Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Does Coffee Cause Miscarriages?

news you may not knowUnfit For Mothers-To-Be?

Ah, parenthood. That perpetual state of joyful bliss, eager bonding, and awe-inspiring observation. You watch a young life take root and unfold over the years, ever thankful you get to play a small role in guiding them on their way.

But, what about the coffee?

How do you develop a maternal bond with your child when, even before their birth, they're telling you to watch your diet? And, really, if they feel they must get involved, why can't they insist you cut out broccoli or rhubarb during pregnancy? But coffee?

It's true - and, now it's official.

The debate over whether caffeine is harmful during pregnancy is longstanding. Many studies have indicated caffeine increases the risk of miscarriage, but the study methodologies left the results open to varying interpretations. Well, no more. Dr. De-Kun Li, of Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, conducted a tightly controlled study that eliminates previous questions of methodology.

The results are quite clear. Caffeine intake during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of miscarriage. Women who drank 200 milligrams of caffeine per day were two times more likely to miscarry. 200 milligrams is the amount of caffeine contained in two cups of coffee, or in five cans of caffeinated soda.

Two cups of coffee equals twice the risk.

The researchers recommend pregnant women, or those attempting to become pregnant, eliminate caffeine from their diet - or, at a minimum, restrict it to a single cup per day. Yikes!

Let the bonding begin...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about experiencing a healthy pregnancy, see this from

Monday, January 28, 2008

Presidential Politics Shapes Health Care Future

news you may not knowDid You Do Your Homework?

Psst... Who're you voting for in the presidential race this year? Are you a tax and spend liberal looking to vote for Clinton, Edwards, or Obama? Or, are you a god and guns conservative, weighing the likes of Huckabee, McCain, and Romney? Or...

Are you an everyday American considering a wide range of issues that will shape our future? If so, good for you - and, good for us.

What are the hot button issues this time around? Well, flip on the television and take your pick. Controversy abounds on both sides of the race. But, there are also some issues that find broad support among both Democrat and Republican voters. A prime example is health care. While the approaches are different, both parties agree a fix is no longer optional.

A survey by The Commonwealth Fund underscores voters' interest. They found 81% of Americans believe employers should either provide or contribute to the cost of health insurance. Close to 70% believe the overall costs should be shared by individuals, employers and the government.

The proposed plans vary more across party lines than within. For example:

-No Republican candidates favor a mandate requiring individuals to have health insurance, but several Democratic candidates favor some type of mandate.

-Democratic candidates propose strengthening the role of the employer in the process, while Republican candidates favor strengthening the role of the private insurance sector.

"For too long Americans have paid top dollar for a health care system that doesn't give them access to the high quality health care they deserve," said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. "By enacting the right reforms in the right way, we can ensure that all Americans can benefit from receiving the care they need to stay healthy, cure acute conditions, and keep chronic health problems well-controlled."

So, which candidate will get your nod this year?

Well, do a little research on the issues, like an everyday American, and then vote for the candidate you believe will take us there. Where's that? Oh, yes - a healthy and robust future shared by all of us everyday Americans.

To read more about the survey, see this from ScienceDaily. To read the complete report, see this from The Commonwealth Fund - this site also provides access to a fabulous interactive tool that allows you to compare the health care proposals of the presidential candidates.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tanning Beds Risky for the Young

news you may not knowNot So Fast...

Have you heard about the winter special? Sure - the local salon is running a "Jumpstart Summer" tanning special. The prices are so low, you really can't afford to pass them up. Your friends? Yeah - they'll be jealous of your beautiful new tan. Ah - sounds perfect.


A new study out of Australia encourages caution. The Queensland Institute of Medical Research reports that even a single use of a tanning bed significantly increases the risk of cancer for those under the age of 35. The statistics are staggering. People under 35 who use tanning beds have a 98% risk of developing skin cancer. Ninety Eight! Want to try it just once? You may get a great tan, but you'll also increase your risk of skin cancer by 22%. Is it really worth it?

