Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Think products from China are safe?

Here's a news story which made a big splash on all the news websites yesterday. Many governments are right now trying to squash this problem before it becomes more widespread. As you can see, China has an entirely different outlook on health and on supplement ingredients than does the rest of the world. This is why I don't understand how some people can buy herbal products that are China-sourced . . . Rhodiola is a good example. The best Rhodiola in the world is Siberian, not Chinese. Yes, China holds a distinction as well, as the cheapest Rhodiola in the world comes from China. You can buy 500mg capsules of Chinese Rhodiola rosea for $7.99 in a store, but Siberian is a different story. As a result of cheap, Chinese Rhodiola, the better products (that sell for $15 - $25) get pushed off the shelf. China also brings us a new "first" in the supplement field:
South Korean customs said it had confiscated more than 17,000 health capsules smuggled from China that contain human flesh, most likely extracted from aborted foetuses or stillborn babies. The Chinese Ministry of Health said it had been investigating allegations that capsules were being manufactured from human remains but had found no evidence. The South Korean customs agency said pills had been smuggled into the country through parcels and luggage carried from China. The pills were composed of ''ground stillborn foetus or babies that had been cut into small pieces and dried in gas ranges for two days, then made into powders and encapsulated'', the report said. "Flesh pills have been continuously smuggled into [South Korea], camouflaged as health tonics,'' the statement said. The pills came mostly from cities in north-eastern China: Yanji, Jilin, Qingdao and Tianjin. The South Korean government has been investigating capsules made of human flesh since last year when a monthly magazine released a report about the use of dead infants in traditional medicines. The report said the infants and foetuses were purchased illegally from hospitals. Forensic tests on pills marketed as "infant capsule" and "foetus powder" found a 99.7 per cent match with human tissue, South Korean reports said. "Human flesh pills are similar to a bizarre invigorate-seeking culture where people search for items such as seal's genitals and bear gall bladder in hopes for boosting one's stamina," Dr Ha Il-hyun at Seoul's Konkuk University Hospital told the newspaper Chosun Ilbo. "If there's anyone who claims he benefited from the pill, it would only be a placebo effect."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Researchers Discover Meditation has Positive Effects on Mood and Anxiety in Patients with Memory Loss

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital determined that mantra-based meditation can have a positive impact on emotional responses to stress, fatigue and anxiety in adults with memory impairment and memory loss. Their findings are published in the recent issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Their study placed 15 older adults with memory problems ranging from mild age-associated memory impairment to mild impairment with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease on a regimen of Kirtan Kriya (KK), a mantra-based meditation for 12 minutes a day for eight weeks. A control group was assigned to listen to classical music for 12 minutes a day for eight weeks.
Earlier results from the study showed significant increases in cerebral blood flow in the prefrontal, superior frontal, and superior parietal cortices as well as improvements in cognitive function.

“We sought to build on this research to determine if changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) had any correlation with changes in patients’ emotional state, feelings of spirituality and improvements in memory,” said Andrew Newberg, M.D., director of Research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine.

“Age-associated cognitive impairment can be accompanied by depression and changes in mood. There is data suggesting that mood disorders can aggravate the processes of cognitive decline,” adds Newberg.

Study participants who performed the mantra-based meditation reported improvement in tension, fatigue, depression, anger and confusion, with observed significance in tension and fatigue over the control group. There was no significant change observed in spirituality scores.

This study is one of a growing body of neuroimaging studies to illustrate the neurological and biological impact of meditation, highlighting brain regions that regulate attention control, emotional states, and memory.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mediterranean Diet Confirmed to Increase Health and Lifespan

A Mediterranean diet with large amounts of vegetables and fish gives a longer life. This is the unanimous result of four studies to be published by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, a highly regarded Swedish research institute. Research studies ever since the 1950s have shown that a Mediterranean diet, based on a high consumption of fish and vegetables and a low consumption of animal-based products such as meat and milk, leads to better health.

Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy have now studied the effects of a Mediterranean diet on older people in Sweden. They have used a unique study known as the “H70 study” to compare 70-year-olds who eat a Mediterranean diet with others who have eaten more meat and animal products. The H70 study has studied thousands of 70-year-olds in the Gothenburg region for more than 40 years. The results show that those who eat a Mediterranean diet have a 20% higher chance of living longer.

“This means in practice that older people who eat a Mediterranean diet live an estimated 2-3 years longer than those who don’t”, says Gianluca Tognon, scientist at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

These results are supported by three further as yet unpublished studies into Mediterranean diets and their health effects: one carried out on people in Denmark, the second on people in northern Sweden, and the third on children.

“The conclusion we can draw from these studies is that there is no doubt that a Mediterranean diet is linked to better health, not only for the elderly but also for youngsters”, says Gianluca Tognon.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Probiotics Shown Effective in Radiation Protection

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that taking a probiotic before radiation therapy can protect the intestine from damage — at least in mice. And as things usually work out, this implies a connection to the same protection in humans.

The new study suggests that taking a probiotic also may help cancer patients avoid intestinal injury, a common problem in those receiving radiation therapy for abdominal cancers. The research is published online in the journal Gut. Radiation therapy often is used to treat prostate, cervical, bladder, endometrial and other abdominal cancers. But the therapy can kill both cancer cells and healthy ones, leading to severe bouts of diarrhea if the lining of the intestine gets damaged.

“For many patients, this means radiation therapy must be discontinued, or the radiation dose reduced, while the intestine heals,” says senior investigator William F. Stenson, MD, Professor in Gastroenterology at Washington University. “Probiotics may provide a way to protect the lining of the small intestine from some of that damage.”

Stenson has been searching for ways to repair and protect healthy tissue from radiation. This study showed that the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), among other Lactobacillus probiotic strains, protected the lining of the small intestine in mice receiving radiation.

“The lining of the intestine is only one cell-layer thick,” Stenson says. “This layer of epithelial cells separates the rest of the body from what’s inside the intestine. If the epithelium breaks down as the result of radiation, the bacteria that normally reside in the intestine can be released, travel through the body and cause serious problems such as sepsis.”

The researchers found that the probiotic was effective only if given to mice before radiation exposure. If the mice received the probiotic after damage to the intestinal lining had occurred, the LGG treatment could not repair it. Because the probiotic protected intestinal cells in mice exposed, the investigators believe it may be time to study probiotic use in patients receiving radiation therapy for abdominal cancers.

“In earlier human studies, patients usually took a probiotic after diarrhea developed when the cells in the intestine already were injured,” says first author Matthew A. Ciorba, MD. “Our study suggests we should give the probiotic prior to the onset of symptoms, or even before the initiation of radiation because, at least in this scenario, the key function of the probiotic seems to be preventing damage, rather than facilitating repair.”

The investigators sought to evaluate LGG’s protective effects in a way that would leave little doubt about whether it was preventing injury, and if so, how it was protecting the cells that line the intestine. “Some human studies have looked at the possibility that probiotics might reduce diarrhea, but most of those studies have not been quite as rigorous as we would like, and the mechanism by which the probiotics might work has not been addressed,” Stenson says.

If human studies are launched, Ciorba says one bit of encouraging news is that the doses of probiotic given to mice were not exceptionally large, and their intestines were protected. So people wouldn’t need mega-doses of the probiotic to get protection.
“The bacteria we use is similar to what’s found in yogurt or in commercially available probiotics,” he says. “So theoretically, there shouldn’t be risk associated with this preventative treatment strategy any more than there would be in a patient with abdominal cancer eating yogurt.”


Saturday, November 12, 2011

How "Natural" Is This?

I was recently looking at Rhodiola supplements on Vitacost, one of those big discount vitamin and herb stores on the web. I couldn't find the quality brands but I saw something with their own brand name on it. I was OK with the price, it was about half of the norm. But when I looked at the ingredients, I was absolutely shocked. This was a "100% natural product" sold by a store that promotes healthy products and healthy lifestyles. And one of the major ingredients in this product (besides the herb) was something called Hydromellose.

