Monthly Archives: January 2011

Kids Not So Stuck on Sugary Breakfast Cereals, Study Finds

It turns out that when kids are given a choice of cereals, and there is fruit on hand, most will be happy with low-sugar fare. In other words, getting your kids to happily eat nutritious, low-sugar breakfast cereals may be child’s play, researchers report. This was exactly what I predicted in my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, currently on sale here.

SSK cover

The recent study finds that children will gladly chow down on low-sugar cereals if they’re given a selection of choices at breakfast, and many compensate for any missing sweetness by opting for fruit instead. Here are the details from HealthDay News:

The 5-to-12-year-olds in the study still ate about the same amount of calories regardless of whether they were allowed to choose from cereals high in sugar or a low-sugar selection. However, the kids weren’t inherently opposed to healthier cereals, the researchers found.

“Don’t be scared that your child is going to refuse to eat breakfast. The kids will eat it,” said study co-author Marlene B. Schwartz, deputy director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Nutritionists have long frowned on sugary breakfast cereals that are heavily marketed by cereal makers and gobbled up by kids.

In 2008, Consumer Reports analyzed cereals marketed to kids and found that each serving of 11 leading brands had about as much sugar as a glazed donut. The magazine also reported that two cereals were more than half sugar by weight and nine others were at least 40 percent sugar.

This week, food giant General Mills announced that it is reducing the sugar levels in its cereals geared toward children, although they’ll still have much more sugar than many adult cereals.

In the meantime, many parents believe that if cereals aren’t loaded with sweetness, kids won’t eat them.

But is that true? In the new study, researchers offered different breakfast cereal choices to 91 urban children who took part in a summer day camp program in New England. Most were from minorities families and about 60 percent were Spanish-speaking.

Of the kids, 46 were allowed to choose from one of three high-sugar cereals: Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Pebbles, which all have 11-12 grams of sugar per serving. The other 45 chose from three cereals that were lower in sugar: Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. They all have 1-4 grams of sugar per serving.

All the kids were also able to choose from low-fat milk, orange juice, bananas, strawberries and extra sugar.

Taste did matter to kids, but when given a choice between the three low-sugar cereals, 90 percent “found a cereal that they liked or loved,” the authors report.

In fact, “the children were perfectly happy in both groups,” Schwartz said. “It wasn’t like those in the low-sugar group said they liked the cereal less than the other ones.”

The kids in both groups also took in about the same amount of calories at breakfast. But the children in the high-sugar group filled up on more cereal and consumed almost twice as much refined sugar as did the others. They also drank less orange juice and ate less fruit.

Len Marquart, an associate professor of food science and nutrition at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, said the study findings “confirm for people that their choices in the cereal aisle do make a difference.”

“The biggest challenges are taste and marketing. In the morning, kids are sleepy and cranky, and it’s hard to get them to sit down and eat breakfast,” he said. “The sugar cereals marketed with flash and color and cartoon characters help get kids to the kitchen table when nothing else seems to work. And, we have to be realistic, they do like the taste of presweetened cereals.”

But one solution is to be creative, he said. “Take Cheerios and put some strawberries and vanilla yogurt on top, and that’s going to taste better than any presweetened cereal anyway,” Marquart said.

Obama Admin Working to Rescind Conscience Rights on Abortion

The Obama administration is still working to overturn conscience rights for medical professionals on abortion that were put in place at the tail end of the Bush administration. Here are the chilling details in a report from LifeNews:

In 2008, the Bush administration issued a rule that prohibited recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and health care aides who refuse to take part in medical procedures to which they have religious or moral objections, such as abortion.

The rule implemented existing conscience protection laws that ensure medical professionals cannot be denied employment because they do not want to assist in abortions.

New information about the state of those protections and efforts to repeal them comes from legal papers the administration filed in a case the state of Connecticut launched against the conscience protections.

In a document filed in federal court in November, Obama administration attorneys admitted that the administration wants to finalize a rescission of the conscience rules but has been delayed because of other business — likely due to the HHS working on implementing the provisions of the ObamaCare law.

HHS “hope[d] to have an internal draft final rule prepared in the near future, but that the schedule is necessarily tentative given the possibility of unforeseen delays and the need to devote time and resources to other agency priorities,” the November legal paper said.

Responding to the paper, the federal court asked for more information about the delay.

The Obama administration filed another legal paper December 1 stating “HHS still cannot be certain of a date for completing the rulemaking” but added “HHS expects to have a final rule published in the Federal Register within sixty to ninety days – i.e., as early as January 31, 2011, and no later than March 1, 2011.”

Obama officials asked the court to not mandate a time by which the rescission is made and said they hope to complete the rescission of the conscience rights prior to the court issuing a decision related to the Bush rules in the Connecticut challenge.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life legal group, points out that the papers make it clear the Obama administration intends to repeal the conscience protections on abortion, citing language saying the administration would notify the court “when the final rule regarding the proposed rescission is published.”

ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman said the Obama administration “wants to dismantle” the conscience protections “leaving little defense for the regulation and for health care workers.”

“Medical professionals should not be punished for holding to their beliefs, and they should not be forced to perform abortions against their conscience,” he told LifeNews.com. “Those pursuing this lawsuit, including organizations such as Planned Parenthood, would like nothing more than to deny health care workers the only means that exists to defend their federally protected right to opt out of abortions.”

ADF has been defending the rights of a nurse who was forced to assist in an abortion and is she is now seeking to join the lawsuit to oppose Connecticut’s efforts to overturn the Bush rules.

As LifeNews.com reported in November, Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo lost a federal court ruling saying she doesn’t have the right to sue the hospital that forced her to participate in an abortion.

Now, the Alliance Defense Fund has filed a motion to intervene in State of Connecticut v. United States of America.

ADF is currently involved in a lawsuit in New York state court to defend Cenzon-DeCarlo’s conscience rights under state law, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld the dismissal of her federal lawsuit, leaving only an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the means to defend her rights protected under federal law.

That investigation relies upon the conscience regulations implemented by former President George W. Bush that direct the department to conduct such investigations.

If Connecticut is successful or the Obama administration overturns the rules, “this case may cause Mrs. DeCarlo to again be illegally compelled to assist in abortions by her federally funded employer due to the removal of all her protective measures,” ADF legal papers say.