With the highest skin cancer rates in the world, Australians have a vested interest in this health issue. 50% of Australians will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives.

What about the positive benefits of the sun? Well, it's true the body manufactures vitamin D after exposure to the sun. It's a powerhouse vitamin, offering many health benefits. But, the real issue is safe exposure to the sun. Too little and you may find yourself with a vitamin D deficiency. Too much and you may find yourself with unwanted cancerous growths. Yes - balance is called for.

So, the next time you feel the tug of the tanning salon, summon your strength and - open the door. Take a walk, breath the fresh air. Give your body a chance to get a little dose of sunshine, and vitamin D, the old fashioned way.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about sun safety, see this from the University of California, Berkeley.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Was the FDA Right to Approve Cloned Meat?

news you may not knowThe XK72-yz89b Cheeseburger...

Imagine... Yes, it's the middle of winter. That's why it takes just a bit of imagination to picture yourself out on the patio, a soothing spring breeze rustling newly sprouted leaves, a hot fire on the grill, the perfect burger...

The perfect burger?

That's the rub. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the sale of cloned meats from cattle, swine, and goats. So, in theory at least, once you find that once-in-a-lifetime burger you can make it an everyday treat. Just head on down to your local Clones "R" Us and reorder a supply of the XK72-yz89b extra lean ground beef - perfection packaged to go.

Is this really a good idea?

The FDA says so. They reviewed vitamin, mineral, and protein levels from 600 cloned animals. They found no abnormalities and concluded cloned meats are as safe to eat as are the one of a kind varieties we've previously consumed.


Some folks disagree. Surveys have shown that a majority of Americans would not buy cloned meats. They're not alone in their concerns. One of the biggest critics is the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit public advocacy group. It claims the FDA's assessment was lacking and calls for more rigorous testing prior to approval.

Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Staff Scientist for Consumers Union agrees: "The FDA risk assessment ignored the fact that most clones never make it to adulthood because they die in gestation or shortly after birth, and also failed to consider whether clones might need more drug treatments."

The perfect burger? Well - maybe a nice batch of chicken wings would hit the spot...

To read more about the FDA's decision, see this from Reuters. To read more about the objections to cloned meats, including a link to their full report protesting the decision, see this from the Center for Food Safety.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is Cranberry Juice Really Helpful for Women?

tidbits that tantalizeGood For What Ails You?

Think of it. A "Cranberry Research Team," comprised of top scientists from across the country. Their mission? To deconstruct the lore of the humble cranberry, bring scientific method to the mythology, and establish the true medicinal value of the tiny red fruit once and for all. Only in America, right?


In actuality, the high-power research team is in Israel, headed by Prof. Itzhak Ofek of Tel Aviv University. He's somewhat of a cranberry specialist, having studied its health effects for the past two decades.

Cranberries have long been a part of folk medicine treatments for a variety of ailments. Its fruits and leaves have been used to treat wounds, digestive disorders, urinary tract infections, and liver problems. Prof. Ofek was the first to provide scientific evidence of cranberries ability to fight UTIs.

"We understood that there was something in cranberry juice that doesn't let infections adhere to a woman's bladder," Prof. Ofek says. "We figured it was a specific inhibitor and proved this to be the case."

Cranberries appear to have other medical talents as well. Prof. Ofek, in conjunction with the other cranberry researchers, has shown that cranberries also help to fight cavities and prevent the recurrence of ulcers. Based on these findings, Tel Aviv University patented a cranberry mouthwash.

Not so fast, guys...

Yes, it's true. The luscious little cranberry appears to benefit women only. However, since there is still so much yet unknown about the cranberry, Prof. Ofek recommends that men also drink its juice.

Ah, cranberry juice. The stuff of folklore, scientifically certified. Enjoy!

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about cranberries, see this from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Add 14 Years to Your Life

tidbits that tantalize4 Steps = 14 Years...

Sounds a bit like an infomercial, doesn't it? "Yes, that's right, folks. Four simple steps can add YEARS to your life. Are you tired of being tired? Do you want more years in your life, and more life in your years? Look no further..."

