Mercury, Fish, and More Testing

I really like fish. I also really like chocolate and bread, but like all iffy foods. I carefully limit how much of these I eat. And according to Dr. Fuhrman, when it comes to fish, limitation is a good idea. He explains:
Choose fish over other animal products, but be aware that the place where it was caught, and the type of fish, matters. Don't accept recreational fish from questionable waters. Farmed fish is safer. Never eat high-mercury-content fish. Don't eat fish more than twice a week, and if you have a family history of hemorrhagic stroke, limit it further to only once a month.
This concern about fish is catching on—pun intended. Restaurants and retailers are actually testing the fish they sell and serve for mercury contamination. Marian Burros of The New York Times reports:
A NUMBER of restaurants and retailers in different parts of the country have started testing the fish they sell in response to concerns about the amount of mercury in seafood, and the Environmental Protection Agency is beginning to examine the mercury content in fish sold in the New York City region…


…A chain of five stores in New York, Gourmet Garage, sold tuna that in the Times test had mercury concentrations above one part per million, the Food and Drug Administration’s “action level,” at which the fish can be taken off the market. The company said it would now carry only yellowfin tuna with no more than 0.4 parts per million. Yellowfin tuna is generally lower in mercury than bluefin…

…Hiro Nishida, the president of Food Scope America, which owns Megu, said he was not surprised. The average concentration of mercury in Kindai tuna is 0.6 parts per million, he said, but producers are “trying to decrease the parts per million to 0.2 by different feeding, and they will become much healthier to people who enjoy tuna.”
All this testing is a great idea, but, I’m with Dr. Fuhrman, I’ll continue limit to how much fish I eat, and, I’ll be certain to choose fish with the lowest contamination levels. Here’s a list of Dr. Fuhrman’s best and worst fish. Look:
Fish with Highest and Lowest Mercury Levels


Highest
tilefish
swordfish
mackerel
shark
white snapper
tuna

Lowest
salmon
flounder
sole
tilapia
trout
I use this little list as my measuring stick. Now, if you’ve got more questions about seafood safety, please check out OceansAlive.org. I’ve been using the site for years now, very helpful.

Congress Going Green...

Going “green” has been in the news a lot lately. Personally, I think it’s great. We live with the planet, not on it. And it seems Congress is starting to think greener. More from Bryan Walsh of Time:
Hours and hours of hearings finally led to a legislative breakthrough in December: the passage out of the committee of the first bill that would put carbon caps on the U.S. economy. Co-sponsored by the Republican Sen. John Warner and the Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the America's Climate Security Act would cap U.S. carbon emissions at 15% below 2005 levels by 2020, with a 70% cut projected for 2050. If enacted, those carbon caps would all but force U.S. businesses to invest in cleaner technology and greater energy efficiency, and would help the country take a leadership role in international climate negotiations…


…Critics like Bush tend to focus on the economic costs of reducing carbon emissions — through increased energy prices — but Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, and many of her supporters, believe that combating climate change can have a net positive effect on the economy. Boxer hails from California, which has already passed the strongest state legislation on climate change, cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Far from hurting the state economically, Boxer notes, the carbon bill has helped California become the center for green innovation in the U.S., with Silicon Valley venture capitalists pouring billions into alternative energy start-ups. Those businesses will create new, green jobs that should make up for the short-term costs of cutting carbon. "The cure for global warming is positive," says Boxer. "That makes it easy for me to approach it with hope."
Take carbon emissions for example, its bad news, why not take more measures to clean it up? Check out these posts for more:
Environmental pollution is a huge deal, there are tons of reasons why in DiseaseProof's toxins category.

Anti-Smoking Plans, Good or Bad?

Admittedly, I’m a skeptic and a cynic. Given the amount of people I see sucking down cigarettes, I’d be the first to say anti-smoking campaigns don’t work, but, apparently I’m wrong. According to Reuters, state anti-smoking plans work. Take a look:
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an independent research institute analyzed data on smoking rates and tobacco control spending in all 50 states from 1995 to 2003.


The advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the states will spend about $717 million in fiscal year 2008 on tobacco control and smoking cessation programs.

These programs include advertising on the hazards of smoking, school- and community-based anti-smoking efforts, and steps like creating toll-free telephone lines to help people quit.

The study found that the more states spent on programs, the larger the declines they achieved in adult smoking rates, independent of other factors like higher tobacco prices.
Now, we just got to get some more state anti-weed-smoking plans.
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Wednesday: Health Points

A study published Monday hints that fitness buffs appear to have "younger" DNA than the chronically sedentary. The finding could help scientists understand the effects of exercise and aging at a molecular level.

Previous research has shown that being physically active reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases, potentially extending longevity.

Previous research has shown that older people have shorter ends than younger folks. Indeed, biologists say they shrink every time a cell divides.
Some 84 million people risk dying from cancer over the next decade, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.


The IAEA, the UN atomic watchdog, is involved in the fight agaist the disease through its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) division, which shares the organisation's knowledge of radiotherapy techniques with other partners in the field.

PACT head Massud Samiei told journalists that "the cancer epidemic will gather pace in developing countries."
About two-thirds of the cases were children who took the medicines unsupervised. However, about one-quarter involved cases in which parents gave the proper dosage and an allergic reaction or some other problem developed, the study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.


The study included both over-the-counter and prescription medicines. It comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned parents that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are too dangerous for children younger than 2.
The key is for both spouses to be comfortable expressing anger, rather than one or both suppressing anger, University of Michigan researchers report.


