Friday, June 28, 2013

Are we starting to get the message about produce?

Fresh fruit and vegetables both posted sales gains the first quarter of this year over the same period a year earlier, according to the latest edition of FreshFacts for Retail, a quarterly research report from The United Fresh Foundation.

Produce departments as a whole experienced a 2% increase in volume sales, and 7% increase in average dollar sales, spurref by a 4.9% increase in retail prices.

By volume sold, vegetables beat fruit, with a 2.1% increase, while fruit posted an increase of 1.4% over the same quarter in 2012.

In dollar sales, fruit outdid vegetables, increasing nearly 8% over the first quarter last year, with vegetable dollar growth coming in at 5.7%.

The report also includes these stand-out findings:

Half of the top 10 vegetable categories gained both in dollar and volume sales.

Organic fruit sales increased 24.4% in dollar sales, and organic vegetables showed an increase of 14.9%.

Value-added fruits increased in dollar and volume sales by 10.7% and 2.9%, respectively.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

AMA goes out on a limb

Steve - The headline is tongue and cheek. This should have asked for decades ago.

Physicians voted yesterday to ask the American Medical Association (AMA) to push for removing sugar-sweetened drinks from items available under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program here at the AMA 2013 Annual Meeting.

Millions of Americans receive food assistance, and studies have shown that 58% of the beverages purchased through the program are sugar-sweetened. Consumption of these drinks is associated with weight gain and a higher risk for obesity.

The food assistance program pays at least $2 billion a year for sugar-sweetened beverages purchased as groceries alone. Cost estimates are likely much higher when you add in sugary drinks purchased outside grocery stores, according to a study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In addition to removing the drinks, the new policy calls on the AMA to encourage physicians to educate their patients about the effects of the drinks and asks state health agencies to include nutrition information in materials sent to food assistance recipients.

Japan will not promote HPV vaccine

The Japanese government withdrew its recommendation to use human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines in girls this week, citing concerns from the public about adverse effects, according to news reports.

The announcement is in stark contrast to the pronouncement this week by health officials in the United States that vaccination rates in teenage girls should be increased after a study concluded that estimated vaccine effectiveness is "high."

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is not suspending vaccination, but has instructed local governments not to promote the use of the medicine while analyses are conducted about adverse effects, such as long-term pain and numbness.

"The decision does not mean that the vaccine itself is problematic from the viewpoint of safety," said Mariko Momoi, who heads a ministry task force looking into the controversy and is a vice president of the International University of Health and Welfare in ƌtawara, Tochigi, Japan. "By implementing investigations, we want to offer information that can make the people feel more at ease."

In Japan, girls will continue to be able to receive the HPV vaccination for free. However, healthcare providers must now inform would-be recipients that the health ministry does not recommend it.

The government's subsidy program for HPV vaccination began in 2010, and an estimated 3.28 million Japanese have received it. According to news reports, 1968 cases of possible adverse effects, including body pain, have been reported.

Neighborhood safety linked to childhood obesity

Researchers in this month's issue of American Journal of Epidemiology examined the relationship between parent-perceived neighborhood safety and children's physical activity, sedentary behavior, body mass, and obesity status using 9 years of longitudinal data (1999–2007) on a cohort of approximately 19,000 US kindergartners from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. 

Children's height and weight measurements and parent perceptions of neighborhood safety were available in kindergarten and in the first, third, fifth, and eighth grades. Dependent variables included age- and gender-specific body mass index percentile, obesity status, and parent- or child-reported weekly physical activity and television-watching. 

The data indicated that children whose parents perceived their neighborhoods as unsafe watched more television and participated in less physical activity.

Get ready for the next diet craze

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Autism Tied to Air Pollution, Brain-Wiring Disconnection

Researchers have found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of diesel particulates or mercury were twice as likely to have an autistic child compared with peers in low-pollution areas. The findings, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, are from the largest U.S. study to examine the ties between air pollution and autism.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Allergies or a Cold?

Seasonal allergies don't only strike in the spring and fall months. Allergies are also common in the summer and can last year-round for some sufferers.

The most common allergy triggers during the summer months are grass pollens and mold spores. In fact, mold can be more bothersome than pollen. Mold spores are everywhere and commonly outnumber pollen grains in the air even when the pollen season is at its worst.

Adults that have never before had allergies can fall victim this summer. This sudden case of adult-onset allergies can be easy to mistake for a cold.

Although allergies are most common in childhood, they can strike at any age in life. Sometimes allergies go away, but can return several years later. Allergies tend to run in families which can make some people more susceptible than others.

