Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Support for End-of-Life caregivers

December 15, 2008, 10:30 am

What an End-of-Life Adviser Could Have Told Me

Jane Gross’s mother, Estelle Gross, at a nursing home in Riverdale, N.Y., in 2002.

If only I’d had the 800 number for Compassion & Choices in the last difficult months of my mother’s life. She was paralyzed, incontinent and unable to speak. I watched the light leave her eyes and her body crumple like a rag doll’s, and I knew that one day soon she would say, “Enough.”

During this period, my mother and I talked and talked and talked about her end-of-life choices, as we had for many years. A decade earlier the conversation had seemed totally academic, even a bit weird. But now we were both grateful that this was familiar territory. At regular family meetings at the nursing home where she lived, the social workers, nurses and doctors joined what had been our private dialog. Our willingness to look my mother’s certain death squarely in the eye, they said, was both unusual in families and beneficial to her quality of life.

Despite my mother’s helplessness and misery those last months, she wasn’t dying of anything. She had a garden-variety set of ailments for an 87-year-old woman: high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, an inner-ear disturbance. A series of imperceptible strokes, known as T.I.A.’s, had left her body useless. But they didn’t necessarily portend a deadly event. She’d dodged the bullets of cancer, serious heart or pulmonary disease, and dementia. It is not uncommon, having lived past 85, to keep on living for a very long time — “healthy” in the narrow sense of the word, but increasingly incapacitated. That, alas, was my mother’s fate.

She often longed for the oblivion of Alzheimer’s disease. But her sharp mind — she never skipped a beat — entitled her to organize her own death, within legal limits, which she did by deciding to stop food and hydration. We had discussed and researched this option, and we had read enough to be reasonably confident this manner of dying was not a frightful ordeal but rather a gentle death. We trusted that an enlightened nursing home like the one she was in wouldn’t force her to eat and drink. They had readily accepted earlier decisions to forgo diagnostic tests or hospitalizations, and later antibiotics for pneumonia.

Our study of what is known as V.S.E.D., or “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking,” was impressive for amateurs, if I do say so myself. My mother had a pretty good death, on her own terms, and we had the nursing home’s full support. I’m proud and grateful to have been able to advocate for her and to have been by her side. That said, there were several rough patches. And after recently meeting Judy Schwarz, the patient support coordinator for Compassion & Choices in New York, I now can see we’d have had an easier time of it had she been along for the ride.

What follows are a few of the bumps in the road that I bet would have been smoothed with her expert guidance.

* Medical professionals can only guess how long it takes to die of dehydration. (Merely refusing food is a bad idea, as many people who have gone on long hunger strikes can surely attest.) My mother’s nurses and doctors said she’d likely last four, five, six days — a week at most. With that in mind, I settled into a recliner in her room with books, music, snacks and a few changes of clothes, and I intended to stay by her side, as promised, for the duration.

In fact, she lived for 13 days, alert and communicative for about a week and manifesting none of the signs of impending death until the last 36 to 48 hours. Why the discrepancy? People in my mother’s robust condition rarely make this choice. It is typically how people die in the end stages of cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, following a progressive loss of interest or ability to eat and drink — not an abrupt dinner-yesterday-but-no-breakfast-today-thank-you-very-much announcement. I don’t know if my mother experienced time as I did, but to me it felt interminable. To my shame, I did a lot of clock-watching. Eventually I went home at night, leaving behind a private-duty aide.

I doubt I’d have twitched with impatience, just wanting for it to be over, had I known that the average dying time is two to three weeks, as the scientific literature says. Judy Schwarz would have told me that. I think the days would have been more peaceful and contemplative had I not been surprised by how long it took.

* Several of my mother’s caregivers, both nurses and aides, had moral or religious reservations about her decision. To their credit, they didn’t just switch to the other side of the floor. They came to me, in tears, to say this was something their consciences would not permit. They visited her several times a day, but delegated the hands-on responsibilities to others. At the time, I admired their honesty and felt their hurt and love, but I wondered if this behavior was appropriate. Shouldn’t they be able to leave their personal convictions at home?

The answer, I now know, is that they followed the canons of their profession perfectly: no health professional is required to participate if that violates a personal belief system. What they are required to do is ensure a smooth hand-off to someone equally qualified.

* During and after my mother’s death, I was often stung by the implied or expressed judgments of friends, colleagues and even strangers after I wrote about the experience. “You let your mother do that?,” I was frequently asked, with the word “let” heavy with opprobrium. My answer, generally, was that it wasn’t up to me. She was mentally competent and entitled to do as she pleased. My job as her daughter was to be supportive. Left unsaid, once I’d experienced the first episodes of shock and disapproval, was that I totally agreed with her. Expecting the reaction of others would have helped.

* Once my mother began her fast, the nursing home offered two ways to ensure her comfort. The regular staff could stay in place, keeping her mouth from getting too dry and administering sedatives as needed under the supervision of a palliative care physician. Or a team of hospice professionals, part of what was then a new collaboration with the nursing home, could take their places at the bedside. I opted for the familiar. My mother didn’t warm easily to strangers, and I thought she would need the comfort of people she knew well.

A counselor like Ms. Schwarz would have told me that the regulars might ask to be taken off the case, which might have changed my mind. She also would have told me that a hospice team likely would medicate my mother more aggressively, given their training in cutting-edge comfort care. Even if I’d stuck to my plan and later wished I’d chosen hospice, Ms. Schwarz would have suggested a change of course. It never occurred to me that was possible. I was too tired to think straight.

* I have always assumed that what my mother chose to do herself, I could have insisted upon for her, as her health care proxy. In other words, if she were no longer “decisionally capable,” though not on the brink of death, I could have told the staff to stop spooning food into her mouth or bringing the straw to her lips, and they would have listened to me as her surrogate. Ms. Schwarz would have told me this isn’t so. Other end-of-life experts are less certain but know of no test cases. From that I conclude that V.S.E.D. should be considered a viable option only for cognitively intact men and women. Maybe that’s why it’s called “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.”

To arrange for an end-of-life consultation with Compassion & Choices, with chapters nationwide, call 800-247-7421.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Full Moon Rising, December Sunset

Original Photo by Jan Davies, All Rights Reserved. 2008

Prostate Cancer & vitamin study, flawed?

Life Extension responds to misleading Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article

A problem facing researchers today is that by the time human clinical trials are designed, funded, and conducted over multi-year periods, the primary reason for doing the study often turns out to be obsolete.

Based on a number of favorable reports, the U.S. Government decided to spend over $114 million dollars to see if alpha-tocopherol and/or selenium supplements prevent prostate cancer. Data collected after five years found no reduction in prostate cancer incidence in men taking these supplements.

We have known for over ten years that when alpha-tocopherol is taken by itself, it displaces critically important gamma-tocopherol in our cells. An abundance of evidence points to the gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E as the most protective against prostate cancer.

