Monday, February 25, 2008

Magnesium May Cut Risk of Gallstones

Magnesium Intake May Cut Risk of Gallstones

A diet rich in magnesium appears to reduce the risk developing painful gallstones, according to findings from a US study.

Consumption of magnesium has been declining over the years, due in part to the overprocessing of foods, Dr. Chung-Jyi Tsai and associates note in their report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Magnesium deficiency is known to raise triglyceride levels and decrease HDL ("good") cholesterol levels in the blood, both of which may increase the risk of developing gallstones. Still, the long-term effect of magnesium on the risk of gallstones in humans was not known.

To investigate, Tsai, from the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, and colleagues analyzed data from 42,705 men, between 40 and 75 years of age, who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The men were followed from 1986 to 2002.

The subjects were surveyed every 2 years to assess the occurrence of new illnesses, including gallbladder disease. Magnesium consumption was determined with a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire sent to the participants every 4 years.

During follow-up, 2195 men were diagnosed with gallstone disease, the researchers found.

Compared with the lowest level of total magnesium intake, the highest intake reduced the risk of gallstone disease by 33 percent. The same risk reduction was seen when considering just dietary magnesium, when supplements were excluded.

"From many studies by this group and others, it appears that a generally healthy dietary pattern, with more plant-based foods, fiber, and increasing complex carbohydrates, and now increasing magnesium intake will decrease the risk of symptomatic gallstones," Dr. Cynthia W. Ko, from the University of Washington in Seattle, writes in an accompanying editorial. "This 'healthy' dietary pattern will also help in prevention of other chronic diseases in addition to gallstones."

SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, February 2008.
Copyright Reuters

Reversing Heart Disease

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MRSA - Rapid Blood Test

On January 28, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval to begin marketing the first rapid blood test for the drug-resistant staph bacterium known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA is a dangerous mutant strain of bacterium resistant to methicillin, an antibiotic that has previously been used successfully to treat Staphylococcus aureus infections. MRSA can cause potentially life-threatening infections to your blood stream... surgical site infections... even pneumonia, and has an even higher fatality rate! MRSA has long been a problem in the health care setting, but it is increasingly a community problem as well.

The test, known as the BD GeneOhm StaphSR Assay, can differentiate the methicillin-resistant variant from the methicillin-susceptible variant in two hours, rather than the 24 to 48 hours or longer that currently available technology takes. Distinguishing between the two sources of infection is critical to successful treatment. Studies leading to the test's approval found that it could identify 100% of MRSA samples and 98% of the susceptible types. According to an FDA statement, this test should be used in patients already suspected of having a staph infection but not to monitor treatment or initially detect it.

"This test is good news for the public health community," said Daniel G. Schultz, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. This test previously was given FDA approval to identify colonized patients. The product's manufacturer, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.), is pursuing U.S. approvals for it to be used for nasal swabbing and the detection of MRSA in wounds.

Doctors still might have to conduct follow-up testing to pin down precisely what will kill particular bacteria, but physicians say the information provided by this product will be enough to narrow down treatment choices early on. According to Ed Septimus, MD, an infectious disease physician in Houston and a board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, "Compared to what we have now, this is terrific. We will be able to get appropriate treatment to the patient much faster, and we will be able to intervene at a much earlier time so transmission does not occur." Initially, this test most likely will be used on the sickest, hospitalized patients.

Although there is a lot of hope for the test's potential, there are also concerns. Experts, for instance, expect there may be a lag between this test becoming available and doctors becoming comfortable enough with it to use it for decision-making. "Having more tools is good, but there's going to be a certain learning curve," said Thomas Fekete, MD, professor of medicine and an infectious disease specialist at Temple University in Philadelphia. "And I don't know if laboratories will be financially prepared to take on this new technology. I'm not saying it's not worth it, but there's a price to pay."

Experts say getting a better handle on MRSA is key, because evidence is accumulating that it may be far more common than previously thought. A study in the December 2007 American Journal of Infection Control found that nationally, 46.3 per 1,000 in-patients carried the bacteria. Of these, at least 34 were infected and 12 were colonized. The remainder of cases were unclassified. Approximately 70% of cases appear to have been contracted in the health care setting. The authors suspect that the true numbers may be much higher. Only 29% of institutions surveyed actively hunted for these bacteria, and most did not use highly sensitive means to do it.