"The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it?" asks Ernest Harburg, PhD, professor emeritus with the University of Michigan's School of Public Health and psychology department. "If you bury your anger, and you brood on it ... and you don't try to resolve the problem, then you're in trouble."

Harburg's team found a higher death rate among married couples in which both spouses suppress anger, compared with other married couples. Their findings appear in the Journal of Family Communication.
Studies in the past have demonstrated that cannabis can cause cancer, but few have established a strong link between cannabis use and the actual incidence of lung cancer.


In an article published in the European Respiratory Journal, the scientists said cannabis could be expected to harm the airways more than tobacco as its smoke contained twice the level of carcinogens, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, compared with tobacco cigarettes.

The method of smoking also increases the risk, since joints are typically smoked without a proper filter and almost to the very tip, which increases the amount of smoke inhaled. The cannabis smoker inhales more deeply and for longer, facilitating the deposition of carcinogens in the airways.
BREAKFAST CEREALS
Seventh-Day Adventists are credited with creating breakfast cereals. They founded the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where they manufactured and promoted wholesome cereals. Will Keith Kellogg was an Adventist who discovered corn flakes in 1894 when a pot of cooked wheat was overcooked and then dried. Each grain became a separate flake. He introduced Rice Krispies in 1929. The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company was founded in 1906.


THE DOUGHNUT
Originally introduced by the Dutch as sweet dough fried in pork fat (known as "oily cakes"), the doughnut has been around a very long time, although its popularity surged with the doughnuts served to solders in World War I. The term "doughnut" either comes from the small balls of dough that looked like nuts, or a recipe from a mid-19th century cook who added nuts to the center of her fried dough and therefore referred to them as dough "nuts." The legend goes on to say that her son, a sea captain, didn't like the nuts so he had them cut out, creating the famous doughnut shape that we know today. Doughnuts remained as snacks, not breakfast -- often served in theaters -- until the doughnut machine was invented in the 1930s. By the 1940s and 1950s, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Doughnuts had been introduced, and the pairing of coffee and doughnuts secured their place in the breakfast repertoire. By the 1950s, "drop" doughnuts became very popular and Orange Drop Doughnuts showed up in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Since no rolling or cutting was required -- just drop spoonfuls of batter into hot oil -- this category of doughnuts caught on quickly.
The number of Americans being diagnosed with and also living with type 2 diabetes is soaring, presenting a major health and economic crisis for the United States, a new study reports.


"What's alarming is we have 47 million uninsured people, but these people [in the study, enrolled under Medicare] are all insured. So in this kind of insured program, we have so many people who are not adhering to the recommended care," said Frank Sloan, lead author of the study published in the Jan. 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Sloan is professor of health policy and management at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
The ayurvedic menu at Ananda Spa has been designed to balance the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are roughly similar to our ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph body types, but they’re even more detailed, taking into consideration the shape of the face, skin type, hair, eyes, and temperament. Everyone is a mix of the three, but one dosha is predominant. If the doshas are balanced, you’ll enjoy good health, if not, you’re basically screwed…


…Once you know which dosha you align with, your ayurvedic practitioner will help you get in harmony through your food choices. To balance a Vata dosha, for example, you’re apparently supposed to eat mostly warm foods, such as soups, stews, warm milk, warm cereals, and baked bread (cream and butter are on the list too). And Vatas are advised to avoid cold foods, such as salads, iced drinks, and raw vegetables and greens. Hmm … doesn’t sound ideal for someone who is lactose-intolerant and loves her veggies.

You've Got Lead on the Brain

Earlier this month we learned that exposing monkeys—a close relative of ours—to lead ups their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later on. The NewScientist was on it:
Monkeys exposed to the heavy metal during infancy may be predisposed to develop the equivalent of Alzheimer's disease.


"We're not saying that lead exposure causes Alzheimer's disease, but it's a risk factor," says Nasser Zawia of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, whose team discovered the link.

Zawia's team fed baby monkeys infant formula milk laced with low levels of lead, then followed their progress until the age of 23. While the adult monkeys did not show symptoms of Alzheimer's per se, post-mortem analyses of their brains showed that the lead-fed monkeys had plaques and other abnormalities identical to those found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.
Maybe there’s some proof in this pudding, because new research has linked lead to aging in older brains. Malcolm Ritter of the Associated Press is on it:
That's the provocative idea emerging from some recent studies, part of a broader area of new research that suggests some pollutants can cause harm that shows up only years after someone is exposed.


The new work suggests long-ago lead exposure can make an aging person's brain work as if it's five years older than it really is. If that's verified by more research, it means that sharp cuts in environmental lead levels more than 20 years ago didn't stop its widespread effects.

"We're trying to offer a caution that a portion of what has been called normal aging might in fact be due to ubiquitous environmental exposures like lead," says Dr. Brian Schwartz of Johns Hopkins University.

"The fact that it's happening with lead is the first proof of principle that it's possible," said Schwartz, a leader in the study of lead's delayed effects. Other pollutants like mercury and pesticides may do the same thing, he said.
Alright, even without this news, we know lead is bad news. So, what can we make of all this? Well, let’s start with the kids. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
We must be careful not to expose our children to chemical cleaners, insecticides, and weed killers on our lawns. Chemicals used in pressure-treated wood used to build lawn furniture, decks, fences, and swing sets have also been shown to place children at risk. When young children are around, we must be vigilant to maintain a chemical-free environment.
And maybe when they get older they can protect themselves, then their children and hopefully, this heightened awareness will nip the whole problem in the bud.

Friday: Health Points

Uncontrolled diabetes wreaks havoc on the body, often leading to kidney failure, blindness and death. A new study shows that the nation's unchecked diabetes epidemic exacts a heavy financial toll as well: $174 billion a year.

