Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sham: Big Problems with Chinese Seafood

The problems experienced by Americans and others around the world with Chinese exports has now reached the US food chain, where inexpensive farmed fish have been found to contain a number of illegal and unhealthy ingredients. (Search this site for "China" for references to a number of other reported problems with their dietary supplements, personal care items, toys, etc.)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced it is blocking the import from China of five species of seafood until their importers can prove they are not contaminated. Dr. David Acheson, the agency's assistant commissioner for food protection, stated that "FDA is initiating an import alert against several species of imported Chinese farmed seafood because of numerous cases of contamination with drugs and unsafe food additives."

The species involved here are catfish, eel, shrimp, basa and dace, he said. (Basa is a fish much like catfish; dace is similar to carp.)

The medications cited include the antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet and fluoroquinolones. The first three chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. The use of fluoroquinolones in food-producing animals can result in antibiotic resistance -- something which is a great concern in these days of resistant strains and hospital acquired infections.

None of them is approved for use in farmed seafood in the United States. For many years now, US seafood farmers have been arguing that China is undercutting them and producing an inferior product.

"FDA is taking this action to protect the public health of the American people," the FDA representative said. He also admitted that the products "could cause serious health problems if consumed over a long period of time."

China is the world's largest producer of farmed fish, accounting for 70 percent of the total produced, he said. It is the third-largest exporter of farmed fish to the United States. In another piece of news today, China has been discovered by Brazil to be using fake Brazilian export certificates for their beef sales, claiming to buyers all over the world that Chinese beef is from Brazil. Unbelievable . . . I personally think it is time that we went on a "China-free diet" and ask our grocers where their food comes from before we purchase it for our family's consumption.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Wham: Moderate Drinkers Report Above-Average Health

A new study from the University of Miami says that moderate drinkers are more likely to report above-average health than lifetime abstainers, light drinkers and heavy drinkers.

“Our results suggest that a moderate amount of drinking is not necessarily dangerous for most people and may actually be health-enhancing,” said study coauthor Michael French, Ph.D., whose findings confirmed much of the clinical evidence on this topic. Previous research has focused on objective health indicators such as cardiovascular disease, injuries and mortality.

In this case, however, researchers wanted to see if moderate drinkers are actually feeling better by their own assessment. French, professor of health economics at the University of Miami, coauthored this study which appears in the July/August issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The study used 2002 data from a representative survey of U.S. households, representing more than 31,000 adults. The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the survey for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Participants answered questions about alcohol consumption, health behaviors and chronic health conditions. Researchers defined moderate drinking as four to 14 drinks weekly for men and four to seven drinks weekly for women.

Compared with lifetime abstainers and former light drinkers, moderate-drinking men were 1.27 times more likely to report above-average health. Women who were moderate drinkers were more than twice as likely to report above-average health as abstainers were.

Arthur Klatsky, M.D., a researcher and cardiology consultant at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland, Calif., suggests that the study’s results for moderate drinkers probably have something to do with healthy lifestyles. “By and large, the same people that work out and eat healthy are probably more likely to be moderate drinkers instead of heavier drinkers,” he said.

One major health benefit of moderate drinking is the ability to ward off cardiovascular disease, particularly hardening of the arteries and stroke caused by blockages in blood vessels, Klatsky added.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sham: Antidepressants May Lead to Serious Bone Loss

The class of antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be associated with an increased rate of bone loss in older men and women, according to two articles in the June 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) treat depression by inhibiting the protein that transports serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sleep and depression, according to background information in the articles. This protein has recently been discovered in bone as well, raising the possibility that SSRIs may affect bone density and the risk of fracture. SSRIs account for about 62 percent of antidepressant prescriptions in the United States, and are often prescribed to the elderly. Here's more from these two studies:
Susan J. Diem, M.D., M.P.H., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues studied 2,722 older women (average age 78.5 years) beginning in 1997 through 1999. At that time and again an average of 4.9 years later, researchers measured women’s total hip bone density and also that of two subregions. At each visit, the participantswere asked to bring in all the medications they had used within the past two weeks, including SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants, which work through a different mechanism. There was a lower bone density in those who used the SSRI's.

“One potential explanation for our findings is that SSRI use may have a direct deleterious effect on bone,” the authors write. “This theory is supported by findings of in vitro and in vivo laboratory investigations.” Some data suggest that SSRIs may interfere with the function of osteoclasts and osteoblasts, cells responsible for the regular breaking down and rebuilding of bone in the body.

In a related paper, Elizabeth M. Haney, M.D., of Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, and colleagues conducted a similar study with 5,995 men age 65 and older (average age 73.7). The men’s bone density at the hip, including subregions, and at the base of the spine were measured between 2000 and 2002. Participants were asked to bring all medications to their clinic visit, where they were also given a physical examination and asked about other health and lifestyle factors.

A total of 160 (2.7 percent) men reported using SSRIs, 99 (1.7 percent) reported using tricyclic antidepressants and 52 (0.9 percent) reported using trazodone, a third type of antidepressant. Total hip bone mineral density was 3.9 percent lower among SSRI users than among men who didn’t use any antidepressants. Similarly, spine bone mineral density was 5.9 percent lower among SSRI users than among non-users. There was no significant difference in either hip or spine density between men who took tricyclic antidepressants or trazodone and those who did not take antidepressants.