“Moreover, that Regulation has helped empower Defendant HHS’ Office of Civil Rights to actually and presently be investigating that violation on her behalf, explicitly telling Mrs. DeCarlo that the investigation is being pursued at least in part under the Implementing Regulation.

Yet in this case, Plaintiffs seek to invalidate that Regulation and Defendants have worked with Plaintiffs to stay the case based on their intent to rescind the Regulation,” the papers add.

ADF attorneys, working together with the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom, are simultaneously attempting to intervene in the Connecticut case on behalf of several pro-life medical associations.

The judge cleared the motions from his calendar for now but determined that they can be considered once the case, which is currently on hold, moves forward.

Although federal law has long forbidden discrimination against health care professionals who refuse to perform abortions or provide referrals for them, the regulation required institutions that get federal funding to certify their compliance with laws protecting conscience rights.

It also promoted education within the medical community regarding their rights and provided an avenue of recourse in the event of discrimination through the Office of Civil Rights within HHS.

At the end of February, the Obama administration announced it began “reviewing” the regulations implementing conscience laws, the first step toward rescinding the rule altogether.

In 2009, Obama told students at Notre Dame he wanted to find common ground on abortion and used the conscience clause as an example. but he came under criticism from pro-life lawmakers who said he was working to remove the protections.

Now, it’s clear that the President was either being less than truthful or has changed his mind. I doubt the latter.

Surgeon general issues new tobacco warnings

Congrats to the new Surgeon General, for taking an even stronger stand on tobacco in her recent report, “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease.: The Los Angeles Times and Orlando Sentinel write that the report has found that “ANY exposure” to tobacco smoke can cause immediate damage to the human body.

“There is NO safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke,” Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said.

“Inhaling even the SMALLEST amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.”

The report also finds almost NO difference between being a light smoker and a heavy smoker.

“That’s because of the inflammatory processes occur at very, very low doses,” said cardiologist Dr. Stanton Glantz.

The AP notes that the report “is the 30th issued by the nation’s surgeons general to warn the public about tobacco’s risks,” but “is unusual because it devotes more than 700 pages to detail the biology of how cigarette smoke accomplishes its dirty deeds — including the latest genetic findings to help explain why some people become more addicted than others, and why some smokers develop tobacco-caused disease faster than others.”

CNN says that the report “links smoking directly to 13 different cancers including esophagus, trachea, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, cervix and acute myeloid leukemia.”

It also “ties smoking to more than a dozen chronic diseases like stroke, blindness, periodontitis, heart disease, pneumonia; reproductive problems like diminishing fertility; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”

The Washington Post “Checkup” blog reports that Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called the report “a stark reminder of how lethal and addictive smoking truly is.”

As Healthcare Reform Takes Hold, 74% of Physicians Will Retire or Seek Other Alternatives

Healthcare reform, should it survive legal challenge, repeal, and/or non-funding, will usher in a new era of medicine in which physicians will, according to a report in Modern Medicine, “largely cease to operate as full-time, independent, private practitioners accepting third party payments. Instead, they will work as employees, as part-timers, as administrators, in cash-only ‘concierge’ practices, or they will walk away from medicine altogether.” Here are the details from Modern Medicine:

These are some of the findings of a new report commissioned by The Physicians Foundation entitled “Health Reform and the Decline of Physician Private Practice”.

The report outlines provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) and examines economic, demographic, and other forces impacting the way doctors structure their practices and deliver care.

The report offers a road map for where medical practice is headed in the post-reform era, says Lou Goodman, PhD, president of The Physicians Foundation and chief executive officer of the Texas Medical Association.

Concern about patient care

“The private practice physician is rapidly disappearing,” Goodman notes. “Both market forces and the health care reform law are forcing physicians to find new ways of running a practice. We are extremely concerned about how this will affect patient care.”

Drawing on the perspective of a panel of healthcare experts and executives, the report projects physicians will follow one of four courses:

  • Work as employees of increasingly larger medical groups or hospital systems
  • Establish cash-only practices that eliminate third party payers
  • Reduce their clinical roles by working part-time
  • Opt out of medicine altogether by accepting non-clinical positions or by retiring.

Survey results in agreement

The projections are backed by results of a national physician survey included in the report.

Of some 2,400 physicians responding, only 26 percent said they would continue practicing the way they are in the next one to three years. The remaining 74 percent said they would:

  • retire,
  • work part-time,
  • close their practices to new patients,
  • become employed and/or
  • seek non-clinical jobs.

Based on the survey and other data, the white paper projects health reform will worsen the ongoing physician shortage and make it harder for many patients to access a physician.

In order to illustrate medical practice trends, the report includes case studies of medical practice models likely to proliferate post-reform, including studies of a medical home, an accountable care organization, a concierge practice, a community health center, and a small, hospital-aligned practice.

All-in-all, if this survey is accurate, the evolution of healthcare reform should be very interesting.

My Take on the new Vitamin D and Calcium Recommendations

You’re likely hearing a fair bit of controversy over the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) new recommendations (RDA) for vitamin D and calcium. I first reported on this in my blog, “Institute of Medicine says megadoses of vitamin D, calcium unnecessary.”

The IOM calls for MORE vitamin D and LESS calcium … but many experts say the vitamin D doses are still not high enough.

Vitamin D

The new RDA is:

  • 400 IU for infants,
  • 600 IU for ages 1 to 70, and
  • 800 IU for over 70.

But these RDAs are based ONLY on the amount needed to prevent bone problems, such as rickets, osteomalacia, osteopenia, osteoporosis, and fractures.

Higher amounts of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of falls, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, etc. But the RDA is not set higher because the IOM feels there’s not sufficient proof of these benefits.

The experts at Prescriber’s Letter (PL)are telling healthcare professionals, “Recommend 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for kids, and 800 to 2000 IU for adults. The higher adult dose is safe and may provide extra benefits.” I’m with Prescriber’s Letter on this one. I concur with the new guidelines from Osteoporosis Canada recommending 1000 IU/day for adults under age of 50 and 2000 IU/day for adults over 50.

PL goes on to say, “Discourage adults from taking over 4000 IU/day without monitoring. Consider vitamin D testing for people likely to be deficient due to advanced age … dark skin … limited sun … malabsorption … etc.”

As I’ve told you before (Vitamin D Supplementation and Cancer Prevention):  I check a vitamin D level as part of my annual exam. I do this on all adolescents and adults. If the vitamin D level is below 30, I suggest supplementing with vitamin D and rechecking.”

