Friday, January 30, 2009

Potential Dangers of Teeth Bleaching Treatments

Want to look like Tom Cruise with bright white, sparkling teeth? Well, if so, you have plenty of options. Just try to stay away from the UV light-enhanced bleaching that is a cosmetic dentistry trend right now. A new article in a scientific journal says that this is not only a con, but that it can be outright dangerous to your eyes and skin.

The light treatment gives absolutely no benefit over bleaching without UV, and damages skin and eyes up to four times as much as sunbathing, reports a study in Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences.

One lamp actually gave four times the level of radiation exposure that you'd get spending the entire day at the beach.

And as with sunbathing, fair-skinned or light-sensitive people are at even greater risk, said lead author Ellen Bruzell of the Nordic Institute of Dental Materials.

Bleaching, in general, also has its problems. Bruzell and her colleagues saw more exposed grooves on the enamel surfaces of bleached teeth than on unbleached teeth. These grooves make the teeth more vulnerable to mechanical stress. Dental bleaching is one of the most popular cosmetic treatments available. It uses a bleaching agent – usually hydrogen peroxide – to remove stains such as those from red wine, tea and coffee, and smoking.

UV light is claimed to further activate the oxidation process, improving bleaching efficiency. The authors of this article say there is very little substantive evidence to support this claim, and their new study finds no benefit to using UV light.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Seniors Who Drink have Reduced Physical Disabilities

As a health conscious reader, you have regularly seen those reports (a few on this site) that say drinking some alcohol may be beneficial, but those reports are generally relegated to research that has been done on cognitive function. Now, there is new research that suggests light-to-moderate alcohol consumption may actually help to stave off the development of physical disabilities in seniors.

It has been known for some time that moderate alcohol consumption can be good for you, for example drinking a couple of glasses of wine can boost heart health. However, results by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles suggest that seniors who are in good health can help to remain so by enjoying the occasional drink.

Data from 4,276 men and women with a mean age of 60.4 years was examined in this report by Dr Arun Karlamangla and his colleagues. At the start of the survey, 32% of men and 51% of women did not drink alcohol (defined as drinking less than 12 drinks per year), 51% of men and 45% of women were light-to-moderate drinkers (defined as drinking less than 15 drinks per week), and 17% of men and 4% women were heavy drinkers (defined as drinking more than 15 drinks per week). No participants had any disabilities at the start of the study.

Five years later a followup study was conducted, showing 7% of participants had died and 15% had become physically disabled. This "disability" was defined by the fact that they had trouble performing, or were unable to perform normal activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing, and eating (after taking into account risk factors for disability, such as age, smoking, exercise, and heart attack and stroke history).

Results showed that seniors who rated their health as good or better and who consumed light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol had reduced their risk of physically disability by 3 to 8% for each additional drink per week. No benefit was seen in seniors who rated their health as fair or poor, nor in heavy drinkers.

“Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption appears to have disability prevention benefits only in men and women in relatively good health. It is possible that those who report poor health have progressed too far on the pathway to disability to accrue benefits from alcohol consumption and that alcohol consumption may even be deleterious for them," reported the scientists.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Aspirin May Prevent Liver Damage

A new study claims that a daily dose of a common product could prevent liver damage. This may mean that millions of people who abuse alcohol and/or who are obese could reduce their chances of harming the body's biggest internal organ. Surprisingly, this may be possible with the lowly painkiller, aspirin.

Scientists writing in the Journal of Clinical Investigation said that tests on mice showed aspirin reduced death caused by an overdose of acetaminophen, best known in the USA as the over-the-counter product Tylenol. In addition, aspirin may help prevent and treat liver damage from a host of other non-infectious causes, said Wajahat Mehal from Yale School of Medicine (New Haven, CT).

"Many agents such as drugs and alcohol cause liver damage, and we have found two ways to block a central pathway responsible for such liver injury. Our strategy is to use aspirin on a daily basis to prevent liver injury," Mehal reports.

As an added bonus to this new research, certain promising drugs that have failed clinical trials because of liver toxicity could potentially be resurrected if they are later combined with aspirin. Mr Mehal said: "This offers the exciting possibility of reducing a lot of pain and suffering in patients with liver diseases, using a new and very practical approach."

