Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fountain of Youth Pill in the Works?

tidbits that tantalizeWho Needs Pills?

Previous research has shown that super low calorie diets extend the lifespan. It's a dilemma, of course. A real-life "eat now, die sooner" conundrum. But...

Researchers say they have now uncovered the medical equivalent of the low calorie diet - in a pill, of course. The key to anti-aging may be a family of enzymes called sirtuins. Dr. David Sinclair, of Harvard, helped found Sirtris Pharmaceuticals to study and develop the enzymes into consumer medications.

The enzymes, known as SIRT3 and SIRT4, mimic the action of the super low calorie diets. They target the mitochondria - the power sources of the cells - and help them stay healthy. This is critical to slowing the aging process and warding off age-related diseases. As we age, the mitochondria become less efficient, and we become prone to development of age-related disease, such as heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.

The hope is that a new medication may be developed that effectively protects the function of the mitochondria as we age. This would, theoretically, allow the body to naturally fight off the common ravages of old age.

The company is already testing a version of the drug in Phase 2 clinical trials for type-2 diabetics.

What's that - you say you're a bit skeptical? Hmmm... Maybe there's a pill for that...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about healthy aging, see this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

With Hands, Dirty Means Disease

tidbits that tantalizeDid You Say Soap?

Listen up, guys...

Dirty hands spread disease.

Why should the male portion of the population be singled out for this particular message? Well, it appears that women are simply better listeners - and hand washers.

All those years mom spent nagging, "Wash your hands," seem to have actually done some good with women. But, through some centuries-old, inherited tone-deafness, men still have trouble both listening and washing.

The result is more disease for all to share.

It's no big secret that the simple act of handwashing is the big gun in the battle against spreading disease. It's quite amazing, really. 15 to 20 seconds of rubbing your hands together, with a touch of soap, will stop most diseases dead in their tracks. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's the most important step in reducing the spread of disease.

But, according to a new survey conducted by the American Society for Microbiology and The Soap and Detergent Association, handwashing is at an all time low.

Sure, Americans still say they wash their hands after using public restrooms. 92% reported they complied with the healthy handwashing habit in telephone interviews. But...

When researchers staked out public restrooms - is this legal? - they found the claims of cleanliness were a dirty little lie. Only 88% of the women actually washed their hands. Men? Just 66% of the guys got a good feel for the soap and water. The others went cheerfully on their way, spreading disease with unmatched efficiency. Mom? Sadly, many mothers were observed hanging their heads in shame over what had become of their good, little boys...

So, come on guys - it's time to get with the program and, ahem, come clean...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read about more about the importance of handwashing, including step-by-step instructions, see this from Mayo Clinic.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Drug Expenditure Report Highlights Health Issues

news you may not knowIs This A Problem?

Let's see if we can make some sense of this.

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) recently released figures on prescription drug usage for 2004. MEPS, a part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, compiles extensive statistical data from private and industry sources on health services availability and utilization. They dig deep and make their findings available to all interested parties.

The figures for 2004 prescription drug use tell an all too familiar tale.

Let's just look at the adults for now, those 18-64. During 2004, the U.S. adults spent:

$4.88 billion on Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering medication

$2.67 billion on Nexium, a proton-pump inhibitor (to treat heartburn)

$2.42 billion on Prevacid, a proton-pump inhibitor (to treat heartburn)

$2.25 billion on Zocor, a cholesterol-lowering medication

$1.90 billion on Zoloft, an antidepressant

The expenditure for these five drugs, $14.1 billion, represents 12.2% of the total amount adults spent on drugs for the entire year.

What do these figures tell us? Hmm...

We're eating our ways to early graves, but we're helping pharmaceutical companies thrive. It's an odd approach to life, don't you think?

This is not surprising news. Every day a new report highlights the dilemma of living in a prosperous nation, without the willpower to fight our own appetites. Toss in the Wall Street marketing maniacs and we seem to have little chance. Unless...

We pay attention to our bodies, make reasonable, not draconian, choices about food and fitness, and join the resistance. The resistance? Yes, the resistance against the philosophy that more is better - richer, gooier, heavier is better.

