houses in order.

The harmful effects of trans fats were painfully apparent 33 years ago when Bonnie started showing clients and groups the degradation (or lack thereof) of her Hostess Cupcake.
(the cupcake's 25th anniversary photo)

If what FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says is true, that over 20,000 heart attacks and over 7,000 deaths could be prevented every year by removing trans fats, that means that since Bonnie has been showing her cupcake, 660,000 heart attacks and 231,000 deaths could have been prevented simply by removing trans fats from the food supply.

33 years ago, the FDA had plenty of data on the dangers of trans fats. They chose to pander to Big Food instead of protecting the public. For shame, for shame.

What's Your Fitness Age?

A Colleague Forwarded This to Us.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Animal protein increases test scores

Micronutrient deficiencies and suboptimal energy intake are widespread in rural Kenya, with detrimental effects on child growth and development. Sporadic school feeding programs rarely include animal source foods (ASF).

In the present study, a cluster-randomized feeding trial was undertaken to determine the impact of snacks containing ASF on district-wide, end-term standardized school test scores and nutrient intake. A total of twelve primary schools were randomly assigned to one of three isoenergetic feeding groups (a local plant-based stew (githeri) with meat, githeri plus whole milk or githeri with added oil) or a control group receiving no intervention feeding. After the initial term that served as baseline, children were fed at school for five consecutive terms over two school years from 1999 to 2001.

Children in the Meat group showed significantly greater improvements in test scores than those in all the other groups. Compared with the Control group, the Meat group showed significant improvements in test scores in Arithmetic, English, Kiembu, Kiswahili and Geography. Folate, iron, available iron, energy per body weight, vitamin B12, zinc and riboflavin intake were significant contributors to the change in test scores.

The greater improvements in test scores of children receiving ASF indicate improved academic performance, which can result in greater academic achievement. The study was published in the October issue of British Journal of Nutrition.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Study: Putting Your Child Before Yourself Makes You a Happier Person.

While popular media often depicts highly-involved parents negatively as "helicopter parents" or "tiger moms, how does placing one's children at the center of family life really affect parental well-being? New research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science finds that parents who prioritize their children's well-being over their own are not only happier, but also derive more meaning in life from their child-rearing responsibilities.

"These findings stand in contrast to claims in the popular media that prioritizing children's well-being undermines parents' well-being," the researchers wrote.

Researchers Claire E. Ashton-James, Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth W. Dunn conducted two studies with a total of 322 parents. In Study 1, parents were asked to complete a child-centrism scale to measure their parenting style and were then given a survey to measure the happiness and meaning in life that they experienced from having children by responding to statements such as "My children make my life meaningful." The researchers found that more child-centric parents were significantly more likely to report higher happiness and a sense of purpose in life derived from having children.

In Study 2, participants were asked to retell their previous day's activities and report how they felt during each activity. The results indicated that more child-centric parents had greater positive feelings, less negative feelings, and experienced more meaning in life during child-care activities. In addition, the well-being of more child-centric parents was not affected negatively throughout the rest of the day, suggesting that the child-centric approach to parenting does not hurt parental well-being when parents are not taking care of their children.

"These findings suggest that the more care and attention people give to others, the more happiness and meaning they experience," the authors wrote. "From this perspective, the more invested parents are in their children's well-being -- that is, the more 'child centric' parents are -- the more happiness and meaning they will derive from parenting."

Kraft succumbs to outside pressure on Mac & Cheese

Monday, November 04, 2013

Friday, November 01, 2013

Mexico Approves Junk Food Tax.

Steve: They realize the urgency of their obesity epidemic. Why can't we?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Exercise not only treats, but prevents depression

Physical activity is being increasingly recognized as an effective tool to treat depression. A review in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has taken the connection one step further, finding that moderate exercise can actually prevent episodes of depression in the long term.

This is the first review to focus exclusively on the role that exercise plays in maintaining good mental health and preventing the onset of depression later in life.