That's about as much as the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terrorism combined. It's more than the $150 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The incidence of diabetes has ballooned — there are 1 million new cases a year — as more Americans become overweight or obese, according to the study, released Wednesday by the American Diabetes Association. The cost of diabetes — both in direct medical care and lost productivity — has swelled 32% since 2002, the report shows.

Diabetes killed more than 284,000 Americans last year, according to the diabetes association.
  • Much to my personal delight, Yoga is growing in popularity. Katie Zezima of The New York Times investigates a boot camp for Yoga teachers. Check it out:
In May 2006, Sue Jones started YogaHope, an organization that teaches yoga at eight Boston-area women’s homeless shelters, substance-abuse treatment programs and domestic-violence safe houses, as well as two programs in Seattle. The focus is on teaching restorative yoga, and though many teachers have completed at least 200 hours of training, it is not a requirement.


Driven by a sometimes missionary zeal and a sense that yoga has become an exclusive pursuit, a small but growing number of yoga practitioners are forming organizations that teach yoga in prisons and juvenile detention centers in Oakland, Calif.; Los Angeles, Seattle and Indianapolis. They are working with the addicted and the homeless in Portland, Ore., and with public-school students in New York City.

Though concern about the cost of yoga is an issue (studio classes can cost $20 for a drop-in session, though some offer free or low-cost classes taught by less experienced teachers), most of the practitioners are motived by a desire to introduce yoga to those who might need it most, but wouldn’t think to do it on their own.
Stop-and-go pushup
Assume a pushup position. Brace your core and lower your chest to the floor. When you’re halfway down, pause 2 seconds before continuing. Then, when your chest is 2 inches from the floor, pause again for 2 seconds before pushing halfway back up. Hold for 2 more seconds, then straighten your arms. Do eight reps.


Stop-and-go split squat
Stand with one foot 3 feet forward and hold a barbell across your shoulders. Rise on the ball of your back foot, then bend at the knees. When halfway down, pause for 2 seconds. Pause again when your back knee is just off the floor. Push halfway up, pause again, and return to the starting position. Do six reps with each leg.
The campaign, to be launched in the summer, will form part of a wider strategy including aspects like food labelling, urban design and the promotion of exercise.


Department of Health officials said it will use simple messages -- such as the "five pieces of fruit and veg a day" slogan -- and be based on research into what actually works to make people change from unhealthy lifestyles.

"Tackling obesity is the most significant public and personal health challenge facing our society," said Health Secretary Alan Johnson as he launched the 372 million pound cross-government strategy.
"A didgeri-what?" you ask. While aborigines in Australia have been playing this long wooden trumpet for centuries, it's just recently been redefined as a modern-day medical device. Researchers reporting in the British Medical Journal evaluated 25 people with sleep apnea--a breath-stealing condition caused by flabby throat muscles--and found that those who took 4 months of didgeridoo (DIH-jeh-ree-doo) lessons had about 31/2 times less daytime sleepiness than the folks who didn't blow their own horns. The newly minted musicians also snored significantly less. Credit this uncommon cure to vibrations that exercise tissue in the mouth and throat, says researcher Milo Puhan, Ph.D. "When these muscles are strengthened, the tongue has less tendency to obstruct the airway."


If huffing on a wooden tube to treat your sleep apnea sounds a tad too weird, then you probably aren't familiar with the alternatives. The most commonly prescribed option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which involves spending every night hooked up to a machine that pumps air down your throat to keep it from collapsing. The other approach is surgery, and that's only 30 to 60 percent effective. Now are you ready to toot the didgeridoo? You can pick up a beginner-friendly model for about $80 at L.A. Outback (laoutback.com). And don't worry; it's intuitive to learn, says co-owner Barry Martin. You purse your lips and blow into it with the beat.
  • Diet Blog hardly has a glowing endorsement for “Slim Coffee.” Jim Foster thinks it’s nothing but a big scam:
It must be so tempting for unscrupulous entrepreneurs:


Find an obscure weight loss product from somewhere overseas. Re-brand it. Hype it up. Create an infomercial. Make millions.

This time it's Slim Coffee. The claims are impressive: "Reduce appetite. Clinically tested. Lose 5 pounds per week". All from drinking coffee with a few supplements added (or so they say).

The makers of Slim Coffee have been pursued by the FTC - resulting in a $923,000 settlement.
Previous studies had suggested that people living in polluted areas are more at risk of heart disease. For example, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year showed that women in 36 American cities were more likely to develop heart disease if the air they breathed was rich in particles measuring 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter - known as PM2.5s - which are present in car exhaust fumes.


It now seems that a greater hazard may be posed by so-called "ultrafine" particles, about a dozen times smaller at 0.18 micrometres wide. The latest study in mice has shown that they clog up arteries with fatty atherosclerotic deposits, and chemically alter "good" cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, reducing its beneficial effects.
How does yoga help a professional athlete's game?
Yoga improves balance in the body and works the smaller muscles that normally wouldn't get worked. It also improves range of motion, whether that means swinging a golf club, throwing a baseball or shooting a basketball. It builds stamina through breath control and teaches techniques for relaxing in tense moments. Most important, yoga gives you confidence that your body will do what you want it to do when you need it to.

Old Drugs, Where to Stick Them

When I quit taking my stomach meds I wasn’t sure what to do with them. So, I just dumped them in the trash. Not good. Group Health Cooperative pharmacies have come up with a program for safely disposing of old drugs. Keith Ervin of The Seattle Times reports:
Old drugs left in the medicine cabinet are too often used by mistake or by someone seeking a high. If thrown in the garbage or flushed down the toilet, they can give an unintended dose to fish and other wildlife.