I give my patients two options:

  • OTC vitamin D, 2000 IU per day, and recheck the level in 4-6 months, or
  • Prescription vitamin D, 50,000 IU per week for 12 weeks and then recheck the level.
I check a vitamin D level as part of my annual exam. I do this on all adolescents and adults.
If the vitamin D level is below 50, I suggest supplementing with vitamin D and rechecking.
I give my patients two options:
OTC vitamin D, 2000 IU per day, and recheck the level in 4-6 months, or
Prescription vitamin D, 50,000 IU per week for 12 weeks and then recheck the level.

PL recommends, “Aim for a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level above 20 ng/mL for bone health … but below 60 ng/mL until more is known about the long-term safety of higher levels.” In my practice, we’re aiming for levels of 30 to 50 ng/mL.

Calcium

The new RDA for elemental calcium is:

  • 1300 mg for adolescents,
  • 1000 mg for women up to 50 and men up to 70, and
  • 1200 mg for older adults.

PL says, “Advise people not to get carried away with calcium supplements. Recommend not going over 2000 mg/day from food AND supplements for adults over 50. Too much calcium FROM SUPPLEMENTS might increase the risk of kidney stones and POSSIBLY heart attacks.

You can read more in my blog, “Can Calcium Supplements Cause Heart Attacks?

Institute of Medicine says megadoses of vitamin D, calcium unnecessary

In a front-page article, the New York Times says, “The very high levels of vitamin D and calcium that are often recommended by doctors and testing laboratories – and can be achieved only by taking supplements – are unnecessary and could be harmful, an expert committee says” in a low-awaited report.

The “group said most people have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their blood supplied by their diets and natural sources like sunshine.” Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, “a member of the panel and an osteoporosis expert at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute,” said, “For most people, taking extra calcium and vitamin D supplements is not indicated.”

The AP reports, “Long-awaited new dietary guidelines say there’s no proof that megadoses prevent cancer or other ailments – sure to frustrate backers of the so-called sunshine vitamin.”

This “decision by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, could put some brakes on the nation’s vitamin D craze, warning that super-high levels could be risky.”

Notably, “a National Cancer Institute study last summer was the latest to report no cancer protection from vitamin D and the possibility of an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in people with the very highest D levels. Super-high doses – above 10,000 IUs a day – are known to cause kidney damage, and the report sets 4,000 IUs as an upper daily limit – but not the amount people should strive for.”

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the committee members disagreed with previous findings that Americans and Canadians do not consume sufficient vitamin D, and instead suggested that a blood level of 20 nanograms/ml was adequate.

This suggestion contradicts groups such as the Endocrine Society and the International Osteoporsis Foundation, which have recommended 30 ng/ml for good bone health — and is what I recommend for my patients.

Meanwhile, the NIH has begun to recruit participants for a large study that will compare the impact on health of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil.

USA Today reports, “According to the report, children and adults younger than 71 need no more than 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D a day and should consume 700 to 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day, depending on their age.”

Indeed, the “committee was surprised to see that most Americans are meeting their needs for both of the nutrients, except for adolescent girls who may not be getting enough calcium and some elderly people who don’t get enough of either, says Catharine Ross, professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University and chairwoman of the panel that prepared the report.”

Still, Time points out, “Those 71 years or older … may need more vitamin D, up to 800 IU a day, to combat deteriorating bone,” the group said.

Due to “the lack of sufficient data to date, advice on vitamin D up to this point was not considered as a recommended dietary allowance, which is based on stronger scientific evidence, but rather an adequate intake suggestion, and stood at anywhere from 200 IU to 400 IU for adults.”

Notably, the “new recommendations are based on data from more than 1,000 studies, most of which included trials in which volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either vitamin or calcium supplements or a placebo, after which their health outcomes were compared to one another.”

The Washington Post “The Checkup” blog says, “The United States and Canada asked the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, to update the official vitamin D recommendations for the first time since 1997.”

You read more about my application of this report in my blog, “My Take on the new Vitamin D and Calcium Recommendations.”

Patient treated his bowel disease with parasitic worm eggs

In the “I-can’t-believe-it’s-true” category, the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “For several decades, researchers have argued that the growing incidence of autoimmune disease in the developed world is the result of improved sanitation, which limits our exposure to infectious diseases during childhood.”

And, “in the 1990s, Dr. Joel Weinstock, then at the University of Iowa and now at Tufts University, observed that the eradication of intestinal worms in the developed world was followed soon after by a rise in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which now affects as many as one million Americans.”

But, a 34-year-old Northern California man with ulcerative colitis may have found a way to treat his condition: “parasitic worms.”

He “hopped a plane to Thailand to see a parasitologist – and then gulped down 1,500 parasitic worm eggs,” according to the MSNBC “Body Odd” blog.

“Turns out, the squirmy little worms did the trick to help soothe the man’s inflammatory bowel disease symptoms,” sparring him from having his colon surgically removed.

The case was detailed in Science Translational Medicine by New York University researchers who “analyzed slides and samples of the man’s blood and colon tissue from 2003, before he swallowed the eggs, to 2009, a few years after ingestion,” HealthDay reported.

“During this period, he was virtually symptom-free for almost three years,” but “when his colitis flared in 2008, he swallowed another 2,000 eggs and got better again.”

Samples “taken during active colitis showed a large number of CD4+ T-cells.” However, “tissue taken after worm therapy, when his colitis was in remission, contained lots of T-cells that make interleukin-22 (IL-22), a protein that promotes wound healing.”

The Trichuris trichiura worms “seemed to stimulate the production of mucus in the gut,” WebMD reported.

Lead investigator P’ng Loke, PhD, “and colleagues believe that the mucus is produced in an effort to expel the worms from the gut,” but “instead of doing this it heals the lesions caused by the disease.”

Dr. Loke noted, however, that the “patient was lucky … because the risks of deliberately colonizing the intestine with parasitic worms are not well understood.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Health & Science Today” blog also covered the story.

MRI scans of the brain may help scientists better understand autism

Bloomberg News reports that a MRI-based “method may help speed up detection and add to knowledge of” autism’s “biological base,” according to a paper in Autism Research.

“‘We, for the first time, are able to begin to really see what is going on in the brain in children who have autism,’ said Janet Lainhart, an associate professor at the University of Utah, in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News. ‘That is usually the beginning of major advances in recognition, treatment, and prevention.'”