Although these studies do not prove definitively that SSRIs cause a reduction in bone mineral density, they do raise concerns that physicians must consider when they write prescriptions for antidepressant medications, writes Kenneth Saag, M.D., M.Sc., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in an accompanying editorial.

For many patients, the benefits of SSRIs are likely to outweight the risks, Dr. Saag continues. “Although it is not appealing to use a second medicine to ‘chase’ the adverse effects of a first one, if needed, there are many good options that exist to prevent bone loss.”
As medicine advances, it is not surprising that physicians are finding new ways to improve one health problem while worsening another. My concern in reading these research studies is that instead of finding another, safer way to reduce depression, doctors will add another pharmaceutical chemical to the daily "cocktail" they prescribe for their patients to improve bone density. This increasingly complicated mix of expensive pharmaceutical chemicals serves to help no one with the exception of the pharmaceutical companies that make these products.

Natural products are available which support a positive mood, and which provide a healthy alternative to anti-depressants. MIND BODY & SPIRIT, a Rhodiola-rosea based supplement produced by Verde Botanica and marketed by ProActive BioProducts Inc. is one such product that offers an increase in energy combined with uplift in mood and outlook that can be beneficial to many older Americans. There is no bone loss or risk of drug interactions with Rhodiola products.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wham: Omega 3 Fish Oils in Blindness Prevention

Increasing intake of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, found in popular fish-oil supplements, may protect against blindness resulting from abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye, according to a study published online by the journal Nature Medicine on June 24. The study was done in mice, but a clinical trial at Children’s Hospital Boston will soon begin testing the effects of omega-3 supplementation in premature babies, who are at risk for vision loss. Here's more from this report about Omega 3 Fish Oil supplementation:
Abnormal vessel growth is the cause of retinopathy of prematurity, diabetic retinopathy in adults, and “wet” age-related macular degeneration, three leading causes of blindness. Retinopathy, affecting about 4 million diabetic patients and about 40,000 premature infants in the United States, is a two-step disease that begins with a loss of blood vessels in the retina (the nerve tissue at the back of the eye that sends visual signals to the brain). Because of the vessel loss, the retina becomes oxygen-starved and sends out alarm signals that spur new vessel growth. But the new vessels grow abnormally and are malformed, leaky and over-abundant. In the end stage of the disease, the abnormal vessels pull the retina away from its supporting layer, and this retinal detachment ultimately causes blindness.

The researchers, led by Lois Smith, MD, PhD, and Kip Connor, PhD, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Department of Ophthalmology and Harvard Medical School, and John Paul SanGiovanni, ScD, of the National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health, studied retinopathy in a mouse model, feeding the mice diets that emphasized either omega-3 fatty acids (comparable to a Japanese diet) or omega-6 fatty acids (comparable to a Western diet).

Mice on the omega-3 diet, rich in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and its precursor EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), had less initial vessel loss in the retina than the omega-6-fed mice: the area with vessel loss was 40 to 50 percent smaller. As a result, the omega-3 group had a 40 to 50 percent decrease in pathological vessel growth.

“Our studies suggest that after initial loss, vessels re-grew more quickly and efficiently in the omega-3-fed mice,” says Connor, the study’s first author. “This increased the oxygen supply to retinal tissue, resulting in a dampening of the inflammatory ‘alarm’ signals that lead to pathologic vessel growth.”

Because omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the retina, a mere 2 percent change in dietary omega-3 intake was sufficient to decrease disease severity by 50 percent, the researchers note. Validating their findings, results were virtually identical in mice whose omega-3 fatty acid levels were increased through genetic means.

Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are thought to dampen inflammation in the body. They are often lacking in Western diets; instead, omega-6 fatty acids predominate. The ideal omega-6:omega-3 ratio is thought to be 2:1 to 5:1, whereas typical Western diets have ratios of 10:1 or higher. Premature infants are especially lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, because they miss getting this nutrient from their mothers, a transfer that normally happens in the third trimester of pregnancy.

The researchers demonstrated that the omega-3-based diet suppressed production of TNF-alpha, reducing the inflammatory response in the retina, whereas the omega-6-based diet increased TNF-alpha production. The retinas of omega-3-fed mice also had increased production of the anti-inflammatory compounds neuroprotectinD1, resolvinD1 and resolvinE1. These compounds, derived from omega-3 fatty acids, also potently protected against pathological vessel growth, and they were not detected in the retinas of mice fed the omega-6 diet.

“If omega-3 fatty acids, or these anti-inflammatory mediators, are as effective in humans and they are in mice, simple supplementation could be a cost-effective intervention benefiting millions of people,” says Smith, the study’s senior investigator. “The cost of blindness is enormous.”

Aside from fish-oil supplements, the most widely available source of omega-3 fatty acids is coldwater oily fish (wild salmon, herry, mackerel, anchovies, sardines). The compounds can also be made synthetically from algae or other non-fish sources.
Its hard to believe, but some doctors are still not recommending Fish Oil supplements to their patients, as the research continues to pile up that quality fish oil supplements (pure, free from mercury contamination) can be one of the most important supplements you take each day.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Sham: The American Media's Anti-Supplement Slant

As my readers know, I am over in Europe right now and publishing irregularly. However, today's post is a very interesting one for me, because I am in Europe now, reading the news here, and yet also staying in very close touch with the news on CNN and other sources in the States.