That's beginning to change here, thanks to the nation's largest program for returning unused drugs.

Group Health Cooperative pharmacies, in cooperation with government agencies and environmental groups, are accepting unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs, then sending them away to be incinerated. By the end of last month, shortly after the program was expanded to 25 Group Health pharmacies in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Thurston and Spokane counties, patients had returned 2 tons of drugs.

It will become even easier to return medications next month when Bartell Drugs puts the first secure drop box in one of its stores and then rolls out the service in more stores. The opening dates for the service and the locations of those stores have not yet been announced.
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Girls and Puberty, Sooner and Sooner

It’s hard to fathom that an eight-year-old girl might be developing sexually, shouldn’t they be playing with toy ponies and think boys are icky—which we are—but apparently more and more young girls are starting puberty early. Dr. Fuhrman talks about it:
Physicians are seeing more and more girls with precocious sexual development, even before today’s average age of twelve, and medical studies confirm that the trend is real and getting worse. How early are our children developing today? At age eight, almost half black girls and 15 percent of white girls start developing breasts or pubic hair. At age nine, those numbers change to 77 percent of black girls and a third of white girls.1
This is an uncomfortable topic—even for a bull the china cabinet like me—but this is a serious matter and one that the medical community might be taking too lightly. Susan Brink of The Los Angeles Times investigates in Girl, You'll be a Woman Sooner Than Expected. Here’s an excerpt:
What's clear is that physical appearance is getting ahead of other aspects of girls' maturity. They might be perceived as far older than they are, even when they're still rummaging through their mothers' closets to clomp around in oversized high heels.


"My daughter started developing breasts maybe around age 8," says Rhonda Sykes of Inglewood. "She was still into her doll phase and dressing up to play." So Sykes began having frank mother-daughter conversations about curves and changing bodies a bit earlier than she expected.

"Whatever they look like, they know nothing," says Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families. "Eight- and 9-year olds are learning to make change for a dollar. These are children who are learning the most fundamental facts in school. Imagine trying to teach that child the fundamentals of sex. They're not even playing Monopoly yet. They're still playing Candyland."

The medical community calls earlier puberty normal, the trend goes hand in hand with the obesity epidemic, and science has not yet pinpointed the reasons. And yet, when girls who are still children in the minds of their parents start developing breasts, many of their mothers remember that it happened later in their own lives -- and wonder why.
Brinks' report sites diet as a potential contributor to the problem of early puberty. She’s smart to do so. According to Dr. Fuhrman the standard American diet—which is responsible for all the obesity—is a major culprit. He explains:
Diet powerfully modulates estrogen levels. One recent study illustrated that eight-to-ten-year-olds, closely followed with dietary intervention for seven years, dramatically lowered their estrogen levels compared to a control group with dietary modification.2 Clearly, changing the diet of our children after the age of eight is not futile.
This graph might make things a little clearer for you. I scanned it—horribly—out of Dr. Fuhrman’s book Disease-Proof Your Child. It compares sex hormone levels in individuals eating a Western diet and those consuming a more vegetable-based Asian diet. Take a look:


The concern with all these sex hormones centers on lifetime cancer risk. Dr. Fuhrman explains why, check it out:
Early puberty is strongly associated with breast cancer, and the occurrence of breast cancer is three times higher in women who started puberty before age twelve.3
Also, studies have revealed the effects of different varieties of foods on puberty and cancer risk. More from Dr. Fuhrman:
Cohort studies, which follow two groups of children over time, have shown that the higher consumption of produce and protein-rich plant foods such as beans and nuts is associated with a later menarche, and the higher consumption of protein-rich animal foods—meat and diary—is associated with an earlier menarche and increased occurrence of adult breast cancer.4
As far as DiseaseProof goes, this is a common conclusion. The advantages of a vegetable-based nutritarian diet are profound. Dr. Fuhrman is stresses this in his new Food Scoring Guide. Here’s a quote:
Increasing your consumption of high-nutrient fruits and vegetables is the key to disease resistance, disease reversal, and a long, healthy life. The potential reduction in disease rates shows no threshold effect in the scientific studies. That means that as high-nutrient vegetables and high-nutrient fruits increase as a major portion of caloric intake, disease rates fall in a dose-dependent manner—the more the diet is comprised of these foods, the better your health will be.5
Granted, the problem is serious and apparently growing, but the good news is there is a solution, maybe the real problem is getting everyone on board.
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Fresh Popped Lung Disease

In early September ParentDish blogged about the growing concern over the safety of the butter flavoring used in microwave and movie theater popcorn. Here’s a refresher:
A pulmonary specialist at Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center thinks exposure to the fumes from microwave butter popcorn might be the cause of lung disease in one of her patients. She sent a letter to several federal agencies expressing her concerns. "We cannot be sure that this patient's exposure to butter flavored microwave popcorn from daily heavy preparation has caused his lung disease," said Dr. Cecile Rose. "However, we have no other plausible explanation."


Apparently the patient, a unidentified man, consumed "several bags of extra butter flavored microwave popcorn" every day for several years. The ailing patient's condition improved when he stopped making the popcorn.