Researchers analyzed over 26 years' worth of research findings to discover that even low levels of physical activity (walking and gardening for 20-30 minutes a day) can ward off depression in people of all age groups.

The findings come at a time when mental health experts want to expand their approach beyond treating depression with costly prescription medication. The scope of research demonstrates that regardless of individual predispositions, there's a clear take-away for everyone. The researchers state, "it's definitely worth taking note that if you're currently active, you should sustain it. If you're not physically active, you should initiate the habit. This review shows promising evidence that the impact of being active goes far beyond the physical."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Managing Media for Your Children: You Need a Plan

The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with suggested ways to curb children's media consumption, which is staggering. If media was food, almost every child would be morbidly obese because of the amount they consume. The sad part is that excess media exposure does lead to higher risk of obesity in children. While the suggestions AAP makes are fairly basic, the message will at least get parents talking.

Here is the press release and link to the official document.

Lower blood sugar good for the brain

Even for people who don’t have diabetes or high blood sugar, those with higher blood sugar levels are more likely to have memory problems, according to a new study published in the October 23, 2013, online issue of Neurology.

The study involved people with an average age of 63 who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is also called impaired glucose tolerance. The participants’ memory skills were tested, along with their blood glucose, or sugar, levels. Participants also had brain scans to measure the size of the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory.

People with lower blood sugar levels were more likely to have better scores on the memory tests. On a test where participants needed to recall a list of 15 words 30 minutes after hearing them, recalling fewer words was associated with higher blood sugar levels. For example, an increase of about seven mmol/mol of a long-term marker of glucose control called HbA1c went along with recalling two fewer words. People with higher blood sugar levels also had smaller volumes in the hippocampus.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Which state best suits your personality?

Aspirin: Always Risk vs. Reward

Researchers have published the most comprehensive review of the benefits and risks of a daily dose of prophylactic aspirin.

Benefit needs to be balanced alongside a fuller understanding of the potentially harmful side effects.

The paper, published by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme, reported benefits of taking aspirin each day ranged from 10% reduction in major cardiovascular events to a 15% drop in total coronary heart disease. In real terms, that would ultimately mean 33-46 fewer deaths per 100,000 patients taking the treatment.

There was also evidence of a reported reduction in incidents of colorectal cancer, which showed from approximately five years after the start of treatment. This would equate to 34 fewer deaths from colorectal cancer per 100,000 patients.

The adverse effects of aspirin were also noted with a 37% increase in gastrointestinal bleeding (an extra 68-117 occurrences per 100,000 patients) and between a 32%-38% increase in the likelihood of a hemorrhagic stroke (an extra 8-10 occurrences per 100,000 patients).

The researchers said, "This study makes it clear that there is an incredibly fine balance between the possible benefits and risks of the intervention. We need to be extremely careful about over-promoting aspirin intervention without having first fully understood these negative side effects.

Steve: For our clients considering aspirin, we always state that getting a genetic screening for tolerability is paramount. This can easily be done but is very rarely offered by physicians.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Multivitamins positively affect breast cancer outcomes

Taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement could increase the chances of long term survival in people with invasive breast cancer, according to a new study in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Researchers examined data for thousands of postmenopausal women and found that the risk of dying from invasive breast cancer was 30% lower among multivitamin/mineral users compared with nonusers. 

The research was conducted as part of the Women's Health Initiative Clinical Trials and the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study of 161,608 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 when they first joined the study. The current study focused on 7,728 participants who were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during the WHI and were followed for an average of seven years after their diagnosis.

Study: end the war against saturated fat,0,2193813.story#axzz2iYQkCQxR

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Yale is putting the "I" in inflammation

Inflammation is the common denominator of many chronic age-related diseases such as arthritis, gout, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. But according to a Yale School of Medicine study, even in the absence of a disease, inflammation can lead to serious loss of function throughout the body, reducing healthspan -- that portion of our lives spent relatively free of serious illness and disability.
Published as the cover article in the October issue of Cell Metabolism, the study found that immune sensor Nlrp3 inflammasome is a common trigger of this inflammation-driven loss of function that manifests itself in insulin-resistance, bone loss, frailty, and cognitive decline in aging.