Is there really a simple way to add years to your life? Well, according to British researchers there is - or, are. Four to be exact. Four simple steps that can, on average, add 14 years to your life. Fourteen! Let's see an infomercial make that kind of promise.

The researchers gathered baseline data from over 20,000 men and women, ages 45-79, between 1993 and 1997. They then followed their health status until 2006. The initial questioning assessed their lifestyle choices in four key areas, allowing the researchers to assign each participant a health rating of 0 to 4.

The four keys to longevity identified by the researchers are:

-drink moderately


-quit smoking

-eat five servings of fruits and veggies each day

The study revealed that individuals who do all four of these activities live an average of fourteen years longer than those who do none of them. Those who disdained all the healthy choices were four times more likely to die, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

The researchers say the biggest benefit is to be found through quitting smoking, with an 80% improvement in health. The next biggest benefit? Eating your fruits and veggies, of course.

There you have it. The next time an obnoxious infomercial crashes your peaceful party, you'll know what to do. Flip off the television, grab an apple and head outside for a walk. Ah...

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sun Exposure Both Risky and Healthy

news you may not knowFriend or Foe?

What type are you?

Do you dash out into the sun, casting off all but the most essential elements of clothing, and immerse yourself in its life-giving rays? Or, are you more the tiptoe type, slathering on sunscreen, then donning extra layers of clothing to reduce the total surface area of bare skin to less than seven square inches?

The debate is a serious one - with serious consequences. Consider:

-One million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.

-1 of every 5 Americans, including 1 of every 3 Caucasians, will develop skin cancer during their life.

-Sun exposure is responsible for over 90% of all skin cancers.

-Your risk of skin cancer doubles if you have had 5 or more sunburns.

But, the sun also provides terrific health benefits.

A recent study from the Institute for Cancer Research in Oslo, Norway indicates the benefits may outweigh the risks. Previous studies have shown increased exposure to the sun provides health benefits through the production of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps protect the body from many diseases, including various cancers, rickets, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Vitamin D also helps the immune system to function properly.

So, do you or don't you?

It's a tradeoff to be weighed carefully. The researchers estimate that by doubling the amount of sun exposure in Norway, the number of skin cancer deaths each year would also double, to approximately 300. That's the downside. But, they also estimate the number of deaths from other types of cancer - due to the protective benefits of vitamin D - would be reduced by about 3,000. Hmm...

So, what type are you now?

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about skin cancer, including prevention and treatment, see this from The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Where Does Big Pharma Spend Its Money?

news you may not knowYeah - It's Going To Hurt...

It's the "can't live with them, can't live without them" dilemma. When you're ill, you count on the miracle of medications to ease your pain, right your ship, steady your course, shape your... sorry. The truth is, however, medications are indeed the lifeline when illness strikes.


When we aren't sick, the pharmaceutical industry is often castigated for enjoying absurd profits at the expense of a captive and vulnerable clientele. Of course, the pharmaceutical companies say not so fast. They have extraordinary costs associated with research and development (R & D). Many of the drugs they explore never make it to the market, and the millions spent in development are a total loss. It's a plausible, though debatable, argument.


Researchers at York University studied the expenditures of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. They did so through an assessment of multiple reports for 2004. This allowed them to extrapolate more accurate figures than are available in a single report.

The figures are quite telling. In 2004, Big Pharma spent over $31 billion on R & D. That's a huge amount. But, it pales in comparison to their spending on advertising and promotion: $57 billion. Yikes! The fact we're discussing figures in the Billions of dollars indicates the enormity of the market - total drug sales for 2004 were over $235 billion.

So much for the claims of R & D expense driving consumer pricing. It appears the real culprit behind skyrocketing medication prices are advertising dollars. And, of course, the previously referenced obscene industry profits.

It's a bit of a catch-22. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry produces life-changing interventions on a daily basis. They then spend billions touting their medicinal miracles. Now, if only they could develop a pill that would make advertising companies disappear…

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about adopting a healthy lifestyle - which may help you avoid the need for medications - see this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Is Healthy Eating Better Than Dieting?

tidbits that tantalizeThe "Happy" Food Group...

