Friday, February 27, 2009

Vitamin C as a Cure for Cancer?

Vitamin C therapy for cancer was first promoted by Linus Pauling, the Nobel prize winner, 30 years ago. Now it turns out that there is renewed interest in this area. News about a few remarkable cancer cures has started to drum up new treatment ideas in which Vitamin C is used as a targeted agent against the terminal disease.

An article in the New Zealand Herald describes three cancer patients who were given large intravenous doses over a period of several months. It turns out that their tumors shrunk and their lives were extended according to the doctors who treated them.

One, a 49-year-old man diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer in 1996, was still alive and cancer-free nine years later, having declined chemotherapy and radiotherapy in favor of regular infusions of vitamin C. Another, a 66-year-old woman with an aggressive lymphoma who had a "dismal prognosis" in 1995, is still alive 10 years later after an intravenous Vitamin C program. The third referenced in the article was a 51-year-old woman with kidney cancer that spread to her lungs. She was diagnosed in 1995 and after the Vitamin C dosing had a normal chest X-ray just two years later. All of these findings were confirmed by pathologists.

Although they do not prove the vitamin cured the cancer they do increase the "clinical plausibility" of the idea, the researchers say. Dr Pauling's claims sparked the continuing boom in sales of vitamin C, but attempts to confirm his findings failed and high-dose vitamin C became an off-the-wall "alternative" therapy.

The latest study, published in the Canadian Association's Medical Journal, could trigger renewed interest in Dr Pauling's claims because studies show that vitamin C is toxic to some cancer cells but not to normal cells. The problem has been delivering a high enough level of C because oral doses of the vitamin are rapidly excreted from the body.

However, injections achieve blood levels 25 times higher and persist for far longer; at these very high doses, the blood level of vitamin C is high enough to selectively kill cancer cells.

Several clinical trials of vitamin C therapy are about to start, including one at McGill University, Montreal.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Can a Pair of Shoes Make a Difference in Your Back?

So many people suffer from back pain that it is no surprise how many scams and shams there are surrounding the whole field of back care products. I recently reviewed a $250 back care product on this blog, the "Back 2 Life Machine," which shows how easy it is to get caught up in overstated claims. The people in those TV spots promoting the device appeared to be completely cured of their back pain (they must be actors). Instead, that device made my back feel even worse.

However, my wife has experienced foot problems and I watched with interest how she dealt with them. Several decades of wearing high-heels exclusively left her feet in very poor condition, and after consultation with both a foot doctor as well as numerous shoe reps, she chose a pair of shoes called MBT, a brand which calls itself the "Anti-Shoe Company." They make a shoe which is completely different; it is built on the correct physiology of the foot -- in other words, how we were intended to walk when ancient man traveled on sand, dirt or mud. (Let's face it, cave men weren't walking on concrete, asphalt and tile all day long. Perhaps if man had walked exclusively on flat, hard rock than our feet would have evolved somewhat differently).

The bottom of the MBT shoe is rounded. There's a very thick sole, thickest where your foot lands, and then you roll your feet as you walk with the curved bottom of the shoe. The inventor of the shoe, a Swiss engineer, built them to emulate the feeling of walking barefoot in sand.

Walking in a pair of MBT's feels weird at first, but once you've had an hour or two in them, you notice how you are standing straighter when you walk. Your posture is completely different than it is when walking in normal shoes. (Walking in normal shoes gives us a rather slanted, forward-focused stance which puts a strain on the lower back. In MBT's, there is no strain on the back at all -- your spine is in perfect alignment.) Click on the headline in this blog post to see a brief animation of how this works.

Now, both my wife and I have a pair of MBT's, which are the single most-expensive shoes I've ever purchased. I think they are helping my back a great deal -- I'll update this review in 3-6 months. when it is definitive, but from my first two or three weeks I can tell you that it appears the best solution for my aching back is just a better pair of shoes.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Calcium and Reduced Cancer Risk in Both Men and Women

According to a report in the February 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, women with higher intake of calcium appear to have a lower risk of cancer overall. Of further interest to readers, both men and women with high calcium intakes have lower risks of colorectal cancer and other cancers of the digestive system.

Dr. Yikyung Park of the National Cancer Institute and colleagues analyzed data from 293,907 men and 198,903 women who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Participants took a food frequency questionnaire when they enrolled in the study between 1995 and 1996, reporting how much and how often they consumed dairy and a wide variety of other foods and whether they took supplements. Their records were then linked with state cancer registries to identify new cases of cancer through 2003.