This is the first study to show that inflammation is causally linked to functional decline in aging. There are multiple cellular triggers of inflammation throughout the body, but we've pinpointed Nlrp3 as the specific sensor that activates inflammation with age.

Organic Halloween candy can replace options with shady ingredients.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

No surprise here: air pollution causes cancer

Stress increases mental decline in middle-aged women

Common psychosocial stressors experienced by women during midlife may lead to a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD), according to new research in BMJ Open.
The population study included 800 women from Sweden who were first examined in 1968 and then followed up periodically for 38 years.

Results showed that the number of stressors, such as workplace problems, serious illness, divorce, and widowhood, was associated with a 21% higher risk of developing AD and a 15% higher risk of developing dementia during the follow-up period. It was also associated with significantly increased later-life distress.

Physiologic consequences can include adverse reactions in the central nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Gluten-Free Naysayers: Where Are You?

Several years ago, food marketing and public health gurus predicted that the demise of the gluten-free craze would occur just about now. Not only has it not gone away, but it is stronger than ever. The gluten-free market is expected to grow 48% between now and 2016 to $15.6 billion. There is one simple reason. People feel better when they are not on gluten!

In a recent Mintel survey, of those surveyed who were gluten-free, 65% said they were because it was healthier and they felt better. 27% said they did it to lose weight. That only leaves 8% who were actually celiac or gluten intolerant.

One caveat: we are thrilled that so many people have chosen to eliminate gluten. However, there are many gluten-free products that are not healthy. Just because you eschew a glutenous cake for one that is gluten-free does not make much of a difference from a health perspective. Food companies are capitalizing on this in a big way.

For the percentage of people who are eating gluten-free foods in moderation, we support your efforts!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Promoting healthy lifestyles does work for high schoolers

Although obesity and mental health disorders are two major public health problems in adolescents that affect academic performance, few studies have been conducted in high schools.

The goal of a study in the October issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine was to test the efficacy of the COPE Healthy Lifestyles TEEN (Thinking, Emotions, Exercise, Nutrition) Program, versus an attention control program (Healthy Teens) on: healthy lifestyle behaviors, BMI, mental health, social skills, and academic performance of high school adolescents immediately after and at 6 months post-intervention.

COPE is a cognitive–behavioral skills-building intervention with 20 minutes of physical activity integrated into a health course, taught by teachers once a week for 15 weeks. The attention control program was a 15-session, 15-week program that covered common health topics.
After six months, COPE teens had a greater number of steps per day and a lower BMI than did those in Healthy Teens, and higher average scores on all Social Skills Rating System. Alcohol use was 12.96% in the COPE group and 19.94% in the Healthy Teens group. COPE teens had higher health course grades than did control teens. The proportion of those overweight was significantly different from pre-intervention to 6-month follow-up, with COPE decreasing the proportion of overweight teens, versus an increase in overweight in control adolescents.

COPE can improve short- and more long-term outcomes in high school teens.

What happens to our body after drinking coca cola

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Are You a Cyberchondriac?

Turning to the Internet to find out what ails you is common, but for folks who have trouble handling uncertainty, "cyberchondria" -- the online counterpart to hypochondria -- worsens as they seek answers, according to a Baylor University researcher.
"If I'm someone who doesn't like uncertainty, I may become more anxious, search further, monitor my body more, go to the doctor more frequently -- and the more you search, the more you consider the possibilities," said Thomas Fergus, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences. "If I see a site about traumatic brain injuries and have difficulties tolerating uncertainty, I might be more likely to worry that's the cause of the bump on my head."

His study is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

As if fearing a catastrophic disease or injury isn't bad enough, doubts about health -- unfounded or not -- can trigger worries about potential medical bills, disability and job loss, he said. And that can lead to even more Googling, obsessing, doctor visits, unnecessary medical testing and distress.