What a difference we have in the reporting of facts about herbs, or about dietary supplements on this side of the water compared to the States. I truly believe that we are seeing an agenda playing out here, driven by pharmaceutical companies and the huge money that they throw into the media with their advertising campaigns for drugs.

Here's an example . . . Both today's BBC news, and the local news in Lisbon, Portugal, carried the story of new, large Echinacea clinical trials which show strong results from the herb for keeping colds at bay, and also for knocking out colds early. Here are some of the facts of this story about the research done by researchers from the USA and reported in The Lancet (one of the most important medical publications in the world):
Taking the herbal remedy echinacea can more than halve the risk of catching a common cold, US researchers say. They found it decreased the odds of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of colds by a day-and-a-half. The results in The Lancet Infectious Diseases conflict with other studies that show no beneficial effect.

Experts believe echinacea, a collection of nine related plant species indigenous to North America, may work by boosting the body's immune system. Researchers, led by Dr Craig Coleman from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, combined the results of 14 different studies on Echinacea's anti-cold properties.

In one of the 14 studies the researchers reviewed, echinacea was taken alongside vitamin C. This combination reduced cold incidence by 86%. When echinacea was used alone it reduced cold incidence by 65%.
As you might imagine, seeing this as front page headlines locally and on the BBC, and seeing that it was an American research team, I thought for sure that it would be repeated either on CNN or on the various USA networks or print media. Apparently, I was mistaken. It seems that the same news media outlets which prominently featured the NEGATIVE trials on this herb simply took this positive news and swept it under the rug.

I am beginning to sense a serious MD/Pharma Company coalition working against the dietary supplement industry. Does anyone else have another explanation for this? See the news story from BBC linked to this headline.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wham: Adaptogens for Jet Lag

I hate to include products of our company in Sham vs. Wham: The Health Insider because it cheapens the site and makes it appear commercial. Therefore, as you know if you've been a reader of this blog for some time that most (90%) of the health news is from material that I research OUTSIDE of our own products at ProActive BioProducts Inc., the company I founded along with my partner.

However, now and again I am so strongly reminded of the power of our own products that I must tell you how I feel about them. While it will no doubt send some readers off with "commercial" concerns, I can tell you that one of our products works so well in a common problem that it should be on the shelf of drug stores all over the world. (Because we sell to Doctors and not drug stores, that will never happen. But certainly more doctors should be aware of this product, that's for sure!).

The product I am speaking of is our triple-adaptogen product, Adapt 232®, which I brought along with me on my current trip to Portugal. I was asked to give a talk at a well known research institution here in Lisbon (the Gulbenkian Institute) and arrived in the afternoon, before my presentation the next day. Jet Lag set in and I could hardly get moving the next day . . . until I took my Adapt 232 and literally felt that situation turn around in an hour or two.

Adapt 232® is a combination of Eleuthero, Rhodiola, and Schizandra in a tablet that is used for a daily energy boost, without the harmful stimulants of caffeine or caffeine-containing herbs. It worked great for me on my Jet Lag, and I intend to develop an advertisement and promotion based upon its super effectiveness proven to me on this trip.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wham: Omega 3 Fish Oils Show Benefit Once Again

Research in mice suggests that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and certain types of fish could potentially improve the prognosis of men who are genetically prone to develop prostate cancer. The research is reported online by the Journal of Clinical Investigation and will appear in the July 2 print issue. Here's more:
“This study clearly shows that diet can tip the balance toward a good or a bad outcome,” said senior researcher Yong Q. Chen, Ph.D., from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “It’s possible that a change in diet could mean the difference between dying from the disease and surviving with it.”

In mice that were engineered with a genetic defect that caused prostate cancer, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids beginning at birth reduced tumor growth, slowed disease progression and increased survival. Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and is a leading cause of death in men in the United States. Population studies have suggested that consumption of fish or fish oil reduces prostate cancer incidence. However, these investigations have been hampered by the difficulty people have in accurately reporting their dietary intake.

The goal of the current study was to explore gene-diet interactions in prostate cancer. It involved mice that were engineered with a genetic defect – they lacked a tumor suppressor gene and spontaneously developed prostate cancer. This gene (Pten) is absent in 60 to 70 percent of metastatic cancers in humans.

The engineered mice and “wild-type” (or non-engineered) mice were fed varying levels of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Both are “essential” fatty acids, which means the body needs them for proper cell function but cannot produce them. Many vegetable oils contain omega-6 PUFA. Fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Nutritionists recommend that people consume equal proportions of omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA. However, in current western diets, the proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 is between 30 and 50 to one.

The mice were fed either a diet high in omega-3 (ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 was 1:1) a diet low in omega 3 (ratio omega-6 to omega-3 was 20:1), or a diet high in omega-6 (ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 was 40:1). The scientists compared survival rates and weighed the animals’ prostates to measure tumor progression.

Mice with the tumor suppressor gene remained free of tumors and had 100 percent survival, regardless of diet. In mice with the gene defect, survival was 60 percent in animals on the high omega-3 diet, 10 percent in those on the low omega-3 diet and 0 percent in those on the high omega-6 diet.

