Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cigarette Smoke, Auto Exhaust and French Fries Could be Major Alzheimer's Culprits

New research is coming up with evidence that exposure to a group of chemicals known as type-2 alkenes can increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. These chemicals are found in the smoke inhaled from cigarettes, the exhaust of automobiles and even in French fries at your local fast food restaurant.

Dr. Richard M. LoPachin, a neurochemist and director of research in the Department of Anesthesiology at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says “The thought process and memory deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease appear to be due to the very early loss of function of nerve endings in the brain."

“Two years ago, we published a series of peer-review papers describing how type-2 alkenes (such as acrylamide and acrolein) damage nerve endings in the brains of animals and, since then, interest in the scientific community has grown steadily,” said Dr. LoPachin. “For example, just in the last six months there were more than a half dozen articles published in neuroscience journals that demonstrate an excess of acrolein and other type-2 alkenes in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.”

According to Dr. LoPachin and others in the field, this excess means that these highly toxic chemicals are also being generated within nerve endings during the disease process that presumably initiates Alzheimer’s dementia. Dr. LoPachin believes that this internal production of the type-2 alkenes, along with external exposure to these chemicals (smoking, diet and other environmental factors), causes a perfect neurological storm – a doubly powerful type-2 alkene attack on brain nerve endings from outside the body and from within as well.

“This dual intoxication of nerve endings led us to conclude that daily environmental exposure to neurotoxic type-2 alkenes could increase the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

As evidence for the role of type-2 alkenes in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease has grown, Dr. LoPachin and his colleague, Dr. Terrence Gavin, in the Department of Chemistry at Iona College, have discovered a possible antidote that is derived from chemical compounds found in curry spice (curcumin), wine (resveratrol) and apple skins (phloretin). They are calling this compound "2-ACP."

Their research, recently reported in a Journal of Neurochemistry article ( "β-Dicarbonyl Enolates: A New Class of Neuroprotectants"), showed that this compound from curry, wine and apples completely protected nerve cells in culture from acrolein-induced damage by latching onto this type-2 alkene and neutralizing its toxic effects. 2-ACP could, therefore, be a treatment for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Drs. LoPachin and Gavin believe that 2-ACP treatment would be safe and effective in humans, because it is derived from non-toxic natural products that already have clinically demonstrated neuroprotective properties.

Dr. LoPachin says that although the 2-ACP studies are quite advanced in the world of molecular biology, they nonetheless will need to be confirmed in animal studies.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dark Chocolate Study Results Show Decline in High Blood Pressure

For people with hypertension, eating dark chocolate can significantly reduce blood pressure. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Medicine combined the results of 15 studies into the effects of flavanols, the compounds in chocolate which cause dilation of blood vessels, on blood pressure.

Dr Karin Ried worked with a team of researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia, to conduct the analysis. She said, “Flavanols have been shown to increase the formation of endothelial nitric oxide, which promotes vasodilation and consequently may lower blood pressure. There have, however, been conflicting results as to the real-life effects of eating chocolate. We’ve found that consumption can significantly, albeit modestly, reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure but not for people with normal blood pressure”.

The pressure reduction seen in the combined results for people with hypertension, 5mm Hg systolic, may be clinically relevant – it is comparable to the known effects of 30 daily minutes of physical activity (4-9mm Hg) and could theoretically reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event by about 20% over five years. The researchers are cautious, however, “The practicability of chocolate or cocoa drinks as long-term treatment is questionable”, said Dr Ried.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Watch Out: "Corn Sugar" On its Way Into Your Kitchen

Earlier this month, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow food and beverage manufacturers to label high fructose corn syrup ‘corn sugar.'

Do you believe this? Instead of doing something about the problems caused by High-Fructose Corn Syrup in childhood and adult obesity, this "association" is doing all they can to confuse the issue, by getting a new name and brand for the same old product.

Corn Sugar is simply High Fructose Corn Syrup. Don't be fooled. Avoid it like the plague.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Omega 3 Products Vary Dramatically in "Bioavailability"

I know that you are probably taking fish oil supplements, because anyone reading this site is particularly health-savvy. But did you know that there is a great deal of difference in the "bioavailability" of the different kinds of fish oil products?

First off, let me explain what this term means. Many times when we take our vitamins and supplements only a fraction of the ingredients actually get ingested and used by our body. Much of the vitamin pill, or omega-3 supplement, goes right out the digestive tract and exits the body. In other words, the "bioavailability" of the supplement isn't very high. This happens all the time with certain products like Co-Q 10, fish oil, and even certain herbs. Some manufacturers include additional ingredients in with their products to ensure that more of the actual product becomes available to the body. For example, I take a Co-Q 10 that has a substance added to it that increases it's absorbability. Another product with improved absorption is Verde Botanica's Rhodiola product, Mind Body & Spirit, which contains a trace amount of a clinically-tested ingredient made from an extract of pepper, and this increases the bioavailability -- making the Rhodiola effect much more noticeable.

But in fish oil, it's always been questionable which variety of oil has the most impact on the body. Now, a new report shows that a certain type of processing of the oil can improve its bioavailability as much as 50%. That form of oil is called ""re-esterified triglycerides." That's a mouthful, but basically if you ask your supplier how they process their omega 3 oils, they'll be able to answer you, and it will be one of three types.

These various forms of fish oil include free fatty acids (FFA), ethyl esters (EE) or as re-esterified triglycerides (rTG). The latter term refers to products made from fish body oil in which the approximate 30 percent TG content is transferred to ethyl esters and then molecularly distilled to remove the short chain and the saturated fatty acids increasing the EPA and DHA contents to around 60 percent. This is a long way of saying that researchers using different oils have found that if you take one additional step in the processing of that oil, you can give the product 50% more bang for the buck.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Want to Kill Garlic Mouth?

The BBC has recently reported that drinking a glass of milk can stop garlic breath.

It seems that there are sulphur compounds in garlic which make it particularly difficult on the breath. If you are worried about this problem, there may be relief in your refrigerator. "Drink a glass of milk" say scientists who claim it can stop the lingering odor issues.

In tests with raw and cooked garlic cloves, milk "significantly reduced" levels of the sulphur compounds that give garlic its flavor and pungent smell. This research recently showed up in the Journal of Food Science. They say it is the water and fat in milk that deodorizes the breath.

For optimum effect, drink a glass of the milk as you eat the food with garlic, they say. For me, that's tough, because often the food containing garlic goes better with a glass of fine wine than it does with milk.

Mixing milk with garlic in the mouth before swallowing had a higher odor neutralizing effect than drinking milk after eating the garlic in the trial that scientists performed. And full-fat milk provided better results than skimmed milk or just water, according to breath samples taken from a volunteer.

Although garlic is good for you - containing several vitamins and minerals - once eaten, it can cause bad breath and body odor lasting hours or even days.

Plain water, and some foods, such as mushrooms and basil, may also help neutralize garlic smells, the study authors Sheryl Barringer and Areerat Hansanugrum say.

But it is the mixture of fat and water together that works best, the Ohio State University team say.