Indeed, “previous studies using different types of scans have been able to identify people with autism” but, said co-author Nicholas Lange of Harvard, “no one has looked at it [the brain] the way we have and no one has gotten these type of results,” the CNN “The Chart” blog reported.

“By scanning the brain for 10 minutes using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to measure six physical differences of microscopic fibers in the brains of 30 males with confirmed high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism.

The images of the brains helped researchers correctly identify those with autism with 94 percent accuracy.”

Marguerite Colston, vice president of constituent relations for the Bethesda, Maryland-based Autism Society, an advocacy group that raises awareness about the disorder, said the organization hopes studies like this will ultimately lead to earlier diagnosis of autism for all children.

Currently, the average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. is 4 years old. The group is striving to cut the age of diagnosis in half, she said.

Researchers plan to further study and develop the test. Additional studies are also needed to see if the test will work in those who are younger and in those whose autism symptoms are more severe, the researchers said.

Maybe this type of research will not only help with the diagnosis and early treatment of autism (and related disorders), but also help us find the real cause or causes (which clearly are not vaccines).

New Guidelines for Diagnosing and Treating Food Allergies

This rather long post will be of primary interest to those treating and suffering with food allergies. Primarily, the new guidelines aim to standardize diagnosis and treatment of food allergy

On the front of its Personal Journal section, the Wall Street Journal reports in “Health Journal” that at present, pulmonologists, emergency physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, pediatricians, and allergists diagnose and manage food allergies in a wide variety of ways.

What’s more, some tests on the market have not been scientifically validated, while the results of others are often misinterpreted. Such realities make it difficult to gauge the number of Americans suffering from food allergies.

In fact, there are “wildly divergent estimates of food allergies that range from 1% to 10% of the US population,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Most likely, about 3% to 4% of Americans have some type of food allergy, although the prevalence appears to be increasing for unknown reasons, said Dr. Hugh A. Sampson, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and past president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.”

In other words, “as many as 50% to 90% of people with presumed food allergies do not in fact have them, medical research suggests.”

Now, however, newly released guidelines may eventually get “everyone on the same page when it comes to diagnosing and treating food allergies,” the Washington Post “The Checkup” blog reported.

“An expert panel working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) compiled the comprehensive guide published … in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.”

Again, the “goal was to provide healthcare professionals, whether they be allergy specialists, ED personnel, or general practitioners, up-to-date, science-based information about managing food allergies.”

Altogether, “43 recommendations” were released, HealthDay reported.

“One thing the guidelines try to do is delineate which tests can distinguish between a food sensitivity and a full-blown food allergy, Sampson noted.”

Yet, the “two most common tests done to diagnose a food allergy – the skin prick and measuring the level of antigens in a person’s blood – only spot sensitivity to a particular food, not whether there will be a reaction to eating the food. To determine whether the results of these two tests indicate a true allergy, other tests and a food challenge are often needed.”

For those who are eventually diagnosed and react to a specific foodstuff, the “recommended therapy for anaphylaxis is described in the guidelines,” Medscape reported.

“Dr. Sampson stressed that ‘epinephrine is the first choice for the treatment of anaphylaxis and many of the other drugs, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, and such, are secondary medications.'”

Investigators also pointed out that “food elimination diets – taking away one or a few specific foods to see if the reaction disappears – may help,” WebMD reported.

“Oral food challenges – exposing the person to the suspected food under medical supervision – are thought to be helpful.”

As for prevention, “some pregnant women may hope restricting their diets during pregnancy or during breastfeeding may help their children avoid allergies,” but the “experts disagree and don’t recommend this.”

They fail to endorse “soy formula as a strategy for preventing the development of allergies,” as well.

Notably, MedPage Today reported, the recommendations “are meant to be easily understood and implemented by clinicians in varied specialties, according to Matthew Fenton, PhD, of the NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation.”

He added, “We were very specifically looking to generate a document that was not written by allergists for allergists.”

Dr. Fenton also explained that the “agency is now working on a summary for consumers,” the CNN “The Chart” blog reported.

“It’s important for patients and their families to understand that the symptoms of food allergy can mimic several other very legitimate diseases such as food intolerance and gastrointestinal problems. It is important for them to work with their doctors so they can identify the true root cause of the health affect caused by food.”

The Wall Street Journal “Health Blog” also covered the story.

Friends May Be Key to Churchgoers’ Happiness

Regular churchgoers may lead more satisfying lives than stay-at-home folks because they create a network of close friends who provide important support, a new study suggests. Conducted at the University of Wisconsin, the researchers found that 28 percent of people who attend church weekly say they are “extremely satisfied” with life as opposed to only 20 percent who never attend services. But the satisfaction comes from more from participating in a religious congregation along with close friends, rather than a spiritual experience, the study found.

Here are the details from HealthDay News: Regular churchgoers who have no close friends in their congregations are no more likely to be very satisfied with their lives than those who never attend church, according to the research.

Study co-author Chaeyoon Lim said it’s long been recognized that churchgoers report more satisfaction with their lives. But, “scholars have been debating the reason,” he said.

“Do happier people go to church? Or does going to church make people happier?” asked Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

This study, published in American Sociological Review, appears to show that going to church makes people more satisfied with life because of the close friendships established there.

Feeling close to God, prayer, reading scripture and other religious rituals were not associated with a prediction of greater satisfaction with life. Instead, in combination with a strong religious identity, the more friends at church that participants reported, the greater the likelihood they felt strong satisfaction with life.

The study is based on a phone survey of more than 3,000 Americans in 2006, and a follow-up survey with 1,915 respondents in 2007. Most of those surveyed were mainline Protestants, Catholics and Evangelicals, but a small number of Jews, Muslims and other non-traditional Christian churches was also included.

“Even in that short time, we observed that people who were not going to church but then started to go more often reported an improvement in how they felt about life satisfaction,” said Lim.

He said that people have a deep need for belonging to something “greater than themselves.” The experience of sharing rituals and activities with close friends in a congregation makes this “become real, as opposed to something more abstract and remote,” he added.

In addition to church attendance, respondents were asked how many close friends they had in and outside of their congregations, and questions about their health, education, income, work and whether their religious identity was very important to their “sense of self.”