"This is the minimum estimate, because the majority are not doing screening and [are] testing by less sensitive methods. It's a much bigger problem than anyone had predicted," said William Jarvis, MD, lead author on that paper and a consultant with Jason & Jarvis Associates, a private firm that provides expertise on public health, infection control and patient safety. Other papers have documented MRSA's impact. One of the most recent, in the Oct. 17 2007, Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated that there were 94,360 cases of invasive MRSA infections and 18,650 deaths in 2005. Patients older than 65 were particularly vulnerable.

For those not wanting to take chances on uncertain, delayed treatment, it's good to know that there is a completely 100% natural product that can not only KILL MRSA, but may also prevent the potentially life-threatening infection from harming you. Prevention of infectious diseases is far more preferable than any treatment, even a successful one.

Natural MRSA Fighter

Monday, February 11, 2008

Saccharin may lead to weight gain

By Denise Gellene,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 11, 2008
Casting doubt on the benefit of low-calorie sweeteners, research released Sunday reported that rats on diets containing saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food.

The study in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience found that the calorie-free artificial sweetener appeared to break the physiological connection between sweet tastes and calories, driving the rats to overeat.

Lyn M. Steffen, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the latest report, said the study offered a possible explanation for the unexpected association between obesity and diet soda found in recent human studies.

Researchers have puzzled over whether diet soda is a marker for poor eating habits or diet soda ingredients cause people to put on pounds, she said. "This rat study suggests a component of the artificial sweetener may be responsible for the weight gain."

Steffen's own recent research has shown that people who drink diet soda have a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of symptoms including obesity -- than do people who drink regular soda. Her research was published last month in the American Heart Assn.'s journal Circulation.

An industry group rejected Sunday's report.

"The causes of obesity are multifactorial," said a statement by Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, which represents low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage marketers. "Although surveys have shown that there has been an increase in the use of 'sugar-free' foods over the years, portion sizes of foods have also increased, physical activity has decreased and overall calorie intake has increased."

The number of Americans who consume soda, yogurt and other products containing sugar-free sweeteners more than doubled to 160 million in 2000 from fewer than 70 million in 1987, according to the report. Over the same period, the incidence of obesity among U.S. adults rose to 30% from 15%.

One interpretation of the trends is that people have been turning to lower-calorie foods to control an increasing problem with weight gain.

An alternative interpretation is that artificial sweeteners lead to biological or behavioral changes that cause people to eat more. This possibility is easier to test in rats than in people because scientists can control the animals' diets and measure exactly what they eat, said the study's lead author, Susan E. Swithers, an associate professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in Indiana.

In the experiment, funded by the National Institutes of Health and by Purdue, nine rats received yogurt sweetened with saccharin and eight rats received yogurt sweetened with glucose, which is close in composition to table sugar. After receiving their yogurt snack, the animals were given their usual chow.

At the end of five weeks, rats that had been fed sugar-free yogurt gained an average of 88 grams, compared with 72 grams for rats that dined on glucose-sweetened yogurt, a difference of about 20%. Rats fed sugar-free yogurt were consuming more calories and had 5% more body fat.

In a related experiment, scientists gave the two groups of rats a sugary drink and measured changes in the animals' body temperatures. Body temperatures typically rise after a meal because it takes energy to digest food.

The rats in the saccharin group experienced a smaller average temperature increase, scientists said -- a sign that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners had blunted their body's response to sweet foods, making it harder for the animals to burn off their extra calories.

Swithers said that normally, sweet tastes signal that the body is about to receive a lot of calories, and the digestive system prepares to react. When sweet tastes aren't followed by lots of calories, as in the case of artificial sweeteners, the body becomes conditioned against a strong response.

Although the experiment looked only at saccharin, other artificial sweeteners may have the same effect, Swithers said.

A controlled study is needed to determine whether sweeteners have the same effect in people as in rats, she said, but some epidemiological studies have been consistent with her findings.

Swithers' next step, she said, will be to determine whether dietary changes could reverse the rats' physiological responses.

Adam Drewnowski, director of the nutrition sciences program at the University of Washington, cautioned against interpreting the results broadly.

"It is unreasonable to claim that results obtained studying saccharin in rats translate to every sweetener in humans," said Drewnowski, who has received research funding from the beverage industry in the past.