By supplementing aging men with only alpha-tocopherol, scientists may have unwittingly increased these men’s prostate cancer risk by depriving prostate cells of critical gamma-tocopherol. This is only a tiny part of the real story behind this terribly flawed study.

The American Medical Association is now using this study to discredit vitamin E and selenium supplements. An AMA editorial concludes by advising:

“…. physicians should not recommend selenium or vitamin E — or any other antioxidant supplements — to their patients for preventing prostate cancer.”

What follows are some succinct facts to rebut the AMA’s misleading assertions, along with links to more detailed discussions about what aging men need to do to reduce prostate cancer risk.

Alpha-Tocopherol, Selenium and Prostate Cancer … An Overview

A JAMA study released December 9, 2008, suggests that nutritional intervention (selenium and synthetic vitamin E) does not reduce prostate cancer risk (the SELECT study): http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/2008.864

In January, 2008, as part of our article Merv Griffin’s Tragic Death from Prostate Cancer,” Life Extension predicted that the SELECT trial would fail. We also knew that this flawed trial would be misused by the mainstream medical establishment to “prove” to the lay public that low-cost nutrients like vitamin E and selenium do not reduce prostate cancer risk, and by extrapolation, to impugn other low-cost, efficacious nutrients like vitamin D, fish oil, and soy as having no benefit.

In fact, Life Extension’s members were made aware of a fundamental fact 8 years ago that all but guaranteed trial failure of this most recent attack against dietary supplements.

In the current JAMA trial, men supplemented with synthetic alpha-tocopherol experienced significant gamma-tocopherol depletion. Men supplemented with alpha-tocopherol and alpha-tocopherol plus selenium experienced a 45%–48% depletion in gamma-tocopherol levels by 6 months that was sustained during the course of this 5-year trial.

In March 2001, in an article titled Avoiding Prostate Cancer,Life Extension identified the phenomenon of gamma-tocopherol depletion associated with excess alpha-tocopherol. Furthermore, Life Extension identified the critical importance of gamma- tocopherol supplementation in dramatically lowering the risk of developing prostate cancer — in fact, a study of 10,456 men showed that men who had the highest blood levels of gamma-tocopherol were five times less likely to get prostate cancer.

In addition, Life Extension reported in the landmark article “ Eating Your Way to Prostate Cancer,” published February 2007, about the importance of controlling dietary intake of arachidonic acid and the grave consequences of failing to mitigate up-regulation of the 5-LOX enzyme by poor dietary choices.

To review a draft review of what aging men really need to do to protect against prostate cancer, click here.

To review an in-depth draft of a highly technical rebuttal to this most recent attack against dietary supplements by the American Medical Association, click here.

For longer life,

William Faloon

Copyright © 1995-2008 Life Extension Foundation®. All Rights Reserved.

Study: Analgesic Effects of Meditation

Pain Sensitivity and Analgesic Effects of Mindful States in Zen Meditators: A Cross-Sectional Study
Joshua A. Grant , BSc Pierre Rainville , PhD

Objective: To investigate pain perception and the potential analgesic effects of mindful states in experienced Zen meditators.

While attending "mindfully," meditators reported decreases in pain intensity whereas control subjects showed no change from baseline. The concentration condition resulted in increased pain intensity for controls but not for meditators. Changes in pain unpleasantness generally paralleled those found in pain intensity. In meditators, pain modulation correlated with slowing of the respiratory rate and with greater meditation experience. Covariance analyses indicated that mindfulness-related changes could be partially explained by changes in respiratory rates.

Finally, the meditators reported higher tendencies to observe and be nonreactive of their own experience as measured on the Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire; these factors correlated with individual differences in respiration.

Conclusions: These results indicated that Zen meditators have lower pain sensitivity and experience analgesic effects during mindful states. Results may reflect cognitive/self-regulatory skills related to the concept of mindfulness and/or altered respiratory patterns. Prospective studies investigating the effects of meditative training and respiration on pain regulation are warranted.

Venus and Jupiter

Original photo by Jan Davies, All Rights Reserved. 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fibromyalgia a ‘Real Disease,’ Study Shows

Researchers Say People With Fibromyalgia Have Abnormalities of Blood Flow in the Brain
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 3, 2008 -- A new brain scan study concludes that fibromyalgia is related to abnormalities of blood flow in the brain.

"Fibromyalgia may be related to a global dysfunction of cerebral pain-processing," study author Eric Guedj, MD, of Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire de la Timone, in Marseille, France, says in a news release. "This study demonstrates that these patients exhibit modifications of brain perfusion not found in healthy subjects and reinforces the idea that fibromyalgia is a 'real disease/disorder.'"

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain and fatigue. It affects 2%-4% of people, mostly women. It has been called the "invisible syndrome" because it can't be diagnosed based on a lab test or X-ray.

For this study, researchers took brain scans on 20 women with fibromyalgia and 10 women without the condition. Participants also answered questions to assess measures of pain, disability, anxiety, and depression.

The brain imaging technique, called single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), is able to detect functional abnormalities in the brain.

Past imaging studies of patients with fibromyalgia had shown abnormalities in cerebral blood flow, also called brain perfusion. In some areas of the brain, blood flow was below normal, and in some areas, it was above normal. In this study, by using whole-brain scans on the participants, researchers were able to analyze how perfusion in each area of the brain related to measures of pain, disability, anxiety, and depression.

Researchers confirmed that patients with fibromyalgia exhibited brain perfusion abnormalities in comparison to the healthy participants. These abnormalities corresponded with the severity of the disease. An increase in blood flow was found in areas of the brain involved in sensing pain and a decrease was found within an area thought to be involved in emotional responses to pain.

There seemed to be no relationship between these abnormalities and presence of depression or anxiety. "We found that these functional abnormalities were independent of anxiety and depression status," Guedj says in a news release.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CPR, to a Disco Beat

The New York Times

October 28, 2008
Vital Signs

PREVENTION: Chest Compressions, to a Disco Beat


Well, you can tell by the way he pounds your chest, he’s an E.R. man, and his tempo is best.

That’s right — “Stayin’ Alive,” the song some people might pay to get out of their head, may be just what their heart needs if it suddenly stops.

Researchers say the Bee Gees song, from the 1977 hit movie “Saturday Night Fever,” offers almost the perfect pace for performing chest compressions on people who have had heart attacks. Emergency workers doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation are advised to press down on the chest 100 times a minute. “Stayin’ Alive” has 103 beats a minute.

The findings were presented at a recent conference of the American College of Emergency Physicians by Dr. David Matlock of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.

This is not to say that people would actually be forced to listen to the song.

“We’re not advocating turning on the song in the middle of a resuscitation,” Dr. Matlock said. “If it helps people to sing it out loud, I guess that’s O.K.”