Previous work has shown that women who take aspirin once a day may slightly reduce their risk of the most common type of breast cancer; of course, it is well known that a daily aspirin is recommended to prevent heart attacks in people at high risk of having one. Nine recent studies have shown how aspirin can help treat heart attacks. Doses between 75 milligrams and 325 milligrams help thin the blood, scientists have found. (Aspirin isn't without complications -- blood thinning can be a problem for someone going into surgery. As always, discuss an aspirin regimen with a doctor before implementing.)


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ADHD Drugs and Hallucinations in Children

There's a dark side to the drugs that are used on children with ADHD. In some cases, these young patients have hallucinated that worms, bugs or snakes were crawling on them. These issues should be very seriously considered before putting your child on these drugs.

U.S. government researchers said on Monday that data from 49 clinical studies conducted by makers of ADHD drugs showed that these pharmaceuticals can cause psychosis and mania in some patients, including some with no obvious risk factors.

Dr. Andrew Mosholder and his colleagues wrote in the journal Pediatrics that "Patients and physicians should be aware of the possibility that psychiatric symptoms consistent with psychosis or mania might arise in the course of treatment."

The questionable drugs include Novartis AG's Ritalin and Focalin XR, Shire Plc's Adderall XR and Daytrana patch, Johnson's Concerta, Eli Lilly and Co's Strattera and Celltech Pharmaceuticals Inc's Metadate CD. The review also includes data on Cephalon Inc's modafinil, sold as Provigil.

FDA spokeswoman Sandy Walsh said the data formed the basis for recent warnings about psychiatric side effects that have been added to product labels in recent years. Millions of children use drugs to treat symptoms of ADHD, which affects about three to seven percent of U.S. children.

While the majority of kids on ADHD drugs won't see these side effects, they are out there and represent something quite important for parents to consider before putting their young children on pharmaceuticals.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Apple Juice Appears to Delay Onset of Alzheimer's Disease

A new study is part of a growing body of evidence that demonstrates how we can take steps to delay age-related cognitive decline -- including, in some cases, that which accompanies Alzheimer’s disease. This claim was made in a study published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Thomas B. Shea, PhD, of the Center for Cellular Neurobiology; Neurodegeneration Research University of Massachusetts (Lowell, MA) and his research team have carried out a number of laboratory studies demonstrating that drinking apple juice helped mice perform better than normal in maze trials, and prevented the decline in performance that was otherwise observed as these mice aged.

Shea and his team demonstrated recently that mice receiving the human equivalent of 2 glasses of apple juice per day for 1 month produced less of the protein known as “beta-amyloid” (which is responsible for forming the “senile plaques” that are commonly found in brains of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease).

Dr. Shea commented that “These findings provide further evidence linking nutritional and genetic risk factors for age-related neurodegeneration and suggest that regular consumption of apple juice can not only help to keep one’s mind functioning at its best, but may also be able to delay key aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and augment therapeutic approaches.”


Friday, January 23, 2009

Coffee Report from Scandinavia Shows Anti-Alzheimer's Benefit

I know that the reports on coffee, even on this site, vary considerably. I like the sound of this new research, however, because it shows that drinking several cups of coffee each day during middle-age may "significantly reduce the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life." Anything that I can do to reduce my odds on that one, I'll take!

Finnish and Swedish researchers studied the association between tea and coffee consumption during middle-age and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in late-life. The researchers first questioned people about their tea and coffee drinking habits. A total of 1409 participants were available for the follow-up re-examination approximately 21 years later. At follow-up participants were aged between 65 to 79, and 61 participants were found to be suffering from dementia, 48 of which had Alzheimer’s disease.

Results showed that people who drank coffee while in their middle years had a significantly lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank little or no coffee. With participants who reported a moderate coffee consumption (3 to 5 cups each day) being 65% less likely to develop dementia/Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank little or no coffee. Tea drinking was uncommon in this Scandinavian population and so the researchers found no association between drinking tea and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease -- (this may not say anything about tea, but more about the lifestyle of those in the region.)