He added: "We now have studies showing that sugar calories are associated with obesity and the absence of sugar is associated with obesity. Pity those people trying to do something about obesity."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lactose Intake May Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk in Postmenopausal Women

Lyle Loughry, February 2008

One of the very best ways to get plenty of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and bovine growth hormones in your diet is to drink pasteurized and homogenized commercial milk every day. Postmenopausal women may be getting all that, and a whole lot more: A higher risk of developing a serious form of ovarian cancer!

Previous studies have established the link between Lactose, a milk sugar that contains galactose; a sugar component, with ovarian cancer. Now, a major study done by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden, have confirmed the earlier studies.

The Stockholm team used data collected from the Swedish Mammography Cohort to review dietary and medical records of more than 61,000 women, aged 38 to 76 years who were cancer-free at the outset of the study. Over a follow up period of about 13 years, more than 260 subjects were diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer, and 125 of those cases were considered "serious." This type of cancer originates in the surface cells of the ovaries and frequently spreads to other organs in the abdomen.

After analyzing their data, the Stockholm researchers came to these conclusions:

* Lactose intake was associated with serious ovarian cancer risk.

* Women who consumed approximately four daily servings of dairy products had twice the risk of developing serious ovarian cancer compared to women who consumed less than two daily servings of dairy.

* The dairy product most strongly associated with serious ovarian cancer was milk.

Dr. Jonathan Wright, noted physician and researcher, has said it before and a new study from the University of Liverpool warrants him saying it again: "Milk is for baby cows, not for baby humans" -- or adult humans, for that matter. Dr. Jonathan Wright operates the Tahoma Clinic, one of the finest nutritional medical clinics in the world. Milk has already been linked to numerous other health concerns including prostate problems and (ironically) bone fractures. Now, this recent research adds yet another item to the growing list of reasons to stay away from dairy: It may contain bacteria that can cause Crohn's disease.

For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Crohn's disease involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that typically leads to frequent bouts of pain and diarrhea. It has typically been regarded as an autoimmune disease, but this new study suggests there may be another factor at work.

The researchers found that a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, which causes a wasting disease in cattle called Johne's disease, can make its way into humans via milk and dairy products. Once inside the body, the Mycobacteria release a molecule that prevents white blood cells from killing E. coli bacteria. Previous research has shown that people suffering from Crohn's disease have higher-than-normal levels of E.coli in their bodies.

Cows' milk is one of the European Union's 'big eight' allergy-inducing foods alongside gluten, eggs, fish, peanuts, soya, treenuts and shellfish. More serious than lactose intolerance, a true milk allergy presents in one or more of three organ systems:

- Gastrointestinal (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating) affecting 50-60% of those with Cow's milk allergy (CMA)
- Skin (rashes, including eczema and atopic dermatitis) 50-70%
- Respiratory (wheeze, cough, runny nose) 20-30%

Dr Martin Brueton, an Act Against Allergy Advisory Board Member and Emeritus Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, UK, commented: "Cows' milk is the most common cause of food allergy in infants and children," The average baby with Cows' milk allergy (CMA) may suffer from an array of symptoms; from skin rashes to gastric problems, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, excessive crying, and often shows problems with weight gain.

Having a child with Cows' milk allergy can be very stressful for parents. In addition to coping with the disturbing physical effects of the condition on the child, 70% of parents of children with CMA said that it makes them feel guilty and distressed, and 82% said that it has caused them to lose sleep. Until the child is properly diagnosed and put onto a suitable milk substitute, the impact on the parents and the family as a whole is considerable."

A new book, What's In Your Milk?, by Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., one of the world's leading scientific authorities on genetically engineered rBGH milk, offers readers an air-tight case against the use of Monsanto's synthetic hormone. Epstein's previous works have played a major role in influencing other nations to ban rBGH milk, including all of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Is it time for the U.S. to finally acknowledge the dangers of this product?

Some misinformed moms are even feeding their vulnerable babies soy instant formula, which exposes their child to the equivalent of five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day, at least partly responsible for almost half of African Americans and 15 percent of whites to begin breast development by age 8. For this same reason, it’s also important for pregnant women to avoid eating soy, as a high estrogenic environment in utero may increase their child’s subsequent breast cancer risk.

In this book, Epstein offers significant evidence of interlocking conflicts of interest between Monsanto and the White House, regulatory agencies, and the American Medical Association and American Cancer Society. He also details evidence of Monsanto's white collar crime; the suppression and manipulation of information on the veterinary and public health dangers of rBGH milk.