For several years, Dr. Matlock said, emergency workers have been told that compressions done to the tempo of the song are more likely to conform to the recommendations of the American Heart Association. Doing it right can triple the survival rate, the researchers said. But no one had proved that the song actually helped.

For the study, researchers had 10 doctors and 5 medical students practice compressions while listening to the music. When they were retested five weeks later without the song, they did the compressions at an average rate of 113 a minute, within the acceptable range.

“Stayin’ Alive,” by the way, is not the only song found to be helpful. “Another One Bites the Dust,” by Queen, may also work.

“Obviously,” Dr. Matlock said, “ ‘Stayin’ Alive’s a little more appropriate for the situation.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More studies on high fructose corn syrup

Just this month, researchers from Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago took a look at the link between kidney disease and high-fructose corn syrup. Using data from nearly 9,400 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2004, they tracked consumption of sugary soft drinks, a major source of high-fructose corn syrup in the United States, and protein in the urine, a sensitive marker for kidney disease. They found that overall, people who drank two or more sugary sodas a day were at 40 percent higher risk for kidney damage, while the risk for women soda drinkers nearly doubled.

In June, the Journal of Hepatology suggested a link between consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in sodas and fatty liver disease.

And this summer, a small study published in The Journal of Nutrition suggested that fructose may make people fatter by bypassing the body’s regulation of sugars, which means it gets more quickly converted to fat than do other sugars.

As writer Michael Pollan told The Washington Post earlier this year, high-fructose corn syrup “may be cheap in the supermarket, but in the environment it could not be more expensive.”

Most corn is grown as a monoculture, meaning that the land is used solely for corn, not rotated among crops. This maximizes yields, but at a price: It depletes soil nutrients, requiring more pesticides and fertilizer while weakening topsoil.

“The environmental footprint of high-fructose corn syrup is deep and wide,” writes Pollan, a prominent critic of industrial agriculture. “Look no farther than the dead zone in the Gulf [of Mexico], an area the size of New Jersey where virtually nothing will live because it has been starved of oxygen by the fertilizer runoff coming down the Mississippi from the Corn Belt. Then there is the atrazine in the water in farm country — a nasty herbicide that, at concentrations as little as 0.1 part per billion, has been shown to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites.”

Excerpts from: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/still-spooked-by-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

Quinoa: A Protein-Packed Alternative to Grains

The New York Times

November 3, 2008
Recipes for Health

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a relative newcomer to the American pantry. The tiny, ancient Peruvian seed, which has a mild, nutty flavor, is related to leafy green vegetables and is often used like a grain. Quinoa is as versatile as rice but it has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. In particular, quinoa is high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and it has a high iron content.

Quinoa is very easy to cook. It’s important to rinse the seeds well, because they are naturally coated with a bitter substance that protects them against birds and other predators. Most packaged quinoa has already been cleaned, but it doesn’t hurt to soak and rinse it just in case. Quinoa cooks in 15 minutes, and it’s easy to tell when it’s done because the seeds display a little white thread that curls around them.

Basic Steamed Quinoa

Many recipes for quinoa suggest cooking it like rice, in two parts water for one part quinoa. This works, but I find the grains are fluffier if I cook them in three parts water and drain the excess water once the quinoa is tender. The tiny seeds swell to about four times their original size, so 1 cup uncooked quinoa yields about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 servings.

1 cup quinoa

3 cups water, chicken stock or vegetable stock

1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)

1. Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit 5 minutes. Drain through a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear.

2. Bring the water or stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and translucent, and each grain displays a little thread. Drain and return to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel, replace the lid and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Yield: about 4 cups, serving 6 to 8

Advance preparation: Cooked quinoa will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in a microwave or in the oven.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Simple bandaging can remove skin tags, wow!

This column is posted on the People's Pharmacy website. They have an informative weekly radio show on National Public Radio stations.

"I have noticed quite a few skin tags appearing on my body. I have had one or two of the larger flaps cut off by my doctor.
I was fascinated to read in your column that a reader had success getting rid of skin tags by putting special BandAids on them. I tried this but could never get a bandage to stay on long enough.

I was about to give up when I ran across some liquid bandage in my medicine cabinet. I had a large flap growing on my shoulder and put the New Skin Liquid Bandage on it. Within a week the flap fell off. I put it on some smaller skin tags and they shriveled and fell off too. Have you heard of this before or have I discovered an alternate way to get rid of these unsightly skin growths?"

A. Skin tags are benign fleshy growths that commonly appear in skin folds such as under the arms, in the groin area or on the neck. They can also show up on the face. They are common and not dangerous. Dermatologists can remove them surgically or with an electric needle.

A few years ago a reader suggested applying BandAid Clear Spots tightly over skin tags to get rid of them in a week or two.

People's Pharmacy website, click here

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Powerful message to healthcare providers & patients

"Of the patients you see, one-third will not improve no matter what you do, one-third can improve with your help and one-third would improve without you. Your responsibility is to help the middle third improve as much as possible without harming the third that would improve without you."

Quoted from a retiring chairman of a prestigious teaching university hospital, this message was given at grand rounds to the class of incoming cardiology residents. Counseling Today October 2008, p. 50

Though this is a broad generalization, I am caught by the focus on not harming the third of patients who will get better on their own! How does that happen? As a patient, is it the lack of understanding of how the human body is designed to heal itself? Is it the overwhelming Big Pharma media budget convincing us we are sick with a multitude of "syndromes" and need drugs to survive? Are we driven by such fear of illness and death that we are willing to be experimented on? Are healthcare providers so stressed and pressured by bottom-line administrators that they are taking shortcuts to our health, sometimes with tragic results? Or, have we lost contact with our inner voices of healing, to connect with nature, to believe in a power greater than ourselves....?

I could also extrapolate that only one-third of the time will I benefit from healthcare... perhaps the first question a receptionist should ask is, which third are you today? jcd
What do we live for;
if it is not to make life
less difficult for each other?
~ George Eliot

Friday, October 17, 2008

Who Cares for the Caregivers?

October 14, 2008, 9:30 am
By Jane Gross

excerpt quote:
“In policy and in practice, the U.S. long-term care system fails to recognize, respect, assess and address the needs of family caregivers,” wrote Lynn Friss Feinberg, deputy director of the National Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco, one of the symposium participants. “Practitioners must consider not only how the caregiver can help the care recipient, but also how the service provider must help the family. Are family members seen as ‘resources’ to the care recipient, or are they viewed as individuals with needs and rights of their own?”

Ms. Feinberg’s comments are included in a supplement to the September issue of the American Journal of Nursing, which has published the results of that symposium, including 17 essays by conference participants as well as accompanying research. The essays are designed so that professionals can use them to earn continuing education credits, but they are also accessible to the non-professional and a source of information, inspiration and hope for family caregivers who stand to benefit the most from this ambitious project.