“Given the large amount of coffee consumption globally, the results might have important implications for the prevention of or delaying the onset of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead researcher, Miia Kivipelto. “The finding needs to be confirmed by other studies, but it opens the possibility that dietary interventions could modify the risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. Also, identification of mechanisms of how coffee exerts its protection against dementia/Alzheimer’s disease might help in the development of new therapies for these diseases."

This study was reported in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, issue 2009;16.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Viagra's Other Benefits

Johns Hopkins researchers have recently discovered that Viagra has a few "other talents" (as they described it in their press release). It turns out that this drug also helps a 'signaling' protein shield the heart from high blood pressure damage. This is interesting because Viagra had been seen more and more frequently as a "lifestyle" drug, and not something with a genuine healthcare benefit.

These researchers report what is believed to be the first direct evidence in lab animals that the erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil amplifies the effects of a heart-protective protein, in a new article published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Jan. 5. Their work helps explain why sildenafil, more widely known as Viagra, has already been shown to improve heart function and may one day have value in either treating or preventing heart damage due to chronic high blood pressure.

The key, investigators say, is sildenafil's effects on a single protein, RGS2, newly identified in the latest study as an essential link in the chain reactions that initially protect the body's main blood-pumping organ from spiraling into heart failure.

Experimenting in mice, the team of heart experts first established that after a week of induced high blood pressure, the hearts of animals engineered to lack RGS2, or regulator of G-protein signaling 2, quickly expanded in weight by 90 percent. Almost half the mice died of heart failure. In mice with RGS2, by contrast, the dangerous muscle expansion, known as hypertrophy, was delayed, growing only 30 percent, and no mice died.

Subsequent tests treating hypertensive mice that had RGS2 with sildenafil showed enhanced buffering, with less hypertrophy, stronger heart muscle contraction and relaxation, and as much as 10 times lower stress-related enzyme activity compared to their untreated counterparts. In mice lacking RGS2, sildenafil had no effect.

"Sildenafil (Viagra) clearly prolongs the protective effects of RGS2 in mouse hearts," says study senior investigator and cardiologist David Kass, M.D.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Positive Drug Trials More Likely to be Published

A new Cochrane systematic review finds that research is more likely to end up in print if it has a certain ‘wow’ factor; this confirms suspicions that studies with low-key results often get neglected. Obviously, this sheds light on categories like anti-depressants where it has been reported that most negative ("this stuff didn't work") trials just don't get published.

Based on the findings of five studies, the Cochrane (Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit, independent organization) review estimates that trials are 1.78 times more likely to be published if they are perceived as important, reveal a positive effect or offer scientifically significant findings.

Kay Dickersin, co-author, said “If positive results are published more often than negative, what we think we know isn’t really what we know. We might think a drug works, when it really doesn’t work, because the negative results haven’t been published,” said Dickersin, director of the U.S. Cochrane Center at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library. All of the studies summarized found that publication was more likely for trials with positive findings. The studies suggested that only 41 percent of negative trials — those that show a drug or treatment has bad effects or none at all — make their way to print. By contrast, the researchers estimated that journal editors publish about 73 percent of positive studies.

This shows a sad and highly unethical side of pharmaceutical science.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Danger of TV for Young Children

An extensive review published in the January issue of Acta Paediatrica says that TV can do more harm than good to the ongoing development of young children. A leading child expert, Professor Dimitri A Christakis (Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington) has also expressed considerable concerns about DVDs aimed at infants that claim to be beneficial, despite a lack of scientific evidence.

France has already taken this matter so seriously that in summer 2008 the Government introduced tough new rules to protect the health and development of children under three from the adverse effects of television. In this case, Professor Christakis’ extensive review looked at 78 studies published over the last 25 years and reiterates the findings of numerous studies he has carried out with his colleagues all over the world.

As many as nine in ten children under the age of two watch TV regularly, despite ongoing warnings, and some spend as much as 40 per cent of their waking hours in front of a TV. This is a dangerous situation for their development, and Christakis points out that there has never been one positive study showing demonstrated benefits. Many scientists are worried about children’s language, cognitive skills and attentional capacity when exposed to so much TV.