Hypromellose turns out to be a very friendly sounding name for a very nasty sounding chemical ingredient. This is, to me, unbelievable that it shows up in the "other ingredients" and that their capsule is actually made from this stuff. Hypromellose is actually short for hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, otherwise known as HPMC. It is a semisynthetic, inert, viscoelastic polymer used as an ophthalmic lubricant and for other industrial purposes. That's right -- it's in the ingredients list of something that I would be swallowing three times a day every day of my life.

Next time you're thinking of cheapening up on your dietary supplements, think twice before you start downing products with ingredients like this or some of the other nasty items that show up in supplements, like stearic acid and magnesium stearate.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Use for Existing Drugs?

New research from Johns Hopkins suggests that brain-injured patients on cholesterol-lowering medications known as "statins" appear to be much more likely to survive a traumatic head injury. (Statins are sold under names like Lipitor and Crestor). This is exciting news because there has never been a medication given specifically to head trauma patients and the research here looks very promising.

Older patients who happened to have been taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs when admitted to the hospital with serious head injuries were 76 percent more likely to survive than those not taking the drugs, according to results of this study. Those taking statins also had a 13 percent greater likelihood of achieving good, functional recovery after one year.

The findings hold out the promise of a specific drug treatment for traumatic brain injury, for which there is none, the researchers say, and could increase use of what is already an incredibly popular class of drugs prescribed to more than four in 10 senior citizens in the United States alone.

“These data are intriguing,” says Eric B. Schneider, Ph.D., study leader and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “We don’t think it’s the lowering of cholesterol that’s helping the brain recover in those who have been taking statins. We think there are other, less well-known properties of statins that are causing the benefits we seem to be seeing here.”

The results are reported in the October issue of The Journal of Trauma.

Schneider says he and his colleagues now want to do a clinical trial administering statins to brain-injured patients not already on the cholesterol-lowering drugs immediately upon arrival in the emergency department, to study whether the medication would have a direct beneficial impact on recovery. “If you get this drug into people very quickly after the injury, we may get the same effect as if the drug were in the body before the accident,” he says.

Let's hope that's the case.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Some Parents are Increasing Risk of Preventable Outbreaks

A national survey of parents of young children found more than 1 in 10 use an alternative vaccination schedule, and a large proportion of parents using the recommended schedule seem to be “at risk” for switching to an alternative schedule.

“Small decreases in vaccine coverage are known to lead to dramatic increases in the risk of vaccine preventable disease outbreaks,” says Amanda Dempsey, M.D., assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and communicable diseases and a member of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Not following the recommended schedule leaves kids at risk for these diseases unnecessarily.”

Following a vaccination schedule that deviates from those recommended by recognized groups such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics leads to under-immunization. Under-immunization has been shown to significantly increase the risk of contracting and spreading vaccine preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough,” Dempsey adds.

This research shows that the problem of under-immunization is likely to continue to worsen in the future given that many parents have attitudes that indicate they are not convinced about the safety of having their kids vaccinated at recommended times. The study, “Alternative vaccination schedule preferences among parents of young children,” was published online today ahead print in the journal Pediatrics. It involved a survey of 771 parents of children ages 6 months to 6 years. Among this group, surveyed in May 2010, 13 percent reported deviating from the recommendations, though only 2 percent refused all vaccines.

Most of the parents using an alternative schedule said they themselves (41 percent) or a friend (15 percent) developed the schedule. Research has shown that using an alternative vaccine schedule is strongly associated with not having a regular health care provider for the child. The vaccines most commonly delayed were the measles-mumps-rubella (45 percent) and diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (43 percent) vaccines. A large minority (30 percent) of parents using an alternative schedule said they had initially followed the recommended vaccination schedule; most said they switched because it “seemed safer.”