The complete supplement is available, chapter by chapter, at this section of the journal’s Web site. http://www.nursingcenter.com/library/static.asp?pageid=809507

Browse the table of contents; cherry-pick what interests you, or read it all. It will be time well spent.

Women’s Heart Symptoms Blamed on Stress

Women’s Heart Symptoms Often Blamed on Stress
Tara Parker-Pope on Health
October 13, 2008, 12:23 pm

Signs of heart disease are more likely to be blamed on stress when the patient is a woman, new research shows.

In two studies, 230 family doctors and internists were shown sample cases of a 47-year-old man and a 56-year-old woman. The ages of the patients reflect an equal risk for heart disease. Half the vignettes included sentences indicating the patient had recently experienced a stressful life event or appeared anxious. The doctors read the case and offered a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

When the case study involved standard heart symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath and irregular heart beat, there was no difference in the doctor’s advice for the man or the woman. However, when stress was included as a symptom, gender differences emerged. The presence of stress changed the way doctors interpreted a woman’s symptoms, prompting them to suggest psychological factors rather than physical causes. But the presence of stress didn’t change the way men were assessed.

When stress was listed as a symptom, only 15 percent of the doctors diagnosed heart disease in women, compared to 56 percent for men. Only 30 percent of the doctors referred the women to a cardiologist, compared to 62 percent for men, and 13 percent suggested medication for women, compared to 47 percent for men.

The findings, presented at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics scientific symposium, could help explain why there is often a delay in the assessment of women with heart disease, said Dr. Alexandra J. Lansky, a cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

MRI's vary by machine & technician

MRI didn't pick up your problem? Better get a 2nd opinion, according to this piece from the New York Times.

The Scan That Didn’t Scan
Published: October 13, 2008 NYTimes.com

This is a story about M.R.I.’s, those amazing scans that can show tissue injury and bone damage, inflammation and fluid accumulation. Except when they can’t and you think they can.

Magnetic resonance machines, though, vary enormously, and not just in the strength of their magnets. Even more important, radiologists say, is the quality of the imaging coils they put around the body part being scanned and the computer programs they use to control the imaging and to analyze the images. And there is a huge variability in skill among the technicians doing the scans.

Dr. Forman said that at the very least, patients should go to radiology centers accredited by the American College of Radiology. But he added that accreditation does not tell you whether your scan will be done with a machine that is several generations removed from the best available today; whether the scanning is programmed to pick up your particular problem; or whether the receiving coil that picks up signals from the magnet is sufficiently sensitive.

Complete article here:

14 things that reduce breast cancer

Fourteen Simple Things You Can Do To Reduce
Your Risk for Breast Cancer

By John Mericle M.D.

Cancer Recovery Foundation

1. Increase your consumption of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.
2. Avoid using any pesticides or chemical sprays in your home. Try to avoid new carpet.
3. Avoid drinking tap water.
4. Decrease alcohol consumption.
5. Start an exercise program.
6. Increase consumption of organic whole grains and fiber.
7. Decrease meat, poultry and fish consumption.
8. Stop smoking.
9. Increase consumption of phytoestrogens from organic sources.
10. Decrease or stop consumption of processed foods.
11. Avoid trans-fatty acids found in margarine and some vegetable shortenings.
12. Take two capsules of organic flaxseed oil daily or just add a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to your daily organic salad.
13. If you are pregnant definitely breast feed.
14. Gets lots of sunshine as breast cancer is less prevalent in areas where there is ample sunlight unobscured by fog or smog.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September 29, 2008

A Look at Blood Counts and What They Mean [click for link]

A blood test is a typical part of a physical exam, but deciphering the numbers is anything but routine. Interpretation of the results is strictly the province of a medical professional. Science Times: Decoding Your Health

This webpage at NYTimes.com shows a typical blood count lab report, and allows you to click on any part of it for further explanation.

Knowledge Is Power

The New York Times

September 30, 2008

You’re Sick. Now What? Knowledge Is Power.

Are patients swimming in a sea of health information? Or are they drowning in it?

The rise of the Internet, along with thousands of health-oriented Web sites, medical blogs and even doctor-based television and radio programs, means that today’s patients have more opportunities than ever to take charge of their medical care. Technological advances have vastly increased doctors’ diagnostic tools and treatments, and have exponentially expanded the amount of information on just about every known disease.

The daily bombardment of news reports and drug advertising offers little guidance on how to make sense of self-proclaimed medical breakthroughs and claims of worrisome risks. And doctors, the people best equipped to guide us through these murky waters, are finding themselves with less time to spend with their patients.

But patients have more than ever to gain by decoding the latest health news and researching their own medical care.

“I don’t think people have a choice — it’s mandatory,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, a breast oncologist in Pennsylvania who founded the Web site breastcancer.org. “The time you have with your doctor is getting progressively shorter, yet there’s so much more to talk about. You have to prepare for this important meeting.”

Whether you are trying to make sense of the latest health news or you have a diagnosis of a serious illness, the basic rules of health research are the same. From interviews with doctors and patients, here are the most important steps to take in a search for medical answers.

Determine your information personality.

Information gives some people a sense of control. For others, it’s overwhelming. An acquaintance of this reporter, a New York father coping with his infant son’s heart problem, knew he would be paralyzed with indecision if his research led to too many choices. So he focused on finding the area’s best pediatric cardiologist and left the decisions to the experts.

Others, like Amy Haberland, 50, a breast cancer patient in Arlington, Mass., pore through medical journals, looking not just for answers but also for better questions to ask their doctors.

“Knowledge is power,” Ms. Haberland said. “I think knowing the reality of the risks of my cancer makes me more comfortable undergoing my treatment.”

Dr. Michael Fisch, interim chairman of general oncology for the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, says that before patients embark on a quest for information, they need to think about their goals and how they might react to information overload.

“Just like with medicine, you have to ask yourself what dose you can take,” he said. “For some people, more information makes them wackier, while others get more relaxed and feel more empowered.”

The goal is to find an M.D., not become one.

Often patients begin a medical search hoping to discover a breakthrough medical study or a cure buried on the Internet. But even the best medical searches don’t always give you the answers. Instead, they lead you to doctors who can provide you with even more information.

“It’s probably the most important thing in your cancer care that you believe someone has your best interests at heart,” said Dr. Anna Pavlick, director of the melanoma program at the New York University Cancer Institute. “In an area where there are no right answers, you’re going to get a different opinion with every doctor you see. You’ve got to find a doctor you feel most comfortable with, the one you most trust.”

Keep statistics in perspective.

Patients researching their health often come across frightening statistics. Statistics can give you a sense of overall risk, but they shouldn’t be the deciding factor in your care.