“The weight of existing evidence suggests the potential for harm and I believe that parents should exercise due caution in exposing infants to excessive media” he says. “For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages TV viewing in the first two years of life, but only six per cent of parents are aware of this advice despite ongoing publicity.”

The Christakis review includes these points:
•29 per cent of parents who took part in a survey of 1,000 American families published in 2007 said they let their infants watch TV because they thought it was “good for their brains”. But claims made by manufacturers are not substantiated by peer-reviewed medical papers and industry studies.

•Watching TV programs or DVDs aimed at infants can actually delay language development, according to a number of studies. For example, a 2008 Thai study published in Acta Paediatrica found that if children under 12 months watched TV for more than two hours a day they were six times more likely to have delayed language skills. Another study found that children who watched baby DVDs between seven and 16 months knew fewer words than children who did not.

•Infants as young as 14 months will imitate what they see on a TV screen, but they learn better from live presentations. For example, one study found that children learnt Mandarin Chinese better from a native speaker than they did from a video of the same speaker.

•A study of 1,300 children conducted by Christakis and colleagues in 2004 found a modest association between TV viewing before the age of three and attentional problems at the age of seven, after a wide range of other factors were ruled out.

•In another study, Christakis and colleagues looked at the effects of early TV viewing on cognitive development at school age. They found that children who had watched a lot of TV in their early years did not perform as well when they underwent tests to check their reading and memory skills.

•More than one in five parents who took part in another study said that they got their infants to watch TV when they needed time to themselves. This, says the author, is an understandable and realistic need, but not one that should be actively promoted.
But why does television have such a negative effect on children of this age? “We believe that one reason is the fact that it exposes children to flashing lights, scene changes, quick edits and auditory cuts which may be over stimulating to developing brains” says Professor Christakis. “TV also replaces other more important and appropriate activities like playing or interacting with parents.”

Another way of summing up this news report: TV is not a quality baby sitter.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coffee Consumption Associated with Reduced Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer

Data presented at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference in Houston last month revealed a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancers. While you won't find doctors prescribing more coffee today for those concerned about prostate cancer risks, it does appear that potential good news about coffee could be found soon, after additional research.

“Coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. It was plausible that there may be an association between coffee and prostate cancer,” said Kathryn M. Wilson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School.

Wilson and colleagues found that men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men who did not drink any coffee. This is the first study of its kind to look at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localized, advanced and lethal disease.

“Few studies have looked prospectively at this association, and none have looked at coffee and specific prostate cancer outcomes,” said Wilson. “We specifically looked at different types of prostate cancer, such as advanced vs. localized cancers or high-grade vs. low-grade cancers.”

Caffeine is actually not the key factor in this association, according to Wilson. The researchers are unsure which components of the beverage are most important, as coffee contains many biologically active compounds like antioxidants and minerals.

Using the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study, the researchers documented the regular and decaffeinated coffee intake of nearly 50,000 men every four years from 1986 to 2006; 4,975 of these men developed prostate cancer over that time. They also examined the cross-sectional association between coffee consumption and levels of circulating hormones in blood samples collected from a subset of men in the cohort.

“Very few lifestyle factors have been consistently associated with prostate cancer risk, especially with risk of aggressive disease, so it would be very exciting if this association is confirmed in other studies,” said Wilson. “Our results do suggest there is no reason to stop drinking coffee out of any concern about prostate cancer.” In fact, it looks as if there could be a future advantage discovered in the next round of research.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Off Label Use of Pharmaceuticals Gets Speedy Nod from FDA

I'm concerned, and I hope that a lot of others are concerned as well. It seems that U.S. health officials are now publishing guidelines that make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to tell doctors about unapproved uses of medicines. This seems to be a risky and wild ride now that it is endorsed by the FDA.

The action could help companies expand the markets for medicines and medical devices by distributing copies of medical journal articles that describe unapproved uses of their products.

The move puts in place a policy that drew objections from congress (and drug-industry critics) when it was proposed last year. It appears to allow promotion of pharma products without adequate testing -- something that not even dietary supplement companies are allowed to get away with.