Try some simple, whole foods. You know, things like fruits and vegetables. Who knows - you may actually stumble across a new lifestyle as you wander the produce section...

To read a summary of the report, see this from Reuters. To view the full report (PDF), see this from MEPS. To learn more about eating whole, health foods, see this from The World's Healthiest Foods.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

One Kid, One Cookie, 20 Pounds

tidbits that tantalizeWell, Maybe Just One...

Kids love cookies - who doesn't?

But, are they really good for them? Even in moderation? Well...

Researchers from of the University of Granada in Spain say probably not. In fact, they say that a single chocolate cookie each day can add 20 pounds over a four-year period. Yikes! How many moms think they are being frugal in the snack department by rationing out a single cookie each day? Let's not even talk about the way dads haphazardly dole out goodies - in their defense, studies have shown men lose the function of rational thought in the presence of ooey-gooey stuff...

So, what are moms to do?

Sadly, instead of our kids being outside running and jumping and exercising, they've become homebodies, staring at the television set for hours. The only exercise many of our children get is the wrist and finger workout of a tough video game competition. And, of course, the bicep crunches of lifting the chips from bag to mouth...

The researchers point to the importance of high fiber diets - you know, fruits, veggies - to help control obesity. They say that fad diets do little but eliminate glycogen (a complex carbohydrate, stored as glucose, that serves as energy) and water, which are quickly added back after the diet is stopped. But, reducing calories, increasing activity levels, and eating a high fiber diet can achieve a stable weight.

What about the cookies? Hmm... Try introducing your kids to some new friends: apples, bananas, almonds, carrots. You never know - it just may start friendships that last for a lifetime...

To read more about the researchers' recommendations, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about childhood obesity, eating disorders, and healthy eating lifestyles, see this from Empowered Kidz.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Adding Food Coloring Adds to Hyperactivity

tidbits that tantalizeDon't Mess With Mom...

Do you remember Mother Nature?

That's right - the one you're not supposed to mess with. Well, researchers from the University of Southampton have once again proved the soundness of this ancient admonition.

They tested 3 and 8-year-old children to see how they reacted to the addition of food coloring and sodium benzoate, a food preservative commonly found in soft drinks. The kids were divided into three groups and given identical tasting drinks each day for a six-week period.

Two groups received a drink that was a mixture of food colors and sodium benzoate; a third group received a fruit juice drink. The researchers then measured the childrens' hyperactivity, both directly and through observational assessment.

The children receiving the mixtures of food colors and sodium benzoate exhibited increased hyperactive behavior: increased movement, impulsivity, and inattention. In addition, the older children showed effects of the "hyperactivity drink" in a computer-based assessment of attention.

Professor of Psychology, Jim Stevenson, who led the research, comments: "We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children. We have now shown that for a large group of children in the general population, consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colours and benzoate preservative can influence their hyperactive behaviour."

So, there you have it. Proof that "Don't mess with Mother Nature" needs no alterations, revisions, and, most certainly, no additions...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about eating natural foods, see this from The World's Healthiest Foods.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

For Best Results, Eat Your Antioxidants

tidbits that tantalizeYeah - They're In There...

The body knows best...

It always seems to be the case. Armed with scientific studies, discoveries, and advances we march toward the future of medicine, only to discover the best ways are those of the past.

The September issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter reports that antioxidant supplements are not the way to go. Instead, they recommend a radical return to the time-proven methodologies of the past: eat a healthy diet, rich in foods that contain antioxidants. That would be foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Antioxidants have been all the rage in recent years. And, rightfully so. They have amazing abilities to fight a wide range of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's. So, as the evidence in their favor has mounted, so too have sales of antioxidant products, such as vitamins C and E, lycopene, lutein, and carotene. But...

Mayo says not so fast.

Though these antioxidants are certainly good for what ails you, they recommend a quick walk right past the supplement aisle. Instead, they say to head for the produce section. This is where you'll find the good stuff: berries, beans, fruits of all types, veggies, nuts, herbs, and grains.

The difference is in the sheer power of the whole foods. While you may purchase a supplement with a specific antioxidant, foods literally contain thousands of antioxidants. Since it's not known which antioxidants are responsible for many of the health benefits, eating the whole foods covers all the bases. Really, when you consider the numbers, it hardly even seems like a fair fight.