Respondents who said they experienced “God’s presence” were no more likely to report feeling greater satisfaction with their lives than those who did not. Only the number of close friends in their congregations and having a strong religious identity predicted feeling extremely satisfied with life.

One reason may be that “friends who attend religious services together give religious identity a sense of reality,” the authors said.

The study drew a skeptical response from one expert.

“Some of their conclusions are a little shaky,” said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

The study showed that religious identity is just as important as how many friends a person has in their congregation, said Koenig, also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university.

The way the data was analyzed ensured that the spiritual factors (prayer, feeling God’s love, etc.) would not be significant because people with a strong religious identity were controlled for, or not included in the analysis, according to Koenig.

“Religious identity is what is driving all these other factors,” said Koenig. Social involvement is important, “but so is faith.”

Lim said the data show that only the number of close friends at church correlates with higher satisfaction with life. The study acknowledged the importance of religious identity, as well as number of friends, suggesting that the two factors reinforce each other.

“Social networks forged in congregations and strong religious identities are the key variables that mediate the positive connection between religion and life satisfaction,” the study concluded.

Lim said he wanted to examine whether social networks in organizations such as Rotary Clubs, the Masons or other civic volunteer groups could have a similar impact, but it might be difficult.

“It’s hard to imagine any other organization that engages as many people as religion, and that has similar shared identity and social activities,” said Lim. “It’s not easy to think of anything that’s equivalent to that.”

Aspirin more effective at preventing cancer deaths than previously thought

In the advertisements for aspirin you see every day on TV and in magazines, they have for years called it a wonder drug. Now, more and more of us doctors are finding that is truly the case. In past blogs I’ve told you, “Low-dose aspirin reduces risk of developing and dying from colon cancer,” and “Single Dose of Aspirin Effective in Relieving Migraine Pain.” And, millions of people take 81 mg of aspirin every day for heart health.

Now, a new study in The Lancet indicates that “aspirin may be much more effective than anyone knew at helping prevent cancer deaths.”

The stunning finding came while researchers were studying 25,000 people taking daily aspirin to prevent heart disease. It turns out aspirin was doing something else, reducing the death rate from cancer as well.

In fact, in the trials where people have taken aspirin four, five, six, seven years on average, the risk of dying of cancer was reduced by about 25%.

So, you may ask, “Should everyone take low-dose aspirin?”

The American Cancer Society said no and that “it would be premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer,” considering that “even low dose aspirin can lead to dangerous internal bleeding. Still, evidence that it might help fight cancer is intriguing for doctors.”

Even so, in the Lancet study, daily aspirin use appeared to lower the risk of death from cancer by 21% in randomized trial participants. It’s important for me to point out that the findings, by themselves, do not prove that aspirin prevents cancer or even cancer death and that the role of aspirin as a chemoprevention agent needs clarification by further studies.

Nevertheless, researchers at Oxford reached the conclusion that a daily low-dose aspirin could significantly lower cancer deaths. They came to that conclusion after examining “the cancer death rates of 25,570 patients who had participated in eight different randomized controlled trials of aspirin that ended up to 20 years earlier,” the New York Times reports.

“Participants who had been assigned to the aspirin arms of the studies were 20 percent less likely after 20 years to have died of solid tumor cancers than those who had been in the comparison group taking dummy pills during the clinical trials, and their risk of gastrointestinal cancer death was 35 percent lower. The risk of lung cancer death was 30 percent lower, the risk of colorectal cancer death was 40 percent lower, and the risk of esophageal cancer death was 60 percent lower.”

Only “one-third of people in the analysis were women — not enough to calculate any estimates for breast cancer,” the AP points out.

And, “there appeared to be no benefit to taking more than 75 milligrams daily — roughly the amount in a European dose of baby aspirin and a bit less than the baby aspirin dose in the US.”

In addition, “aspirin was not found to [significantly] influence the risk of death from pancreatic, prostate, bladder, kidney, brain, or blood cancers,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

Yet, lead investigator Dr. Peter M. “Rothwell noted that most of the subjects stopped taking aspirin at the end of the study – or, alternatively, many in the control group began taking it — potentially confusing the results.” He added that “‘it’s likely that if people had carried on taking aspirin,’ the benefit would have been greater.”

Rothwell also said that “healthy middle-aged men and women may benefit the most from taking aspirin over a long period,” and medical guidelines “may be updated on the back of these results,” Bloomberg News reports.

Meanwhile, an 80-year-old expert at Cardiff University “who has published 300 research papers over 50 years” said, “The man on the street knows betting odds.” Peter Elwood, “who has been taking aspirin since 1974 and wasn’t involved in the study,” maintained that “people should ‘evaluate the risks for themselves.'”

But increasingly, my patients, when evaluating the risks and benefits of daily 81-mg aspirin, are choosing to take it.

More Transparency at Abortion Clinics May Stop Butchers Like This

A Philadelphia-area abortionist is facing eight murder charges today stemming from an investigation that began after the 2009 death of a 41 year-old woman. When authorities initiated their inspection of this “clinic,” they discovered a “house of horrors.”

According to a report from CitizenLink, “A grand jury was convened in May 2010, as the clinic was being investigated for drug-related complaints.” The jury’s findings were released two days ago.

The Grand Jury report says “The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment—such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff—was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.”

Seven of the eight murder charges were filed after authorities discovered that Dr. Kermit Gosnell had performed “live birth abortions.”

According to the prosecutor, Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord.”

The Associated Press reports “State regulators ignored complaints about [Gosnell] and failed to inspect his clinic since 1993 …”

This story highlights not only the tragedy of abortion, but also the disturbing reality that the abortion industry remains one of the least regulated industries in America.

My friend Gary Bower wrote, “Isn’t it interesting that American leftists and progressives are in favor of heavy regulation of oil companies, insurance companies, the auto industry, pharmaceutical companies, etc. but not the industry that destroys over one million unborn children every year?”

He goes on to write, “While the Obama Administration has placed a high priority on healthcare ‘reform’ and ‘transparency,’ it turns a blind eye to the loss of life that goes on in “health clinics” across the country every day.

More transparency and serious reform of abortion facility regulations would save lives — and stop butchers like this.

ObamaCare Repealed in the House

The House of Representatives resumed debate this morning on H.R. 2, legislation to repeal ObamaCare. A final vote came this evening, and it, as expected, passed easily with the new GOP majority in control. Also, in the “breaking news” category is a headline from American Spectator saying CBO Says Repealing ObamaCare Would Reduce Net Spending by $540 Billion. Haven’t heard that from the liberal news media, have you?

