Disease Proof

Health Points: Monday

The nine-member Atlantic City Council voted unanimously yesterday to approve a controversial measure that would prohibit smoking on all casino floors for the first time in the seaside resort's 30-year history of gambling.

The ordinance, which would allow smoking only in specially built nongaming lounges inside casinos, must go before the council again for a second reading April 23. But Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans - who must sign it into law - has publicly stated his support of a total ban and of restricting smoking to the lounges, virtually assuring its final passage.
A form of substance abuse rampant in this country is rarely discussed publicly or privately. It involves abusing legally sold dietary supplements — vitamins, minerals, herbals and homeopathic remedies — all of which can be sold over the counter without prior approval for safety and effectiveness.


Although there was much publicity about the hazards of ephedra, once widely used as a weight-loss aid until it was found to be deadly, many other heralded dietary supplements have the potential for harm, especially when taken in large doses or in various combinations with one another or with medically prescribed prescription drugs.
Now, under the threat of regulation from Congress, the two industries promise to be more forthcoming about their spending. A dozen of the nation's leading drug and device makers have told Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that they have plans or are working on plans to publicly disclose grants to outside groups. The details will be provided on each company's Web sites.


Watchdog groups say the companies are trying to head off legislation that would require public disclosure of their giving.
I know that the whole heart-rate monitoring issue is contentious. Many athletes strap on those slender black bands around the chests. Then they try to keep their rate at some percentage of their maximum, 70 percent, say, or 80 percent, depending on their goals for the workout.


For some activities, like using an elliptical cross-trainer or riding most Spinning bikes at the gym, it can be difficult to gauge your effort without a heart-rate monitor. You can’t figure out speed or distance the way you can if you are swimming in a pool or running or cycling outside. Maybe it’s all that sweating, but it always feels as if you’re working hard even when your heart rate tells you that you could do a lot more.

But experts disagree on whether heart-rate monitoring makes sense.
In the current study, Dr. Mon-Jia Tan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai and colleagues isolated and described several compounds from bitter melon known as cucurbitane triterpenoids, and tested their effects on glucose (sugar) and fat metabolism in cells and in mice.


When tested in muscle and fat cells, the researchers found, the compounds stimulated the glucose receptor GLUT4 to move from the cell interior to the cell surface, thus promoting more effective glucose metabolism. Several of the tested compounds had effects comparable to those of insulin.
Americans didn't suffer more food poisoning last year despite high-profile outbreaks involving peanut butter, pot pies and other foods.


But it's not getting better, either. Although there have been significant declines in certain food-borne illnesses since the late 1990s, all the improvements occurred before 2004, federal health officials said in a report released Thursday.

A food safety advocacy group called the report discouraging.
A top government health official said Wednesday that climate change is expected to have a significant impact on health in the next few decades, with certain regions of the country - and the elderly and children - most vulnerable to increased health problems.


Howard Frumkin, a senior official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gave a detailed summary on the likely health impacts of global warming at a congressional hearing. But he refrained from giving an opinion on whether carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, should be regulated as a danger to public health.
University of Michigan researchers have found that tiny little tart cherries can have a big impact on heart health and on diabetes. During the study researchers fed some rats a diet that included tart cherries; a control group of rats ate a diet that was equivalent in carbohydrates and calories but contained no cherries. At the end of the study, the rats who ate cherries had improvements in weight, fat percentage, cholesterol, and inflammation. A reduction in these risk factors is good news for heart health and diabetes.
"The only explanation may be that they are standing more upright, not so much crouching," study chief Dr. Jinsup Song of Temple University told Reuters Health. Song presented the findings April 4 at the Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society's Annual Meeting.

While past studies have investigated yoga for helping improve balance in elderly women, Song noted, they have typically used a relatively demanding form of the practice. In the current study, he and his colleague Marian Garfinkel, a certified yoga instructor, worked with B.K.S. Iyengar, the originator of Iyengar Yoga, to develop a program specifically designed for older people. "The poses were very basic -- how to stand upward, how to bend forward, sideways," said Song, who admitted he found some of the poses challenging himself.
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