Cold and allergy symptoms can often mirror one another. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, you can help rule out cold or allergies by asking yourself the following questions:
  • Symptoms for two weeks? If you answered yes, you more likely have allergies. While colds might seem to linger forever, they are not as persistent as allergies.
  • Escalating symptoms? If your symptoms evolve you might have a summer cold. Colds evolve, usually starting with a stuffy nose, throat irritation and low grade fever. Next comes the sneezing and a runny nose, with thickening mucus.
  • Green or clear? Colored mucus probably isn't the most pleasant symptom you want to think about. Mucus that turns yellow or green if often thought to indicate an infection, but could also be seen with allergies. Clear mucus can be with either the common cold or allergies.
  • Have an itch or wheezing? Itchy eyes, throat, and nose, along with sneezing, usually mean allergy. If you also have asthma, you might be more likely to have an allergy. An estimated 75 to 80 percent of asthmatics also have an allergy.
If symptoms are persistent, you should see a board-certified allergist for proper testing and diagnosis. Once diagnosed, there are numerous steps you can take to minimize the symptoms.

Demand more for childhood cancer survivors.

Not only do childhood cancer survivors have to go through debilitating treatment just to survive, but their lives going forward are often riddled with more pain. After enduring exposure to such toxicity at a young age, it is not surprising that a new JAMA study found that by age 45, almost 80% of survivors have a life-threatening, disabling, or serious health condition.

We must demand better for these children. For a century, the American Cancer Society has been received billions in donations for research and have failed miserably. 

Putting more resources into prevention should be priority number one. For example, public health messages and education protocols should be mandatory for young men and women who are in the prime of their child-bearing years. As we now know, how these young people treat their bodies does not just affect them, but several generations in the future. A few simple lifestyle choices made as little as six months before a couple tries to conceive can make all the difference in producing healthier offspring. 

In our culture of instant gratification, it would be a monumental task to convince young people to think several generations ahead. But we must try. In the current paradigm, childhood cancer survival rates are much higher, but at what cost to their quality of life? For what they went through, they deserve better than a life of pain.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Is Alopecia a barometer for more significant disease?

According to a new study in JAMA Dermatology, patients with Alopecia Areata exhibit an increase in comorbid conditions that include autoimmune diagnoses (thyroid disease in 14.6%, diabetes mellitus in 11.1%, inflammatory bowel disease in 6.3%, systemic lupus erythematosus in 4.3%, rheumatoid arthritis in 3.9%, and psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in 2.0%), atopy (allergic rhinitis, asthma, and/or eczema in 38.2% and contact dermatitis and other eczema in 35.9%), and mental health problems (depression or anxiety in 25.5%). 

Researchers also found high prevalences of hyperlipidemia (24.5%), hypertension (21.9%), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (17.3%). This profile was different from that seen in a comparison psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis group.

Alopecia areata occurs in people who are apparently healthy and have no skin disorder. Initial presentation most commonly occurs in the late teenage years, early childhood, or young adulthood, but can happen with people of all ages. Patients also tend to have a slightly higher incidence of conditions related to the immune system: asthma, allergies, atopic dermal ailments, and hypothyroidism. 

Physicians caring for patients with Alopecia Areata should consider screening for comorbid conditions such as the aforementioned as well.

The Secret to Tomato Sauce's Power

Friday, June 07, 2013

Diet Changes in ADHD Kids. Scientists buy in 30 years too late.

Brown Fat: Vital Human Organ?

Steve: Many of you would be surprised to know that brown adipose tissue, or simply brown fat, plays a key role in endocrine function. While white fat is relatively benign, it is brown fat that has the ability to signal other processes in the body to act in a positive or negative fashion. When brown fat cells become too numerous -- creating an overweight or obese state -- endocrine function suffers. Researchers have been zeroing in on brown fat's integral role in regulating cholesterol, glucose metabolism, and aging. 

The main culprit in accumulating more brown fat than is necessary? Simply overfeeding. 

Our bodies still utilize genetic information from generations past when we had to house excess calories to stave off starvation. We certainly do not require this feature in the modern world, but our genes do not know that. Hence, the way we house extra calories is to turn them into brown fat cells. The more fat cells we produce, the more weight we gain. The more weight we gain, the more dangerous we allow this organ to function adversely.

In this case of the vital organ brown fat, the philosophy of "eat to live," not "live to eat," is paramount.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Fighting words for the next phase in allergy prevention

A direct quote from a study on preschool children in this month's Expert Review of Clinical Immunology has put American Allergists who are not providing SLIT (Sublingual Immunotherapy) on notice:

"It has been demonstrated that SLIT (Sublingual Immunotherapy) is the only therapy that can modify the natural history of atopic diseases, causing a permanent desensitization towards the responsible allergen and modifying the immune system of the atopic patients, even if until now there is no evidence on a possible prevention role of the same therapy. Its efficacy and safety has been widely demonstrated both in adults and in children, even if the studies on preschool children are still limited. Nevertheless, the demonstration of its safety in the reported studies on preschool children is confirmatory to the already ongoing use in clinical practice, particularly if we think that its efficacy is higher when started at a younger age. It is important to remember, however, that in very young children, a detailed diagnosis of IgE-mediated allergy made by a specialist is mandatory to justify the risk:benefit ratio. Further studies on its efficacy in preschool age children should be encouraged."

Fructose or glucose: Which is better?

This author's viewpoint in JAMA shows that most of us are missing the point. It is not really about fructose or glucose. It is much more about processed versus naturally occurring. I think he explains it well. Skip to the conclusion if you do not  want to read the entire piece.