June 9, 2010

Is the CDC more committed to protecting industry than infants?

I think what DCD (Centers for Disease Control) is doing on its website is reprehensible. There is real concern among scientists that fluoridated tap-water could pose a danger to infants on formula.

The quote on the main "fluoride safety page" on the CDC website summarizes the science on the question like this:

The proper amount of fluoride at all stages of life helps prevent and control tooth decay. Recent studies have raised the possibility that mixing infant formula with fluoridated water, particularly for infants exclusively on a formula diet during the first year of life, may play a more important role in enamel fluorosis development than was previously understood.
Important role? Sound like "beneficial" to me. When I read this, I get the impression that the study is saying that fluoride might be good for babies.

Click on the link and CDC tells you:
A recent study, however, has raised the possibility that fluoride exposure during the first year of life may play a more important role on fluorosis development than was previously understood. It now appears that the amount of the fluoride contained in the water used for mixing infant formula may influence a child’s risk for developing enamel fluorosis, particularly if the child’s sole source of nutrition is from reconstituted infant formula.
Talk about convoluted language! I would contend, having read the CDC's statement, that only the most highly-educated American parents would be able to discern whether the study in question found that fluoride may pose a risk to infants, or protective.

We're talking about the health of babies! And here we have the CDC -- a US government agency - describing the results of an important study in a way that obscures the finding of the study.

Compare CDC's use of language to the words of the scientists themselves:
"A major effort should be made to avoid use of fluoridated water for dilution of formula powders."
SOURCE: Ekstrand J. (1996). Fluoride Intake. In: Fejerskov O, Ekstrand J, Burt B, Eds. Fluoride in Dentistry, 2nd Edition. Munksgaard, Denmark. Pages 40-52
It looks to me as if the CDC would err side of protecting industry rather than defenseless babies. It could care less about helping those parents who turn to CDC for information actually make sense of the studies. The CDC may well be to the fluoride industry exactly what MMS is to the oil drilling industry.


May 23, 2010

How an oil spill can effect your health

Oil spills such as the one happening in the Gulf of Mexico can negatively impact the health of clean up workers and local residents living in the vicinity of effected beaches. NRCD reports:

After the Exxon Valdez disaster, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported an increase in respiratory symptoms, headaches, throat and eye irritation, rashes and other skin problems among the clean-up workers.  More recently, a study of beach clean-up workers and volunteers in Spain after a 2002 oil spill found an increase in DNA damage. The long-term significance of this finding is not yet known. In Alaska, a mental health study of residents one year after the spill found that exposed individuals were more likely to suffer from anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.


April 27, 2010

Three things make you healthy and younger looking

 According to a UK study:

The risky behaviors were: smoking tobacco; downing more than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women; getting less than two hours of physical activity per week; and eating fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily.

These habits combined substantially increased the risk of death and made people who engaged in them seem 12 years older than people in the healthiest group, said lead researcher Elisabeth Kvaavik of the University of Oslo.

The study appears in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine.

The healthiest group included never-smokers and those who had quit; teetotalers, women who had fewer than two drinks daily and men who had fewer than three; those who got at least two hours of physical activity weekly; and those who ate fruits and vegetables at least three times daily.

"You don't need to be extreme" to be in the healthy category, Kvaavik said. "These behaviors add up, so together it's quite good. It should be possible for most people to manage to do it."


April 20, 2010

Fasting or crash dieting: Dangerous to your health?


Research suggests rapid weight loss can slow your metabolism, leading to future weight gain, and deprive your body of essential nutrients. What's more, crash diets can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of dehydration, heart palpitations, and cardiac stress.

"A crash diet once won't hurt your heart," Dr. Rosenfeld says. "But crash dieting repeatedly increases the risk of heart attacks."

Bacon adds that long-term calorie-cutting can eventually lead to heart muscle loss. "Yo-yo dieting can also damage your blood vessels. All that shrinking and growing causes micro tears that create a setup for atherosclerosis and other types of heart disease," she says.
The article continues:
Experts have known for decades that extended crash diets can be dangerous -- especially when the diets become a fad.