One last significant reason to go for the real foods category over the supplements: chocolate. Ah, yes... Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial antioxidants. Try getting that from a pill...

To read more about the report, including a list of antioxidant containing foods, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about antioxidants, see this from the International Food Information Council.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Female Doctors Misdiagnosing Female Heart Patients

news you may not knowWhy Do They Get A Sisterhood?

So, where is the love of sisterhood when you need it most?

For female heart patients the answer is not very lovely at all. New research out of the University of Warwick indicates female physicians are less likely to recognize heart disease in their female patients than are male physicians.

Previous findings indicate that twice as many women as men, aged 45-64, have what are known as "silent" myocardial infarctions - undetected heart attacks. This clearly points to a diagnostic dilemma.

The study utilized videotaped male and female actors, ages 55 and 75, who presented with symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD). Among other risk factors, the patients' age is a hallmark in the consideration of CHD. As people age, their risk for CHD increases. Both male and female physicians recognized this key factor - among the male patients.

When diagnosing the female patients, the consideration of age was significantly different. The female physicians took the patients age into consideration for female patients only 50% of the time. With the male patients, they felt age was a factor 91% of the time.

What does this mean?

In the short run, it means more women heart patients without a proper diagnosis. In the long run, it means that methods must be developed to assure proper diagnosis and treatment of female heart patients.

Dr Adams, the study's lead researcher, says "We need to raise awareness about the importance of increasing age as a risk factor for CHD amongst women, to reduce delays in diagnosis."

So, what's the bottom line? Well, it seems that if a pair of Traveling Pants deserves a Sisterhood, then a true condition of the heart deserves no less...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about heart disease, prevention and treatment, see this from the American Heart Association.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Aggressive Heart Treatment May Harm Women

news you may not knowGo Ahead - Heart Yourself...

Matters of the heart.

There's always room for dispute when it comes to matters of the heart. Now, cardiologists are joining the fray. A recent study from Sweden indicates men and women may benefit from differing methods of care in treating heart conditions.

The study, from researchers at the University Hospital in Linkoping, Sweden, compared two groups of women, with an average age of 68, who were given different levels of treatment. One group was treated quite aggressively, in a fashion similar to men, while the other group was treated with a wait and see attitude.

The results are somewhat surprising.

There were eight deaths in the aggressively treated group, compared to just one in the conservatively treated group, after one year. The overall study population was quite small, comprising a total of 184 women.

The aggressively treated group was given a routine invasive heart X-ray, while the other group was simply monitored for symptoms. This resulted in a significant difference in bypass surgeries and angioplasties between the groups: 58% of the aggressively treated group received these procedures, compared to just 31% of the conservatively treated group.

Researchers theorize the difference in outcomes may be due to women having a higher bleeding tendency than men, placing them at increased risk from invasive procedures. Whatever the distinction, it certainly points to the need for research specifically targeting the cardiovascular needs of women.

But, as in all matters of the heart, it appears the most reasonable first step may be for men everywhere to apologize - for everything - and to send flowers...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about women's heart health issues, see this from the National Institutes of Health.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Smoking Linked to Alzheimer's

tidbits that tantalizeThe Latest In Alzheimer's Prevention...

Wow. This is not good news for smokers. Not only do they have to worry about the possibility of cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension, shortness of breath, bad breath, and yellow teeth, but...


A new study out of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam points to a direct connection between smoking and dementia. The study followed about 7,000 people age 55 and older for seven years. The results are quite telling.

The study looked at two groups of people. Those predisposed to Alzheimer's. These are individuals who possess a gene known as APOE4. They are already at an increased risk of developing dementia, and the study showed smoking did not add to that risk.

But, those without the APOE4 gene, entering the study with a normal risk level, were terrifically impacted. In this group, smoking increased the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 70%. That's a huge number.

Researchers theorize the increased risk may be the result of cardiovascular disease, possibly leading smokers to experience small strokes. The cumulative effect of the small strokes may be responsible for the development of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Or, the increased risk could be due to a process known as oxidative stress. This is a process which, through chemical changes that damage the cells, leads to hardening of the arteries.