This may sound far-fetched, but it's not. So-called "popcorn lung" is a real disease that has resulted in lawsuits by workers in food factories who were exposed to diacetyl, a chemical used to create that buttery flavor.
Popcorn lung? Are food-producers REALLY risking the health of their workers and customers for fake butter? The answer is yes. Why else would we have warnings like this? Take a look:


The dangers are real. I searched diacetyl in Wikipedia and here are some of the dangers that came up, for both workers and consumers—scary stuff—check it out:
Workers in several factories that manufacture artificial butter flavoring have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare and serious disease of the lungs. The cases found have been mainly in young, healthy, non-smoking males. There are no known cures for bronchiolitis obliterans except for lung transplantation.


While several authorities have called the disease "Popcorn Worker's Lung," a more accurate term suggested by other doctors may be more appropriate, since the disease can occur in any industry working with diacetyl: diacetyl-induced bronchiolitis obliterans…

…Dr. Cecile Rose, pulmonary specialist at Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center, in a letter, warned federal agencies or regulators that consumers, not just factory workers, are in danger of suffering the fatal popcorn lung disease from buttery flavoring fumes in microwave popcorn. David Michaels of the George Washington University School of Public Health first published Rose's letter on his blog. However, the only sample data known-to-date is the case where a consumer, who ate at least two bags of buttery microwave popcorn daily for 10 years, became diagnosed with the same disease affecting workers exposed to the substance, bronchiolitis obliterans. His lung problems were linked to breathing the vapors; although rare, the reported man's kitchen also had diacetyl levels comparable to those in popcorn plants.
Of course it’s always easier to relate to something when you attach a face to it. Meet Eric Peoples, a victim of Popcorn Lung. Here he is testifying in front of U.S. House Education and Labor Committee Subcommittee on Workforce Protections:


Unfortunatley for Eric, his story will not have a happy ending. According to Wikipedia the long-term prognosis for bronchiolitis obliterans is poor. Read on:
This disease is irreversible and severe cases often require a lung transplant. Evaluation of interventions to prevent bronchiolitis obliterans relies on early detection of abnormal spirometry results or unusual decreases in repeated measurements.
The whole diacetyl-popcorn lung situation spun Dr. Fuhrman into quite a tizzy. He emailed me his thoughts the other day and he didn’t pull a single punch. Have a look:
Diacetyl should be banned since we know it causes this irreversible and potentially deadly disease, but for some reason this poison is still allowed to be used on popcorn. Even breathing the fumes of the fake buttery flavor they put on the popcorn could damage a person's lungs, especially if you work behind the counter and serve it to people. We likely only know the tip of the iceberg about diacetyl poisoning.
When faced with all this information, I can’t imagine anyone coming to the defense of diacetyl. David Michaels of George Washington University certainly isn’t. He drops this great quote in The Washington Post. Enjoy:
"They're finding it there because they're looking there," said David Michaels of the department of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University. Michaels, assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, accuses OSHA of "regulatory paralysis."


"It's not some carcinogen where you get cancer 30 years from now or something. The people are dying right in front of you," Michaels said. "You can't wait until you have all the evidence. You have to regulate it."
No doubt, a lot of experts are up in arms over diacetyl and bronchiolitis obliterans, but, will anything be done about it? The Angry Toxicologist doesn’t think so. Check it out:
Nothing will be done unless it’s regulated strongly, even by good companies and here’s why: Let say Bob’s Flavor Inc. wants to do the right thing and use an alternative flavoring that won’t hurt his workers. Bob knows, however, that this will drive up his prices and he’ll be driven out of the market by someone willing to do the wrong thing for a competitive advantage. Everyone is tied to the lowest cost operation, so the only way to make it safe for Bob to do the right thing is to level the playing field so that everyone has to do the right thing.
Okay, here’s my question. Is microwave and movie theater popcorn THAT precious? Stop eating it all together, and then, you’ll send one HELL of a message to rogue food producers and fat-cat cost-cutting businessmen—don’t you think!

PCRM Bashes Grilled Chicken

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) wants people to know, that grilled chicken sandwich you’re eating, is full of dangerous carcinogens. More from Reuters reporter Gina Keating:
If it seems consumers have nowhere to turn in choosing a healthy chicken entree, that's exactly the point, said Dan Kinburn, attorney for the Physicians Committee.


"Every day when a parent ... cooks chicken at home for their children they are trying to be health conscious," Kinburn said. "We think if people knew there were carcinogens in grilled chicken they would not choose it as a healthy alternative…"

…The chemical PhIP, which forms when meat -- and especially chicken -- is cooked at high temperatures, is on that list.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, would require the restaurants named as defendants to place "clear and reasonable warnings" about the carcinogen PhIP and would fine them $2,500 a day for each infraction.
Hey, people do have the right to choose, but they should be given ALL the facts. Actually, grilled chicken is loaded with bad news. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are even more concentrated in grilled chicken than in beef.1 Another recent study from New Zealand that investigated heterocyclic amines in meat, fish, and chicken found the greatest contributor of HCAs to cancer risk was chicken.2
I remember when I used to eat grilled chicken and pasta, and, I had the stones to think I was doing my health a favor—EEK!
Continue Reading...

Aetiology on Antibiotic Resistance

Over at Aetiology, Tara C. Smith shares her opinions on a recent study about antibiotic resistance. Here’s a bit:
The current paradigm for antibiotic use is to prescribe relatively high doses of drugs for a few days to a few weeks (or months, in the case of tuberculosis), and patients are cautioned to stay on them until all the doses are finished. However, the new study RPM describes suggests this may be doing more harm than good, looking at what happens with Plasmodium species treated with antimalarials in a mouse model…


…This study doesn't take those into account, which is a limitation--but then again, it seems designed to be more of a paper to get fellow scientists thinking about these ideas in general, rather than an exhaustive test of every potential hypothesis stemming from them.