Rep. Henry Waxman, democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, called this FDA decision "a long-coveted parting gift," with a fair amount of sarcasm directed at the outgoing Bush administration.

Doctors have long been able to prescribe drugs for any use they see fit, a practice known as "off-label" use. In the past, the law was tough, and pharma marketers could not promote what doctors are using their drugs for in the off-label world. As an example, one doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to treat insomnia, but the pharma company has not been allowed to publish or distribute information pertaining to the drug's use for insomnia -- that is, until now.

In the world of dietary supplements, companies can not post information about traditional uses of their products, or discuss how doctors use them against disease. Supplement manufacturers have very rigid rules about this (and probably for a darn good reason, since the industry does such a terrible job of self-policing its marketing companies). If a number of doctors see success using an herbal formula for cancer, there's no way that the public or other doctors could find out about it, because the manufacturer would be prohibited (with the risk of huge fines) from sending that information on to other doctors or publishing it on their website.

It seems that the pharmaceutical industry has indeed been given a gift in this new ruling -- a type of marketing that even a dietary supplement manufacturer does not have access to.


Friday, January 16, 2009

St. John's Wort and Drug Interactions

There are few interactions between botanical products and pharmaceuticals, but one herbal product has developed a nasty reputation for this problem. That product is St. John's Wort. Today's blog is a recap of the known interactions that this herb has with pharmaceutical products.

Take note of these. The list below comes from an article published in Current Drug Metabolism from 2008. See my suggestion at the end of this blog for a substitute product.

1) Anticancer Drugs: Imatinib and Irinotecan. Patients taking these drugs along with SJW are recommended to avoid the herb.

2) Anticoagulants: Warfarin, acenocoumarol, phenprocoumon, etc. These drugs can potentially be severly affected by SJW.

3) Anticonvulsants: Do not take SJW with drugs such as phenytoin.

4) Antidepressants: This article suggests that SJW not be taken with Amitriptyline.

5) Antifungal agents: Voriconazole was affected significantly by SJW.

6) Antihistamine: Fexofenadine as one example. Not recommended with SJW.

7) Anti-HIV agents: Such as indinavir, lamivudine, and nevirapine . . . can result in drug resistance and treatment failure when combined with SJW.

8) Antihypertension (Blood pressure meds): SJW is not recommended with drugs such as verapamil, nifedipine, or talinolol.

9) Benzodiazepines: Questionable in combination with SJW.

10) Bronchodilators: Doses of Theophylline had to be increased if patient was on SJW.

11) Cardiac Gluycoside: Digoxin efficiency was reduced with multiple doses of SJW.

12) Cholesterol lowering drugs (Statins): SJW interacts and appears to decrease the effect of the drug.

13) Hypoglycemic agents: This article recommends that doctors and patients should closely monitor the reduced efficacy of these drugs if taking SJW.

14) Immunosuppressants: Patients with organ transplants or on immunosuppressants should not take SJW.

15) Methadone: Addicts taking methadone and SJW would sometimes resume illicit drug use due to decreased effect of methadone when combined with the St. Johns Wort.

16) Oral Contraceptives: Patients taking birth control pills should be warned against possible consequences of taking SJW.

17) Protein Pump Inhibitors: Omeprazole dosage should be increased if taking SJW, or patient warned of interactions causing less efficacy.

18) Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SRI's): Antidepressants that are affected by SJW. The authors state that these drugs should not be combined with SJW, with possible exaggerated serotonin effects.

19) Selective Sinus Node Channel Inhibitor: Ivabradine and SJW are a bad combination.

It is clear that St. John's Wort is a unique botanical, and that the potential for interaction with pharmaceuticals is significant. I'd suggest that you try Rhodiola rosea, which has an even stronger mood support function than SJW, and which many people are now using to replace SJW when an herb is used in conjunction with a pharmaceutical product. Rhodiola has centuries of use in Scandinavia and other cold regions where it is taken as a daily tonic. Use the search function on this site for "Rhodiola" to read previous articles about that herb.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chemicals, Environmental Poisons Found Linked to Body Mass Increase in Young Children

A new study published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) reveals an association between prenatal exposure to environmental pollutants and elevated body mass index (BMI) during the first three years of life. The study also found associations between exposures to various pollutants and birth weight and length.

