Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

peace to you this weekBring on the Pies...

May you have a fabulous week
with family and friends

regular blogs will return 12/1

Friday, November 21, 2008

Avoid Flaxseed Oil When Pregnant

news you may not know
Better Stick WIth the Whole Seed...

Pregnancy is...

Well, it's probably best to leave the discussion of the delights and downfalls of pregnancy to those who have more than an observational point of view. But, regardless of anyone's direct participation in the process, it's in everyone's interest that things go well. It's good for the moms and dads - it's good for all of us.

So, mothers-to-be, pay heed. A new study reveals that sometimes natural is not necessarily better. Researchers at the Université de Montréal analyzed the data of over 3,000 pregnant women. Their purpose was to determine whether the natural products they used during pregnancy were safe. "We believe these products to be safe because they are natural. But in reality, they are chemical products and we don't know many of the risks and benefits of these products contrarily to medication," says Professor Anick Bérard, who conducted the study.

The culprit was flaxseed oil.

The study found a disturbing correlation between flaxseed oil and premature births. Those women who took flaxseed oil during their last two trimesters were four times more likely to experience a premature birth. Four times!

In Canada, about 10 percent of pregnant women take natural health products, including chamomile, green tea, and peppered mint. None of these caused a problem. Only the flaxseed oil. Oddly, the whole flaxseed caused no problem for pregnant women either.

Yes, it is a bit of a mystery. Why the whole flaxseed causes no problem, but the flaxseed oil does will certainly require more study. But, while the experts are sorting out all the details, do yourself - and all those non-pregnant types who are counting on you - a favor: pour the flaxseed oil down the drain.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about flaxseed oil, see this from the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Does Ginkgo Protect Against Stroke?

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Yeah - Older's Better...

Medical advances evolve at a dizzying pace these days. Today's medical miracle quickly becomes yesterday's outdated protocol. But, sometimes, the old reliable treatments are still the best. That being the case, it doesn't get much better than ginkgo biloba.

It's true - ginkgo biloba trees have been around for 270 million years. Maybe that's why they're so popular in the alternative health field, with ginkgo outselling all but four other medicinal herbs.

Now, new research shows ginkgo may also play a key role in the treatment and prevention of stroke. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied the impact of ginkgo on mice that had suffered strokes. Those mice given the ginkgo extract within five minutes following the stroke had a 60 percent reduction in neurological damage. Even mice that were not treated with ginkgo until four and one-half hours following the stroke had one-third less damage.

"It's still a large leap from rodent brains to human brains but these results strongly suggest that further research into the protective effects of ginkgo is warranted," says lead researcher Sylvain Doré, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine. "If further work confirms what we've seen, we could theoretically recommend a daily regimen of ginkgo to people at high risk of stroke as a preventive measure against brain damage."

So, keep your eyes open. The next new thing may be a 270 million year old newcomer.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about ginkgo biloba, see this from the Mayo Clinic.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Red Wine Protects Ex-Smokers' Lungs

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The Protector...

It's funny how some things work out. Sure, by now at least, we all know that smoking is really not a good thing. OK, so we've known that for a very long time. But, what about drinking? Where does it fit on the continuum of healthy living? Well, though there's been quite a bit of debate about that, red wine keeps popping up on everyone's list of healthy choices.

Here's one more reason to add red wine to your list - especially if you're an ex-smoker.

Researchers recently studied over 80,000 men between 45 and 69 to assess the effect of red wine on lung cancer. They controlled for several factors, including comparing the outcomes for those who drank white wine instead of red.

The numbers are stunning.

Let's start with 60 percent. It's a huge number, and it represents the decrease in the risk of contracting lung cancer for red wine drinkers versus tea-totallers. This comparison applies to men who have ever been smokers, and includes current smokers, when they drink at least one glass of red wine each day. Sixty percent!

The study found that each glass of red wine consumed during a month yields a two percent reduction in risk.

So, though it's certainly better to have never puffed the noxious weed in the first place, this study is quite remarkable. Add in a little dark chocolate with your wine - for the antioxidants, of course - and you'll be well on your way to a healthy, and happy, lifestyle.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read about some of the other health benefits of red wine, see this form Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Are Physician Prescriptions for Real?

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Trust Me - This Will do the Trick...

You know all those ads on television that encourage you to "talk to your doctor" when you have a medical problem? They present him as being knowledgeable, concerned and, possibly above all else, trustworthy. It certainly seems reasonable. But...

What if the prescription your doctor gives you is a fake?

What? Impossible! Unfortunately, a new survey published by the British Medical Journal paints a surprising picture. It appears it's rather routine for physicians to prescribe "fake" medications to their patients. Even more surprising is the fact these physicians see no ethical dilemma in their medical tomfoolery.

The physicians, about one-half of those partaking in the survey, said they prescribe placebos an average of two to three times each month. The idea is to trigger the "placebo effect," a phenomenon in which the patient gets better just because they believe the medication will work, not because of any real effect of the drug. It's a real phenomenon, and often seen in clinical trials.