"The results suggest that drinking beverages or foods with higher water and/or fat content such as milk may help reduce the malodorous odour in breath after consumption of garlic and mask the garlic flavor during eating," they say.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blown out rotator cuffs? New surgeries can help!

I can hardly lift my arms up over my shoulders, and just reaching into the back seat of the car can send shooting pain throughout the entire side of my body. For me, I've been living with the pain, but now I've read that there are some solutions to what is called a "rotator cuff injury."

A new study conducted at Rush University Medical Center has shown that minimally invasive, or arthroscopic, surgery can significantly improve pain and function for people like me. The most difficult persons to treat, however, have been senior citizens, because these older adults often have had complications. Surgeons often recommend against surgery for seniors because circulation and bone quality are poorer. Many elderly patients also often have other diseases that can compromise the healing process. But the arthroscopic surgery in the cases studied proved remarkably successful.

The study has just been published online in Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery and will appear in the October issue.

"In people over the age of 70, pain is the main issue, and pain relief is a fairly reliable outcome after surgery," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nikhil Verma, who led the study. "Patients do not require that their shoulder function be fully restored. They just want the pain to be gone." Verma is assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Rush.

Tears in the rotator cuff, the complex of four muscles that stabilize the back of the shoulder joint, occur in about 20 percent of the population over the age of 65 and typically result from chronic degenerative changes. The tears in the musculature cause considerable pain and loss of range of motion.

A total of 39 patients over the age of 70 underwent surgery to repair full-thickness tears in the rotator cuff after more conservative treatment, such as pain medication and debridement to remove fragments of tissue, had failed. The patients were followed for two years after surgery and their shoulder function was compared with that of similar individuals of the same age who had healthy, normal shoulders.

Their range of motion improved significantly -- no longer did reaching across the table, or into the back seat of the car, send pain raging through their limbs. Patients were able to raise their arm in front and rotate it to the side – something that for many was difficult or impossible before the surgery. Muscle strength also improved. Pain was reduced significantly in 96 percent of the patients, many of whom had undergone the surgery because their pain was so bad they were unable to sleep. Almost all the patients reported improved function in their shoulder, and 94 percent said they were satisfied and would undergo the surgery again if they had to make the decision over.

When these post-operative results were viewed in light of the normal aging process, the majority of individuals had a shoulder that functioned nearly as well as a healthy shoulder for that age group and gender.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

High Fructose Diet May Contribute to High Blood Pressure

People who eat a diet high in fructose, in the form of added sugar, are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). The results suggest that cutting back on foods and beverages containing a lot of fructose (sugar) might decrease one’s risk of developing hypertension.

Hypertension is the most common chronic condition in developed countries and a major risk factor for heart and kidney diseases. Researchers are striving to identify environmental factors that might be responsible for the development of hypertension, and they suspect that fructose may play a role. Over the past century, a dramatic increase in the consumption of this simple sugar, which is used to sweeten a wide variety of processed foods, mirrors the dramatic rise in the prevalence of hypertension.

To examine whether increased fructose consumption has contributed to rising rates of hypertension, Diana Jalal, MD (University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center) and her colleagues analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003-2006). The study involved 4,528 US adults 18 years of age or older with no prior history of hypertension. Study participants answered questions related to their consumption of foods and beverages such as fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products, and candy. Dr. Jalal’s team found that people who consumed a diet of 74 grams or more per day of fructose (corresponding to 2.5 sugary soft drinks per day) had a 26%, 30%, and 77% higher risk for blood pressure levels of 135/85, 140/90, and 160/100 mmHg, respectively. (A normal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mmHg.)

“Our study identifies a potentially modifiable risk factor for high blood pressure. However, well-planned prospective randomized clinical studies need to be completed to see if low fructose diets will prevent the development of hypertension and its complications,” said Dr. Jalal.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Women and Sexual Dysfunction: It's the Majority

It's proving that more women than not have sexual dysfunction of one kind or another.

Almost two-thirds of females attending a general urology practice reported that they suffered from sexual dysfunction, according to a paper in the August issue of BJUI, the journal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons.

Dysfunction rose with age in all categories except orgasm, with more than half of women aged from 18 to 30 reporting orgasm problems, significantly higher than women aged 31 to 54.

Researchers asked 587 women aged from 18 to 95, who attended a urology clinic in New Jersey, about six key areas of female sexual dysfunction (FSD): lack of desire, arousal issues, lack of lubrication, problems achieving orgasm, lack of satisfaction and pain during intercourse. 63% of the women suffered from FSD and that there were significant links between FSD and age, menopausal status and use of selective antidepressants.

Key findings of the survey included:

· The most sexually active age groups were 31-45 year-olds (87%), 18-30 year-olds (85%) and 46-54 year-olds (74%). It then fell sharply in 55-70 year-olds (45%) and in women who were over 70 (15%).

· The top overall problem was lack of desire (47%), followed by orgasm problems (45%), arousal issues (40%), lack of satisfaction (39%), lack of lubrication (37%) and pain (36%).

· Five of the six categories increased as the women got older: desire from 36% to 96%, arousal from 27% to 54%, lubrication from 26% to 45%, satisfaction from 28% to 88% and pain from 10% to 56%.

· The only category that bucked the trend was orgasm, with problems higher in the 18-30 age group (54%) than in the 31-45 (43%) and 46-54 (48%) age groups. It then rose to 66% at 55-70 and 87% when women were over 70.

The top three problems by age group were:

· 18-30: orgasm (54%), desire (36%) and satisfaction (28%)

· 31-45: desire (48%), orgasm (43%) and satisfaction (40%)

· 46-54: desire (65%), satisfaction (53%) and orgasm (48%)

· 55-70: desire (77%), orgasm (66%), satisfaction (65%)

· Over 70: desire (96%), satisfaction (88%) and orgasm (87%).

“FSD can have a major effect on women’s quality of life” says Dr Fromer, author of the report. “Self-esteem, sense of wholeness and relationships can be seriously and adversely affected, exacting a heavy emotional toll. Researchers have found significant associations between major categories of sexual dysfunction, reduced physical and emotional satisfaction and general well-being. That is why it is so important to ensure that problems are identified and tackled wherever possible," said Fromer.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Virgin Olive Oil is Linked to Protection Against Breast Cancer

In contrast to other vegetable oils, it now appears that virgin olive oil protects the body against breast cancer. Researchers at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, led by Dr Eduard Escrich, have discovered a key mechanism by which this oil works against tumors.

While these studies have been carried out in an experimental model, researchers at UAB are now beginning a new study with human cell lines. In the recently concluded experimental study, the UAB researchers decoded a complete cascade of signals within breast tumor cells activated by virgin olive oil. They concluded that benefits include a decrease in the activity of the oncogene, changes in the protein signaling pathways, prevention of DNA damage and even stimulated the death of tumor cells.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Western countries. Research carried out with animal models demonstrate that a diet rich in fats is directly related to the incidence of cancer. Some types of fats however can play a protective role against the development of these tumors. Such is the case with virgin olive oil, rich in oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, and one that contains several bioactive compounds such as antioxidants. A moderate and regular intake of virgin olive oil, characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, is associated with low incidences of specific types of cancer, including breast cancer, as well as with having a protective role against coronary diseases and other health problems.