Recent reviews support the hypothesis that even brief exposures early in life to chemicals like pesticides, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), hexachlorobenzene, dioxin-like compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may increase body weight. Higher PCB levels were associated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI) in children between ages 1 and 3. Higher DDE levels showed a slight increase in BMI in 3-year-old children, with a somewhat stronger association in children of smoking mothers than of nonsmoking mothers. The study concluded that simultaneous intrauterine exposure to these nasty chemicals may combine with the weight-enhancing effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy.

A random sample of 138 mother-infant pairs living in Flanders, Belgium was used for the study, with follow-up until the children were 3 years old. The study measured BMI of children ages 1 to 3, as well as pollutants measured in their spinal cord blood.

“There is a known correlation between BMI during the preschool years and adult BMI,” wrote lead study author Stijn L. Verhulst and his colleagues. “This is the first study demonstrating that environmental pollution may influence BMI during the critical first few years of life.”

With childhood obesity continuing to increase at an alarming rate, it is important step to assess possible mechanisms by which pollutants may alter our energy metabolism early in life. The original research article is, today, linked to the headline of this post.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stevia Sweeteners Set to Blast Off on TV

If you've been watching TV lately, you may have seen the ads from Cargill for their newly-licensed zero-calorie sweetener, Truvia™, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved. A similar product from Whole Earth Sweetener Company, PureVia™, is also in the pipeline for use in foods and beverages. These newly approved sweeteners are purified forms of stevia called rebaudioside A.

It seems the airwaves are about to be hit big-time by advertising for products containing these stevia sweeteners, which were relegated for quite a long time to the dietary supplement aisles in America. The FDA did not like this herb. Despite that, for more than 20 years stevia extracts have been sold as commercialized sweeteners in Japan and Brazil.

Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsico are among the first companies to market new beverages containing stevia. They are working with Cargill Inc. and Whole Earth Sweetener Co., respectively, to develop products made with the sweetener. We'll soon be seeing many of these products in the grocery aisles, as the companies also have developed table-top sweeteners for the public.

Sprite Green®, a reduced-calorie, sparkling beverage made with Truvia™ was announced recently from Coke. It is currently available only in New York and Chicago. Sprite Green® contains some natural sugar and has 50 calories per 8.5 ounces. Coca Cola also plans to develop some Odwalla® juices with the sweetener.

SoBe Lifewater® products are on the launchpad from Pepsico (Apple Pear, Blackberry/Blueberry and a Pomegranate) that contain Merisant's PureVia™. In March, they also plan to release an orange juice containing PureVia™.

It is possible that stevia may also have some health benefits. The herb has been widely used to treat diabetes in South America, and animal studies have shown promising results. In addition, stevioside, a natural ingredient of the stevia plant, has demonstrated blood pressure-lowering effects. Despite evidence of benefits in some human studies and support from laboratory and animal studies, more research is warranted on these claims.

Reported side effects of stevia include muscle pain, muscle weakness, dizziness, nausea and abdominal fullness. In most reported instances, these effects resolved after the first week of use. However, those with kidney disease are cautioned that higher doses of stevia may affect kidney activity.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vicks VapoRub® may be dangerous for children

Growing up, whenever I had problems breathing I'd end up with my head over a bowl of steaming hot water poured over Vicks Vaporub -- breathing deeply of fumes that my parents insisted would help me clear my lungs.

Today, clinicians out of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have discovered that Vicks VapoRub®, the popular menthol compound used to relieve symptoms of cough and congestion, may instead create respiratory distress in infants and small children. This doesn't bode well for the nation's old-fashioned Moms, who rely on the product's abilities as mine did.

The study appears in this month’s issue of Chest, the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, and reports that the product may stimulate mucus production and airway inflammation, which can have severe effects on breathing infants or young children because of the small size of their airways.

Bruce K. Rubin, M.D., lead author of the study and a professor in the department of pediatrics at Brenner Children’s Hospital (part of Wake Forest Baptist says that “The ingredients in Vicks can be irritants, causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway. Infants and young children have airways that are much narrower than those of adults, so any increase in mucus or inflammation can narrow them more severely.”