“This suggests that if you have good genes, it may not matter too much what you eat,” said Chen, a professor of cancer biology. “But if you have a gene that makes you susceptible to prostate cancer, your diet can tip the balance. Our data demonstrate the importance of gene-diet interactions, and that genetic cancer risk can be modified favorable by omega-3 PUFA.” Chen said dietary changes may be particularly beneficial in people prone to prostate cancer because the disease is usually diagnosed in older men and the tumors are slow-growing. It’s possible that eating a high omega-3 diet could delay tumor development or progression long enough for the man to live out his natural lifespan with prostate cancer.
The authors cautioned that the effects were obtained with the omega-3s found in fish oil and that omega-3s from flaxseed oil and other plants may not provide the same results.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Wham: The benefits of Arnica Montana

As you know, for the last two weeks I have been traveling internationally and posting irregularly. I will be returning to the USA and beginning regular Sham vs. Wham updates on Wednesday of next week.

Hotel beds are "iffy" at best. Despite a great attempt in the US hotel market to improve the quality of their guests sleep, the philosophy has not worked itself yet to Europe. I have been staying now for the past week in Lisbon, Portugal, where I came to do a series of speeches at the Gulbenkian Institute of Science (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia). Unfortunately, the hotel has not upgraded their beds in a long time (either that or the Portugese people love to sleep on very, very unusual mattresses).

My problem is that I've been awakening with a very stiff and sore lower back each day. (I ordinarily sleep on a Tempur-Pedic). Luckily, I had with me a tube of a Gel product produced by the French homeopathic company Boiron, called "Arnica Gel." It is composed of Arnica Montana along with some other inert ingredients.

I don't know how people can doubt the power of homeopathic remedies like this one. After using that Arnica Gel on my lower back, I felt an immediate easing of the stiffness and pain. While it didn't remove all of it, it removed enough so that I was able to forget about it for the day. Plus, it does not have a greasy feeling or the strong smell of menthol or chemicals that so many other back pain remedies have. This product is a winner!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Children of Smokers Suffer 5.5 times Higher Nicotine Byproducts in Urine

You'll notice a few missing days of posts here and some shorter ones as well, as I finish a three-week international trip. My apologies. We'll be back on schedule by the middle of next week.

Children who have at least one parent who smokes have 5.5 times higher levels of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, in their urine, according to a study published online ahead of print in Archives of Disease in Childhood:
Having a mother that smokes was found to have the biggest independent effect on cotinine in the urine – quadrupling it. Having a smoking father doubled the amount of cotinine, one of chemicals produced when the body breaks down nicotine from inhaled smoke to get rid of it.

Cotinine was measured in 104 urine samples taken from 12-week old infants. Seventy one of the babies had at least one parent that smoked and the parents of the other 33 were non-smokers. The study was led by researchers from the University of Leicester Medical School and was done in collaboration with Warwick University.

Sleeping with a parent is a know risk factor for cot death and the authors suggest that one reason for this could be inhalation of, or closeness to clothing or other objects contaminated with, smoke particles during sleep.

Nearly 40% of under-fives are believed to be exposed to tobacco smoke at home, and smoke may be responsible for up to 6,000 deaths per year in the US alone in young children.

The authors say: "Babies and children are routinely exposed to cigarette smoking by caregivers in their homes, without the legislative protection available to adults in public places."
The authors acknowledge there are practical difficulties in preventing smoking in private homes because it relies on parents or caregivers being educated about the harmful effects of passive smoking on their children and then acting on that knowledge.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Milk and Cereal Just as Effective as Sports Drinks for Athletes

As it turns out, a bowlful of cereal and a bit of nonfat milk may work just as effectively as specialized sports drinks in boosting recovery after exercise. Researchers at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) told attendees at this meeting that the benefits they discovered have been linked to the protein and carbohydrate content of the whole-wheat cereal used in the trials, which may aid the rebuilding of damaged tissue after exercise.

Lead researcher Lynne Kammer from the University of Texas at Austin says "We were surprised that blood lactate was lower after cereal, possibly due to glycogen storage," she said. "In addition, the muscle was ready to store additional glycogen after the cereal-and-milk regimen, even after glycogen had already been synthesized."

There is a huge convenience factor associated with sports drinks, so it may not be possible to market a whole-wheat cereal and milk package for this market. But, it is really interesting to many athletes that there is no real advantage to the drink other than the convenience.

"We wanted to look at a realistic exercise scenario and test the effectiveness of whole foods that might be acceptable for muscle recovery," said Kammer. Here are the facts of the trial:
The researchers recruited 12 cyclists (eight men) and asked them to fast for 12 hours prior to a two-hour cycling exercise. After working on the bicycle ergometer, the volunteers were given either a whole-wheat flake cereal with skimmed milk or a sports drink containing carbohydrate.