Jolanta Stettler, 39, of Denver, was told she had less than six months to live after getting a diagnosis of ocular melanoma, a rare cancer of the eye that had spread to her liver.

“I was told there is absolutely nothing they could help me with, no treatment,” said Ms. Stettler, a mother of three. “I was left on my own.”

Ms. Stettler and her husband, a truck driver, began searching the Internet. She found Dr. Charles Nutting, an interventional radiologist at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo., who was just beginning to study a treatment that involves injecting tiny beads that emit small amounts of radiation. That appeared to help for about 18 months.

When her disease progressed again, Ms. Stettler searched for clinical trials of treatments for advanced ocular melanoma, and found a National Institutes of Health study of “isolated hepatic perfusion,” which delivers concentrated chemotherapy to patients with liver metastases. After the first treatment, Ms. Stettler’s tumors had shrunk by half.

“I don’t like statistics,” she said. “If this study stops working for me, I’ll go find another study. Each type of treatment I have is stretching out my life. It gives me more time, and it gives more time to the people who are working really hard to come up with a treatment for this cancer.”

Don’t limit yourself to the Web.

There’s more to decoding your health than the Web. Along with your doctor, your family, other patients and support groups can be resources. So can the library. When she found out she had Type 2 diabetes in 2006, Barbara Johnson, 53, of Chanhassen, Minn., spent time on the Internet, but also took nutrition classes and read books to study up on the disease.

“I was blindsided — I didn’t know anybody who had it,” said Ms. Johnson, who told her story on the American Heart Association’s Web site, IKnowDiabetes.org. “But this is a disease you have to manage yourself.”

Tell your doctor about your research.

Often patients begin a health search because their own doctors don’t seem to have the right answers. All her life, Lynne Kaiser, 44, of Plano, Tex., suffered from leg pain and poor sleep; her gynecologist told her she had “extreme PMS.” But by searching the medical literature for “adult growing pains,” she learned about restless legs syndrome and a doctor who had studied it.

“I had gone to the doctors too many times and gotten no help and no results,” said Ms. Kaiser, who is now a volunteer patient advocate for the Web site WhatIsRLS.org. The new doctor she found “really pushed me to educate myself further and pushed me to look for support.”

Although some doctors may discourage patients from doing their own research, many say they want to be included in the process.

Dr. Fisch of M. D. Anderson recalls a patient with advanced pancreatic cancer who decided against conventional chemotherapy, opting for clinical trials and alternative treatments. But instead of sending her away, Dr. Fisch said he kept her in the “loop of care.” He even had his colleagues use a mass spectroscopy machine to evaluate a blue scorpion venom treatment the patient had stumbled on. It turned out to be just blue water.

“We monitored no therapy like we would anything else, by watching her and staying open to her choices,” Dr. Fisch said. “She lived about a year from the time of diagnosis, and she had a high quality of life.”

Dr. Shalom Kalnicki, chairman of Radiation Oncology at the Montefiore-Einstein Cancer Center, says he tries to guide his patients, explaining the importance of peer-reviewed information to help them filter out less reliable advice. He also encourages them to call or e-mail him with questions as they “study their own case.”

“We need to help them sort through it, not discourage the use of information,” he said. “We have to acknowledge that patients do this research. It’s important that instead of fighting against it, that we join them and become their coaches in the process.”

Monday, September 29, 2008

How herbs can interfere with surgery

You might not think to tell your doctor about the herbal supplements you're taking, such as the echinacea you take to fight off colds or the feverfew you use to prevent migraines. But think again. These and other herbal supplements can affect the success of a surgical procedure, just as over-the-counter and prescription medications can. Tell your doctor about any herbal supplements you're taking well before you have surgery. You may need to stop taking some herbal supplements up to three weeks before surgery to make sure they leave your system completely.

Here's a look at some common herbal supplements and how they can interfere with surgery. Keep in mind that other herbal supplements also may affect your surgery, so be sure to tell your doctor if you're taking any herbs that aren't on this list.

Herbal supplement, Possible complications
Aloe vera May cause increased intestinal muscle movement to digest food (peristalsis), may decrease effectiveness of water pills (diuretics) given after surgery
Bromelain May cause bleeding or interact with antibiotics such as amoxicillin or tetracyclines
Danshen May cause bleeding
Dong quai May cause bleeding
Echinacea May interfere with immune functioning, may alter effectiveness of immunosuppressant drugs given after transplant surgery
Ephedra May cause abnormal heartbeat, may cause extreme high blood pressure and coma if combined with certain antidepressants and anesthesia
Feverfew May cause bleeding
Garlic May cause bleeding, may interfere with normal blood clotting
Ginger May cause bleeding
Ginkgo May cause bleeding
Ginseng May cause bleeding, may cause rapid heartbeat, may cause high blood pressure
Goldenseal May cause or worsen swelling and high blood pressure
Kava May enhance sedative effects of anesthesia
Licorice (not including licorice candy) May increase blood pressure
Omega-3 fatty acids May cause bleeding if taken in doses greater than 3 grams a day
Senna May cause electrolyte imbalance
St. John's wort May increase or decrease the effects of some drugs used during and after surgery
Valerian May prolong the effects of anesthesia

By Mayo Clinic Staff
Nov. 22, 2007
© 1998-2008 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Reliable tools for healthier lives," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Original Article:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/herbal-supplements/SA00040

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reduce Exposure to BPA (bisphenol A)

BPA: How to reduce your exposure to dangerous chemical

Published on Saturday, September 20, 2008
by Healthy News Service

Back to Healthy News

If you're worried about BPA, there are two things you can do right away. BPA (bisphenol A) is the chemical found in food containers, eyeglass lenses and CDs, and this week researchers fear it may cause heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK have found that people with the highest levels of BPA in their body were also the ones most likely to have heart disease and diabetes.

While America's health regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says levels of the chemical that enter our body are far too low to cause disease, they have come up with two ways you can reduce your exposure.

FDA spokesperson Laura Tarantino suggests you avoid plastic containers that have the recycling number 7, as most of these contain BPA (advice that may apply only to the US), and don't warm up food while it's still in its plastic container as heat can help release the chemical.

The Exeter researchers monitored the BPA levels in the urine of 1,455 adults; of these, 79 had suffered a heart attack, chest pain or cardiovascular disease, and 136 had diabetes.

The average BPA exposure in the group was 20 micrograms a day, but a quarter of participants who were exposed to higher BPA levels of up to 50 micrograms a day were three times more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease than someone in the 20 micrograms group, and those in the higher group were also 2.4 times more likely to suffer diabetes.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2008; 300: 1303-10).

Provided by What Doctors Don't Tell You on 9/20/2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

A better way? a Blessing Way...