Either way, antibiotic resistance is certainly a huge problem, and we need to find better ways to preserve the drugs we do have. Reducing their use in this manner (lower and shorter doses) is certainly worth a second look.
For more on the antibiotic issue, check out this post: Antibiotics, Sinus Infections, Placebos, Oh My!

HealthDay News: The Imported Food Alarm, part 2

If you didn’t see it yesterday, HealthDay News has kicked off a three part series on food safety. Here’s the second installment, its about imported foods. E.J.Mundell reports:
According to a FDA report released in 2003, pesticide violations were cited in 6.1 percent of imported foods sampled versus 2.4 percent of domestic products. And a report issued by the agency a few years earlier found traces of salmonella or the dysentery-linked bacteria shigella in 4 percent of imported fruits and vegetables versus 1.1 percent of domestic produce.


And there's more imported food in the nation's supermarkets than ever before. According to the CDC, food imports to the United States have almost doubled in the past decade, from $36 billion in 1997 to more than $70 billion in 2007.

Trouble is, inspections by the FDA -- either at the source of production or at the borders -- can't keep up. The agency is responsible for inspecting all imported foods with the exception of meat and egg products, which are covered by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Overall, "there's been an 81 percent drop [in FDA inspections] since 1972," noted Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, in Griffin. "That's a huge reduction, and, at the same time, compared to 1972, we have a huge amount more of food imports."

In fact, the FDA's own data show that the number of inspectors at its Office of Regulatory Affairs dropped from 1,642 in 2003 to 1,389 in 2005 -- even as food imports rose from 9.3 million shipments per year to more than 13.8 million shipments annually.

The reason for the shortfall is simple, Doyle said: "Reduced budgets."
Oh! And here is the first part: U.S. Food Problems, part 1. Kudos to HealthDay News!

Zetia...Failed

No surprise here. A recent clinical trial has determined that the cholesterol drug Zetia failed to show any medical benefits. Alex Berenson of The New York Times reports:
The results will add to the growing concern over Zetia and Vytorin, a drug that combines Zetia with another cholesterol medicine in a single pill. About 70 percent of patients who take Zetia do so in the form of Vytorin, which combines Zetia with the cholesterol drug Zocor.


While Zetia lowers cholesterol by 15 to 20 percent in most patients, no trial has ever shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes — or even that it reduces the growth of the fatty plaques in arteries that can cause heart problems.

This trial was designed to show that Zetia could reduce the growth of those plaques. Instead, the plaques actually grew somewhat faster in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone. Patients in the trial who took the combination of Zetia and Zocor were receiving it in the form of Vytorin pills.

Dr. Steven Nissen, the chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said the results were “shocking.” Patients should not be prescribed Zetia unless all other cholesterol drugs have failed, he said.
You guessed it! Dr. Fuhrman is no fan of taking needless magic pills. Here he talks about something all physicians should remember. Take a look:
In the first pharmacology lecture that I head in medical school, the physician impressed on us that all drugs are toxic and we should never forget this. We were taught that medications work because of their pharmacologic properties—properties that enable the substance to interfere with, block, or stimulate an activity of the body. Drugs typically modify the way the body expresses the signs and symptoms of disease, but in chronic disease states, they do not undo the damage or remove the disease.
I’m curious. How do drug-makers market around this debacle? That’s the real magic!

Alzheimer's: Lead Can Make You Coo-Coo

New research has determined that lead’s toxic effects may up the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Andy Coghlan of the NewScientist is on it:
Monkeys exposed to the heavy metal during infancy may be predisposed to develop the equivalent of Alzheimer's disease.


"We're not saying that lead exposure causes Alzheimer's disease, but it's a risk factor," says Nasser Zawia of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, whose team discovered the link.

Zawia's team fed baby monkeys infant formula milk laced with low levels of lead, then followed their progress until the age of 23. While the adult monkeys did not show symptoms of Alzheimer's per se, post-mortem analyses of their brains showed that the lead-fed monkeys had plaques and other abnormalities identical to those found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.
Lead’s been in the news a lot lately. Here are some recent posts:

Smoking: U.S. Not Butting Out Enough

Apparently the United States is coming up short in anti-smoking efforts. Maggie Fox of Reuters reports:
The U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush have stymied efforts to tighten regulation of tobacco and discourage smoking and states have not spent nearly enough to battle cigarettes, the American Lung Association said on Thursday.


The group implied that heavy lobbying and spending by tobacco companies was influencing at least some politicians and urged Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate cigarettes.

"While many states have failed to make meaningful progress at protecting their most vulnerable citizens, the tobacco companies are spending billions of dollars annually marketing their deadly products," the report reads.

"A report issued by Common Cause and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund found that the tobacco industry made almost $3 million in Political Action Committee contributions to federal candidates during the 2005-2006 election cycle, including more than $1.7 million in contributions directly to federal candidates," it adds.
Tags:

Antibiotics, Sinus Infections, Placebos, Oh My!

“Hey doc! I got an ear infection and my sinuses hurt. Give me some antibiotics,” said Joe public. Now, the sadly reality is that this isn’t too far from the truth. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Many patients don't think a doctor is doing his job if he doesn't prescribe antibiotics or other medication. If he doesn't prescribe the medication they want, some patients actually will look for another doctor who will.
If I was a doctor, this little scenario would—quite frankly—piss me off, but, since big pharma has made most Americas pill-starved hypochondriacs, what can you except? More from Dr. Fuhrman:
Drug companies are a big part of this problem. They promote the use of their products through widespread advertising and the practice of giving free samples of the more potent, broad-spectrum antibiotics to doctors.