Both interventions were found to raise blood glucose and insulin levels, but during the recovery phase, cereal raised insulin significantly higher and blunted the rise in blood lactate compared with sports drink, Kammer told attendees. The cereal group also showed a significant advantage in protein synthesis and additional glycogen storage potential.
No mention was made of the specific cereal, but it's interesting to note that this research was sponsored by a grant from Wheaties and the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wham: Omega-3 Fatty Acid DHA During Pregnancy Provides Brain Boost to Children

The subject of Omega-3 fatty acids is heating up once again, as reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007 edition. This category of supplement has just had non-stop press now for the last several years, and yet nearly 60% of pregnant females are apparently unaware of the advantages of adding Omega-3 to their diet through supplementation. There are benefits to both the pregnant mother, such as less potential depression and cardiovascular benefits (as well as a faster recovery after pregnancy), and now newly discovered improvements in mental and visual development for their children. Here's more detail:
Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Michelle Judge and Ofer Harel from the University of Connecticut and Carol Lammi-Keefe from Louisiana State University state that this is the first study to look at the effect of DHA supplementation during pregnancy on the problem solving ability of the infant during the first year of life.

The researchers recruited 29 pregnant women at gestation week 24 and randomly assigned them to receive either a daily DHA-containing cereal-based bars (300 mg DHA/92-kcal bar) or cereal-based placebo bars. The women consumed an average of five bars per week.

Once the infants had reached nine months of age, they were tested using The Infant Planning Test and Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence. Children of mothers supplemented with the DHA-containing functional food had significantly better performance for problem-solving, while no significant differences between the groups was observed in overall intelligence.

"These data point to a benefit for problem solving but not for recognition memory at age nine months in infants of mothers who consumed a DHA-containing functional food during pregnancy," concluded the researchers.
Omega-3 fatty acids remain one of the true success stories of the dietary supplement industry, and despite a huge growth in sales from both cereal-derived as well as fish oil-derived supplements, a great future remains in store for these products. Another excellent article on the subject is linked to the headline of this post.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sham: New Obesity Pill Behind Suicidal Thoughts

Here we go again . . . You'll recall how suicidal thoughts have been a problem with anti-depressant drugs in the last several years, especially when given to teens. Well, today a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is considering whether regulators should approve US sales of an obesity drug that has had patients in clinical trials reporting suicidal thoughts or actions. This sounds to me to be a test of whether the Food and Drug Administration truly has the population in mind -- or, drug company profits.

As a diet drug, the FDA said a 20-milligram dose of the drug, Zimulti (rimonabant), produced clinically significant weight loss over one year. Along with a low-calorie diet, the drug "was shown to reduce body weight by approximately 5% relative to diet alone during trials of more than 6000 moderately overweight and obese subjects.

Psychiatric problems represent the most common and worrisome rimonabant-induced adverse events, the reviewers stated. Depression was roughly twice as high for rimonabant patients compared with others who received a placebo.

Let's see what happens. Will drug company profits come first, or the safety of the USA population? A new diet pill represents potential BILLIONS in sales.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bad habits? Knock them all out at once . . .

Anyone who has tried to attack a number of bad habits at one time knows the difficulty of changing those nasty eating or behavioral issues. Most people decide to attack one problem at a time. For example, the doctor may have told us to knock off the salt in order to lower our blood pressure. And, we're not getting enough exercise, so a new daily regimen would be in order. But doing this all at the same time... ugh!

However, new research has proven that people are actually more successful with behavioral habit changes when they do them all at once. Physicians writing in the June 11th edition of Archives of Internal Medicine report that doctors trying to help patients change more than one behavioral risk factor may have more success approaching several topics at once rather than addressing them separately over time.

David J. Hyman, M.D., M.P.H., of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and colleagues randomly assigned 289 African-American patients who had hypertension and were smokers to one of three groups that encouraged them to stop smoking, reduce their sodium intake to less than 100 milliequivalents per liter per day, and increase physicalactivity by at least 10,000 pedometer steps per week.

The first group received one in-clinic counseling session on all three behaviors every six months, plus motivational telephone calls for 18 months; the second group followed a similar protocol, but addressed a different behavior every six months; and the third group received usual care, consisting of a one-time referral to existing group classes. After six, 12 and 18 months, urine and blood samples were obtained, blood pressure was taken and behavioral changes were assessed.

A total of 230 participants completed the full study. "At 18 months, only 6.5 percent in the simultaneous arm, 5.2 percent in the sequential arm and 6.5 percent in the usual-care arm met the primary end point," or changing two of the three behaviors, the authors write. "However, results for single behavioral goals consistently favored the simultaneous group."

For example, after six months, 29.6 percent in the simultaneous, 16.5 percent in the sequential and 13.4 percent in the usual-care groups had reached the urine sodium goal. After 18 months, 20.3 percent in the simultaneous, 16.9 percent in the sequential and 10.1 percent in the usual-care groups tested negative for urine cotinine, which the body produces when it metabolizes nicotine, indicating they had stopped smoking.

Long-term multiple behavior change is difficult for anyone, as these authors conclude. But, this study provides strong evidence that a simultaneous approach is a much more effective route to changing numbers of bad habits. The results seem to "stick" and that is what matters!


Monday, June 11, 2007

Wham: The benefits of "Prebiotics"

The probiotics marketplace is still growing all over the world, as people clue in to the health advantages of beneficial bacteria, whether naturally derived from products like yoghurt or added as tablets or capsules to one's daily mix of supplements. There is very little conflicting evidence for probiotic supplementation . . . the science seems to support the claims being made by manufacturers on a variety of fronts.