Vicks VapoRub® has a long history in USA healthcare. It was first compounded in 1891, in Greensboro, NC. It was introduced in 1905 with the name Vick’s Magic Croup Salve. The flu epidemic of 1918 increased sales from $900,000 to $2.9 million in just one year and Procter & Gamble has since marketed the product as “The only thing more powerful than a mother’s touch.”

Now it seems as if this mother's touch can be dangerous. The salve is widely used to relieve symptoms of colds and congestion, but there are few data supporting an actual clinical benefit, according to Rubin. Some of the concerns these scientists and others have expressed include: Inflammation in the eyes, mental status changes, lung inflammation, liver damage, constriction of airways and allergic reactions.

Rubin and colleagues treated an infant who was taken to the emergency room after developing severe respiratory distress following the application of Vicks directly under her nose. Researchers sought to determine the effect of the product on the respiratory system using ferrets, which have an airway anatomy and cellular composition similar to humans. The team conducted tests on healthy ferrets and ferrets that had tracheal inflammation (simulating a person with a chest infection) that measured the effects of Vicks on mucus secretion and buildup in the airways, and fluid buildup in the lungs.

Results showed that Vicks exposure increased mucus secretion in both normal and inflamed airways, directly in opposition to the product's historical use. In addition, the studies showed that exposure to the product decreased the rate by which mucus was cleared from the trachea.

The product's label does indicate the product should not be used on children under 2 years of age. However, many parents continue to use Vicks on their sick children, often rubbing the salve on the feet or chest, Rubin said.

“I recommend never putting Vicks in, or under, the nose of anybody—adult or child,” Rubin said. “I also would follow the directions and never use it at all on children under age 2.”


Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting sleep is key to avoiding colds

It turns out that what your Mom always told you is true . . . "Get your sleep. You'll need it if you want to fight off those colds this time of year."

New research has shown that individuals who get less than seven hours of sleep per night appear about three times as likely to develop respiratory illness following exposure to a cold virus as those who sleep eight hours or more, according to a report in the January 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Sleep deprivation impairs our immune function, and previous research has always shown that those who sleep approximately seven to eight hours per night have the lowest rates of heart disease illness and death as well. However, until this new work, there has been little to support Mom's theory that poor sleep increases susceptibility to the common cold.

Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and colleagues studied 153 healthy men and women (average age 37) between 2000 and 2004. Participants were interviewed daily over a two-week period, reporting how many hours they slept per night, what percentage of their time in bed was spent asleep (sleep efficiency) and whether they felt rested. They were then quarantined and administered nasal drops containing the common-cold–causing rhinovirus. For five days afterward, the study participants reported any signs and symptoms of illness and had mucus samples collected from their nasal passages for virus cultures; about 28 days later, they submitted a blood sample that was tested for antibody responses to the virus.

The less an individual slept, the more likely he or she was to develop a cold from this challenge testing. Lower sleep efficiency was also associated with developing a cold—participants who spent less than 92 percent of their time in bed asleep were five and a half times more likely to become ill than those whose efficiency was 98 percent or more.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Latest Hormone Research and Reduced Colon Cancer Risk

According to a report published in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, the combination of estrogen plus progestin may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Many women stopped taking these hormones following the news that it may increase their risk of breast cancer.

Jill R. Johnson, M.P.H., at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health believes this may surprise many physicians: “Compared to women who had never taken these hormones, the use of estrogen plus progestin was associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer,” she said.

A quite significant reduction. The largest, approximately 45 percent, was seen among women who had completed use of estrogen plus progestin for five or more years previously.

Johnson and her colleagues extracted data from 56,733 postmenopausal women who participated in the Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project follow-up study. During an average 15 years of follow-up, Johnson and colleagues identified 960 new cases of colorectal cancer in this population. Any use of estrogen therapy was associated with a 17 percent reduced risk of that cancer. Among those who used estrogen, the largest reductions were seen among those who were current users (25 percent reduced risk) and users of ten or more years duration (26 percent reduced risk).