In the late 1970s, an osteopath named Robert Linn published "The Last Chance Diet," a best seller that advocated a miraculous "liquid protein diet." Following the lead of their favorite celebrities, millions of people bought quarts of Dr. Linn's liquid formula and embraced the diet (or one of many copycat versions), averaging just 300 to 400 calories a day.

The diet seemed to work wonders -- some people reported losing as many as 10 pounds a week on the formula. But then the news of sudden deaths began to trickle in.

An investigation led by the Food and Drug Administration turned up nearly 60 deaths among liquid dieters. Although some of the deaths occurred in people with underlying diseases such as atherosclerosis (and therefore could have been coincidental), government researchers who examined otherwise healthy dieters who died of ventricular arrhythmias found that the pattern of deaths suggested "the effects of protein-calorie malnutrition on the heart," including atrophy of the heart muscle.
Conceivably there is a right way and a wrong way to substantially reduce caloric intake.  In other words, certain approaches are likely more risky than others.   But which ones?

Muscle loss appears to be the problem.


April 2, 2010

Benefits of taxing soft drinks

AP describes a recent study that concluded "Small taxes on soda do little to reduce soft drink consumption or prevent childhood obesity, but larger levies probably would..."

The benefits of imposing significant taxes on foods that have no nutritional value ought to be a no-brainer. To make new taxes politically palatable, taxes on any health-enhancing products and services might be simultaneously reduced.


March 23, 2010

High fructose corn syrup: Worse than sugar?

According to a new Princeton University study, high fructose corn sugar may indeed be something to avoid.  Some background from the authors:

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) accounts for as much as 40% of caloric sweeteners used in the United States. Some studies have shown that short-term access to HFCS can cause increased body weight, but the findings are mixed. . . . . 
The authors of the present study found that
Over the course of 6 or 7months, both male and female rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than control groups. This increase in body weight with HFCS was accompanied by an increase in adipose fat, notably in the abdominal region, and elevated circulating triglyceride levels. Translated to humans, these results suggest that excessive consumption of HFCS may contribute to the incidence of obesity.
For an interesting discussion of the findings of the present study, check out Corante

As I blogged elsewhere, the obesity question aside, there is another excellent reason to prefer sugar over high fructose corn syrup sweetened beverages.


March 19, 2010

How to run without shoes

Recent research suggests that shoes, and the running form they encourage, may be the prime source of so many knee and other running injuries. The solution may be to throw away your running shoes altogether.

This video provides some interesting advice on barefoot running:


Can probiotic supplements help you to lose weight?

Maybe one day,  instead of being advised to hit the gym, the overweight will be advised to eat dirt. 

Some researchers now suspect that pro-biotic supplementation may be a means of preventing obesity and weight gain.   A group of French researchers spell-out the theory for us:

In humans, the intestinal microflora is inherited from our parents and from the environment. It has established an ecological mutualism with the host, allowing each organism to benefit from the symbiotic relationship. Based on recent evidence, some molecular mechanisms for the role of intestinal microflora on the control of energy metabolism have been proposed. During metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, it has been proposed that an imbalance between the two dominant groups of beneficial bacteria, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes, generates signals controlling the expression of genes by the epithelial intestinal cells. Genes involved in lipid metabolism such as the Fast Induced Adipocyte Factor have been considered as putative targets. In addition, bacterial extracts such as the lipopolysaccharides control the tone of the innate immune system thus regulating the general inflammatory status, insulin resistance, and adipose tissue plasticity. Therefore, strategies aimed at controlling the ecological mutualism between intestinal microflora and the host should lead to a new era of therapeutic and health benefits.
The results of studies published in  recent weeks are exciting news for people struggling with overcoming weight gain and obesity -- and who isn't these days?  According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition on 10 March 2010:
The probiotic LG2055 showed lowering effects on abdominal adiposity, body weight and other measures, suggesting its beneficial influence on metabolic disorders.
Are children, in particular, getting fat because they are too clean?  It's an interesting hypothesis that scientists have just begun to research.    Dr. Cutler:

The study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that expectant mothers who eat probiotic foods while pregnant may help prevent their children from becoming obese later in life.