Prior research shows that approximately eight of 10 American adults seek medical information on the Internet.

Friday, October 04, 2013

$5 blood screening from a simple finger prick?

Healthiest countries up vitamin D intake

A 3-year review of Nordic nutrient intakes has recommended daily vitamin D intakes increase from 750IU to 1000IU per day for people between 2 and 75 years of age. For over-75s, it set a level of 2000IU.

The 5th edition of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations involved three years of work and more than 100 scientists performing systematic reviews of a host of nutrients and was led by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Why is this important for Americans? Because Nordic countries are consistently rated as the some of the healthiest in the world. This report closely resembles what the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the so-called American authority on nutrient levels, released last year. Unfortunately, the IOM recommended 600IU of vitamin D as the daily vitamin D intake.

The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations also recommended increased intakes for selenium in adults, from 40 mcg to 50 mcg for men and 50 mcg to 60 mcg for women. For pregnant and lactating women it was set at 50 to 55 mcg.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Sleep's sweet spot

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links too little sleep (six hours or less) and too much sleep (10 or more hours) with chronic diseases -- including coronary heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and obesity -- in adults age 45 and older.

It's critical that adults aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to receive the health benefits of sleep, but this is especially true for those battling a chronic condition. Some of the relationships between unhealthy sleep durations and chronic diseases were partially explained by frequent mental distress and obesity.

In the study, published in the October issue of the Journal SLEEP, short sleepers reported a higher prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes, in addition to obesity and frequent mental distress, compared with optimal sleepers who reported sleeping seven to nine hours on average in a 24-hour period. The same was true for long sleepers, and the associations with coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes were even more pronounced with more sleep.

No surprise: exercise as good as meds

Exercise can be as good a medicine as pills, a British Medical Journal (BMJ) study has found. Researchers looked at hundreds of trials involving nearly 340,000 patients to assess the merits of exercise and drugs in preventing death. Physical activity rivaled some heart drugs and outperformed stroke medicine.

Too few adults currently get enough exercise. 
In contrast, prescription drug rates continue to rise.

When the researchers studied the data as a whole, they found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates. 
But there were two exceptions. Drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Quercetin is ubiquitously wonderful

We have always been a big supporters of the bioflavanoid, quercetin. While we mainly suggest it for allergy, inflammation, healing, and immune support, we found quercetin's antioxidant properties to be even more ubiquitous.

Ochratoxin (OTA) is one of the most abundant food contaminating mycotoxins and is commonly present in the food chain. Many of the effects associated with OTA, appear to be mediated through oxidative stress. Antidotes for alleviating the toxicity are sparsely reported. In a study in the upcoming December issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology, therapeutic strategy was directed towards use of quercetin. Results demonstrated that quercetin pre-treatment suppressed OTA-induced cytotoxicity and oxidative stress. Quercetin should be investigated to be used as a natural preservative to combat OTA.

Increased Growth factor IGF-1/IGF-1R axis activation is one the most integral factors in the development and progression of prostate cancer. Researchers in the September issue of Clinical Nutrition hypothesized that targeting this system with quercetin could be both treatment as well as prevention of prostate cancer. At least in rats, quercetin down regulated the cell survival, proliferative and anti-apoptotic proteins thereby preventing prostate cancer, by acting as a chemopreventive agent.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Men: Here's How to Keep the Pounds Off for Good.

Choose your carbohydrates with low glycemic index and low glycemic load. Glycemic Index is the amount of sugar in a food (100 is the highest, 0 is the lowest) and Glycemic Load is how fast food turns into glucose. The faster food turns into glucose, the worse it is for blood sugar balance. For example, I bet you guys love your cereal in the morning, don't you? Well, most cereals (just your good old shredded wheat, cheerios, or rice krispies) are all high glycemix index and load. Where 40 or less is an ideal number, most breakfast cereals are 70 or higher. On the flipside, while most of your whole fruits and vegetables may be naturally high in sugar, which makes their glycemic index high, their glycemic load, which shows how quickly the food turns into glucose is well below the 40 range (between 4 and 12).