Why are Americans obsessed with diets? Ahem... Take a look around. What you'll find is that well over half of your fellow citizens are a bit on the plump side. Recent figures indicate that over 60% of Americans are overweight. While this is great news for the diet industry, it's quite distressing for their clients.

Of course, the question about whether diets actually work persists. Based upon thousands - OK, millions - of personal dieting failures, the answer appears to be no. Research also backs this up, indicating that pounds lost while dieting are typically reacquired in a future lifestyle readjustment.

What's to be done?

A recent survey conducted by the NPD Group, a market research firm, shows consumers are ditching diets all together. Over the past ten years, the percentage of women on diets has dropped from 35% to 29%, and from 23% to 19% for men. Yes, men have always been slackers in the diet category.


It appears consumers are ditching diets in favor of healthier eating habits. This is excellent news! Previous research has show that long-term health and lifestyle changes are sustainable. Unlike the bad-penny pounds lost on diets, the pounds lost through adoption of a healthier lifestyle are easier to keep at bay - permanently.

The survey found that the desire to improve overall health was the primary motivating factor for close to 70% of respondents. The shift away from a simple desire to lose weight, though still certainly a factor, is a healthy sign.

So, go ahead - kick that diet to the curb! Set your sights on a new and improved you, then ease into it day-by-day with a good choice here, and a good choice there...

To read more about the survey, see this from Reuters. To find a wealth of information on nutritious foods, see this from the World's Healthiest Foods.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Livestrong" Bracelets Look Like Some DNR Bracelets

news you may not knowLive Strong - But, Carefully...

Lance Armstrong is on your side - especially if you've struggled with cancer. The winner of seven consecutive Tour de France bicycling championships is a cancer survivor himself. As a matter of fact, he won his championships after he recovered from his cancer.

After recovering Lance established the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help further the research for a cure for all cancers. The catchphrase of his organization is "Livestrong." This is the attitude he has adopted for his life, and the attitude he encourages others to grab hold of.


There have been some close calls for hospital patients wearing his "Livestrong" bracelets. The yellow bracelets, which help fund his cause, look quite similar to some hospital's Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) bracelets. DNR bracelets are used to alert hospital staff of patients with terminal illnesses, who desire no heroic interventions.

It would be a horrible error - but, as we continue to see, hospital errors are often more common than we want to admit.

What can be done?

On a regulatory basis, the researchers who reported the confusion with the Livestrong bracelets are urging a nationwide standard be adopted. Though some states have standardized wristband colors, there is currently no national standard. The researchers believe such a standard would offer significant protection against misinterpretation of a patient's personal wristband.

There are also steps that can be taken on a personal basis.

For planned hospitalizations, simply remove all personal wristbands prior to admittance. And, if at all possible, have a relative, or friend, serve as your advocate while you are hospitalized. It is far too easy for you to make errors in judgment when you are in the hospital. You're stressed, sick, and tired. In other words, your brain is not functioning at the level required to adequately watch out for yourself. So, bring along a friend - a bright, quick-witted, outspoken friend is best.

For emergencies, consider placing a Medical Information card in your wallet or purse. Place it next to your drivers license, so authorities are likely to find it if you're incapacitated. Provide your emergency contact, list any known medication allergies, and provide a basic statement of your treatment desires. While not a legal document (like the DNR) it may avoid a deadly mistake.

Cell phone users can also program in an ICE number. The ICE number, which stands for In Case of Emergency, is entered, for example, as "ICE Donna," or, "ICE Mom." This allows emergency personnel to scan the cell phone and quickly identify the emergency number and the contact's name.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about Lance Armstrong's group, see this from the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Is Creativity Good For Your Health?

tidbits that tantalizeBe Creative in Everyday Tasks...

Now there's proof - drudgery is not only, well, miserable, but it's also bad for your health.