This is quite interesting because in comparison to those mechanisms activated by corn oil, rich in n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, the olive oil actually slows the tumor progression, while corn oil (which we use so much of in the USA) actually increases the aggressiveness of such tumors.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

McNuggets: Still "McFrankenstein"

Here's an interesting note that I found on one of the CNN blogs . . . I hadn't seen this anywhere else. Congrats to CNN for doing the research here.

They found that there is a great difference in McNuggets sold in McDonalds in the UK versus what is sold in the States. Incredibly enough, there are preservatives and chemicals in the USA products, but not in the UK products. How is it that we rate so highly, McDonalds management?

American McNuggets (190 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat for 4 pieces) contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, “an anti-foaming agent” also used in Silly Putty.

By contrast, British McNuggets (170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat for 4 pieces) lists neither chemical among its ingredients.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LCD Monitors and TV's Being Recycled to Aid Human Health

The fastest growing waste in the world could soon be helping to combat hospital infections, according to scientists at the University of York in the UK.

Researchers at the University's Department of Chemistry have discovered a way of transforming the chemical compound polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA), a key element of monitors and TV's with liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, into an anti-microbial substance that destroys infections such as Escherichia coli and some strains of Staphylococcus aureus.

The York research team had earlier found a method of recovering PVA from television screens and transforming it into a substance which, due to its compatibility with the human body, could be suitable for use in tissue scaffolds that help parts of the body regenerate. It could also be used in pills and dressings that are designed to deliver drugs to particular parts of the body. These latest developments were showcased by Dr Andrew Hunt at the 14th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Washington DC on 21 June.

Dr Hunt, of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: "The influence of LCDs on modern society is dramatic - it is estimated that 2.5 billion LCDs are approaching the end of their life, and they are the fastest growing waste in the European Union. But we can add significant value to this waste. By heating then cooling the PVA and then dehydrating it with ethanol we can produce a high surface area mesoporous material that has great potential for use in biomedicine."

This group at York has found that they can enhance the material's anti-microbial properties by the addition of silver nanoparticles. The result is that it can destroy bacterial infections such as E.coli. Potentially, it could be used in hospital cleaning products to help to reduce infections.

The project's next steps will be to test the PVA-based substance against commercial compounds to determine relative effectiveness, and to secure approval from regulatory agencies regarding the suitability of silver nanoparticles for human health applications.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Pigeon's DO Carry Nasty Bacteria

The strange thing about pigeons is that some people love them, while others consider them to be nothing more than "flying rats." Recent research has shown that regardless of how you feel about feeding those pigeons in the park, they do carry with them a variety of very nasty bugs.

Sampling of pigeons captured on the streets of Madrid has revealed the bacterial pathogens they carry. Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s open access journal Acta Vetinaria Scandinavica found two bugs that were highly prevalent in the bird population, Chlamydophila psittaci and Campylobacter jejuni, both of which cause illness in humans.

Fernando Esperón from the Animal Health Research Center, Madrid, Spain, worked with a team of researchers to analyze blood and enema samples taken from 118 pigeons caught using gun-propelled nets. He said, “The present study demonstrates the extremely high prevalence of two zoonotic pathogens in feral pigeons. At the same time, infection with these pathogens did not appear to be associated with any harmful clinical signs in the birds themselves. This leads to the hypothesis that pigeons act as asymptomatic reservoirs of Chlamydophila psittaci and Campylobacter jejuni. These birds may therefore pose a public health risk to the human population."

Chlamydophila psittaci was found in 52.6% of the pigeons captured, while Campylobacter jejuni was present in 69.1%. Although there have been few reports of disease transmission between pigeons and humans, it can occur by aerosols, direct contact or indirect contact through food and water contamination. According to Esperón, “Thermophilic Campylobacter species are considered the primary pathogens responsible for acute diarrhea in the world. In fact, in many countries such as England and Wales, Canada, Australia and New Zealand Campylobacter jejuni infection causes more cases of acute diarrhea than infection by Salmonella species."

Next time you are thinking about pulling out a handful of seeds or a loaf of old bread for those birds, think about the downstream effect of the pigeon's presence in our community and the dangerous bugs they bring with them.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Resveratrol Reduces Weight Gain in Primates

As anyone who reads the health blogs and news reports knows, resveratrol is a natural substance that is widely studied for its "anti-aging" properties among other things. Recently, a French research team has shown that there may be some other benefits to this compound. At least, research in the primate lemurs has shown that scientists may soon have a clearer understanding of the factors that govern obesity in humans.

Work by a team in the "Mécanismes adaptatifs : des organismes aux communautés" Laboratory (CNRS/Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle) has revealed that this compound reduces weight gain in lemurs. Such findings provide new information regarding the effects of resveratrol on energy metabolism and the control of body mass in primates. This study is published on 22 June 2010 in BMC Physiology.

Resveratrol is a plant compound that is present in certain fruits, such as grape skins, blackberries and peanuts, etc. This compound has been widely studied, notably regarding its effects on aging, as it has demonstrated that it can increase longevity in numerous animal models. This natural substance also improves the health and survival of mice fed a hyperlipidic diet, but until now, no studies had been performed on primates in this field.

The team led by Dr. Fabienne Aujard has studied the effects of resveratrol on the metabolism of grey mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus). With a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, this small primate is a lemur, which is an animal model for studies on aging. It displays very pronounced seasonal physiological rhythms: its metabolism and body weight fluctuate on a seasonal basis. The researchers added resveratrol to the feed of the lemurs while regularly measuring their body temperature, weight gain and resting metabolic rate. After four weeks, they observed an immediate effect: the animals had reduced their food intake by 13% and increased their resting metabolic rate (which represents a proportion of their energy expenditure) by 29%.

The ingestion of resveratrol thus enabled the lemurs to considerably reduce their weight gain at a time of the year when they have a natural tendency to increase their body mass so as to store as much energy as possible before the mating season. In addition, modifications to the body temperature of treated animals were observed, suggesting that resveratrol might also modify the energy strategies developed by this primate. This effect, which is not observed in rodents, may thus be specific to primates. Furthermore, the short-term findings of this study were recently confirmed by the initial results of Fabienne Aujard's team as part of a study of the long-term effects of resveratrol on the delayed appearance of age-related deficits and an increase in the longevity of grey mouse lemurs.

These findings represent an important step towards the development of treatments for human obesity, which results from a prolonged imbalance between energy intake and expenditure.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Erectile Dysfunction Drugs May Lead to Hearing Dysfunction

New research by a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) professor shows an association between hearing loss and the use of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra. This is causing a lot of concern among an older population which already has an inclination to lose hearing ability.

Findings published May 18 in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery indicate a potential for long-term hearing loss following use of Viagra, and possibly following use of other phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE-5i) drugs such as Cialis and Levitra, although results on those drugs are inconclusive. The one being studied is Viagra.

The article goes on to say, “It appears from these findings that the current government warning regarding hearing loss and the use of PDE-5i medications is warranted. Though there are limitations to this study, it is prudent that patients using these medications be warned about the signs and symptoms of hearing impairment and be encouraged to seek immediate medical attention to potentially forestall permanent damage.”