However, recent science seems to indicate another, perhaps even better, method of increasing the body's colonies of good bacteria. That is, by adding "prebiotic" ingredients to the body as opposed to the bacteria themselves. Prebiotics are fiber sources that nourish the beneficial bacteria in the intestine. An increase in the good bacteria population helps to maintain healthy colon function and reduce gas and bloating, among other benefits.

The market has been largely created by three European producers of prebiotic nutrients. Other ingredient manufacturers are increasingly looking to promote the prebiotic effect of their products as evidence suggests that prebiotics could be even more useful than the probiotic bacteria that they feed. Here's more on the topic:

One new study recruited 39 healthy adult volunteers (average age 33.9) and assigned them to daily supplements of prebiotic or placebo for four weeks. The researchers found that, after four weeks of supplementation, the prebiotic group exhibited a 10-fold increase in Bifidobacteria levels (one of the "good" gut bacteria), while no such increases were observed in the placebo group. Moreover, the increases were sustained in the weeks following the end of supplementation. These results support the conclusion that prebiotics are able to sustain a significant level of beneficial bacteria for long periods after its cessation.

Recently, another study from the University of Reading in the U.K. suggested solid benefits for prebiotic supplementation. Their double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover human study showed that both low and high doses (five and eight grams per day, respectively) boost the population of 'friendly' bifidobacteria in the gut without side effects. This study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Prebiotics are being studied for their benefits to bone health and colorectal cancer, and scientists are now looking also at potential benefits for the immune system, weight management, and intestinal health.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Swiss Find Cancer Link in Extremely Low Frequency Magnetic Fields

Leukaemia and brain tumors have been found in Swiss Railway employees, likely due to exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine has published a report that some cancers seem to be linked to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. It's a fairly remarkable, large study . . . the findings are based on more than 20,000 Swiss railway workers, who were monitored for 30 years.

The researchers opted to study this group, because railway workers in Switzerland are exposed to much higher levels of electromagnetic field radiation than the general population. The researchers checked the full employment records of 20,141 Swiss railway workers in employment or retired from post between 1972 and 2002. Information on deaths among the employees was obtained from national data.

Electromagnetic field exposure varied, depending on post. For example, rail drivers were exposed to around three times the levels of yard engineers and nine times the levels of ticket collectors on trains. Station masters were exposed to the lowest levels.

While there was no link between electromagnetic field exposure and deaths from lymphoid leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and brain tumors, there was some evidence that higher levels of electromagnetic field exposure had an impact on rates of myeloid leukaemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Drivers were more than four times as likely to die of myeloid leukemia, and over three times as likely to die of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as station masters (those with the lowest level of low-frequency magnetic fields).

So what does this mean to the rest of us? While it does add to a growing pile of evidence that there is indeed a link for these very low frequency electromagnetic fields and cancer, the authors are not suggesting that we are in danger riding in trains.


Friday, June 8, 2007

Wham: Vitamin D and Cancer Risk

A new landmark study conducted by Creighton University School of Medicine has been released, showing that most Americans do not get enough Vitamin D in their diet or through supplementation. It appears that the US Government needs to increase the recommended RDA of this critical vitamin.

The four-year, randomized study followed 1,179 healthy, postmenopausal women from rural eastern Nebraska. Participants taking calcium, as well as a quantity of vitamin D3 nearly three times the U.S. government’s Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for middle-age adults, showed a dramatic 60 percent or greater reduction in cancer risk than women who did not get the vitamin. The results of the study, conducted between 2000 and 2005, were reported in the June 8 online edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here's more from this report:

“The findings are very exciting. They confirm what a number of vitamin D proponents have suspected for some time but that, until now, have not been substantiated through clinical trial,” said principal investigator Joan Lappe, Ph.D., R.N., Creighton professor of medicine and holder of the Criss/Beirne Endowed Chair in the School of Nursing. “Vitamin D is a critical tool in fighting cancer as well as many other diseases.”

Research participants were all 55 years and older and free of known cancers for at least 10 years prior to entering the Creighton study. Subjects were randomly assigned to take daily dosages of 1,400-1,500 mg supplemental calcium, 1,400-1,500 mg supplemental calcium plus 1,100 IU of vitamin D3, or placebos. National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Over the course of four years, women in the calcium/vitamin D3 group experienced a 60 percent decrease in their cancer risk than the group taking placebos. On the premise that some women entered the study with undiagnosed cancers, researchers then eliminated the first-year results and looked at the last three years of the study. When they did that, the results became even more dramatic with the calcium/vitamin D3 group showing a startling 77 percent cancer-risk reduction.

In the three-year analysis, there was no statistically significant difference in cancer incidence between participants taking placebos and those taking just calcium supplements.

Through the course of the study, 50 participants developed nonskin cancers, including breast, colon, lung and other cancers.

Lappe said further studies are needed to determine whether the Creighton research results apply to other populations, including men, women of all ages, and different ethnic groups. While the study was open to all ethnic groups, all participants were Caucasian, she noted.

There is a growing body of evidence that a higher intake of vitamin D may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cancer, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases.