Over an average of 7 years of follow-up, 36,965 cancer cases were identified in men and 16,605 in women. In women, cancer risk was lowered with intake of up to 1,300 milligrams per day, after which no further risk reduction was observed.

“In both men and women, dairy food and calcium intakes were inversely associated with cancers of the digestive system,” the authors write. The one-fifth of men who consumed the most calcium through food and supplements (about 1,530 milligrams per day) had a 16 percent lower risk of these types of cancer than the one-fifth who consumed the least (526 milligrams per day). For women, those in the top one-fifth of calcium consumption (1,881 milligrams per day) had a 23 percent lower risk than those in the bottom one-fifth (494 milligrams per day). The decreased risk was particularly pronounced for colorectal cancer.

Calcium is known to benefit bone health, according to background information in the article. Because of this, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,200 milligrams of calcium for adults age 50 and older, and the 2005 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend 3 cups per day of low-fat or fat-free dairy products.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

B6, B12, and Folic Acid Reduce Risk of Macular Degeneration

A combination of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid appears to decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration in women. This news comes to us via the February 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans. Treatment options exist for those with severe cases of the disease, but the only known prevention method is to avoid smoking. Much of the recent science on AMD has shown a connection to high blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid. High levels of homocysteine are associated with dysfunction of the blood vessel lining. This current work shows that treatment with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid appears to reduce homocysteine levels -- as a result, it may even reverse this blood vessel dysfunction.

William G. Christen, Sc.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues conducted a randomized, double-blind clinical trial involving 5,442 women age 40 and older who already had heart disease or at least three risk factors. Of these, 5,205 did not have AMD at the beginning of the study. In April 1998, these women were randomly assigned to take a placebo or a combination of folic acid (2.5 milligrams per day), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6, 50 milligrams per day) and cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12, 1 milligram per day). Participants continued the therapy through July 2005 and were tracked for the development of AMD through November 2005.

Women taking the supplements had a 34 percent lower risk of any AMD and a 41 percent lower risk of visually significant AMD. “The beneficial effect of treatment began to emerge at approximately two years of follow-up and persisted throughout the trial,” the authors write. The trial findings reported are the strongest evidence to date in support of a possible beneficial effect of folic acid and B vitamin supplements in AMD prevention.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Stroke Risk Reduction via Green or Black Tea

A new study coming from scientists at UCLA has found that drinking at least three cups of green or black tea a day can significantly reduce the risk of stroke. Interestingly, the more you drink, the better your odds of holding back that stroke.

The study was published in the online edition of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, were presented Feb. 19 at the American Heart Association's annual International Stroke Conference in San Diego, Calif.

The UCLA researchers examined nine studies describing 4,378 strokes among nearly 195,000 individuals, according to lead author Dr. Lenore Arab, a professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"What we saw was that there was a consistency of effect of appreciable magnitude. By drinking three cups of tea a day, the risk of a stroke was reduced by 21 percent. It didn't matter if it was green or black tea," said Dr. Arab. Oddly, the data shows this effect appears to be linear. For instance, if one drinks three cups a day, the risk falls by 21 percent; follow that with another three cups and the risk drops another 21 percent.

Note that this effect was found in tea made from the plant Camellia sinensis, both green and black varieties, and not from the many popular types of herbal teas on the market.

To date, there are very few known ways to reduce the risk of stroke. Developing medications for stroke victims is particularly challenging, given that the drug has to get to the stroke-damaged site quickly because damage occurs so fast. Arab said that by the time a stroke victim gets medical care, it's nearly too late to impede the damage.

"That's why these findings are so exciting," she said. "If we can find a way to prevent the stroke, or prevent the damage, that is simple and not toxic, that would be a great advance."

Researchers have speculated that the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) or the amino acid theanine may be what helps. Theanine is nearly 100-percent absorbed, Arab said. "It gets across the blood-brain barrier and it looks a lot like a molecule that's very similar to glutamate, and glutamate release is associated with stroke.It could be that theanine and glutamate compete for the glutamate receptor in the brain."

Although a randomized clinical trial is needed to confirm this effect, the findings suggest that drinking three cups of green or black tea a day could help prevent an ischemic stroke.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Back-2-Life Machine is a "Sham" for Many

There appears to be a trend right now for healthy lifestyle products to be advertised on TV or radio, with a great number of claims being made about what they can do -- and some very shady business practices to go along with those generally bogus claims. Some of these products are very expensive.