In 2007, following the report of several case studies potentially linking PDE-5i use and sudden hearing loss, the Food and Drug Administration announced labeling changes for PDE-5i medications so that the risk of hearing problems was more prominently displayed. The study author, Dr. McGwin, said this is the first epidemiologic study to evaluate the relationship between PDE-5i drugs and long-term hearing loss.

McGwin examined data on 11,525 men over 40 years of age gathered by the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a survey conducted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2003 and 2006. Men who reported use of PDE-5i medications were twice as likely to also report hearing loss as were men who had not used the drugs.

McGwin said the relationship was strongest for men reporting use of sildenafil (Viagra) over those who used tadalafil (Cialis) or vardenafil (Levitra), a finding he attributed in part to a small sample size for both of the latter drugs. McGwin said the findings indicated an elevated but not statistically significant increase in hearing loss for users of tadalafil and vardenafil.

PDE-5i drugs were originally designed to treat pulmonary hypertension and are now used extensively in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). McGwin said one important consideration in evaluating the nature of the relationship between the drugs and hearing is the existence of a plausible biological mechanism of how these drugs might cause hearing loss.

“PDE-5i medications work in ED patients by their ability to increase blood flow to certain tissues in the body,” said McGwin. “It has been hypothesized that they may have a similar effect on similar tissues in the ear, where an increase of blood flow could potentially cause damage leading to hearing loss.”


Monday, May 10, 2010

"No Rub" Contact Lens Products -- Do they work?

For years now, I've been using those "no rub" contact lens products. There are a variety of lens cleaning solutions that promise to remove protein from the contacts and keep your all-important lenses as clean as they should be. And yet, I've never been totally satisfied. I've recently discovered that this is more of a marketing statement than anything else. "No rub" to me is simply a nonsense statement. After doing some investigation, I've extended the use of my lenses by a week or two at a minimum and I'm getting many more annoyance-free hours out of them daily.

I used to put my lenses on in the morning about 7 AM and by 6 PM or so I'd be dying to take them out. And, during the day, I'd have regular periods where I just couldn't see like I was used to. Blurry vision, lots of blinking and squinting, etc, would occur regularly. After my new routine, this does not occur any longer.

To determine whether this routine was actually making a difference, I put one set of contact lenses through the old "no rub" process and another similar set through the process below. Sure enough, by the end of the week, there was a considerable difference in my vision through the lenses that had been properly cleaned. Here's what I now do:

1) Take the lenses out and put a few drops of your contact lens solution on them and run with your finger tips on both sides of the lens, very carefully, taking about 10 - 15 seconds per side.

2) Insert the lens into your lens holder cup and fill with solution. Allow to stand overnight.

3) Remove the lens in the morning and put in the palm of your hand. Apply a small amount of saline solution such as the excellent product "Unisol 4" by Alcon Laboratories. Now, repeat that light rub that you gave the lens the night before, but this time with the clean saline.

4) Place the lens in your eye. Notice how fresh it feels and without sting, since the saline washes away the cleaning agent.

This is allergy season in Sedona, and the air is full of Juniper pollen and its the worst time for buildup on contact lenses. I have given my lenses a new lease on life. Try it!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Red Eyes: Could be More than just Allergies

I've just returned from the Raleigh/Durham area, and I've never seen pollen as bad as it is there right now. The streets actually had a layer of yellow on them. Cars were filthy, covered with yellow pollen. And everywhere you go, you see sneezing people with red, bloodshot eyes. Many of the children in families of my North Carolina relatives had allergic eyes.

But when a child develops red, watery eyes, it may be allergies, or it could be the sign of a more serious eye condition, according to a leading pediatric ophthalmologist. According to Bibiana Jin Reiser, M.D., M.S., a pediatric ophthalmologist with The Vision Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, “Red, itchy, watery eyes can be a temporary allergic reaction to pollen or other environmental irritants and should go away after a few days or weeks. However, if your child has red, itchy eyes year-round, if their eyes become seriously inflamed and produce a sticky, mucous-like fluid, or if they become very sensitive to the sun, it could be the sign of a more serious condition.”

Dr. Reiser said that the common, mild form of seasonal or environmental ocular allergy is called allergic conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva is the thin, clear membrane covering the white part of the eye. This common condition can usually be treated effectively with eye drops or decongestants. We use Claritin in my household, or a generic version of the same which we buy at Costco.

Those who are prone to this type of allergy should consider using hypoallergenic pillows, wrapping mattresses to prevent dust mites, closing windows and using air conditioning during high allergy season, removing pet dander and utilizing a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. All these things can help.

The more serious types of conditions that may initially mimic eye allergies are atopic conjunctivitis and vernal conjunctivitis. In the former, for example, you may find your child has red, watery eyes year-round and in the latter during the warmer months: April to August. In vernal conjunctivitis, the child’s eyes have severe redness and itching and may exude a sticky, mucous like substance. The child may complain of photophobia, a painful sensitivity to strong light. Vernal conjunctivitis is often seen in young males and can be associated with asthma or eczema

It is essential to see a family doctor or an eye doctor promptly if the child has one or more of these symptoms:1) says sunlight hurts his eyes, 2) his eyes discharge a thick, mucous like substance, 3) has symptoms that are not relieved by eye drops or decongestants, and 4) has additional allergic symptoms, like eczema or asthma.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Would Going Vegetarian Make our Planet "Greener"?

There's a new report out that asks the question, "If everyone became vegan and so ate only fruit and vegetables, what would happen to our greenhouse emissions?" Interestingly, the report states that if this occurred, and mankind suddenly decided to eat as vegans do, then there would be a mere 7% reduction in the earth's greenhouse emissions.

The widespread adoption of vegetarianism would have even less impact, while organic food production actually leads to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Those are the conclusions of this research paper that was published in the journal Progress in Industrial Ecology.

I found it fascinating, and disturbing, that the authors (Helmi Risku-Norja and Sirpa Kurppa of MTT Agrifood Research Finland) determined that the cultivation of soil for whatever purpose, whether growing crops or raising livestock, is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions in food production. In other words, it's not the fertilizer production, animal husbandry, or agricultural energy requirements that cause the problem.

Using the example of Finland, the authors explain that for current average food consumption, emissions from soil represent 62% of the total emissions. Greenhouses gases released by cows and sheep account for 24%, and energy consumption and fertilizer manufacturing about 8% each. The problem with extensive organic production (despite this approach to farming being considered the “green” option) is that there is such a lower efficiency. It requires the cultivation of greater areas of soil, which counteracts many of the benefits of the organic approach.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Radon Causes Deaths from Lung Cancer

In Germany, radon in residential buildings has been shown to be a major risk factor for lung cancer. It's clear that this is a worldwide health concern.

A research paper in the current edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International by Klaus Schmid of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and his coauthors discusses the 1900 deaths from lung cancer that they see every year in Germany, purely due to radon within residential buildings.