Recommendation: Women who feel they need to drink milk or use milk in other ways would be better served to switch to rice or almond milk, and the same would be true for men, children and infants. Soy milk is no longer recommended, because soy has its own set of problems.

For years, soy milk was recommended by some as a natural, healthy alternative to cow's milk. Recently, more information has appeared regarding the environmental impact of soybean farming (the Amazon rainforest is being devastated by clear cutting to create soybean agricultural lands) as well as the frightening fact that most soybeans grown today are genetically modified (GMO) varieties. Additionally, most popular soy milk brands have been bought out by big, profit-seeking food and beverage corporations, and as a result, they've been sugared up and made nutritionally inferior. Check the ingredients on "plain" soy milk the next time you're at the store: It's loaded with sugar!

According to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, who has done extensive research on a number of digestive-related topics, and is author of IBS for Dummies (Wiley), "The wide varieties of soy-based foods require extensive processing to get them to the state in which they can be used as the foods now on our shelves -- they are far from 'natural.' The beans are cooked, crushed and heated to high temperatures and then put through a solvent extraction process to remove the oil.

The now defatted meal is mixed with sugars and an alkaline solution to remove the fiber and the resulting curds are spray dried at high temperatures, which does two things -- produces high-protein powder... and peroxides the oils making them pro-inflammatory. The end result is food that is bereft of vitamins and likely minerals," she says, "and far removed from being a natural wholesome food." And there are other problems.

According to Dean, "Because soy has a high level of phytic acid, it blocks digestion of grains, which are an important source of minerals. Additionally, soy contains trypsin inhibitors and these interfere with protein digestion. Adding to these problems, the body does not absorb the B-12 in soy, which in turn creates a nutritional void for vegetarians who consume soy protein as a way of providing themselves with this important B vitamin."

The only exception to this disturbing development would be soy products that have been fermented. Dr. Dean, who also studied Chinese medicine, says that the Chinese did not eat soy until they discovered that fermenting would turn it into a useful food. In fact, fermented soy is largely the type of soy that Asians consume today. Fermenting involves treating soy with a mold for a day or so. Fermented foods include tempeh (not to be confused with tofu, which is not fermented), which has a nutty mushroom taste... miso... natto... and tamari sauce.

However, because soy exists in so many foods today as vegetable oil, binders and the like, even people who are wary of soy probably consume some of it almost daily. Consequently, Dr. Dean advises limiting fermented soy product consumption to not more than every third day.

Virtually no credible, objective research (that not paid for by the milk or soy industry) supports either product as a healthy choice for adults or children, today.

Women, do yourselves a big, healthy favor. Stop drinking and using pasteurized and homogenized milk, and unfermented soy products. Find a good source for rice or almond milk, and those soy products specifically recommended by Dr. Dean, and get used to something really good for your body, and possibly avoid a plethora of serious health issues in the future.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

New and Improved CPR

"You know you're doing it right when you hear the ribs crack." Those words -- spoken by a paramedic teaching me how to do CPR -- have always stuck with me. They made sense at the time: In order for traditional CPR to work, the rescuer needs to compress the victim's sternum by at least an inch-and-a-half to two inches, over and over again -- and doing that can definitely result in a cracked rib or two.

But a new CPR technique, devised by Leslie Geddes, PhD, DSc, Showalter Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Purdue University's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, does away with both cracked ribs and mouth to mouth resuscitation (a concern due to the risk of infection), while also pumping 40% more oxygen-rich blood through the heart. Since conventional CPR has a success rate of just 5% to 10%, Dr. Geddes was looking for a better form of CPR that would improve blood flow and be easier for one person to perform. The technique, known as "Only Abdominal Compression" or OAC-CPR, works by pushing rhythmically on the abdomen (above the belly button), instead of the chest, to squeeze blood through the circulatory system. At the same time, the compression forces the diaphragm to move rhythmically so that air flows into and out of the lungs. In the preliminary tests on pigs Dr. Geddes and his colleagues have done thus far, there's no apparent increased risk of injury to internal organs using OAC-CPR or any increase in the victim's risk of vomiting.


Dr. Geddes has great hopes that this new form of CPR will gain popularity and save lives -- though he says it will take time before it becomes official. Research is underway to learn more about risks and benefits, and a device Dr. Geddes and his team developed to make the procedure easier needs to be reviewed by the government before it can be recommended for use on people. We'll keep you posted.


Leslie Geddes, PhD, DSc, Showalter Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University.

Vital Wellness