My wife recently tried a "free sample offer" for a product called Hydroxatone (a skin cream) and an invoice arrived in the box for nearly $160.00. She was charged $12.95 to ship a product that cost $3 or $4 to ship, at the most, with instructions to return the remaining lotion within 30 days or her card would be charged the full amount. How does that sound for a "free" trial offer?

In my case, I got suckered as well, by a company that sells a $200+ device on TV, called the "Back 2 Life Machine." I responded to an offer that, once again, was too good to be true. The device itself has to be returned within 30 days to get a refund that does not include shipping and handling each way (and the unit is large). My guess is that at least half of their customer base returns it and they make enormous profits on the other 50% who miss the cut off date. While it is an interesting concept, I was not able to find any credible scientific evidence supporting its claims. You lie down with this device, put your legs up on the saddle, and let it pull you gently for 12 minutes or so every day. Personally, I knew that I had only a short time with it before my window to send it back closed, and so I used it three or four times a day.

I really, really wanted that Back-2-Life Machine to work. Unfortunately, I achieved no results at all -- not one difference in my back pain. Upon calling the firm to get an RMA number (even though I would lose about $50), they offered me all kinds of incentives to keep it. Even a huge reduction in the price.

Let me recommend to marketers that if your product has some value, price it fairly from day one. Don't make one consumer pay a higher price, while others buy it for substantially less because they called and complained. That's just adding an E to the back end of your SHAM product . . . SHAME on you.

PS - The comments section of this blog has been closed for many months. Please do not attempt to leave a message. We've been inundated with spam and with messages on either side of the issue that we do not want to publish as the author has stopped taking messages on this issue.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More on the Benefit of Apples for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed invasive cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States. It is the prevalence of this terrible disease that makes work on beneficial natural products so interesting. In the most recent case, six studies have been published in the last year by a Cornell researcher; all of them add to the growing supply of evidence that apples have a huge, beneficial effect on our health.

In one of his recent papers, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Dr. Rui Hai Liu, Cornell associate professor of food science and a member of Cornell's Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, reports that fresh apple extracts significantly inhibited the size of mammary tumors in rats -- and the more extracts they were given, the greater the reduction.

"We not only observed that the treated animals had fewer tumors, but the tumors were smaller, less malignant and grew more slowly compared with the tumors in the untreated rats," said Liu, pointing out that the new study confirmed the findings of his preliminary work in rats published eighteen months ago.

His latest research found that a type of adenocarcinoma (a highly malignant tumor and the main cause of death of breast-cancer patients) was evident in 81 percent of tumors in the control animals. However, for the animals fed apple extracts, the situation was dramatically different. The adenocarcinoma developed in only 57 percent, 50 percent and 23 percent of the rats which were fed low, middle and high doses of apple extracts during the 24-week study. (This is the equivalent of one, three and six apples a day in humans).

Phytochemicals are the star of studies like these (also known as phenolics or flavonoids). These compounds are found in apples and other fruits and vegetables. Liu reported in the same journal that apples provide 33 percent of the phenolics that Americans consume annually.

In a study of apple peel published in the same journal (issue 56:21), Liu reported on a variety of new phenolic compounds that he discovered that also have "potent antioxidant and anti-proliferative activities" on tumors. And in yet another study in the same journal (issue 56:24), he reported on his discovery of the specific modulation effects that apple extracts have on cell cycle machinery. Recently, Liu's group also reported the finding that apple phytochemicals inhibit an important inflammation pathway in human breast cancer cells.

"These studies add to the growing evidence that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, including apples, would provide consumers with more phenolics, which are proving to have important health benefits. I would encourage consumers to eat more and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily."


Monday, February 16, 2009

Vitamin D and Muscle Power

A new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism discusses Vitamin D and how it is associated with muscle power and force.

Vitamin D shortages are often seen now in the United States, even though it iis naturally produced in the body through exposure to direct sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to have a significant negative impact on muscle and bone health, and can lead to conditions including osteoporosis and rickets. In the case of this recent study done on adolescent girls, Vitamin D appears to have quite an impact, even when we are young.