Researchers form the University of Texas analyzed data from the telephone surveys of over 2,500 people in the 1990s. The surveys focused on the health of respondents, as well as their daily work routine, including their opportunity to be creative in their work.

The results indicate that creativity has many health benefits.

"The most important finding is that creative activity helps people stay healthy," said lead author John Mirowsky, a sociology professor with the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin. "Creative activity is non-routine, enjoyable and provides opportunity for learning and for solving problems. People who do that kind of work, whether paid or not, feel healthier and have fewer physical problems."

The researchers also found that people who are employed, in general, are healthier than those who are not employed. This holds true regardless of the level of creativity involved in their work.

But, employed or not, the key appears to be the simple creative process. It adds enjoyment and mental challenge to our lives and, if the current study is accurate, may also add healthy years.

You know what to do. That's right - use you're your brain. Think of new ways to do things. Shake up your routine. Find some new things to explore - write, paint, craft, doodle...

Ah - you're looking healthier already...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about living a creative life, see this from

Friday, January 04, 2008

Milk Allergies Tough For Kids to Shake

news you may not knowCareful - It Packs Quite A Kick...

There's nothing like it, really. A fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie, still so hot the chip oozes out onto the fingertips. Fabulous - but, not quite complete. There's still the drink to be considered. And, of course, there's but a single reasonable choice. A tall glass of ice-cold milk - the perfect combination for any kid.


New research from Johns Hopkins says not so fast. For kids that have milk allergies when they're young, the perfect combination may have to wait.

The review of over 800 children treated for milk allergies yielded surprising results. Conventional wisdom has been that most children outgrow milk allergies by the age of 3. However, the researchers found that less than 20% of the children outgrew their allergy by age 4. And, in another finding that flies in the face of previous beliefs, they found that roughly 25% of children do not outgrow their allergies until they are teenagers.

Common symptoms of milk allergies include skin-related reactions, vomiting and other gastrointestinal complications, and respiratory difficulties, such as wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

This is significant news. Mothers struggling with chronically ill children often face a difficult road of nebulous diagnoses and treatments. So, be brave. If you suspect your child may have an allergy to milk, try something drastic: pure, fresh, wonderful water. Ah...

The cookies? Alas, for those with milk allergies, the temporary alternative may be the dairy-free, gluten-free, casein-free, “chocolate chip cookie.”

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about milk allergies, including suggestions on foods to avoid and alternate diet recommendations, see this from Kids Health.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Women Persist When Beauty Treatments Fail

news you may not knowAd Free Zone...

The advertisers apparently have us over a barrel filled with pure profit. Researchers from the University of Bath, in England, and the Qatar University report intriguing findings about beauty treatments: the worse they work, the more likely women are to continue using them. Hmm...

Professor Brett Martin and Dr. Rana Sobh studied 297 women between 27 and 65 years of age. They looked at the women's motivation and use of beauty enhancing products and treatments, including creams, vitamins, special diets, and plastic surgery. They were especially interested in the impact of a lack of success on the women's desire to continue the treatments.

Surprisingly, they found that women are more motivated to continue treatments if they believe they are not yet working. The researchers explain the basis of this motivation as being a strong desire to avoid a "feared self."

"How women imagine themselves in the future has a strong effect on how motivated they are to keep using a product or service such as creams or other treatments for ageing," said Dr Sobh. "When people dwell on a negative future, they are motivated by fear, yet as they move away from this feared state - say a wrinkled skin - they become less motivated to carry on using a product or service."

Odd, isn't it? Apparently the perfect product, from the advertiser's perspective, is one that holds great promise, but offers few tangible results.

The phenomenon is not restricted to women and the pursuit of beauty. Men, fearing a pathetic looking future version of themselves, have the same attitude about working out at a gym.

"This doesn't just apply to women - men have a similar psychology about using a gym to get fit and look good," said Professor Martin.

...The research provides yet one more good argument for turning off the television and picking up a good book.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. For a quick list of ten ways to develop a positive self image, see this from Women Fitness.