The authors base their assessment on the results of relevant German studies which include the recently published guidelines of the German Society for Occupational and Environmental Medicine as well as a current publication from the German Commission on Radiological Protection. These indicate that radon within residential buildings makes a major contribution to the radiological exposure of the general population. Schmid and his colleagues refer to measurements taken from residential areas -- those found mildly unhealthy levels of radon in 36% of homes and severely unhealthy levels in more than another 18%.

Exposure within houses is predominantly due to release of radon-containing subsurface air from the soil into the building. Radon can penetrate into houses through leaks in the foundation or in the walls that are in contact with the soil.

Occupational physicians have long known that radon can cause lung cancer, particularly in uranium miners. For individuals without occupational exposure, radon is regarded as the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Arginine Supplementation Found to Improve Cycling Performance

Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition tested a combination of the amino acid Arginine and an antioxidant in sixteen cyclists, finding that it enhanced their anaerobic threshold. (This term refers to the amount of work done before lactic acid begins to accumulate in the blood.)

Researcher Zhaoping Li worked with a team of scientists from the University of California (Los Angeles) to carry out the randomized controlled trial with older cyclists. She said, “The loss of exercise capacity with age often results in a reduction in physical fitness and more rapid senescence. A dietary supplement that increases exercise capacity might help to preserve physical fitness by optimizing performance and improving general health and well being in older people."

One way in which older people may find their exercised capacity reduced revolves around the signaling molecule nitric oxide (NO), which is involved in many physiological processes, including those related to working out. NO production diminishes in quantity and availability as we age and is associated with an increased prevalence of other cardiovascular risk factors. In the body, NO is created from the amino acid arginine and is inactivated by oxygen free radicals. By supplementing the diet with both this precursor and an anti-oxidant, the researchers hoped to support the NO system in the cyclists and thereby enhance performance.

Sixteen cyclists aged between 50 and 73 were randomly assigned to receive either the supplement or dummy placebo pills. After one week of study, the anaerobic threshold of the supplement group increased, while that of the control group did not significantly alter. This increase in anaerobic threshold was preserved at week three. According to Li, “We’ve demonstrated a 16.7% increase in anaerobic threshold. This indicates a potential role of arginine and antioxidant supplementation in improving exercise performance in elderly."


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Endometriosis Risk Lower with Omega 3 Food Intake

Women whose diets are rich in foods containing Omega-3 oils appear to be less likely to develop endometriosis, while those whose diets are heavily laden with trans fats might be more likely to develop the debilitating condition, new research suggests. The study, one of the largest to have investigated the links between diet and endometriosis, was published today (Wednesday 24 March) in the journal of Human Reproduction.

The study found that while the total amount of fat in the diet did not matter, the type of fat did indeed make a difference. Women who ate the highest amount of long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis than those who ate the least; those who ate the most trans fats had a 48% increased risk, compared with those who ate the least.

These findings, resulting from 70,709 American nurses who were followed for 12 years, suggest that diet may be important in the development of endometriosis. They also provide more evidence that a low fat diet is not necessarily the healthiest. Another impact from the research is further evidence for the case that eliminating trans fats from the food supply is a very good thing.

The study’s leader, Dr. Stacey Missmer, is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive biology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Millions of women worldwide suffer from endometriosis. Many women have been searching for something they can actually do for themselves, or their daughters, to reduce the risk of developing the disease, and these findings suggest that dietary changes may be something they can do. The results need to be confirmed by further research, but this study gives us a strong indication that we’re on the right track in identifying food rich in Omega-3 oils as protective for endometriosis and trans fats as detrimental,” Dr. Missmer added.

Endometriosis occurs when pieces of the womb lining, or endometrium, is found outside the womb. This tissue behaves in the same way as it does in the womb – growing during the menstrual cycle in response to oestrogen in anticipation of an egg being fertilized and shedding as blood when there’s no pregnancy. However, when it grows outside the womb, it is trapped and cannot leave the body as menstruation. Some women experience no symptoms, but for many it is very incapacitating, causing severe pain. The tissue can also stick to other organs, sometimes leading to infertility. It afflicts about 10% of women. The cause is poorly understood and there is no cure. Symptoms are traditionally treated with pain medication, hormone drugs or surgery.

It's nice to hear another Omega 3 success story. Long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids are found mostly in oily fish. They have been linked to reduced heart disease risk. Trans fats are artificially produced through hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oil into solid fat. Used in thousands of processed foods, from snacks to ready-meals, they have already been linked to increased heart disease risk. We read frequently about various communities around the world that have instituted bans on these dangerous fats.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Compound in Bananas Looks to have Great Anti-HIV Abilties

A strong possibility exists that new therapeutics directed against HIV may come from research on bananas, proving once again that the plant world holds enormous potential for cures. This potent new inhibitor of HIV, derived from bananas, may open the door to new treatments to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, according to a University of Michigan Medical School study published March 19 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Scientists have an emerging interest in lectins, naturally occurring chemicals in plants, because of their ability to halt the chain of reaction that leads to a variety of infections.In laboratory tests, BanLec (the lectin found in bananas) was clearly as potent as two anti-HIV drugs currently on the market. Based on these findings, BanLec may become a less expensive new component of applied vaginal microbicides, researchers say.

This banana extract could become one of the ways of stopping the spread of the HIV, which is a category of drug that is vitally needed. The rate of new infections of HIV is outpacing the rate of new individuals getting anti-retroviral drugs by 2.5 to1, and at present it appears an effective vaccine is years away. That's why bananas could step in and save the day.

Study senior author David Marvovitz, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, says that while condom use is quite effective, condoms are most successful in preventing infection if used consistently and correctly, which is often not the case, particularly in developing countries.

“[Some] women have little control over sexual encounters so development of a long-lasting, self-applied microbicide is very attractive,” Markovitz says. The most promising compounds for inhibiting vaginal and rectal HIV transmission are agents that block the virus prior to integration into its target cell, which is what this lectin appears to do.

Lectins are sugar-binding proteins. They can identify foreign invaders, like a virus, in the body, and attach themselves to the pathogen. The U-M team discovered that BanLec can inhibit HIV infection by binding to the sugar-rich HIV-1 envelope protein, gp120, and block its entry to the body. It's exciting because therapies using BanLec could be cheaper to create than current anti-retroviral medications which use synthetically produced components, plus BanLec may provide a wider range of protection, researchers say.


Stressful Pregnancy May Lead to Asthma Later in Life

New research proves how stress during pregnancy may raise the risk of asthma in children. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston have investigated differences in immune function markers in cord blood between infants born to mothers in high stress environments and nfants born to mothers with lower stress. They have found marked differences in patterns that may be associated with asthma risk later in life.

“This is the first study in humans to show that increased stress experienced during pregnancy in these urban, largely minority women, is associated with different patterns of cord blood cytokine production to various environmental stimuli, relative to babies born to lower-stressed mothers,” said Rosalind Wright, M.D., M.P.H., associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The findings have been published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Asthma is known to be more prevalent among ethnic minorities and among disadvantaged urban communities, but the disparity is not completely explained by known physical factors. Urban women living in the inner-city also experience significant stress, particularly minority women. This research may finally be shedding some light on why this difference has occurred.