Researchers say women who consumed probiotics during their first trimester were less likely to suffer from gestational diabetes, which can result in delivering an overweight baby. Overweight infants may also suffer from excess insulin and be at risk for becoming obese or developing type 2 diabetes during adulthood, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Probiotics are healthy bacteria. They are available in supplement form as well as in foods like yogurt, cereals and some soy products.
Another study, published in the International Journal of Obesity found much the same thing:
 Early gut microbiota modulation with probiotics may modify the growth pattern of the child by restraining excessive weight gain during the first years of life. This novel observation calls for further epidemiological and clinical trials, with precise data on early growth patterns and on confounding factors influencing weight development.
The question as to whether probiotics might help adults lose weight requires further study.   Until such time, taking a pro-biotic supplement probably can't hurt anything but your bank account.  

What type of pro-biotic?   That's to be the subject of a future post.


Health benefit of calcium for men

Men who consumed the most calcium were twenty-five percent less likely to die-- according to a recent study.  The high calcium consumers among the 10,000 men in a Swedish study consumed 2,000 mg/day -- almost twice the recommended RDA.  

The finding was not a surprise to researchers, as previous research had linked high calcium intake to lower mortality in both men and women.


March 18, 2010

Is bluefin tuna healthy to eat?

The consumption of bluefish tuna is neither healthy nor ethical. Here's why -- and what is being done about it.


March 17, 2010

Do today's products make any more sense?

This commercial is truly remarkable. Consider the possibility that in fifty years, some of today's popular beauty products might seem almost as ludicrous.


March 7, 2010

Are treadmills just as good as running outdoors?

NY Times:

The most obvious difference with indoor exercise is a lack of wind resistance, Dr. Cavanagh said.

“The important variable here is speed relative to the air,” he said. For example, if you are running at 8 miles per hour into a 10-m.p.h. headwind, your speed relative to the air is 18 m.p.h. Dr. Cavanagh explained in an e-mail message: “Work done against air resistance can be extremely costly because the ‘drag force’ (force caused by air resistance) is proportional to the square of speed and the power required to overcome drag force is proportional to the cube of speed.”

One recent study, in fact, found that people can run 11.5 percent faster on treadmills than outdoors.

Many runners, including Dr. Thompson, set their treadmills at a 1 percent incline to make up for the lack of wind resistance. But that is not a complete solution because there are other aspects of outdoor running that a treadmill can’t mimic. For instance, the treadmill surface is just too smooth.

“If you run all the time on a smooth surface you are not training all muscles in your legs and feet that you need to run on the road,” Dr. Cavanagh said. “If you are going to race under certain conditions, you might as well train there.”

Safety may be the single best reason to opt for more treadmill training, particularly in the winter
Mr. Sell, an elite marathoner who ran in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, trains in Rochester, Mich. He bought a treadmill four years ago, after he had fallen a few times on icy roads, injuring himself so badly he could not train at all while he healed.

“I probably fall at least once a year here in Michigan,” he said. “My injuries ranged from a bruised hip to a pulled groin. That time it took three weeks to get back. I said, ‘If I was doing this on the treadmill, I wouldn’t have missed three weeks of training.’ ”

Mr. Sell continued, “If it’s really icy out or if it’s negative 10 degrees and you are doing an easy six-miler, it probably makes a lot more sense to do it on a treadmill than to risk hurting anything.”
Often I have worked out on treadmills when staying in neighborhoods characterized by pollution and traffic-congested streets.


January 28, 2010

Elderberry highest in antioxidants?

I blogged about a study that showed that Elderberry could be as useful as Tamiflu in fighting H1N1 virus and other flu viruses. I just stumbled upon a table showing that the elderberry has almost the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value of any berry.