Researchers also found a 22 percent reduced risk among those who had used estrogen plus progestin in combination. They further found a 36 percent reduction in risk among those who had used progestin sequentially or less than 15 days per month. Past users of estrogen plus progestin, who had stopped at least five years ago, had a 45 percent risk reduction.

Further studies will be conducted and, as always, women should check with their doctors to see what the latest recommendations are. At the very least, it's nice to see something positive from the hormone supplementation that many postmenopausal women had been on for years.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More News on Clioquinol: Anti-Aging, Anti-Alzheimers Properties?

This one really blew me away when I read about the studies. More animal studies have now shown that "Clioquinol" – an 80-year old drug once used to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders – can reverse the progression of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases and in general extend lifespan.

If this one proves to be true, it is a bell-ringer of a discovery. Like many new discoveries, however, scientists appear to disagree on how a single compound could have such similar effects on three unrelated neurodegenerative disorders. One research team, at McGill University in Toronto, has now published an exciting new answer.

According to Dr. Siegfried Hekimi and colleagues at McGill's Department of Biology, Clioquinol acts directly on a protein called CLK-1, often informally called "clock-1," and because of this may indeed slow down the aging process. (Clock-1 is an appropriate name for a protein tied so closely to longevity). The advance online edition of their study was published in Oct. 2008 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"Clioquinol is a very powerful inhibitor of clock-1," explained Hekimi, McGill's Chair in Developmental Biology. "Because clock-1 affects longevity in invertebrates and mice, and because we're talking about three age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases, we hypothesize that clioquinol affects them by slowing down the rate of aging."

Clioquinol was once commonly prescribed in Europe and Asia for gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and shigella, but was withdrawn from the market after being blamed for a devastating outbreak of subacute myelo-optic neuropathy in Japan in the 1960s. However, most researchers believe that there was no connection to Clioquinol in that instance, and hard research proving a connection was never conducted.

Hekimi is optimistic but cautious when asked whether clioquinol could eventually become an anti-aging treatment.

"The drug affects a gene which when inhibited can slow down aging," he said. "The implication is that we can change the rate of aging. This might be why clioquinol is able to work on this diversity of diseases that are all age-dependent."

However, this scientist is indeed concerned about how people may interpret his results, because it is possible for anyone to simply by a load of this at a chemical wholesaler. "We don't want people to start experimenting on themselves. Clioquinol can be a very toxic substance if abused, and far more research is required," says Hekimi.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Restraint in Eating: Good Practice or Bad?

It seems to me that if you purposely attempt to eat less, it will benefit you in reducing your weight. But, over the years many experts have said that this is not the case, because it is a practice that backfires, leading to binging and weight gain.

Now a new study shows that practicing restraint in eating is important to our health, especially as we age.

Women who participated in the study had more than twice the risk of substantial weight gain if they did not become more restrained in their eating. “While some suggest that restrained eating is not a good practice, given the environmental forces in America’s food industry, not practicing restraint is essentially a guarantee of failure,” said Brigham Young University professor Larry Tucker, the study’s lead author.

The study followed 192 middle-aged women for three years and tracked information on lifestyle, health and eating habits. Their analysis revealed that women who did not become more restrained with eating were 138 percent more likely to put on 6.6 pounds or more. In other words, showing restraint (or constantly being aware of what we ingest and monitoring it) becomes a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle as we age.

The findings highlight an important principle of weight management. “Because the body's energy requirements progressively decline with age, energy intake must mirror that decrease or weight gain occurs,” says another of the research fellows at Columbia’s Obesity Research Center. “The observation that women who practice eating restraint avoid the significant weight gain commonly observed in middle age is an important health message.”


Friday, January 2, 2009

Osteoporosis Drugs with Nasty Side Effects

First reported in Sham vs. Wham back in August of 2008, today the mainstream media has picked up on the fact that research is proving that osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax have some very serious side effects.

Here is the link to the original article on this site which discussed this topic, months ahead of the major news services: Sham vs. Wham. Click on this link and the older article will show up below this one.

It now appears that those taking drugs in this class, called "bisphosphonates", are at a significant risk for both devastating jaw necrosis as well as esophagus cancer. Other brand names of drugs in this class include Boniva, Didronel, and Actonel.