Humans make their own vitamin D3 when they are exposed to sunlight. In fact, only 10-15 minutes a day in a bright summer sun creates large amounts of the vitamin, Lappe said. However, people need to exercise caution since the sun’s ultraviolet B rays also can cause skin cancer; sunscreen blocks most vitamin D production.

In addition, the latitude at which you live and your ancestry also influence your body’s ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D. People with dark skin have more difficulty making the vitamin. Persons living at latitudes north of the 37th parallel (Omaha is near the 41st parallel) cannot get their vitamin D naturally during the winter months because of the sun’s angle.

Experts generally agree that the RDA for vitamin D needs to be increased substantially, however there is debate about the amount. Supplements are available in two forms – vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Creighton researchers recommend vitamin D3 , because it is more active and thus more effective in humans.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wham: Reduce Carcinogens by 90% Before Grilling Meats

With outdoor grilling now in full swing, it's a good time to look at some safe practices for using your barbeque. The June 2007 issue of the Harvard Health Letter reports that when meat is cooked at high temperatures, amino acids react with creatine to form heterocyclic amines, which appear to be cancer-causing. That’s why cooking meat by grilling, frying, or broiling can be a problem.

Grilling is double trouble because it also exposes meat to cancer-causing chemicals contained in the smoke that rises from burning coals and any drips of fat that cause flare-ups. How long the meat is cooked is also a factor in heterocyclic amine formation; longer cooking time means more heterocyclic amines. Depending on the temperature at which it’s cooked, meat roasted or baked in the oven may contain some heterocyclic amines, but it’s likely to be considerably less than in grilled, fried, or broiled meat.

But did you know that there is a way to reduce these cancer-causing byproducts by as much as 90%? Simply precook in the microwave: According to research, just two minutes of precooking in the microwave can have a very significant impact on your health.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Hormone Supplementation for Men?

Low levels of testosterone may increase the long-term risk of death in men over 50 years old, according to researchers with the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Research presented to the Endocrine Society on June 5th is the second report linking deficiency of the sex hormone testosterone with increased death from all causes. In what was a relatively large study, this research seems to indicate that those who lack healthy levels of testosterone should be getting supplementation. It does NOT suggest that men with healthy levels of the hormone would benefit from even more testosterone, however.

“We have followed these men for an average of 18 years and our study strongly suggests that the association between testosterone levels and death is not simply due to some acute illness,” said the lead author.

In the study, these scientists looked at death, no matter the cause, in nearly 800 men, ages 50 to 91 years, who were living in Rancho Bernardo, California. The participants have been members of the Rancho Bernardo Heart and Chronic Disease Study since the 1970s. At the beginning of the 1980s, almost one-third of these men had suboptimal blood testosterone levels for men their age.

The group with low testosterone levels had a 33 percent greater risk of death during the next 18 years than the men with higher testosterone. This difference was not explained by smoking, drinking, physical activity level or pre-existing diseases (such as diabetes or heart disease).

In this study, "low testosterone" levels were set at the lower limit of the normal range for young adult men. Testosterone declines slowly with aging in men and levels vary widely, with many older men still having testosterone levels in the range of young men. Twenty-nine percent of Rancho Bernardo men had low testosterone.

Men with low testosterone were more likely to have elevated markers of inflammation, called inflammatory cytokines, which contribute to many diseases. Another characteristic that distinguished the men with low testosterone was a larger waist girth along with a cluster of cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors related to this type of fat accumulation.

Men with low testosterone are three times more likely to have the metabolic syndrome than men with higher testosterone levels; metabolic syndrome is the name for the presence of three or more of these risk factors:

•waist measurement more than 40 inches in men (more than 35 inches in women),
•low HDL (good) cholesterol,
•high triglycerides (levels of fat in the blood),
•high blood pressure
•high blood glucose (blood sugar)

While the study lends support to the belief that supplemental hormone therapy may help older men with low testosterone levels, those who practice weight control and increase their physical activity may also live longer.

“It’s very possible that lifestyle determines what level of testosterone a patient has,” commented principal investigator, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, M.D., UCSD Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine and chief of the Division of Epidemiology. “It may be possible to alter the testosterone level by lowering obesity.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

More Research on the Stress Link to Alzheimers

Last year, scientists revealed that stress increases production in mice of a brain peptide critical to Alzheimer's disease. Brand new research this week reported upon in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms this and adds another element of knowledge to the pool, specifically about brain chemicals that may be at work increasing the risk of the disease for those who live with stress.

Previous work that studied both humans and animals has suggested that stress may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but this new research is among the first to elaborate on the basic biomolecular mechanisms that may underlie this increased risk. Using mice genetically modified to model human Alzheimer's disease, the authors stressed these mice to the max, by isolating them in small cages -- not allowing them to move for three hours a day. This accelerated the brain plaques and declines in cognitive ability that go along with Alzheimers.

"There are very few known environmental risk factors for Alzheimer's disease," the main author notes. "Head trauma increases risk, higher education lowers it. Stress may be another environmental factor that increases risk."

This group of scientists (at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis) has shown that blocking a different brain peptide slows the stress-induced increase, potentially opening a new door to treatment. The work done by these scientists could later result in new drugs to help fend off the surge of damaging biochemicals that encourage Alzheimer's disease.