Hello friends! I have struggled with the right/wrong, good/bad divisiveness of the party conventions and the coming Presidential race. What really bothers me is the need for people to spend excessive amounts of time and energy on "what's wrong with the other guy/gal," rather than sharing what they support. I have received endless email from all points of view, and I promise you, other than a few sensationally edited videos, every one has *some* credibility, and every one is *right*.

I don't like the way that every election turns into a primitive replay of tribal fear. Today I received this newsletter article from Kate Nowak. Reading it hit me like a breath of fresh air in a too long stuffy room.
be Well, Janis

A note from Kate Nowak, of the Blessings Experiment website

Hello from my heart,

Like most Americans, my attention has been riveted lately to the political storm stirred up by the upcoming presidential election. The past two weeks of Democratic and Republican convention watching has had my mind in a whirl.

But I have to admit that I am thrilled and proud to live in a country where the mixed-race child of a young single mother in Kansas; a couple of life-long politicians; and a relatively unknown woman stepping out of the shadows can all stand equally before the American public seeking the highest office in the land and one of the most powerful offices in the world.

That realization fills me with pride and gratitude for our founding fathers who had the wisdom and foresight to write such a possibility into our constitution.

However, as I have listened to the politicians speak and to the responses those speeches have warranted this past couple of weeks, I am reminded of the story of the troubled old man who was asked by his counselor what he believed to be the single-most source of his problems.

"Oh, that's easy," he at once replied. "I am always right and others are always wrong. But those foolish others will NOT, no matter how hard I try to convince them, admit that they are wrong and I am right."

Not pointing out the enormous egotism involved in such a statement, the counselor decided instead to try simple logic by asking, "But how is it possible for you to always be right and everyone else to always be wrong?"

"Ah, that..." said the old man. "That is one of the greatest miracles of all time!"

The moral of the story, of course, is that logic has never been much of a match for vanity, whether its one or one, or spilled across the boundaries of an entire political party. We humans like to be right, and even in those times when admitting an error might suit us better, we are loathe to admit we might not be as right as we'd like to think we are.

Which reminds me of another story: A Master was walking across a broad field one day with an eager student at his side. The two passed by an archer practicing his craft. When an arrow hit the target, the archer praised himself exceedingly for his great skill. When the arrow missed the target, the archer blamed a gust of wind.

"Do you see the nature of man?" the Master asked the student. "When things go right, he credits his own skill for having made it so. But when things go wrong, he quickly finds someone or something else to blame."

Over the next couple of months, we Americans are apt to hear a great deal of credit-taking and blaming. Our job as responsible, caring and progressive citizens, not only of this country but of the world, is to filter through all we will hear, and find whatever nuggets of truth lie buried beneath all the half-truths and contradictions.

Personally, I think the best way to do this is to refrain from judging and criticizing as much as possible and try blessing instead. It is my heartfelt belief that we can do far more good by blessing all of the candidates in this election and the leaders and future leaders of every country in the world, for that matter, than we ever can be condemning any.

Then, we can better make up our own minds based, not on what the politicians tell us or what our own egos demand be right, but upon our sense of personal guidance arising from within. Because what any politician tells us is going to come from his or her personal perspective, and no matter how altruistic or worthy their goals may be, their own personal agendas will naturally color their words.

We simply cannot know with certainty that what a candidate or a political party says is best is always best for all concerned.

When, however, we go within and ask that we be guided to choose the best candidate, not just to satisfy our own personal agendas, but for the betterment of all, then the wisdom that comes from within will be true to that request.

We don't just make our own lives better when we take the time to go within and get to know ourselves better. By learning to listen to our own inner wisdom, we make the world a better place to be.

Copyright © 2008 by Live More Abundantly Productions. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Olive Leaf to Treat Hypertension?

Study Shows Olive Leaf Extract Is Effective in Lowering Blood Pressure
By Kelley Colihan
WebMD Health News

Aug. 28, 2008 -- People have been using olive leaf medicinally for millennia.

The ancient Egyptians revered the leaves. Ancient Greeks used them to clean wounds, and the original Olympic athletes were crowned with a wreath of olive leaves. The olive leaf is even mentioned in the Bible for its purported healing properties.

So it's no wonder that scientists today are looking at ways to use olive leaf, specifically for one of modern society's biggest and sneakiest health problems -- high blood pressure.

High blood pressure (hypertension) often develops quietly and without symptoms. Ways to curb it include lifestyle and diet changes -- cutting salt and fat and getting the body moving.

An earlier study showed that when rats were given olive leaf extract, their blood pressure dropped.

Now researchers in Germany and Switzerland have looked at how sets of identical human twins with borderline hypertension responded to taking olive leaf extract. Identical twins were used to help keep the data consistent, because genetic differences can make people respond differently to the same treatments.

The extract was obtained from dry olive leaves and put into capsule form.

Two experiments were carried out. One compared twins who took 500 milligrams of olive leaf extract a day at breakfast with a comparison group of their siblings who didn't. A second compared a group who took 500 milligrams a day to those who took 1,000 milligrams a day. A total of 40 people participated, aged 18 to 60; 28 women and 12 men.

Here are the results:

Those who took the highest daily dosage of olive leaf extract (1,000 milligrams) received the highest benefits -- "significantly" lowering their cholesterol and blood pressure when compared to the group that took 500 milligrams.

At the end of the eight-week study, the group that took 1,000 milligrams per day had dropped their systolic blood pressure (the "top" number) by an average of 11 points.

The participants who received 500 milligrams of olive leaf extract dropped their systolic blood pressure by five points, and those who took no supplements saw their blood pressure edge up by two points. Neither one of these changes was felt to be statistically significant.

Researchers, led by lead author Tania Perrinjaquet-Moccetti of Frutarom (a Swiss manufacturer of the olive leaf extract), note that they were not looking for what dosage might be most effective, but rather whether there was a blood pressure lowering effect at all.

The authors also note a "significant" reduction in LDL ("bad") cholesterol in those twins who took the olive leaf extract, but the specific data regarding these results was not presented in the paper.

The authors call for more investigation into the possible benefits of olive leaf extract on both blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Results are published in the September issue of Phytotherapy Research. The research was funded by Frutarom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back Pain: Alexander Technique & Exercise rate highest

Randomised controlled trial of Alexander Technique lessons, exercise, and massage for chronic and recurrent back pain

In adults with recurrent or chronic low back pain, all three interventions led to better self reported function and less pain at three months, but only exercise prescribed by general practitioners and training in the Alexander Technique had sustained benefit at one year (MRCT ATEAM trial). Supervised exercise is effective but needs to be tailored to patients' preferences and expectations, says the accompanying editorial.

Spiritual practice of shadow

An Excerpt from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence by Deepak Chopra

Bestselling author Deepak Chopra discusses the miracles that can happen when we come alive to attention, intention, and coincidences. Here is a teaching story on the spiritual practice of shadow.