Unfortunately, Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid called today’s vote “partisan grandstanding,” and again said that he won’t allow a vote to take place in the Senate. Reid is using the same tactics that resulted in this lousy law being rammed down the throats of the American taxpayer to begin with.

Here are some interesting facts from my friend, Gary Bower, founder and President of the Campaign for Working Families:

Yesterday, 200 economists sent a letter to congressional leaders calling for ObamaCare’s repeal. In the letter they warned, “We believe [ObamaCare] is a threat to U.S. businesses and will place a crushing debt burden on future generations of Americans.” But it’s not just economists who are worried.

A Thomson Reuters survey released this week found that 65% of doctors fear ObamaCare will cause healthcare to deteriorate. Just 18% of doctors believe ObamaCare will improve healthcare in America. Who do you trust most when it comes to your healthcare — Harry Reid or your own doctor?

The concerns of so many doctors should not be dismissed. Consider some markers of the quality of healthcare in countries with socialized medicine. A 2008 study found that the United States “had the highest five-year survival rates for breast cancer, at 83.9% and prostate cancer, at 91.9%.” But in Great Britain’s National Health Service the figures were dismal: “69.7% survival for breast cancer … and 51.1% for prostate cancer.”

Writing in today’s New York Post, Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute notes that ObamaCare is already having a negative impact on healthcare in America. Here are some of the emerging problems she cites:

  • Because of ObamaCare mandates, construction at 45 hospitals around the country has been halted.
  • 40% of doctors said they plan to “drop out of patient care in the next one to three years.”
  • 60% of doctors said they will close or significantly restrict their practices. (How are the 30 million folks supposedly insured under ObamaCare going to get healthcare if 40-60% of doctors quit or restrict their practices?)

On the House floor today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said, “You know there is a lot of talk these days around here about where Members of Congress are going to sit during the State of the Union Address.  …I learned a long time ago it doesn’t really matter where you sit.  It matters where you stand.  And today House Republicans are going to stand with the American people and vote to repeal [the Democrats’] government takeover of health care lock, stock and barrel.”

Despite what happened today, it won’t be the end of this fight. If the Senate refuses to act on repeal legislation, House conservatives are determined to defund ObamaCare. Just as importantly, the House is scheduled to vote soon on a resolution instructing various House committees to start drafting free market alternatives to ObamaCare — alternatives that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama refused to consider last year.

No doubt this story will continue to evolve.

Ella Abortion Drug Falsely Called a “Contraceptive Pill”

The ella® abortion drug has been billed by its distributor, the FDA, and abortion advocates as an improved “emergency contraceptive pill.” It is available across the United States via prescription.

Upon its release, Watson Pharmaceuticals, based in New Jersey, announced that ella® (ulipristal acetate) was available for women to obtain and use up to five days following unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure. While the company maintain the drug works only as a “contraceptive agent,” the fact of the matter is that five days is sufficient time for conception to take place and confer into existence the life of a unique human being who needs only a nine month pregnancy to be born.

Here are the details from LifeNews: “ella® is the first truly new emergency contraceptive option for U.S. women since 1999. It has a unique sustained efficacy profile and offers women an additional therapeutic option for preventing unintended pregnancy,” Wilkinson, Executive Vice President of Watson Global Brands, said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained.

“We are committed to making this innovative prescription-only emergency contraceptive option available to women as soon as possible and supporting the availability of ella® in ways that emphasize education and access,” he said.

The drug company indicated the ella® launch will be phased over the next several months and will include physician educational initiatives, advocacy outreach and educational websites for consumers.

Watson wants the abortion drug to be available immediately and indicates “stocking efforts have ensured the product will be available immediately by prescription at most retail pharmacies, clinics, as well as online via a licensed online pharmacy.”

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America and a national leader against the ella drug, responded to the news in a comment to LifeNews.com.

“The fact that ella is now on sale across the country means that millions of women are at risk for dangerous side effects of this new abortion drug,” she said. “Make no mistake about it, ella, the new abortion drug, will be marketed on college campuses nationwide, and young women across America will be put in serious danger.”

“It is appalling that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved this drug which is dangerous for women and fatal for preborn children. The FDA needs to rescind its approval this new abortion drug before women and children are harmed,” Hawkins added.

Ella has been available in Europe as an emergency contraceptive since October 2009, where it is marketed by its developer,  HRA Pharma, as ellaOne.

But the FDA, when it approved the drug, made its decision based on data from two phase III clinical trails the French drug maker HRA Pharma sponsored.

The studies showed 1.51 percent of women using ella (or ellaOne in Europe) became pregnant when using the drug 72 hours after intercourse while 2.81 percent became pregnant when using the Plan B drug.

However, Wendy Wright, the president of Concerned Women for America, said the ella abortion drug maker could not answer other questions.

“The drug sponsor couldn’t provide information on whether Ella can cause birth defects, or what happens to women who are pregnant who take it. And yet the committee strongly recommended not giving a woman a pregnancy test,” she told LifeNews.com after the hearing.

“In Europe, Ella is contra-indicated (not to be used) in pregnancies. But the FDA committee voted to not to test women to detect if they’re pregnant. They are telling doctors to be willfully blind when giving the drug,” Wright continued.

Americans United for Life and the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists told the FDA a study in England confirms the pro-life perspective that ulipristal acts as an abortion drug.

Anna Glasier, of NHS Lothian in Edinburgh, led a study of more than 5,500 women in the UK published online in The Lancet medical journal. It found fewer pregnancies among those women given the ellaOne drug within five days of intercourse.

And for women who took the drug between 3-5 days after having sex, only women taking the traditional morning after pill became pregnant. They’s because all of the women using ulipristal during that time period had abortions.

“AAPLOG has concluded from publicly available information that ulipristal acetate is an abortifacient of the same type as mifepristone (RU 486) and that its approval as an emergency contraceptive raises serious health and ethical issues,” the pro-life physicians group says. “Furthermore, ulipristal’s potential effects on women who used the drug off-label and upon ongoing pregnancies are essentially unexamined and untested.”

Pharmacists For Life International, in a statement to LifeNews.com, confirms the abortifacient nature of the Ella drug.