The role of stress in asthma development is poorly understood, but animal studies have suggested that the mother’s stress during pregnancy can influence the offspring’s immune system, starting in the womb.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Checklist for Depressive Symptoms

I just found a one-page, 27-item questionnaire that is available free online. It was designed for doctors to help them screen their patients, but It's really an interesting tool for anyone who wants to know if they are showing symptoms of the four most common psychiatric illnesses. It's validity has been confirmed in a study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers.

"Results of the My Mood Monitor (M-3) Checklist" was published in the March/April 2010 issue of Annals of Family Medicine. The checklist was developed by M-3 Information of Bethesda, Md., and is available at (click on the headline of this blog post for the link). I took this test and found it very easy and informative. Obviously, if you have any issues it's going to direct you to your doctor, but it is possible to learn about how you are feeling and whether or not these feelings are "normal."

The lead author of the report says that about one in 10 Americans who suffer from depression and anxiety-related mental health disorders never receives treatment because they don’t understand what’s wrong, and when they go to their family doctor these treatable illnesses are too often missed.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Women Who Drink Moderately are Less Likely to Gain Weight

According to a new report in the March 8th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, normal-weight women who drink a light-to-moderate amount of alcohol appear to gain less weight and have a lower risk of becoming overweight and obese than non-drinkers.

Alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram, and there are approximately 28 grams per ounce -- so it is possible to see that alcohol drinking could indeed contribute to weight gain. However, research has not provided evidence that consuming alcohol is a risk factor for obesity. In fact, studies like this one suggest that a moderate consumption of alcohol can actually have the opposite effect.

Dr. Lu Wang of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) and colleagues studied more than 19,000 U.S. women age 39 or older with normal weight. On an initial questionnaire, participants reported how many alcoholic beverages they typically drank per day. A total of 7,346 reported drinking no alcohol; 6,312 drank less than 5 grams; 3,865 drank 5 to less than 15 grams; 1,129 drank 15 to less than 30 grams; and 568 drank 30 grams per day or more.

Over an average of 13 years of follow-up, women on average gained weight progressively. Women who did not drink alcohol at all gained the most weight, with weight gain decreasing as alcohol intake increased. A total of 7,942 (41.3 percent) women who initially had normal weight become overweight or obese, including 732 who become obese. Compared with women who did not drink at all, those who consumed some but less than 40 grams per day of alcohol were less likely to become overweight or obese. Women who drank 15 to less than 30 grams per day had the lowest risk, which was almost 30 percent lower than that of non-drinkers.

“An inverse association between alcohol intake and risk of becoming overweight or obese was noted for all four types of alcoholic beverages [red wine, white wine, beer and liquor], with the strongest association found for red wine and a weak yet significant association for white wine after multivariate adjustment,” the authors write.

The authors caution that, given potential medical and psychosocial problems related to drinking alcohol, its beneficial and adverse effects for each individual must be considered before making any recommendation about its use. It's interesting to note the red wine connection here once again.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Migraine Sufferers Face Increased Risks of Cardiovascular Disease

According to a new study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, migraine sufferers are twice as likely to have heart attacks as people without migraine. The study, published in the February 10 online issue of Neurology, found that migraine sufferers also face increased risk for stroke and were more likely to have key risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“Migraine has been viewed as a painful condition that affects quality of life, but not as a threat to peoples' overall health,” said lead investigator Richard B. Lipton, M.D., senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Neurology at Einstein. Lipton directs the Headache Center at Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein.

“Our study suggests that migraine is not an isolated disorder and that, when caring for people with migraine, we should also be attentive to detecting and treating their cardiovascular risk factors,” he told the press.

More than 29 million Americans suffer from migraine, according to the National Headache Foundation. There are two major forms, migraine without aura and migraine with aura. Both forms involve pulsing or throbbing pain, pain on one side of the head, nausea or vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine with aura has additional neurological symptoms including flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or a graying out of vision. Migraine is most common between the ages of 25 and 55; women are affected three times more frequently than men.

Previous research has shown that migraine with aura is associated with heart disease and stroke, particularly in health care professionals over the age of 45. The Einstein study, however, showed that both migraine with aura and migraine without aura are risk factors for heart disease and stroke in people from all walks of life between the ages of 18 and 80.

The data also shows that people with migraine were about 50 percent more likely than controls to have diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol, all well-known cardiovascular risk factors. The study found that these risk factors may contribute to – but do not fully explain – the increased risk of heart attack and stroke in persons with migraine.

“Migraine sufferers should not be alarmed by our findings,” said Dr. Lipton. “While we found an increased risk for cardiovascular problems, the percentage of people actually affected remains small.”


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Obesity Raises Kidney Stone Risk

A new study from Johns Hopkins shows that obesity nearly doubles the risk of developing kidney stones, but the degree of obesity doesn’t appear to increase or decrease the risk one way or the other. This means that no matter how far into the category of obesity a person may slip, they have a very significantly raised risk of having to deal with kidney stones (as well as all the other diseases and complications that affect obese people).

“The common thinking was that as weight rises, kidney stone risk rises as well, but our study refutes that,” says study leader Brian R. Matlaga, assistant professor of urology at Johns Hopkins. “Whether someone is mildly obese or morbidly obese, the risk for getting kidney stones is the same.” The findings are published in the February Journal of Urology.

Over the last decade, several epidemiological studies have shown a strong connection between obesity and kidney stone disease. However, as obesity continues to rise worldwide, Matlaga and his colleagues wondered whether different subcategories of obesity, ranging from mildly to morbidly obese, presented different risks. Matlaga says that he and his colleagues aren’t sure why obese people are more at risk for kidney stones, though metabolic or endocrine factors unique to obesity are likely reasons, along with dietary factors such as a high-salt diet. The researchers plan to study these potential risk factors in subsequent studies.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Weight Problems in Your 20's Can Kill You in Your 40's

Dr. Dale J. Hamilton, diabetes clinical services chief at The Methodist Hospital in Houston has released information that may be of interest to readers in their 20's who are overweight. That is, people who are obese and have type 2 diabetes in their 20s will be at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke in their 40s if they do not change their lifestyle.

”If your blood pressure is 136/88 and you’re a man with a waist over 40 or a woman with a waist over 35 it spells trouble,” says Dr. Hamilton. “These are two of the five symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a problem that can lead to type 2 diabetes. All you need is three to begin seeing increased atherosclerosis.”

High triglyceride levels over 150, insulin resistance and a low HDL (good cholesterol) are factors of metabolic syndrome, along with high blood pressure and central obesity. More than 47 million Americans have it according to the American Heart Association. Many of these patients will end up suffering with type 2 diabetes, which may lead to coronary artery disease and stroke later in their lives. If you knew that you would be debilitated in your 40's after having a stroke, would you continue the same lifestyle today, in your 20's?

“Small changes every day can help curb big problems later on,” Hamilton said. “Losing five to 10 pounds will help lower blood pressure. Reducing saturated fats, carbohydrates, and eating about two-thirds the amount you eat now will help you lose weight around the middle. Walk 45 minutes a day instead of 30.”