But, does that make it right?

Possibly of biggest concern, if you discount the absolute destruction of the patient-physician relationship, is that over ten percent of the physicians are prescribing sedatives as the placebo. Wow! A similar percentage of the docs prefer prescribing antibiotics for use as a placebo. It's really quite a revelation.

Medications are, for the most part, a valuable component in ensuring our health. But, even when taken as a short-term treatment, they should be used with eyes wide open. These are serious substances, with easily as much potential to do harm as to do good. The only way for them to be used safely is through a strong doctor-patient partnership. That means an honest physician prescribing real medications - and an honest and informed patient who doesn't let television ads dictate his medical care.

So, the next time you "talk to your doctor" and he prescribes a new medication, you might want to ask, "Are you kidding me?"

To read more about the survey, see this from Reuters. To view images of medications and to verify the drug you've been prescribed is the real thing, see this from

Monday, November 10, 2008

Are Chicken Legs the Cure to Hypertension?

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Great Legs...

Have you ever seen a chicken with high blood pressure? Probably not. Although, they do tend to run around in a frenzy, and there was that whole Chicken Little fiasco. But, those issues aside, it appears chickens may soon be on the forefront of human's battle against high blood pressure.

Researchers in Japan recently discovered the collagen from the legs of chickens helps lower blood pressure. Collagen is the protein of the connective tissue and is the main component of cartilage and ligaments.

The scientists treated hypertensive mice (who knew the life of a mouse was so hard?) with extracts of the collagen. The mice treated with the chicken leg collagen had significantly lower blood pressure, after eight hours, than mice who received a placebo.

Even better, the positive effect of the chicken legs ran on for many weeks. The mice that received the collagen still had lower blood pressure four weeks later. Of course, the mice that received the placebo were by then stressed to the max.

Now, a word of caution. Yes, this sounds promising. But the scientists urge you not to begin to chew on chicken legs in hopes of finding a natural remedy for your high blood pressure. But, then again...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn about other ways to control high blood pressure, see this from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kids Can Play Their Way to Health

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Sure, You Can Swing Into Shape...

You want to set the right example for your kids, right? Of course. Why else would you limit yourself to a single serving of apple pie? (No sense in counting the ice cream) And, when it comes to exercise, you're absolutely on top of it... It was just yesterday - well, maybe it was just last week or, surely, just last...

OK - so exemplary behavior hasn't been your strong suit as of late. Not to worry. It's never too late to change. And the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to help.

HHS issued new guidelines recently, similar to the Food Pyramid guidelines, which detail their recommendations for exercise. For adults it's really quite doable. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise each day, five days per week. A piece of cake - sorry, the cake reference was inadvertent.

For kids the recommendations are not only doable, but actually quite sensible and natural. HHS says kids need to play for one hour each and every day. No, they don't mean play computer games. They mean real games where they run around and climb on things, and chase each other around. Games where they work up a good sweat by, you know, just being kids.

It's really quite amazing - a set of government guidelines that encourages kids to be kids. Just because it's good for them.

So go ahead. Take your kids to the park and let them play around for a while. And, yes - set a good example by jumping in there yourself. Think you can keep up? Well, good luck with that...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read the new guidelines, see this from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Monday, November 03, 2008

How a Wort Might Make You Smile

news you may not know

It Really Does Make You Smile...

121 million people.

That's the number of people globally suffering from depression. That's a huge number and something that impacts virtually everyone. If you're not one of the depressed it's highly likely your life has been touched by someone who is.

So, what's to be done? Well, the most common approach is to ignore the situation. That seems to be the standard response to many of life's difficulties, especially in countries like the United States. But, though popular, the approach appears to be wholly without merit.

So, of course, the next answer is to turn to medications. Now, nothing against medications, but there are times the side effects are so severe it makes one long for the days of simple debility.

And, when folks get really desperate, they turn to good old Mother Nature for remedies made from the barks of ancient trees and the roots of exotic weeds. So it is with St. John's Wort. The very name conjures up images of ghastly growths protruding from the face and neck, peeking out from beneath he collar. (With apologies to the more famous common wart)

But, in fact, a recent analysis reveals St. John's Wort to be a powerful antidepressant. As a matter of fact, the natural remedy was found to be every bit as effective as mainline medications in fighting depression - but without the accompanying side effects.

The Cochrane Review, a journal that analyses medical studies, reviewed 29 studies from around the globe, which included over 5,000 participants. They found the results were especially impressive in Germany, where the quality controls on St. John's Wort are high and physicians routinely prescribe the natural remedy for depression.

A note of caution - St. John's Wort can impact the activity of other medications and should only be used with appropriate medical advice.

So who knows? Maybe St. John's Wort will work wonders and put some smiles back on the faces of millions of people who could use a lift - let's keep our fingers crossed.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about St. John's Wort, see this from the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.