PFLI calls Ella a “chemical cousin analog of mifepristone,” the abortion drug more commonly known by its experimental name, RU 486. “Ulipristal acetate, according to its own developers, can kill embryos,” it confirms.

The organization said it “vehemently denounces and condemns the FDA for this inappropriate use of its drug regulatory power to destroy life rather than approve and regulate medicines which actually are life-saving and preserve health.”

PFLI says it is concerned women will purchase the drug and stockpile it in large doses and sidestep the routine surgical or drug-induced abortion process with dangerous at-home abortions. It also worries the drug will be used by men who want to hide evidence of their crimes of sexual assault.

“This will lead to additional life-endangering problems for the targeted adolescent girls and women, as well as giving continued cover for sexual predators of underage girls and incestuous abusive relationships,” the group worries.

Watson is the exclusive marketer of ella in the U.S.

Lower-Priced Resveratrol Supplements Pass Quality Tests While Some Higher-Priced Brands Flunk

Nature’s Code ResveratrexConsumerLab.com has reported that tests of supplements containing resveratrol — a compound promoted as “life-extending” — revealed that two products provided only 43.4% and 86.7%, respectively, of their listed amounts of resveratrol. These two products were among the most expensive supplements of the ten products selected for testing by ConsumerLab.com.

Surprisingly, ALL of the lower-priced products fared well in the tests.

Results for all ten products are now published in ConsumerLab.com’s Review of Resveratrol Supplements. An additional nine products that passed the same testing through ConsumerLab.com’s Voluntary Certification Program are included in the report as well as one product similar to one that passed testing but sold under a different brand name.

Resveratrol products have proliferated following reports in 2006 of life-extending and athletic endurance-enhancing effects of resveratrol in animals. Sales of resveratrol supplements were estimated at $31 million in the U.S. in 2009 by Nutrition Business Journal.

Laboratory research has also shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and other effects. Human studies of resveratrol’s effectiveness have NOT been reported, but many are underway.

At least one researcher in the field, Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard Medical School, is noted as taking resveratrol personally at a dose of approximately 350 mg per day.

In addition to quality issues, ConsumerLab.com found the daily suggested dosage among resveratrol products to range from 50 to 1,020 mg of resveratrol. The cost to obtain 100 mg of resveratrol from products ranged from $0.15 to as much as $2.76 — more than a 17-fold difference.

Based on a daily dose of 400 mg of resveratrol, the daily cost would range from $0.60 to $11.04.

None of the products were contaminated with lead or cadmium, which can occur in plant-based supplements, and all tablets were able to properly break apart in solution.

“There is still much to learn about resveratrol,” said ConsumerLab.com’s president, Tod Cooperman, M.D.  “At least those who choose to use it can now find out which products contain what they claim, which do not, and how to save money buying resveratrol.”

Brands covered in the new report are:

  • Bioforte (Biotivia),
  • Country Life,
  • Finest Natural (Walgreen),
  • Life Extension,
  • Life Smart,
  • Nutralife,
  • Perfect ResGrape,
  • Protocol for Life Balance,
  • pureandhealthy Res98,
  • Puritan’s Pride,
  • ReserveAge Organics,
  • Resveratrex (Nature’s Code),
  • Resveratrol Max,
  • Resveratrox (Garden Greens),
  • Resvinatrol,
  • Solaray,
  • Solgar,
  • Swanson,
  • Transmax (Biotivia), and
  • Vitamin World.

The two products that failed testing were:

  • Nature’s Code Resveratrex
  • Resvinatrol Complete

The report also provides information regarding dosage and possible side-effects, and comparisons of active and inactive ingredients in the resveratrol products.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. Their reviews of popular types of vitamins, supplements, and generic drugs are available here. Subscription to ConsumerLab.com is available online.

The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products.

Tai Chi May Provide Arthritis Relief, But At What Spiritual Cost?

Arthritis patients may gain physical and emotional relief from the ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi, finds a new study, the largest of its kind. This study just confirms the finds of previous smaller studies, but raises the question: “Just because something works, does it always mean it’s right to use it?”

Let me explain — first starting with a review of what Tai Chi is that comes from my book, Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely:

Alternative Medicine - 2009

  • Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan, literally means “supreme ultimate power” and is part of traditional Chinese medicine. There are five major styles, with the yang form most commonly practiced in the West. As with Qigong, the purpose of the practice is to restore a balanced flow of chi and thereby promote health.

  • Most Westerners are familiar with Tai Chi as a martial art consisting of meditation, breathing exercises, and slow, graceful movements. It comes in short and long versions, lasting about ten or thirty minutes, respectively. Each session is composed of a series of specific postures combined into one long exercise. Many of these developed from watching animal and bird movements, as reflected in their names: “white crane spreads wings,” “golden rooster stands on one leg,” and “ride the tiger.” Practicing outdoors is said to be better because it allows universal chi in the earth to rise up through one’s feet to replenish the person’s own chi.

  • The martial arts aspect of Tai Chi is little understood by practitioners of other forms of karate such as Tae Kwon Do, Kempo, and the like. The movements are so slow and smooth that they are comfortable for the elderly, which is not the case with other forms of martial arts that involve strikes and blocks.

  • However, a skilled Tai Chi practitioner can speed up the movements to serve as a form of self-defense. Many Westerners are also unaware of, or unconcerned about, the spiritual aspects of Tai Chi.

Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan, literally means “supreme

ultimate power” and is part of traditional Chinese
medicine. There are five major styles, with the yang
form most commonly practiced in the West. As with
Qigong, the purpose of the practice is to restore a
balanced flow of chi and thereby promote health.
Most Westerners are familiar with Tai Chi as a
martial art consisting of meditation, breathing exercises,
and slow, graceful movements. It comes in
short and long versions, lasting about ten or thirty
minutes, respectively. Each session is composed of
a series of specific postures combined into one long
exercise. Many of these developed from watching
animal and bird movements, as reflected in their
names: “white crane spreads wings,” “golden rooster
stands on one leg,” and “ride the tiger.” Practicing
outdoors is said to be better because it allows universal
chi in the earth to rise up through one’s feet to
replenish the person’s own chi.
The martial arts aspect of Tai Chi is little understood
by practitioners of other forms of karate such
as Tae Kwon Do, Kempo, and the like. The movements
are so slow and smooth that they are comfortable
for the elderly, which is not the case with other
forms of martial arts that involve strikes and blocks.
However, a skilled Tai Chi practitioner can speed up
the movements to serve as a form of self-defense.
Many Westerners are also unaware of, or unconcerned
about, the spiritual aspects of Tai Chi.