So, once again the warning has been issued: Light up at your own risk - each puff brings you one step closer to a permanent state of physical and mental "lights out."

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To find resources to help you quit smoking, see this from, or this from Quitnet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thoughts of God Spur Generosity

tidbits that tantalizeGo Ahead - Give It Away...

Are you a believer?

Well, researchers at the University of British Columbia say belief is not the issue. Their recent study showed that simply thinking about God, whether you believe or not, causes you to be more generous and altruistic.

Azim Shariff and Ara Norenzayan used words games to prime participant's minds with "god concepts."

"This is a twist on an age old question -- does a belief in God influence moral behavior?" says Shariff. "We asked, does the concept of god influence cooperative behavior? Previous attempts to answer this question have been driven by speculation and anecdote."

In the study, participants unscrambled sets of words. One group's words were designed to prime the participant's minds with thoughts of God (spirit, divine, God, sacred, and prophet). The control group's words were unrelated to concepts of God.

The results were impressive. Following the successful unscrambling of words, each group was given ten one-dollar coins. They were then given the opportunity to either keep the coins, or to give some of them away to an anonymous recipient. 65% of the "god concepts" group gave away $5 or more to the strangers; only 22% of the control group did the same.

A second study, using civic responsibility words (civic, jury, court, police and contract), yielded virtually identical results.

What does it all mean?

Well, maybe a little theological debate is good for everyone now and then - especially those in need.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To express your generosity in a practical manner, see this from MercyCorps.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Unique Surgery Treats Sleep Apnea

news you may not knowCounting Sheep...

Consider these questions. Are you a guy? Over forty? How's your weight? A bit on the pudgy side? Well...

If you are indeed a male, over the age of forty, and weigh in at the high side of healthy, you are a prime target for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Though OSA can strike anyone, even young children, the most common group fits the above profile.

OSA is a condition in which the airway is blocked during sleep, usually by the collapse of the soft tissue at the back of the throat, resulting in a loss of oxygen flow. This disruption in breathing often occurs many hundreds of times throughout the course of a single night. Much more than a nuisance, OSA is a critical health issue. Untreated OSA has been associated with several chronic conditions, including irregular heartbeat, hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.

Surgeons at Thomas Jefferson University have devised a new surgical technique to address this issue. The procedure, known as a Genial Bone Advancement Trephine (GBAT), involves moving a small portion of the lower jaw forward in the patient's mouth. Since the tongue is attached to the bone, it comes along for the ride, and also moves forward. The result is an airway with less obstruction, and a better chance of a normal night's sleep.

"Even immediately after the procedure patients have an easier time breathing," noted Maurits Boon, M.D., Clinical Instructor in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University." We have also observed that in a select group of patients hypertension drops off."

This is welcome news for men suffering from sleep apnea. And, of course, for the bleary-eyed wives, children, dogs, and cats of the men suffering from sleep apnea...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about sleep apnea, see this from the American Sleep Apnea Association.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Stick With Statins After Stroke

news you may not knowListen To Your Mother...

Rapid intervention following a stroke is critical. It often means the difference between regained function and lifelong debility. Now, researchers in Spain point to an additional time-sensitive intervention.

Statins, the cholesterol lowering medications, are routinely discontinued during the first 72 hours following a stroke. This practice is one of default; patients are often incapable of normal swallowing in the first days after an ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes are those caused by a blockage of blood flow to portions of the brain.

72 hours...

The study compared two groups of stroke patients. One group received no statins for the first 72 hours, while the second group continued to receive their statin medications from the first day. The difference in the outcomes at three months was striking.

60% of those receiving no statins during the first 72 hours were either dead or dependent at the 90-day mark. But, only 39% of those that received statins were in similar shape. That's a big difference.

So, take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise consistently, and enjoy life everyday. This may be the best way to protect yourself from having a stroke in the first place. But, if you do suffer a stroke, then listen to the age-old wisdom of your mother: "Take your medicine!"

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about strokes, including prevention and treatment, see this from the National Stroke Association.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Team Approach Lowers Heart Disease Risk

news you may not knowGo Team...