In a new study from The Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that a diet low in carbohydrate intake and low glycemic load have health benefits in men by positively affecting daylong glycemia, insulin sensitivity, liver fat, and weight. This was in men who had already lost weight and wanted to keep the weight off.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Postmenopausal Women: Pay Attention to This!

Back pain is a major public health problem due to its high frequency, to the resulting activity constraint, and the need for surgery in many cases. Back pain is more frequent in women than men, mainly in postmenopausal women. High prevalence of hypovitaminosis D has been detected in postmenopausal women, and it is associated with decreased bone mass, sarcopenia, vertebral fractures, and inflammation, which can be related to back pain.
The relation between back pain and hypovitaminosis D was evaluated in this study, as well the difference regarding the number of bedridden days, number of days away from work, and daily activities limitation between women with and without hypovitaminosis D. A study in the September issue of BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders reviewed data in low bone mass postmenopausal women. 

Those with hypovitaminosis D, compared to those without hypovitaminosis D, reported more back pain, more cases of severe back pain, higher limitation in their daily activities, more fractures, and had more trouble to perform daily activities.

Bonnie: What more do you need to see to make sure your vitamin D levels are ideal?!

What every contact lens wearer needs to know

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Consuming Dairy Doubles Risk of Huntington's Disease

Certain dietary choices may change the course of Huntington's disease, a new study from JAMA Neurology suggests. Researchers found that higher consumption of dairy products more than doubled the risk for onset, known as phenoconversion. Dairy may be a surrogate for lower urate levels, which are associated with faster progression in Huntington's, the authors speculate. Curtail dairy consumption if you have Huntington's disease in your family history.

Disgustologist explains why we get grossed out

Friday, September 20, 2013

Study: B-Vitamins Lowered Stroke Risk

Abstract from Neurology, September 18, 2013

Objective: To perform a meta-analysis on the effect of lowering homocysteine levels via B vitamin supplementation on cerebrovascular disease risk.

Methods: Using clinical trials published before August 2012 to assess stroke events, we used relative risks with 95% confidence intervals to measure the association between B vitamin supplementation and endpoint events. We included 14 randomized controlled trials with 54,913 participants in this analysis.

Results: We observed a reduction in overall stroke events resulting from reduction in homocysteine levels following B vitamin supplementation but not in subgroups divided according to primary or secondary prevention measures, ischemic vs hemorrhagic stroke, or occurrence of fatal stroke. There were beneficial effects in reducing stroke events in subgroups with more than 3 years follow-up time, and without background of cereal folate fortification or chronic kidney disease (CKD). Some trials that included CKD patients reported decreased glomerular filtration rate with B vitamin supplementation. We conducted detailed subgroup analyses for cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) but did not find a significant benefit regarding intervention dose of vitamin B12 or baseline blood B12 concentration. Stratified analysis for blood pressure and baseline participant medication use showed benefits with more than 130 mm Hg systolic blood pressure and lower antiplatelet drug use in reducing stroke risk.

Conclusions: B vitamin supplementation for homocysteine reduction significantly reduced stroke events, especially in subjects with certain characteristics who received appropriate intervention measures.

Lifestyle changes lessen this aging indicator

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Simple, Cheap Colon Cancer Screening Very Effective

Testing for blood in the stool reduced the risk of death from colorectal cancer by as much as 32 percent and it seemed to keep the death rate low even after testing stopped, according to a new study from New England Journal of Medicine. The test that looks for blood in the feces is the safest, cheapest and least complicated.

People were either screened for fecal blood annually, every two years or not at and followed them for two six year windows. The people who received annual screening during those initial periods ultimately saw a 32 percent reduction in their risk of dying from colorectal cancer. With biennial screening, the risk was cut by 22 percent.