Most doctors perpetuate this problem because they give in to the pressure to prescribe antibiotics. They like to appear that they are offering an important and necessary service by writing prescriptions.
The scary part is, any self-respecting doctor will tell you antibiotics are useful, but, our overuse of antibiotics is making them less and less effective. Here Dr. Fuhrman talks about when antibiotics should be used:
Antibiotics are the appropriate treatment for severe bacterial infections. These infections include cellulitis, Lyme disease, pneumonia, joint infections, cat bites, meningitis, and bronchitis in a long-term smoker. Bronchitis in a non-smoker is just a bad cold. Almost every viral syndrome involves the bronchial tree and sinuses. The presence of yellow, brown, or green mucus does not indicate the need for an antibiotic.
So, with all this being said. What about sinus infections? Should physicians treat sinus infections with antibiotics? This blurb from Dr. Fuhrman will clear things up—no pun intended—take a look:
Sinusitis is not an appropriate diagnosis for the routine use of an antibiotic. Antibiotics should be reserved for the more serious sinus infections that show evidence of persistent symptoms lasting more than a week, such as continual fever and headache that accompanies facial pain and facial tenderness.
And let’s not forget, recent research already has determined that prescribing antibiotics is not always a good idea when treating sinus infections. The Associated Press reported:
The researchers say the findings are troubling because overuse of antibiotics is leading to more virulent and even drug-resistent bacteria. Their concerns echo those of doctors who've studied the effectiveness of antibiotics on ear infections.


"We don't want to be using up our antibiotics on these people," said Dr. Don Leopold, chair of the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Department of Otolaryngology who worked on the sinus study.

The study, which appears in the March issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology, looked at two national surveys of patient data from 1999 to 2002. They showed 14.28 million doctor visits were for diagnosed chronic rhinosinusitis and another 3.12 million for acute rhinosinusitis.
Let’s explore this more deeply. Remember this report from HealthDay News? Apparently many pneumonia patients receive antibiotics when they don’t really need them. Take a look:
The study, conducted in 2005, followed a group of 152 emergency room patients who met eligibility criteria for receiving antibiotics. Of this group, 65.1 percent received antibiotics within four hours of arriving at the hospital. The remaining 34.9 percent were identified as "outliers," and more than half (58.5 percent) of the outliers did not have a final diagnosis of pneumonia. And 43 percent of the outliers had an abnormal chest X-ray, compared with 95 percent of those who received antibiotics…


…"It was not possible in many of the cases to actually have given them antibiotics because a lot of them didn't actually have pneumonia or got a diagnosis later," said Dr. Jesse Pines, author of an accompany editorial in the journal, and an attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He supports the study findings.
Okay, but back to sinus infections. Anahad O’Connor of The New York Times conducts a brief and blunt mini-investigation of the claim that antibiotics will beat a sinus infection. Here’s a bit:
For years, doctors have prescribed what seemed like simple cures: a prescription for an antibiotic like amoxicillin or a steroid nasal spray. They may be the standard medications, but perhaps they are not as effective as once thought. Several studies have examined their effects and found that they are no better at shortening a sinus infection than no medication at all.


The latest study, published in December in The Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at 240 cases. The subjects were assigned to four groups for different treatments: a full amoxicillin course for a week along with 400 units of steroid spray for 10 days, just the spray, just the amoxicillin or just a placebo. The treatments were no better than placebo, a finding shown in studies of children. The reason is not entirely clear, but researchers suspect that antibiotics may not be very good at reaching the sinuses. Experts recommend other approaches like taking ibuprofen, inhaling steam or using salt water to flush the nasal cavity.
Makes sense to me, but in our quick-fix culture, I doubt it’ll catch on. Maybe if people were more in tune with the consequences of taking unnecessary antibiotics, they’d be more cautious. Dr. Fuhrman talks about it in Disease-Proof Your Child:
In every single person who takes an antibiotic, the drug kills a broad assortment of helpful bacteria that live in the digestive tract and aid digestion. It kills the “bad” bacteria, such as those that can complicate and infection, but it also kills these helpful “good” bacteria lining your digestive tract that have properties that protect from future illness.
This topic comes up a lot and people always seem concerned, but, like anything else, we probably won’t do anything about it until pandemonium is at our doorstep.

Health Points: Wednesday

To get an extra 14 years of life, don't smoke, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and drink alcohol in moderation.

That's the finding of a study that tracked about 20,000 people in the United Kingdom.

Kay-Tee Khaw of the University of Cambridge and colleagues calculated that people who adopted these four healthy habits lived an average of 14 years longer than those who didn't.

"We've known for a long time that these behaviors are good things to do, but we've never seen these additive benefits before," said Susan Jebb, head of Nutrition and Health at Britain's Medical Research Council, which helped pay for the study.
Those Type A go-getters aren't the only ones stressing their hearts. Nervous Nelsons seem to be, too. Researchers reported Monday that chronic anxiety can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack, at least in men. The findings add another trait to a growing list of psychological profiles linked to heart disease, including anger or hostility, Type A behavior, and depression.


"There's a connection between the heart and head," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg of the New York University School of Medicine, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association who wasn't involved in the study.

"This is very important research because we really are focused very much on prescribing medicine for cholesterol and lowering blood pressure and treating diabetes, but we don't look at the psychological aspect of a patient's care," she added. Doctors "need to be aggressive about not only taking care of the traditional risk factors ... but also really getting into their patients' heads."
Low levels of vitamin D, a chronic problem for many people in northern latitudes areas such as Wisconsin and Washington, were associated with substantially higher rates of heart disease and stroke, according to a new study.
In one of the strongest studies to date linking the vitamin to cardiovascular disease, researchers followed 1,739 members of the Framingham Offspring Study for more than five years.