Gee, this seems to make terrific sense. Doctors are not only incredibly busy, but they often fall into that category of people known as "fast talkers." Maybe it's because they have so much information crammed into their brains, that it simply overflows, rushing out in a torrent of nonstop explanations, instructions, and precautions.

Enter the team.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a team approach to caring for heart disease patients. The approach, known as case management, uses a team of healthcare providers to assist chronic heart patients, instead of relying solely on a physician. A typical team will include the physician, specially trained nurses, and dieticians.

The study followed patients for 17 months, during which they met regularly with team members. At each meeting the patient's goals and progress was assessed and a plan was developed for the coming weeks. The staff counseled patients on diets, exercise, and medication compliance; this freed the physicians to concentrate on areas that required their medical expertise.

The results are impressive. The patients reduced their risk of death by heart attack, or heart disease, over the next ten years by about 10%. And, they did it cost-effectively. The cost of the care provided was $1,250 per patient - a bargain, considering a hospital stay following a heart attack can easily cost over $40,000.

"Case management makes a lot of sense when it comes to chronic disease because you need to have constant contact with patients to pick up on any problems before they get worse," said lead author Randall Stafford, MD, PhD.

Ah, teamwork. Fast-talking doctors, skilled nurses, smart dieticians. Sounds like the perfect prescription to get you on the fast track to better health...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To explore ways to eat a heart healthy diet, see this terrific site from Public Health Degree.

Monday, September 03, 2007

One-Minute Alzheimer's Diagnosis Being Developed

news you may not knowGot A Minute?

It's not only ironic, it's a bit unsettling. Diseases that will afflict us the rest of our lives may soon be diagnosed in less than a minute. In the time it takes to pitch you the latest microwave meal on television, doctors will be able to tell you that you have Alzheimer's - or multiple sclerosis, or schizophrenia.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are studying a new imaging technology capable of high-speed analysis. The magnetoencephalography (MEG) uses 248 sensors to record the interaction betweens pairs of neurons within the brain. The scientists have discovered that the tiny electrical charges released by the neuron pairs are different in healthy brains and in brains affected by disease.

The sensitivity of the MEG allows these differences to be detected for the first time. Though in its early stages, Professor Apostolos P. Georgopoulos is hopeful that further tests will allow the diagnostic tool to be used in everyday practice: "We want to continue and acquire data from a large number of subjects - patients and matched controls. The throughput of this MEG test is large so we can continue a high rate of testing and we hope that clinical applications can become a reality in a year or two."

This is certainly good news. Early and accurate diagnosis means more effective intervention and better outcomes. In the meantime, it's a good reminder that life comes at you fast. Make every minute count...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about neurological disorders, see this from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Annual Osteoporosis Treatment Approved

news you may not knowWho Has The Time?

Poor Sally Field. What's to become of her now that her Boniva monthly dosing is so old school, so insanely frequent, so absolutely intrusive. After all, who has time to set aside time one day each month to take their osteoporosis medication? Hmm...

The FDA has given approval to Reclast, a once a year treatment for osteoporosis. Reclast is in the same class of drugs, bisphosphonates, as are its competitors, Fosamax, Boniva, and Actonel. Unlike these oral medications, Reclast is administered once each year by means of a 15-minute infusion.

Is this good news?

On the surface, it appears so. In a company-sponsored study, Reclast reduced the risk of spine fracture by 70%, at least 20% better than its oral counterparts. Physicians also point to the once per year dosing as a major advantage. Patients sometimes forget to take the oral medications and, as a result, their effectiveness is diminished. But...

The study also revealed that patients taking Reclast have an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation. This is a condition in which the heart beats abnormally, and it places patients at a higher risk of stroke. Novartis, the manufacturer of Reclast, suggests the increased risk of atrial fibrillation is not associated with Reclast. Nevertheless, it's a piece of the puzzle to consider.

What's to become of Sally Field? Well, unfortunately, she's had to trim back her appearances quite drastically in recent months. It appears the strain of taking that Boniva tablet once each and every month has simply worn her down...

To read more about the study and the FDA approval, see this from Reuters. To learn more about osteoporosis, including prevention and treatment, see this from the National Osteoporosis Foundation.