There are many experts who believe that it was replacing sugar with high fructose corn syrup in processed foods in the United States and Canada in the 1990s has caused the rise of type 2 diabetes cases. High fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar in corn starch to fructose, another form of sugar. It has become popular because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar. It has also become a popular ingredient in many sodas and fruit-flavored drinks.

“The problem with high fructose corn syrup is that it promotes central obesity,” Hamilton said. “Another problem with it is that it fools your body into thinking you are hungry. I don’t think you need to eliminate it from your diet, you just need to be aware of how much of it you are consuming on a daily basis because too much can lead to serious weight gain.”

Keep in mind, he said, type 2 diabetes symptoms often go untreated because there are few or no symptoms until it is too late. “Having three or more of the risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes over an extended period of time is the equivalent of already having a heart attack,” Hamilton said. “These risk factors need to be treated aggressively in order to curb the problem and give you a better chance at a longer, healthier life.”


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Energy Drinks and Alcohol: A Horrible Combination

The University of Florida Health Science Center is reporting that energy drinks, favored among young people for the caffeine jolt, also play a lead role in several popular alcoholic drinks, such as Red Bull and vodka. But combining alcohol and energy drinks may create a dangerous mix, according to new research.

In a study of college-aged adults exiting bars, patrons who consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol had a threefold increased risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated and were four times more likely to intend to drive after drinking than bar patrons who drank alcohol only. The study appears in the April issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.

“Previous laboratory research suggests that when caffeine is mixed with alcohol it overcomes the sedating effects of alcohol and people may perceive that they are less intoxicated than they really are,” said the study’s lead researcher Dennis Thombs, an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health. “This may lead people to drink more or make uninformed judgments about whether they are safe to drive.”

Experts believe that among college drinkers, as many as 28 percent consume alcohol mixed with energy drinks in a typical month.

“There’s a very common misconception that if you drink caffeine with an alcoholic beverage the stimulant effect of the caffeine counteracts the depressant effect of the alcohol and that is not true,” Goldberger said. “We know that caffeine aggravates the degree of intoxication, which can lead to risky behaviors.”


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lower IQ Appears to Equal Higher Risk of Disease, Death

Previous research has shown that lower intelligence scores - as reflected by written or oral tests of IQ - have been associated with a raised risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, a new study funded by Britain's Medical Research Council, which set out to gauge the relative importance of IQ alongside other risk factors, has found that lower intelligence scores were associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and total mortality at a greater level of magnitude than found with any other risk factor except smoking.

The findings, published in the February issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, are derived from a population study designed to investigate the influence of social factors on health. The present analysis was based on data collected in 1987 in a cohort of 1145 men and women aged around 55 and followed up for 20 years. Data were collected for height, weight, blood pressure, smoking habits, physical activity, education and occupation. Tests for cognitive ability (IQ) were assessed using a standard test of general intelligence.

Scientists took nine major risk factors for cardiovascular mortality and compared them with data from the study participants. Results showed that the most important risk factor was cigarette smoking, but it was followed by low IQ. Similar results were apparent when the health outcome was total mortality.

Commenting on the public health implications of the findings, the study's principal investigator Dr David Batty said that the individual skills reflected in a person's IQ may be important in the management of personal cardiovascular risk.

"From a public health perspective, there is the possibility that IQ can be increased, with some mixed results from trials of early learning and school readiness programs," said Dr Batty.

Personally, I'd suggest that those with a higher IQ have read about factors relating to personal health and have taken action, resulting in a reduced risk factor.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Antidepressants May Increase Risk of Stroke and Death

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have determined that postmenopausal women who take antidepressants face a small but statistically significant increased risk for stroke and death compared with those who do not take the drugs. The new findings are from the federally-funded, multi-institution, "Women’s Health Initiative Study" which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The research, published in the December 14 online edition of Archives of Internal Medicine, examined data from 136,293 study participants, aged 50 to 79, who were not taking antidepressants when they enrolled in the study, and who were followed for an average of six years. When they looked at those who began taking antidepressants, the researchers found no difference in coronary heart disease (defined as fatal and non-fatal heart attacks) but they did observe a significant difference in stroke rates. In fact, antidepressant users were 45 percent more likely to experience strokes than women who weren’t taking antidepressants.

The study also found that when overall death rates (all-cause mortality) were compared between the two groups, those on antidepressants had a 32 percent higher risk of death from all causes compared with non-users.

Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller, senior author, points out that more research is needed to determine the reasons behind these differences. And, because this was an observational study, the findings are not as conclusive of causality as would be the case for a randomized controlled trial.

Still, it certainly adds to the evidence that taking a pharmaceutical anti-depressant is a major life decision.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Memory Failing? You May Be at Higher Risk for Stroke

Men and women who experience memory loss or a decline in their thinking abilities may be at a higher risk of stroke, regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with dementia. This warning comes to us courtesy of a new report published in the February 2, 2010 issue of Neurology.

Study author Bernice Wiberg, MD (Uppsala University, Sweden) and his colleagues took 930 men in Sweden around the age of 70, all without a history of stroke, and put them through mental tests which are used by doctors to measure cognitive decline.

During a 13-year period, 166 men developed a stroke or transient ischemic attack, or TIA. Brain infarction is the most common cause of stroke -- this happened to 105 patients. It causes tissue damage when the proper amount of blood does not reach the brain. Hemorrhage is another kind of stroke.

The study found that people who were among the bottom 25 percent of performers in at least one of the cognitive tests were three times more likely to have a stroke or a brain infarction compared to those who scored among the top 25 percent of performers on the tests.

“Our results support the idea that cognitive decline regardless of whether a person has dementia may predict risk of stroke,” said Wiberg. The test which was most successful of the three tests used is a simple test that, with more research, could be used to identify those persons for whom stroke prevention measures should be considered.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pomegranate Juice's Healthy Properties

New research from Israel was presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 43rd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition in Denver, CO. It seems that pomegranate juice may reduce complications in kidney disease patients on dialysis, including the high morbidity rate due to infections and cardiovascular events. While this is a preliminary study, it does suggest that 12 months consumption of pomegranate juice “has a continuous, accumulative, beneficial effect for dialysis patients.”

The researchers found that pomegranate juice consumption yields a lower level of oxidative stress, reduced inflammation, an improvement in lipid profile, and reductions in blood pressure. Wow, all of this from one of the oldest "superfruits" used by humans -- and a truly delicious beverage!

There appear to be many benefits to drinking pomegranate juice. The authors noted that recent studies have claimed it to be a rich source of antioxidants, and that it lowered both cholesterol and blood pressure – especially in diabetic and hypertensive patients. Israeli researchers reported that patients on dialysis, in addition to their renal disease, also suffer from increased risks of diabetes (over 50 percent increased risk), hypertension (over 80 percent risk increase), and cardiovascular disease. They also noted that kidney disease patients are exposed to high levels of oxidative stress.