They found the rate of cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks, strokes and heart failure were from 53 percent to 80 percent higher in people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood.

"This is a stunning study," said John Whitcomb, medical director of the Aurora Sinai Wellness Institute in Milwaukee. He was not involved in the study.
Young people who start smoking may be influenced to do so by movies they saw in early childhood, new research suggests.


What's more, the study found that almost 80 percent of the exposure to smoking scenes in movies came through films rated "G," "PG" and "PG-13."

"Movies seen at the youngest ages had as much influence over later smoking behavior as the movies that children had seen recently," said study author Linda Titus-Ernstoff, a pediatrics professor at Dartmouth Medical School.

"And I'm increasingly convinced that this association between movie-smoking exposure and smoking initiation is real," she added. "That's to say, causal. It is quite improbable that the association we see is due to some other influence, some other characteristic inherent in children or parental behavior. The relationship is clearly between movie-smoking and smoking initiation."
France, Japan and Australia rated best and the United States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations, researchers said on Tuesday.


If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United States per year, according to researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs.

Researchers Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tracked deaths that they deemed could have been prevented by access to timely and effective health care, and ranked nations on how they did.

They called such deaths an important way to gauge the performance of a country's health care system.
China defended its fish farming industry on Tuesday and said it was making progress in curbing use of illegal additives, from pesticides to banned steroids, as the country's food safety record remains in the spotlight.


China has suffered a rash of scares over the safety of its food and manufactured products in the last year which highlighted shoddy oversight and prompted a wave of new regulations and clean-up campaigns from the central government.

Vice Minister of Agriculture Gao Hongbin said the country had made encouraging progress.
Those who perceived they had low subjective social status had a 69% increased odds of having a 2-unit increase in BMI (this is around 11 pound weight increase).


The results were adjusted for a large number of factors including age, race/ethnicity, baseline BMI, diet, television viewing, depression, global and social self-esteem, menarche, height growth, mother's BMI, and pretax household income.

The study highlights yet another piece in the very complex obesity puzzle.
A 2004 study in the journal Science raised concern among fish lovers with news that farm-raised salmon, the type found at most supermarkets, contained higher levels of cancer-causing pcbs than wild salmon. (Banned in the 1970s, PCBs still contaminate the environment. They are released by incinerators and toxic waste sites.) But two more recent studies, one on farm-raised salmon and the other on wild, found that both harbor similar levels of this pollutant. The first study, done with Chilean- and Canadian-farmed salmon, found an average of 11.5 parts per billion PCBs. The second, conducted by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, sampled 600 wild salmon from the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, and found 8.2 to 10 parts per billion PCBs. It's important to realize that the amount of PCBs being talked about is very small, says Cornell University seafood specialist Ken Gall, who has studied fish safety issues for 22 years. "High doses of PCBs, like the kind of contamination that occurs with an industrial accident, can be dangerous," Gall says. "But it's uncertain whether the tiny amounts of PCBs found in many foods such as fish, meat, or milk can cause cancer."

Traffic Bad for Babies

Traffic might be the single most annoying thing in the world—next to telemarketers of course—but the fumes from traffic are especially bad for babies’ brains. The NewScientist reports:
When Shakira Franco Suglia at Harvard University and her colleagues studied 200 children in nearby Boston they found that scores on verbal reasoning, visual learning and other tests were lower in those exposed to more traffic fumes. The IQ of children from areas of the city with above-average pollution levels was 3 points below those in cleaner areas, even after controlling for socio-economic factors (American Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwm308).


That puts the impact of soot on a par with lead and other toxic substances that damage brain development, says Franco Suglia.
That’s it, I’m buying a rickshaw!

A Smoke Might Make You Choke

Okay guys, this might be the best reason of all to quit smoking. New research has determined that men who smoke are prone to impotence. Serena Gordon of HealthDay News is on it:
In fact, emerging research shows that men with a pack-a-day habit are almost 40 percent more likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction than men who don't smoke.


"Smoking delivers nicotine and other vasoconstrictors that close down the blood vessels" of the penis, explained Dr. Jack Mydlo, chairman of urology at Temple University School of Medicine and Hospital in Philadelphia.

Erectile dysfunction -- also called "ED" or impotence -- is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection on repeated occasions. It's estimated that about two of every 100 American men have erectile dysfunction serious enough to warrant a doctor's visit, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders. As men age, the risk of erectile dysfunction increases.

A recent study of more than 8,000 Australian men between the ages of 16 and 59 found that those who smoked less than a pack a day had a 24 percent increased risk of erectile problems. And, as the number of cigarettes smoked went up, so, too, did the chances of erectile dysfunction. Those men who averaged more than 20 cigarettes a day increased their risk of erectile dysfunction by 39 percent, reported the study, published in the journal Tobacco Control.
Eek! And smoking isn’t the only thing that’ll knock you out of whack. Thank your mom for not eating beef while she was pregnant with you. From Beef Bad for the Boys:
"In sons of 'high beef consumers' (more than seven beef meals a week), sperm concentration was 24.3 percent lower," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Human Reproduction.


The team at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York studied data on the partners of 387 pregnant women in five U.S. cities between 2000 and 2005, and on the mothers of the fathers-to-be.

Of the 51 men whose mothers remembered eating the most beef, 18 percent had sperm counts classified by the World Health Organization as sub-fertile.
Okay, I need to watch some football—STAT!