Dr. Walt’s Take on the Health Headlines – June 6, 2008

Here are my takes on some of today’s health headlines, including one that is, in my opinion, being blown way out of perspective:

Mercury teeth fillings may harm some: FDA

Silver-colored metal dental fillings contain mercury that may cause health problems in pregnant women, children and fetuses, the Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday after settling a related lawsuit.

As part of the settlement with several consumer advocacy groups, the FDA agreed to alert consumers about the potential risks on its website and to issue a more specific rule next year for fillings that contain mercury, FDA spokeswoman Peper Long said.

“Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses,” the FDA said in a notice on its Web site.

“Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner,” the agency said.

The FDA said it did not recommend that people who currently have mercury fillings get them removed.

The FDA must issue the new rules in July 2009, Long said.

My Take? Among my patients, fewer and fewer are choosing mercury fillings in recent years. Most are choosing lighter options such as tooth-colored resin composites. Nevertheless, at this point my advice about the mercury filling controversy is DO NOTHING. The FDA will be studying the issue and making a recommendation in the next 12 months. Until then, watchful waiting is in order.

ADA Comments on FDA’s Settlement of Dental Amalgam Lawsuit

The American Dental Association (ADA) believes the recent settlement between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the group Moms Against Mercury simply sets a definite deadline (July 28, 2009) for the FDA to complete what it began in 2002—a reclassification process for dental amalgam, a commonly-used cavity filling material.

As far as the ADA is aware, the FDA has in no way changed its approach to, or position on, dental amalgam.

Based on extensive studies and scientific reviews of dental amalgam by government and independent organizations worldwide, the ADA believes that dental amalgam remains a safe, affordable and durable cavity filling choice for dental patients.

My Take? I with the ADA on this one.

Mercury Low in Wild and Farmed Salmon

Levels of mercury and other trace metals in both wild and farmed salmon taken from Canadian waters were found to be well below those considered safe, a new study shows.

Total mercury levels in the wild salmon tested were three times higher than in farmed, but total mercury intake from both types of fish was found to be lower than from many other foods.

My Take? In recent years, concerns have been raised about the safety of farmed salmon versus wild salmon. It is reassuring that the mercury levels were well below recommended consumption guidelines.

However, this new study did not examine levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) in the fish. In a study published in 2004, researchers examined PCB levels in farmed and wild salmon and found that farmed salmon contained significantly higher levels of the chemical than wild varieties of the fish.

Furthermore, others have found that the concentration of the health-producing omega-3 fatty acids are much higher in wild as compared to farmed salmon.

Therefore, if you have a choice, go with wild over farmed salmon. However, eating farmed salmon is more healthful than eating no salmon.

Nevertheless, don’t forget that the FDA and EPA have issued a recommendation that pregnant women and young children should eat no more than two servings, or 12 ounces, of salmon and other low-mercury fish each week.

Health Officials Trace Infant Whooping Cough Outbreak at Texas Hospital to Sick Nurse

A 2004 whooping cough outbreak among 11 infants, nine of whom had to be admitted to the same Texas hospital, has been traced back to a nurse who had not had a whooping cough vaccine since childhood.

My Take? This should remind my readers that whooping cough is becoming more and more common. All adults should be immunized against diptheria, whooping cough, and tetanus every ten years (it’s a single injection – DTaP). If you haven’t gotten yours, now is the time to call you doctor.

British Miracle Baby Survives Failed Abortion, Now Healthy Six-Month Old

A British baby has survived an abortion at eight weeks into pregnancy and is now a health six-month old with no signs of illness. Doctors told mother Jodie Percival she should consider having an abortion because her unborn child supposedly had a major kidney problem.

My Take? There is almost never a case in which a doctor should morally advise the death of an unborn child. Yet, the doctor’s fear of malpractice leans them toward recommending abortion in questionable cases. This case reminds us doctors of just how wrong we can sometimes be.

Sunlight, Vitamin D May Cut Kids’ Diabetes Risk

Adequate sun exposure and vitamin D levels may play an important role in helping to prevent type 1 diabetes in children, this new study suggests.

One of the researchers said, “This is the first study, to our knowledge, to show that higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced incidence rates of type 1 diabetes worldwide.”

My Take? In My Take just a few days ago, I recommended that all children (and, especially breastfed children) be supplemented with vitamin D. Here’s another reason that backs up that recommendation.

Study Shows Probiotics May Ease Hay Fever

This new research suggests probiotics (containing “good” bacteria) can alter the body’s immune response to grass pollen — a common cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. As such probiotics may potentially offer a treatment option to the estimated 35.9 million people in the U.S. who have seasonal hay fever.

My Take? Remember that herbs and supplements are NOT regulated in the U.S. And researchers at ConsumerLab.com have found that some probiotic products come up short. I recommend that my patients that want to buy herbs, vitamins, or supplements check with an independent testing lab to find the products that have passed testing. At this time, ConsumerLab, has tested more products that any other lab. They sell their reviews, but, in my opinion, they are well worth the cost.

Shock absorbing insoles may ease knee pain

People with arthritis of the knee seem to find walking a relatively long distance less painful if they put shock absorbing insoles in their shoes, according to results of a study reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis.

My Take? No news here. But, this study is a good reminder to those who have ankle, knee, hip, or back pain while walking – consider trying a relatively cheap ($20) off-the-shelf shock absorbing insoles inside your walking or running shoes.

However, if you have muscle pain while walking, that is relieved with rest, that may indicate a vascular problem and should be evaluated by your family physician.

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