"A man entered a village and went to see the Sufi master, the wise old man of the village. The visitor said, 'I'm deciding whether I should move here or not. I'm wondering what kind of neighborhood this is. Can you tell me about the people here?' The Sufi master said, 'Tell me what kind of people lived where you came from?' The visitor said, 'Oh, they were highway robbers, cheats, and liars.' The old Sufi master said, 'You know, those are exactly the same kinds of people who live here.' The visitor left the village and never came back. Half an hour later, another man entered the village. He sought out the Sufi master and said, 'I'm thinking of moving here. Can you tell me about what kind of people live here?' Again the Sufi master said, 'Tell me what kind of people lived where you came from.' The visitor said, 'Oh, they were the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate, loving people. I shall miss them terribly.' The Sufi master said, 'Those are exactly the kinds of people who live here, too.' "

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Speaking of shadows...

Here is the link to a great newsletter entry on Shadows by Terry Hershey, author of Sacred Necessities: Gifts for Living with Passion, Purpose and Grace. It is filled with wonderful photos and quotes as well as Terry's own writing on the topic. I highly recommend this website for its positive topics, inspirational writing, and stunning photography.

Little Goldie sipping wild marjoram nectar
Janis Davies, c. 2008 all Rights Reserved

Anger Expression Affects Lower Back Pain

Here's a study that correlates anger inhibition with increased severity in chronic lower back pain.

Trait Anger Management Style Moderates Effects of Actual ("State") Anger Regulation on Symptom-Specific Reactivity and Recovery Among Chronic Low Back Pain Patients

Results implicate lower paraspinal muscle tension as a potential physiological mechanism that links the actual inhibition of anger following provocation to chronic pain severity among chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients. Results also highlight the importance of mismatch situations for patients who typically regulate anger by expressing it. These CLBP patients may be at particular risk for elevated pain severity if circumstances at work or home regularly dictate that they should inhibit anger expression.

Change a Habit With Online Courses

Spirituality & Practice On-Demand Course Offerings:
Recovery programs say it takes three weeks to change a habit or start a new practice. Each of these e-courses offers 21 days' worth of spiritual nuggets and practice suggestions for your personal transformation. (Available on-demand; choose your own start date.)

Beating the Blahs
Get back your resolve and get over feeling stuck.

Dealing with Disappointment
Examine the causes and teachings of this common feeling.

Fear Busters
Quotes and exercises to help you break the fear habit.

Letting Go
Experience the freedom that comes from releasing things.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brain Study Could Lead To New Understanding Of Depression

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — Brain scientists have moved a step closer to understanding why some people may be more prone to depression than others.

Dr Roland Zahn, a clinical neuroscientist in The University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, and his colleagues have identified how the brain links knowledge about social behaviour with moral sentiments, such as pride and guilt.

The study, carried out at the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US with Dr Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section, and Dr Jorge Moll, now at the LABS-D'Or Center for Neuroscience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 29 healthy individuals while they considered certain social behaviours.


“The most distinctive feature of depressive disorders is an exaggerated negative attitude to oneself, which is typically accompanied by feelings of guilt,” he said.

“Now that we understand how the brains of healthy individuals respond to feelings of guilt, we hope to be able to better understand why and where there are differences in brain activity in people suffering from, or prone to, depression.

“The brain region we have identified to be associated with proneness to guilt has been shown to be abnormally active in patients with severe depression in several previous studies, but until now its involvement in guilt had been unknown."

Brain Study Could Lead To New Understanding Of Depression

A Practice for Dealing with Emotions

"The practice is called the Nonmanifestation of Negative Emotions. I do this practice one full day a week, starting first thing in the morning and continuing until I go to sleep. The practice involves making a conscious effort not to manifest any negative emotions for the entire day, through either external behavior or internal ruminations. This does not mean, however, that anger and other negative emotions will not arise, because they surely will. What it does mean is that as soon as we become aware of them, we make the conscious effort to refrain from indulging the thoughts that fuel those particular emotions."
— Ezra Bayda in Zen Heart: Simple Advice for Living with Mindfulness and Compassion

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Monet's waters, Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek, Greenville, CA August 22, 2008
Jan Davies, c. 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off.
Then build your wings on the way down.
Ray Bradbury

Skin creams seen to cause tumors on mice

Thu Aug 14, 2008
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Certain commonly available skin creams may cause skin tumors, at least in mice, and experts should be checking to see if they might cause growths in people as well, researchers reported on Thursday.

They found several creams caused skin cancer in the specially bred mice, which had been pre-treated with ultraviolet radiation.

The cancers are not melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, they stressed in their report in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, but another type called squamous cell carcinoma. Such tumours are slow growing, highly treatable and only fatal if patients fail to have them removed.

Allan Conney and colleagues at Rutgers University in New Jersey said they discovered the risk while testing a theory that caffeine could prevent skin cancer.

"We sort of got into this by accident," Conney said in a telephone interview. "We wanted a safe cream that we could put the caffeine into."

They were testing specially bred albino mice, which are prone to develop skin cancer. The mice are pre-treated with ultraviolet radiation to simulate the effects of a human who has had heavy sun exposure in the past but then stopped -- something that may be happening in the population as people realize the risks of getting a tan.

Conney's team decided to test the creams first and found that all four they tested caused tumors to grow on the mice.

He said he does not know why, but suspects two ingredients -- mineral oil and sodium laurel sulphate.

"We'd like to understand the mechanism. What is most important is to see whether these moisturizing creams are tumorigenic in people," Conney said.

He said his lab is not equipped to do this but someone should. But he added, "I don't think that people should be scared because this is a mouse study and we don't know whether or not it applies to humans."

Other experts were skeptical about the study.

"This is a pretty artificial situation with the mouse skin primed by a lot of UV light to develop cancer," Karol Sikora, Medical Director of Cancer Partners U.K. in Britain, said in a statement.

Dr. Jonathan Rees, an expert in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said squamous cell carcinoma was not a big health worry.

"Non-melanoma skin cancer in man is very, very common and is almost 100 percent curable with an operation usually simpler than a tooth filling," Rees said in a statement.

Conney said the mouse was a commonly used model in skin cancer but said he agreed that it does not perfectly replicate human skin and human behavior.

He said his team approached Johnson & Johnson to create a cream without the suspect products and they developed one using other readily available ingredients. "They are things that are commonly used in many moisturizing creams," he said.

This cream did not cause the tumors in the mice, they said.

He said Rutgers and Johnson & Johnson had patented the new cream jointly but did not know whether it would be commercially developed. A spokesman at the company was not immediately available for comment.

(Editing by Will Dunham and Vicki Allen)

© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved. http://uk.reuters.com/articlePrint?articleId=UKN1426933920080814

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cattle now fed chips and chocolate...