“We know vitamin D deficiency can weaken the muscular and skeletal systems, but until now, little was known about the relationship of vitamin D with muscle power and force,” said Dr. Kate Ward, Ph.D., of the University of Manchester in the U.K., and lead author of the study.

This study found that vitamin D is positively related to muscle power, force, velocity and jump height in adolescent girls. Researchers followed 99 adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 14 years. Dr. Ward and her colleagues took blood samples to measure the girls’ serum levels of vitamin D. Many of these girls were found to have low levels of vitamin D despite not presenting any symptoms.

Researchers tested the girls in a series of jumping activities. Dr. Ward says this method of testing is ideal as the muscles required to jump are those most often affected in subjects with vitamin D deficiency. Girls without vitamin D deficiency performed significantly better in these tests.

This author says, “Vitamin D affects the various ways muscles work and we’ve seen from this study that there may be no visible symptoms of vitamin D deficiency,” said Dr. Ward. “Further studies are needed to address this problem and determine the necessary levels of vitamin D for a healthy muscle system.”


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scientists Confirm Value of Olive Oil as a Cancer Fighter

Researchers have long known about the value of the "mediterranean diet" originating in countries like Italy, Greece or Crete. In those countries, there's a heavy emphasis on olive oil.

Now, scientists and clinicians of the Catalonian Institute of Oncology (Spain) and the University of Granada (Spain) have discovered that extra virgin olive oil may indeed help to combat breast cancer. Their research work was published in the last issue of the scientific journal BMC Cancer. There, the authors confirm that polyphenols (natural antioxidants found in plants) appear to fight breast cancer, and that these biochemicals are present in olive oil.

HER2 is a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer. This study appears to prove the anti-HER2 effect of compounds extracted from extra virgin olive oil. Researchers used state of the art extraction and analysis methods to isolate these compounds from commercial oils, and then tested them for their anti-cancer capacity both against positive HER2 and negative HER2 breast cancer cell lines. Biochemicals such as hydroxitirosol, tirosol, elenolic acid, lignans, pinoresinol and acetopinoresinol, and secoiridoids, diacetox oleuropein aglycone, ligustrosid aglycone and oleuropein aglycone, all found in olive oil, were able to induce important effects against breast cancer cells.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Children and Beach Vacations Lead to Cancer Concerns

A new scientific paper published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, shows that vacationing at the shore led to a 5 percent increase in nevi (more commonly called “moles”) among 7-year-old children. Because the number of nevi is the major risk factor for malignant melanoma, this has some doctors concerned that rates of melanoma will be affected.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma rates have been rising dramatically over recent decades. More than 62,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year and more than 8,000 die.

Lead author Lori Crane, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, conducted this study among children who lived in Colorado, but the findings are "applicable worldwide" according to her. “Parents of young children need to be cautious about taking their kids on vacations that are going to be sun-intensive at waterside locations, where people are outside for whole days at a time in skin-exposing swimsuits,” said Crane.

The biggest issue is that parents often mistakenly believe that sunscreen is a cure-all. Although it does offer some protection, the likelihood is that children stay out in the sun longer, thus increasing their risk. Sunscreen just taps the surface.

“We recommend that, for young children, parents keep the kids involved in indoor activities from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to decrease risk, or if they are to be outside, that they wear shirts with sleeves,” said Crane.

Crane and colleagues examined 681 white children born in 1998 who were lifetime residents of Colorado. Vacation histories were assessed by interview and skin exams were used to evaluate the development of nevi.

Researchers observed that each waterside vacation one or more years prior to the exam at age 7 was linked to a 5 percent increase in nevi, or skin moles, less than two mm. “Daily sun exposure at home did not seem to be related to the number of moles, while waterside vacations were. Vacations may impart some unique risk for melanoma,” said Crane.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marijuana Shown to Increase Risk of Testicular Cancer

A new study published online (Feb. 9) in the journal Cancer shows that frequent and/or long-term marijuana use may significantly increase a man’s risk of developing the most aggressive type of testicular cancer. This study, from researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, illustrates how marijuana smokers have as much as a 70 percent increased risk of testicular cancer. The risk is particularly elevated (about twice that of those who never smoked marijuana) for those who use marijuana at least weekly and/or who have long-term exposure to the substance beginning in adolescence.