In the meantime, all we can do is to live without stress as best we can. This may include relaxation exercises, supplementation with adaptogenic herbs, or even through organizations such as The Art of Living Foundation, a program with the goal of international stress-relief.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Wham: Adaptogens for Cancer Fatigue

Adaptogens are once again in the news. In this case, North Central Cancer Treatment Group researchers, based at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have generated preliminary data suggesting that a form of American ginseng provides greater improvements in fatigue and vitality in patients who receive the highest doses tested, compared to lower doses or no treatment. Here's a clipping from this research work, which was presented on June 3rd at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Many cancer patients face extreme fatigue after diagnosis and during treatment. Getting more sleep or rest often does not relieve the fatigue, nor is it related to activity levels. Other than exercise, there isn’t a good solution available for these patients.

“Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most profound and distressing issues patients face,” one of the authors, Dr. Barton, says. "This unique type of fatigue can have dozens of causes, and for patients who have completed cancer therapy, fatigue is among their foremost concerns, second only to fear of disease recurrence.”

The success of this herb points to its characteristics as an adaptogen -- a substance that helps the body overcome the effects of environmental stress. Since cancer patients have stressors ranging from the psychological stress of diagnosis to the physiological stresses of chemotherapy and radiation, if this protocol helps, the researchers think it would be a valuable addition to currently available therapies.

“With animal data indicating the possibilities with respect to increased swimming endurance, and the availability and verified product quality of Wisconsin ginseng, we decided to move forward with a pilot study,” says Dr. Barton.

The investigators enrolled 282 patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, averaging 71 patients per each of four arms, with between 39 and 48 patients in each arm completing the eight weeks of treatment. Treatment arms consisted of placebo, and three different daily doses of Wisconsin ginseng -- 750, 1,000 and 2,000 milligrams.

Of the four treatment arms, patients receiving the placebo and the lowest dose of ginseng reported very little improvement in fatigue or other areas of physical or psychological well-being. The patients receiving the larger doses showed improvements in overall energy levels, reporting higher vitality levels and less interference with activity from fatigue. They also reported an improvement in overall mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being.

Adaptogens in general have the ability to provide both a mental and physical uplift, a "back to the body's norm" as opposed to the over-stimulation that comes from coffee or herbs like Guarana. Congratulations are due to these Mayo researchers who had the guts to experiment with herbs in an atmosphere that must be entirely focused on pharmaceutical options.

An excellent article about cancer fatigue is linked to the headline of today's post. Alternatives to American Ginseng for cancer fatigue include two of the most powerful adaptogens in the world today, MIND BODY & SPIRIT a Rhodiola rosea supplement, and Adapt 232®, a combination of the three super adaptogens, Rhodiola, Eleuthero, and Schizandra.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sleep Apnea link to Cardiovascular Disease

New research appears in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a publication of the American Thoracic Society, which more closely describes the link between Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and cardiovascular disease.

It appears that people suffering from sleep apnea have a much higher count of dead cells in their blood than the rest of us. Specifically, many more cells in the lining (endothelium) have died and are circulating in the blood; these "apoptotic" cells now appear to be one possible cause of a significant risk that sleep apnea patients have for cardiovascular problems.

Lead researcher Ali El Sohl, M.D., M.P.H., said the study was done “to explain why patients with OSA had a higher risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.” He added that “the increased levels of circulating apoptotic endothelial cells would mean less production of nitric oxide that is crucial to artery vasodilatation. The less nitric oxide, the higher potentially is the risk of hypertension and acute heart attack. CPAP treatment would likely restore the physiologic function of the lining of the blood vessels.”

CPAP is the "continuous positive airway pressure" device that you may have seen being used by those with sleep apnea. While many have difficulty adjusting to this device at bedtime, others say that it makes a huge difference in the quality of their sleep. Now, it appears to have a very significant cardio benefit as well.


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sham: The Loss of Quality Vitamin C

Anyone who has followed this website over the last month or two knows about the problems we've had as consumers with the flow of Chinese merchandise around the world. Stories have been in all the major magazines and newspapers, from Time to the New York Times about the quality problems the Chinese are having with medicines, vitamins, dietary supplements, etc.

I was particularly disgusted when I read about the small toys and stuffed animals coming from China, and how dangerous these are to our children. Stuffed bunny rabbits filled with garbage and noodle wrappers -- basically, anything found on the factory floor or in the trash bin made it to the inside of toys held by small children all over the world.

Today, I'd like to warn you about another Chinese infringement making its way across the world. That is, the almost total dominance of Chinese products in the category of Vitamin C.

I love my Vitamin C, and take a couple of grams every day. I am sure that many readers do as well. But did you know that low prices from China have run most other suppliers out of business? One small business remains, located in Europe, producing a quality, contamination free Vitamin C (sold by DSM), but it is a very small percentage of the worldwide market. Most every Vitamin C tablet or capsule you buy is going to originate from China. Even the popular Vitamin C powders such the fizzy drink C's come from this country that can't seem to produce a contamination free health product.

At this point, all we can do is hope that our Vitamin and supplement manufacturers will turn away from the low prices and cheap goods offered by China, in favor of quality raw materials produced in other nations. Stand up for your rights to have clean and pure vitamins . . . Ask your suppliers if their products are "China free."