Dr. Walt’s Take on the Health Headlines – May 30, 2008

Here are my takes on some of today’s health headlines:

Vitamin D for babies may prevent type 1 diabetes

A new systematic review reports to have “the strongest evidence to date” that supplemental vitamin D in babies and children may help reduce the risk of later development of type 1 diabetes by 29 percent.

Readers of this blog have read me frequently comment on the host of health problems prevented by vitamin D.

However, this review should remind all breast feeding moms to ask their child’s doctor about supplementing with at least vitamin D.

Why? Because breast milk typically contains little vitamin D.

Therefore, I join with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians in recommending vitamin D supplements for nursing infants.

Others recommend that all children should receive vitamin D supplements for at least the first two years of life.

My take? I recommend these supplements for all my breast fed babies.

Baby Born After Rare Ovarian Pregnancy

An ectopic (extrauterine) pregnancy that goes to term? Astounding!

A 34-year-old woman in Australia reportedly gave birth to the healthy baby girl by C-section at 38 weeks gestation.

Reportedly, her doctors, “performing a routine Caesarean section … were shocked to find that the baby had developed in the ovary rather than the uterus.”

Ectopic pregnancies, in which an unborn child begins to develop outside of the uterus almost always dies or is terminated by doctors because the risk of potentially fatal bleeding is so very high and can even be so bad as to cause the death of the mother.

“We’re calling it a miracle,” the mother told The Associated Press.

My take? Aside from the fact that I consider all babies a miracle, I think the mother is indeed correct.

Mediterranean Diet May Ward Off Type 2 Diabetes

Last week I reported that good nutrition and exercise can delay the onset of type 2 diabetes for years or decades.

Now, other researchers are reporting in the British Medical Journal that the “Mediterranean diet, which is famously beneficial for the cardiovascular system, also helps protect against diabetes.”

This diet is comprised mainly of “olive oil, fish, grains, fruit, nuts, and vegetables, usually supplemented (with) red wine. Meat and dairy products have only a minor role.”

People with the highest adherence to the diet had an 83 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who did not adhere to the diet.

This is the first study, of which I am aware, showing that a Mediterranean diet protects against diabetes.

High Heels, Flip-Flops: Both Types of Footwear Raise Chances of Injuries and Leg Pain

A warning to all those who walk down stairs while wearing heels – your risk of foot and ankle injuries goes up as you go down.

But, what about flip flops? Well, another second found that wearing them leads to lower-leg pain.

Both studies were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Other studies have shown that wearing high heels, even on flat surfaces, increases the risk for minor problems, like blisters, sprained ankles, and bunions, to more serious chronic complaints, like backaches and knee arthritis.

My take? Either don’t wear high heels at all, or limit their use, especially if you or your family has a history of foot, knee, leg, or back problems. If you wear a heel, I’d suggest a one-inch chunky heel at the very most.

And, if you wear flip-flops, only wear them for short periods of time. They should not be your everyday shoe.

Socially Active Seniors Stay Sharp

MedPage reports, “Frequent interaction with family and friends, volunteering, and other social activities may delay age-related memory loss, researchers found.”

This study reports that memory declined twice as fast among those 50 or older who were least socially active.

Although this is only an observational study, albeit a large study, its suggestion that “increasing social integration may be an important component of efforts to protect older Americans from memory decline,” is backed up by many other studies.

My take? Good friends are good for you in many good ways.

Safety of Antibacterial Soap Debated

According to WebMD Health News, “Millions of Americans use antibacterial soaps and household cleaners every day, believing that their germ-killing ability will keep them and their families healthier.”

Likely, they are wrong.

First of all, the antibacterial chemicals may pose a serious health risk.

Secondly, the antibacterial cleaners don’t work any better than regular soap and water.

Finally, antibacterial soaps and hand cleansers may contribute to the rise of resistant bacteria.

In fact, in 2005, the FDA concluded that antibacterial soaps, as used by the general public, don’t prevent illness any better than ordinary soap, and they may contribute to the rise of resistant bacteria.

My take? Why take the risk and spend the extra money for antibacterial soaps?

US reporters often hype medical news

No real surprise here.

Gary Schwitzer, who runs a website that reviews health news [healthnewsreview.org] ran an analysis on 500 US stories evaluated by his site and concluded that 62-77% had major failings in their reporting.

One of the big places that Schwitzer feels news stories fail is that the vast majority do not report the cost of the treatments they are reporting on.

Also, only 38% of stories put the treatment into context with other available options, and just a third quantify the harms associated with the new treatment.

The PLoS Medicine editors call the findings “alarming.”

My Take: Read My Take for the facts.

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