The association might be limited to nonseminoma, a fast-growing testicular malignancy that tends to strike early, between ages 20 and 35, and accounts for about 40 percent of all testicular-cancer cases. (Since the 1950s, the incidence of the two main types of testicular cancer, nonseminoma and seminoma – has increased by 3 to 6 percent per year in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. During the same time period, marijuana use in North America, Europe and Australia has risen at a corresponding level, which is one of several factors that led the researchers to hypothesize a potential association.

“Our study is not the first to suggest that some aspect of a man’s lifestyle or environment is a risk factor for testicular cancer, but it is the first that has looked at marijuana use,” said author Stephen M. Schwartz, M.P.H., Ph.D., an epidemiologist and member of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center.

Chronic marijuana exposure has multiple adverse effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems, primarily decreased sperm quality. Other possible effects include decreased testosterone and male impotency. Because male infertility and poor semen quality also have been linked to an increased risk of testicular cancer, this further reinforced the researchers’ hypothesis that marijuana use may be a risk factor for the disease.


Monday, February 9, 2009

The Link Between Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease

Recent research illustrates a link between heart disease and erectile dysfunction. It appears that men who experience erectile dysfunction in their forties are twice as likely to develop heart disease in comparison to men without that dysfunction. This information comes from a new Mayo Clinic study. These researchers also found that the larger category of all men with erectile dysfunction have an 80 percent higher risk of heart disease.

Jennifer St. Sauver, Ph.D, author, stated that the highest risk for coronary heart disease was in younger men. The study was published in the February 2009 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The results suggest that younger men and their doctors may need to consider erectile dysfunction a harbinger of future risk of coronary heart disease -- and take appropriate steps to prevent it, says Dr. St. Sauver.

An editorial in the same issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings reinstated the importance of this work. The results “raise the possibility of a ‘window of curability,’ in which progression of cardiac disease might be slowed or halted by medical intervention,” says one of the editorial comments.

Erectile dysfunction is common, and prevalence increases with age. It affects 5 to 10 percent of men at age 40. By age 70, from 40 to 60 percent of men have the condition.

For this study, the investigators identified 1,402 men who lived in Olmsted County, Minn., in 1996 and did not have heart disease. Every two years for 10 years, these men were assessed for urological and sexual health.

Over 10 years of follow-up, researchers found that men with erectile dysfunction were 80 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared to men without erectile dysfunction. The highest risk of new heart disease was seen in the youngest study participants who had erectile dysfunction. In men 40 to 49 years old when the study began, the number of new cases in men with erectile dysfunction was more than 50-fold higher than in men without erectile dysfunction.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Vitamin D's Role in Improved Diagnosis for Breast Cancer Patients

The active form of vitamin D (calcitrol) has been found to induce a tumor suppressing protein that can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, according to a study by researcher Sylvia Chistakos, Ph.D., of the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School.

This professor of biochemistry is a worldwide expert on Vitamin D, and she has in the past published extensively on the multiple roles of vitamin D. Her past work has shown how Vitamin D inhibits the growth of malignant cells found in breast cancer. In the case of her latest work, these findings elaborate on how vitamin D induces a particular protein that inhibits breast cancer growth. This work is published in a recent issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

It has been shown that increased serum levels of vitamin D are associated with an improved diagnosis for those patients with breast cancer. Prior to the current study, little was known about why this was occurring.

During the study, Christakos (along with co-author Dr. Puneet Dhawan) examined the protein involved in this scenario. “These results provide an important process in which the active form of vitamin D may work to reduce growth of breast cancer cells,” said Christakos. “These studies provide a basis for the design of new anticancer agents that can target the protein as a candidate for breast cancer treatment.”

It seems that every day we are learning something new about the importance of Vitamin D for our health.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reduced Calorie Dieting May Improve Memory in Older Adults

A new report is being publicized by Natural Standard, one which shows how older adults who reduced their calorie intake by 30 percent were able to perform better on memory tests. Because many adults are interested in improved memory function, I felt this was worth mentioning in today's blog.

In published animal studies, scientists found that low-calorie diets rich in unsaturated-fatty acids ( for example, nuts, avocados and olive oil) may be beneficial for brain function. While these studies were performed in aging rats, in this latest study (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) researchers aimed to determine if these brain effects apply to humans as well. What they found surprised them.

The authors studied 50 older adults whose average age was 60, and whose weight ranged from healthy levels into the overweight category. Three groups were developed; one group reduced their calorie intake by up to 30 percent, the second group increased their unsaturated fatty acids intake by up to 20 percent -- and the third group served as the control and did not change their eating habits.