In total, 732 of 33,020 deaths over the 30 years were from colorectal cancer. The fact that the effect was sustained through 30 years is remarkable. The study of fecal occult blood testing provides the longest follow-up of any colorectal cancer screening study to date - an impressive 30 years - and shows that the benefits of screening by this method endure for the lifetime of the patient.

It also costs 99% less than a colonoscopy!

Giving out free antibiotics is so wrong

Steve: It is astounding to me that given the public health outcry that antibiotic usage be curtailed because we are on the precipice of having no effective antimicrobials to fight off infection, that these practices are allowed to go on.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Story: Trying to Get a Virtual Colonoscopy

Dear Bonnie,
I am writing in the hope that my experience might help your other clients. Based on the research you presented about colonography, I decided that my first colon cancer screening would be a virtual colonoscopy instead of traditional, invasive colonoscopy. You are often ahead of your time, and I believe this is one of those cases. Over the course of several weeks this summer, I spent the equivalent of two or three days on the phone trying to find someone who would do a CT scan of the colon. I learned some things that might shorten this search for your other clients.
Tip Number One. Unbelievably, most medical offices and hospital personnel I spoke with did not know the terms colonography or virtual colonoscopy. Everyone understood CT scan of the colon. Save yourself some trouble and just inquire about CT scan. [I spoke with two doctors who of course knew all the terms; the people not in the know were the people answering phones.]
Tip Number Two. Don’t waste time calling gastroenterologist offices. You might want a gastro specialist if the test comes back positive. But you don’t need one to order the test. All the gastro offices I talked with said they don’t recommend CT scans as a screening tool. The only time they want a CT scan of the colon is to follow up traditional colonoscopy. This seems backward to me, but that’s what a number of them told me.
Tip Number Three. Find a facility that performs and reads the CT scan; get the radiology fax number for the order and scheduling phone number. Then ask your primary care doctor to fax in the order for the test for you. Then you call the facility to schedule.
Tip Number Four. When calling facilities, ask for the GI Lab. I don’t know if that’s part of Radiology or what, but every hospital I called sent me to their GI Lab. I had been told by a number of gastro offices that if a CT scan of the colon is needed, they send all those patients to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago. For convenience, I really wanted to find a Lake County hospital, but I couldn’t. My second-to-last call (before resigning myself to going into the city) was to Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. It’s not Lake County, but at least it’s familiar territory and an easy drive. They did my CT scan two weeks ago. They were wonderfully helpful and knowledgeable from my first phone call to them to the procedure itself.
Tip Number Five. Paying for the test might be tricky depending on your hospital’s and your insurance company’s policies. I recommend calling your insurance company at least twice and asking different representatives if you’re covered. I was first told insurance covered colon cancer screenings 100 percent. Then I was told they cover diagnostic tests 100 percent, but for just a routine CT screening, I’d have a $100 copay. Another wrinkle was the hospital’s policy. If I had gone in for traditional colonoscopy, Northwest Community Hospital would have billed insurance directly. Since my colonoscopy was virtual, I would have to self-pay $867. Upon registration, I found because they list self-pays as uninsured, my cost would be $442.17. So that is what I will submit to my insurance company. It remains to be seen how much they’ll cover. I hope I will have no more than the $100 copay. The hospital gave me the procedure code so that I could call the radiologist company that would bill separately for reading the CT scan. Again, it took several phone calls and being told the virtual colonoscopy code wasn’t even in their system before I reached someone who said their charge would be about $335, exact amount depending on I’m not sure what, and they would bill my insurance directly. My insurance company would not commit on the second charge, because their coverage of the reading would depend on if the individual radiologist doing the reading was in-network. So I guess I’ll just have to wait to find out how much that might cost me.
A general summary of my experience is that most involved parties do not really know how to handle virtual colonoscopy. They must not have had to deal with it much. Great news though: The two doctors I spoke with in my primary care practice were fairly enthusiastic about my request for this less invasive screening, and they both seemed familiar with positive research about colonography’s effectiveness. There is hope!