Cheap Beef fed on Potato chips and Hershey's, yum...

As corn prices are going up, large scale factory farm operations are looking for cheaper foods to feed cattle. Cost-cutting measures like mixing reject M&Ms and potato chips with corn feed are no longer uncommon.

In the meantime, cattle ranchers raising grass-fed beef are struggling to stay in business, as more people are buying the cheap stuff. The Wall Street Journal recently released a news video on the issue.

Why eat sweet potatoes?

The deep orange-yellow color of sweet potatoes tells you that they're high in the antioxidant beta carotene. Food sources of beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of some cancers. Sweet potatoes are also good sources of fiber, vitamins B-6, C and E, folate and potassium. They're fat-free and low in calorie density, meaning you can have a larger portion size without racking up the calories.

Healthy lifestyle tips from MayoClinic.com.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Broccoli and reversal of diabetes complications

Nutrition-wise blog

With Mayo Clinic nutritionists Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.

August 14, 2008 9:19 a.m.
Fascinating connection between broccoli and reversal of diabetes complications

I often glance at the online listings of journal articles that are available ahead of print. The following one from Diabetes, posted Aug. 4, 2008, went right by me:

"Activation of NF-E2-related factor-2 reverses biochemical dysfunction of endothelial cells induced by hyperglycemia linked to vascular disease."

Huh? It didn't catch my attention until the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) ran the story on Aug. 5 and translated it as: "Broccoli may undo diabetes damage."

This very interesting study looked at the phytochemical (plant compound) called sulforaphane. It seems to help produce enzymes in the body that protect blood vessels by reducing tissue damaging substances triggered by high blood sugar. Sulforaphane also seems to activate genes that regulate protective antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes.

Vascular disease is a major complication of diabetes. It leads to heart disease, stroke, damage to small vessels of the eye (blindness), kidney (failure that leads to dialysis), and circulation to extremities and possible amputation.

This isn't the first news about broccoli. In 2006, another broccoli compound was found to help boost genes that prevent damaged genetic information from being passed on to future generations of cells, thereby offering potential reduction in cancer risk.

In 2007, a nutrition study of men who had prostate cancer showed that a weekly serving of broccoli cut risk for the aggressive form of the disease by 45 percent.

In 2008, researchers found in an animal study that sulforaphane in broccoli protects the heart from damage when it is deprived of oxygen (such as what occurs when a coronary artery is blocked by a clot).

What makes the diabetes study so compelling is that it seems to actually identify mechanisms that the compound sulforaphane in broccoli trigger that may allow reversal of high blood sugar damage.

All of the studies point out the need for further research. They also point out that generous servings of vegetables and fruit (at least 5 a day) gets you going in the right direction.

So, you think you want the benefits of broccoli but don't care for it? Broccoli is a member of the Brassica group of vegetables in the mustard family. Here are "close relatives" of broccoli that you might want to include in your 5-(or more)-a-day:

  • Root vegetables — rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi
  • Leafy vegetables — cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, rapini, collard greens, bok choy, napa (Chinese cabbage), mustard greens
  • Flowers — cauliflower, broccoli, broccoflower
  • Seeds — mustard seed and rapeseed (from which canola oil is derived)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Stand Up for Cancer" - Sept. 5 TV event

Hollywood A-listers "Stand Up" for Cancer Research

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood A-listers including Meryl Streep and Charlize Theron, sports star Lance Armstrong and "American Idol" winner David Cook will "stand up" to battle cancer in a rare television fundraiser next month, organizers said on Tuesday.

The event, "Stand Up to Cancer," will air simultaneously and commercial-free on three rival U.S. TV networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- during prime-time hours, and organizers hope to raise millions of dollars to fight the disease.

"The support we've received from the creative community is remarkable," said the show's producer Laura Ziskin, a breast cancer survivor who was responsible for making the "Spider-Man" movies, "Pretty Woman" and many other films.

"My phone is constantly ringing with people asking, 'What can I do and how can I help?' We hope viewers all over the country will do the same."

Rarely is a program broadcast on all three major U.S. networks simultaneously during prime-time evening hours, which are the most lucrative times for advertisers.

Back in 2001, some 31 U.S. broadcast and cable TV networks aired a program to raise money for victims of the September 11 attacks. Film, TV and music stars worked at a phone bank as people called to pledge money. Some sang while others gave speeches and testimonials.

"Stand Up to Cancer" will be similar in its format, the producers said.

Other celebrities putting in appearances will include actresses Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek and Sally Field.

Even cartoon characters Homer and Marge Simpson of long-running comedy "The Simpsons" and race car driver Danica Patrick will be on hand. From broadcast news, there will be CBS anchor Katie Couric, whose husband died of cancer, as well as NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charles Gibson all reporting on cancer research.

September 05, 2008
Length: 1 hour on ABC, CBS, NBC simultaneously

Fruit Juices Block Common Drugs

Grapefruit, Orange, Apple Juices Decrease Absorption of Many Often-Used Drugs
By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 19, 2008 -- Grapefruit, orange, and apple juices block drugs commonly used to treat infections, allergy, transplant rejection, cancer, and high blood pressure.

In 1991, David G. Bailey, PhD, and colleagues found that grapefruit juice increased blood concentrations of the blood pressure drug Plendil to possibly dangerous levels. Grapefruit juice, they later learned, slows down a key liver enzyme that clears Plendil -- and about 40 other drugs -- from the body.

Now Bailey reports that grapefruit, orange, and apple juices decrease the absorption of several important medications:

  • The allergy drug Allegra, available generically as fexofenadine
  • The antibiotics ciprofloxacin (Cipro, Proquin), levofloxacin (Levaquin), and itraconazole (Sporanox)
  • The beta-blocker blood pressure drugs atenolol (Tenormin), celiprolol, and talinolol
  • The transplant-rejection drug cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral)
  • The cancer chemotherapy etoposide (Toposar, Vepesid)

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure we'll find more and more drugs that are affected this way," Bailey says in a news release.

Bailey revealed the new findings in a report to the 236th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

A substance in grapefruit juice called naringin seems to be the culprit. The compound apparently blocks OATP1A2, a transporter molecule in the gut, which carries some drugs from the small intestine into the blood. Orange juice contains hesperidin, a naringin-like substance. The culprit in apple juice remains unidentified.

"The concern is loss of benefit of medications essential for the treatment of serious medical conditions," Bailey says.

In their studies, Bailey and colleagues had healthy volunteers take fexofenadine with either a glass of grapefruit juice, a glass of water mixed with naringin, or pure water. Taking the drug with grapefruit juice or the naringin mixture halved the amount of drug that reached the bloodstream.

People should take their pills only with water, advises Bailey, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. He suggests that people taking medications should check with their doctor or pharmacist before taking medications with fruit juices or whole fruits.