Among dialysis patients, vitamin E is a well documented to reduce cardiovascular events, and other polyphenols are known to reduce lipid oxidation and oxidative stress. I think that we can now add Pomegranate juice to the recommendations for dialysis patients, as it is known for its strong antioxidant activity. The antioxidant capacity of pomegranate juice is due to its high concentration of anthocyanins and hydrolysable tannins, including both allegic, and gallagic acids, and the poniculagenim – which originate from the pomegranate and contribute up to 50 percent of its antioxidant activity.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coffee, Decaf and Tea All Associated With Reduced Risk of Diabetes

Those who drink more coffee (regular or decaffeinated) or tea appear to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to an analysis of previous studies reported in the December 14/28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Diabetes is a growing health threat to our population. By the year 2025, approximately 380 million individuals worldwide will be affected by type 2 diabetes, according to background information in the article. “Despite considerable research attention, the role of specific dietary and lifestyle factors remains uncertain, although obesity and physical inactivity have consistently been reported to raise the risk of diabetes,” the authors write.

Previously published research has suggested that drinking more coffee may be linked with a reduced risk.

Dr. Rachel Huxley of the University of Sydney (Australia) and her colleagues found that each additional cup of coffee consumed in a day was associated with a 7 percent reduction in the excess risk of diabetes. Individuals who drank three to four cups per day had an approximately 25 percent lower risk than those who drank between zero and two cups per day.

In addition, in the studies that assessed decaffeinated coffee consumption, those who drank more than three to four cups per day had about a one-third lower risk of diabetes than those who drank none. Those who drank more than three to four cups of tea had a one-fifth lower risk than those who drank no tea.

“That the apparent protective effect of tea and coffee consumption appears to be independent of a number of potential confounding variables raises the possibility of direct biological effects,” the authors write. Because of the association between decaffeinated coffee and diabetes risk, the association is unlikely to be solely related to caffeine. Other compounds in coffee and tea—including magnesium, antioxidants known as lignans or chlorogenic acids—may be involved, the authors note.

The authors state that the implications for the millions of individuals who have diabetes mellitus, or who are at future risk of developing it, could be substantial." They conclude, “For example, the identification of the active components of these beverages would open up new therapeutic pathways for the primary prevention of diabetes mellitus."


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Milk Thistle Has Protective Effect in Chemotherapy

A new study finds that the herb milk thistle may help treat liver inflammation in cancer patients who receive chemotherapy. Published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that the herb could allow patients to take potent doses of chemotherapy without damaging their liver.

Chemotherapy drugs frequently cause inflammation in the liver, and when they do, doctors must often lower patients' doses or stop administering the therapies altogether. Clinical studies have investigated using milk thistle to treat liver damage from cirrhosis (from alcohol) or toxins (such as mushroom poisoning). Despite limited study data, the herb is often used for the treatment of chemotherapy associated liver problems. To test whether milk thistle could help treat chemotherapy associated liver problems, Kara Kelly, MD, of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and colleagues conducted a randomized, controlled, double blind study in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), who commonly experience this side effect.

Fifty children with ALL were enrolled in the study and were randomized to receive milk thistle or placebo for 28 days. At the start of the study, all of the children had evidence of liver inflammation as measured by elevations in blood levels of the liver enzymes, aspartate amino transferase (AST) and amino alanine transferase (ALT). When the investigators performed liver function tests on the children at day 56 (28 days after receiving the herb or placebo), children receiving milk thistle had improvements in their liver enzymes compared with children receiving a placebo. Specifically, the group that took milk thistle had significantly lower levels of AST and a trend towards significantly lower levels of ALT. Taking milk thistle also seemed to help keep fewer patients from having to lower the dose of their medications: chemotherapy doses were reduced in 61 percent of the group receiving milk thistle, compared with 72 percent of the placebo group. In addition, milk thistle appeared to be safe for consumption.

The researchers also studied the effects of combining milk thistle with chemotherapy on leukemia cells grown in the laboratory through cell-culture in bioreactors or petri dishes. They found that milk thistle does not interfere with the cancer-fighting properties of chemotherapy.

"Milk thistle needs to be studied further, to see how effective it is for a longer course of treatment, and whether it works well in reducing liver inflammation in other types of cancers and with other types of chemotherapy," said Dr. Kelly. "However, our results are promising as there are no substitute medications for treating liver toxicity."


Monday, January 25, 2010

Antidepressants May Change Personalities

According to background information in a recent JAMA article (Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2009;66[12]:1322-1330), two personality traits, neuroticism and extraversion, have been related to depression risk. Both traits have been linked to the brain’s serotonin system. It is that serotonin system which is also targeted by the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Tony Z. Tang, Ph.D., of Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) and colleagues studied the effects of one particular SSRI, paroxetine, in a placebo-controlled trial involving 240 adults with major depressive disorder. A total of 120 participants were randomly assigned to take paroxetine, 60 to undergo cognitive therapy and 60 to take placebo for 12 months. Their personalities and depressive symptoms were assessed before, during and after treatment.

All participants experienced some improvement in their symptoms of depression, as one would suspect after taking a pharmaceutical antidepressant. However, even after controlling for these improvements, individuals taking paroxetine experienced a significantly greater decrease in neuroticism and increase in extraversion than those receiving cognitive therapy or placebo. “Patients taking paroxetine reported 6.8 times as much change on neuroticism and 3.5 times as much change on extraversion as placebo patients matched for depression improvement,” the authors write.

“One possibility is that the biochemical properties of SSRIs directly produce real personality change,” they write.

SSRIs are widely used to treat depression. It has not been made clear to many patients by their doctors, however, that the drugs may indeed induce a distinct change in personality, something the patient may not have bargained for.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Reduce Risk of Colon Cancer

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is saying that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fish and seafood, may have a positive role in colorectal cancer prevention. This statement is in accordance with results presented at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, held in December '09 in Houston.

“Experimental data have shown benefits of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in colorectal carcinogenesis, ranging from reduced tumor growth, suppression of angiogenesis and inhibition of metastasis,” said Sangmi Kim, Ph.D., a fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS, a unit of NIH), Research Triangle Park, N.C. “Our finding of inverse association between dietary intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and distal large bowel cancer in white participants adds additional support to the hypothesis.”

Kim and colleagues studied the link between polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and distal large bowel cancer using data from a population-based control study in which they recruited 1,509 white participants (716 cancer cases and 787 controls) and 369 black participants (213 cancer cases and 156 controls). Nineteen polyunsaturated fatty acids were assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire, which included 124 questions on food items. The researchers used the questionnaire to collect information on the frequency and amount of foods typically consumed in the past 12 months.

Patients who consumed more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids had a reduced risk of distal large bowel cancer. Compared to the lowest quartile, fat intake in the highest quartile was linked with a 39 percent reduced risk of cancer. These numbers seem fairly strong indication of the positive nature of omega-3 fatty acids in colorectal cancer.

Oddly, the researchers detected these associations in white participants, but not in black participants.

“We were surprised that the association was not also observed among blacks,” Kim said. “We considered several possible explanations but were not able to account for this difference with the data we had. This finding warrants future study, but we should be careful about drawing conclusions about potential racial differences in the benefit from long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from this study. An increase in dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which mainly come from fish and seafood, may be beneficial in the prevention of distal large bowel cancer,” Kim said.