Memory tests were conducted at the beginning and end of the three-month-long study. These tests showed that verbal memory scores significantly increased (an average of 20 percent by the end of the study) in the reduced-calorie group. These memory improvements were also associated with decreases in insulin levels and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) in the group that had reduced calories. No significant changes were reported in the other two groups.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are Gelcaps Safe?

As you know, many of the shells that surround your supplements and pharmaceuticals are made of gelatin. And gelatin is an animal product, made from bones and waste materials from animal product manufacturing. More specifically, gelatin is obtained from the partial hydrolysis of collagen derived from the skin, connective tissue and bones of animals.

Many consumers who are aware that gelatin is derived mainly from cows are looking for an alternative, due to a concern stemming from the mad cow (BSE) scare. Some experts say those fears are overblown because gelatin processing destroys BSE infectivity. Other scientists aren’t too sure.

According to the Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America (not necessarily a non-biased source), during gelatin processing, raw materials are exposed to purification procedures. This includes prolonged exposure to either acid or alkaline conditions, or both — processes that are designed to provide a safe gelatin supply for consumption. Supposedly, the raw materials are also exposed to sterilization, filtration and demineralization, which have also been shown to significantly enhance the safety of gelatin.

There’s a difference, however, between enhancing safety and being safe. And there can be an even larger difference if some processing plants don't always follow the guidelines.

“Alkaline or acid processing in gelatin manufacturing may only reduce rather than eliminate BSE infectivity,” said scientific advisor Morrie Potter, one of the committee members reporting to the FDA in 2003. Potter said that brains and spinal cords from cattle originating in BSE countries could be included in the raw materials used to produce gelatin for human consumption because these manufacturers believe their processes are safe.

They may not be safe. That's why there has been a huge increase in manufacturers using "veggie caps" for their herbal products and vitamins. Not many pharmaceutical companies have gotten on the veggie cap bandwagon, although Pfizer owns a company which is one of the larger manufacturers of vegetarian capsules in the world (Capsugel).

Veggie caps cost more (seemingly for no reason -- they are considered an "upgrade" for a manufacturer). It may be wise to insist that your capsulized products come without gelatin. Even oils such as Omega 3's can be packed in new vegetable or seaweed derived capsules; sadly, most products in that category use the lower-priced, and possibly dangerous, gelatin capsules.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Health Benefits of Dark Sky Cities

Some people have an intense desire to live in an area with a very dark sky at night. Many of my friends and neighbors feel this way, so they've chosen places like Sedona, Flagstaff or Tucson, Arizona in which to live. Now, it seems as if this need to live in a "dark sky city" may have a basis in health.

In Israel and Connecticut, a new study has been published which originated at the University of Haifa. This study discovered that worldwide, countries with the highest levels of artificial light at night also have the highest rates of prostate cancer. The new study concludes that countries in which nighttime artificial lighting is used more intensively tend to have a higher risk of prostate cancer in men. This joins a previous finding that was published in Chronobiology International in 2008, in which exposure to artificial lighting at night increases the incidence of breast cancer in women.

At the very first stage of the study, it already became clear that there is a marked link between the incidence of prostate cancer and levels of nighttime artificial illumination and electricity consumption. The results demonstrated that the incidence of prostate cancer in those countries with low exposure was 66.77 prostate cancer patients to 100,000 inhabitants. An increase of 30% was found in those countries with medium exposure: 87.11 patients per 100,000 inhabitants. The countries with the highest level of exposure to artificial light at night demonstrated a jump of 80%: 157 patients per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to these researchers (Prof. A. Haim, Prof. B. A. Portnov, and Itai Kloog of the University of Haifa, together with Prof. R. Stevens of the University of Connecticut), there are a number of theories that could explain the increased incidence of prostate cancer due to exposure to lighting at night, such as suppression of melatonin production, suppression of the immune system, and an effect on the body's biological clock because of confusion between night and day. Whatever the cause, there is a definite link between the two. "This does not mean that we have to go back to the Middle Ages and turn the lights out on the country. What it means is that this link should be taken into account in planning the country's energy policies," the researchers pointed out.

An increased level of nighttime artificial lighting is considered by many, including the World Health Organization, as a source of environmental pollution. And I can tell you from personal experience there is nothing better than taking a walk outdoors on a beautiful evening lit only by the moon and the stars.