ORAC scores are for 100/grams (3.5 ounces).

  • Aronia (15.8K ORAC)
  • Elderberry (14.6K ORAC)
  • Cranberries (9.5K ORAC)
  • Black Currant (8K ORAC)
  • Blueberries (6K ORAC)
  • Blackberries (6K ORAC)
  • Plums (6K ORAC)
  • Glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (5K ORAC)
  • Glass of red table wine or Chianti (3.8K ORAC)
  • Red grape Juice (1.2K ORAC)
Also topping any overall list of antioxidant foods is cocoa.  Raw cocoa has an ORAC of 26,000 per 100/g; processed dark chocolate about half that (processing heat will reduce a food's antioxidant properties).


    January 27, 2010

    Barefoot running and the fore-foot strike

    J. Fallows, runner and journalist, blogs that according to a report in Nature, "fore-foot running, which also turns out to be the way people naturally run if they're barefoot, is fundamentally much easier on your joints and bones and therefore easier to bear over the years."

    Good to know scientists are finally studying the question. I'm not a regular bare-foot runner yet -- though I have been won over to wearing lightweight running shoes.  

    More on the question of the best footwear for running in a future post.


    January 26, 2010

    Chondrolysis caused by pain pumps

    Some medical stories make me furious. This is one of them. NY Times:

    Chondrolysis has ended the athletic careers of dozens of high school and college students. In the most severe cases, it has required joint replacements. Many sufferers face lifetimes of pain and disability.

    “I’ve lost so many hours of sleep over this, I can’t tell you,” said Dr. David S. Bailie, an orthopedic surgeon in Scottsdale, Ariz., who said he had seen dozens of cases of chondrolysis since 2005. “There’s nothing worse than a surgeon doing something that causes a problem, not fixes a problem.”

    Although it is still unknown why chondrolysis develops, several medical studies have concluded that a likely culprit is a pain pump, a postsurgical medical device used to deliver local anesthetics to a specific area through a plastic tube.

    What's really going on here?  Why are people being implanted with high-tech devices for the localized control of pain?   I've had more shoulder operations than anyone I know, and I'll tell you, shoulder pain goes away if you take demerol or morphine.  I've been prescribed these medicines on numerous occasions and they work. 

    Kids are having these weird, untested, and dangerous devices put into their bodies because the medical establishment is adverse to prescribing ordinary pain killers to people in pain.   These medicines work and they are far safer than any high-tech alternatives.   Part of the interest in these devices might be lowering hospital costs because administering morphine requires an extended hospital stay.  Ultimately, a confluence of corporate interests -- manufacturers and the insurance companies -- are likely behind the interest in pushing these devices.  That's why mainly only American kids are being implanted with these high-tech devices.  

    The article continues:
    In late 2006, after a handful of studies indicated that the pain pumps might be causing chondrolysis, the I-Flow Corporation, the largest pump manufacturer, changed its directions in package inserts to advise doctors to avoid placing the pump catheters in joints. In 2007, I-Flow posted a bulletin on its Web site notifying physicians of the risk.

    The first lawsuits against pain pump companies were filed about two years ago. It is difficult to know the exact number of suits, but I-Flow reported in November that it was a defendant in 191 chondrolysis cases involving 412 patients. Of those, the company said, 80 suits were dismissed. Kay Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which purchased I-Flow last year, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
    I'm not a doctor, but over the years I've picked up a few basics of orthopedics.  First things: You don't go putting tubes into joints!   Certainly not to control pain. Any physician who would suggest doing this is an complete idiot.  (The risk of infection from the insertion of such a device is too great.  Pain-killing does not warrant such a risk.)  

    These companies deserve to be sued.  The first maxim of medicine is DO NO HARM.  That means don't go experimenting with unproven techniques in order to relieve pain -- pain that has safely been controlled for many decades through the non-localized administration of low-cost prescription medication.


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