Does it work? The answer is yes, for some indications. However, as I write in the book, “Overall, the evidence is weak that Tai Chi is beneficial psychologically, with no evidence that it is more beneficial than other exercise programs.”

Nevertheless, the spiritual issues surround Tai Chi may be of concern. In the book, I write, “The same cautions as expressed with all other life energy therapies apply to Tai Chi. The religious nature and goals of Eastern therapies should not be forgotten. In attempting to introduce people to the universal energy field — and help them become unified with the Universal Consciousness — these practices can be the door to the occult realm.”

Our conclusions about Tai Chi are:

  • Tai Chi is frequently offered in the West as both an innocuous exercise regimen and a martial art, often with no religious aspects discussed with students.
  • However, more serious practitioners are often committed followers of Eastern religions and may teach that these beliefs must be embraced to properly practice Tai Chi or experience its benefits. Thus, while there may be some general health benefits, Tai Chi may also bring spiritual harm.

Our overall conclusion about Tai Chi is this:

  • Exercise programs have been designed for people at every point on the fitness scale and with a variety of preexisting ailments. We see no reason to adopt one immersed in religious connotations when nonspiritual alternatives are widely available.

For those interested in Tai Chi only as a form of exercise, here are the details on the new study from HealthDay News:

Patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia felt better and moved more easily after taking twice-weekly classes in Tai Chi, a system of meditative exercise, researchers found.

“It reduced pain, stiffness and fatigue, and improved their balance,” said study lead author Leigh F. Callahan, an associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Smaller studies have also linked Tai Chi to similar benefits for people with arthritis, but colleagues had questioned the applicability of the findings to a larger population.

In this study, in addition to evidence of mild to moderate relief from Tai Chi, participants reported gaining a better sense of physical stability, Callahan said. They were able to extend their reach while maintaining their balance, she said — an important feat for people with arthritis.

Tai Chi, a form of mind-body exercise, originated as a martial art in China. It utilizes slow, gentle movements along with deep breathing and relaxation to build strength and flexibility.

Tai Chi has “become a lot more mainstream than it was even two to three years ago,” said Callahan, who is also a member of UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center. “We’ve got people embracing it and being very interested in it.”

If Tai Chi is proven to reduce arthritis symptoms, it could become a cheap and fairly simple treatment for the various forms of the condition. Typically, Tai Chi classes are inexpensive or free, Callahan said, and in this study, people with arthritis could participate even if they preferred to sit rather than stand.

In the study, the researchers randomly assigned 247 people — almost all female and white, and diagnosed with various types of arthritis — to attend one-hour, twice-weekly, Tai Chi classes for two months, or to take the Tai Chi classes at a later time. The classes were designed by the Arthritis Foundation. The participants were from 20 sites in New Jersey and North Carolina, and they had to be able to move without assistance to be eligible.

The researchers took reports from all the participants on their levels of pain, fatigue, stiffness and physical function before the study began and at the eight-week evaluation period. They were also asked to rate themselves on their overall health, their psychological state (such as perceived helplessness), and how well they could perform daily activities.

The participants were also tested on their strength and physical performance by using a timed chair stand (which evaluates lower leg strength), their walking gait (both normal and fast) and two balance tests (a single leg stand and a reach test.)

Callahan said she couldn’t yet quantify the improvements by percentage, but the available data suggest that participants felt mildly to moderately better and improved their sense of well-being. They also slept better, she said.

Tai Chi appears to provide both physical and mental benefits, she added. “The whole program is designed to help people be relaxed and think about their breathing, think about their movements. Everything is slow and deliberate and purposeful.”

The findings of the study — which was funded in part by the Arthritis Foundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — were released at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Atlanta.

Myeong Soo Lee, a principal researcher with the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in Daejeon, South Korea, said the study is “rigorous” but has limitations. For one thing, it didn’t break down the benefits by arthritis type, she noted.

There’s evidence to support Tai Chi to reduce the symptoms of knee arthritis, but not for rheumatoid arthritis, said Lee, who has studied Tai Chi and arthritis.

While the findings may add weight to the case for Tai Chi as a treatment for some forms of arthritis, Lee said more information is needed before it could become a blanket prescription.

Since the study was presented at a conference, its findings and conclusions should be regarded as preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Could your breastfed or premature infant be iron deficient?

Iron deficiency in babies and toddlers is getting increased attention. Studies have shown that up to 15 percent of babies and toddlers don’t get enough iron. This can lead to long-term developmental problems, even in babies who aren’t deficient enough to become anemic.

New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend supplements for some babies, especially breastfed babies aged 4-6 months and preterm babies.

When a supplement is needed, consider using a plain iron drop such as Fer-In-Sol or a combination product such as Poly Vi Sol with Iron for breastfed babies to provide both iron and vitamin D.

Keep in mind that iron concentration can vary from product to product.

New Practice Guideline Takes Aim at Pain of Childhood Immunizations

Pain surrounding childhood immunizations can have long-term consequences, including preprocedural anxiety and needle fears in both the child and parent. Worse yet, these consequences can lead to avoiding immunizations altogether.

As a result, Dr. Anna Taddio, of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the “Help Eliminate Pain in Kids” panel (the HELPinKIDS panel), an interdisciplinary panel of experts from Canada, have developed an evidence-based clinical practice guideline for reducing pain associated with childhood immunizations.

The panel believes that minimizing pain during childhood vaccination is important to help prevent these issues and there’s a need for clear guidance to address this “important public health issue.” So, they have published a summary of their guidelines in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). Here are the details from Reuters Health:

The HELPinKIDS panel evaluated 71 relevant studies including 8050 children and formulated a clinical practice guideline based on the “3-P” approach to pain management, including pharmacologic, physical and psychological strategies.

The scope of the guideline was limited to acute pain and distress at the time of vaccine injection in children 0 to 18 years old and is “generalizable to healthy children receiving immunization injections worldwide,” the authors say.

Several of the strategies found to be effective in relieving distress and pain of injections and recommended in the guideline can be implemented immediately, the authors say.

These include:

  • positioning the child upright when administering vaccines,
  • injecting the most painful vaccine last when multiple injections are being administered,
  • providing tactile stimulation, and
  • performing intramuscular injections rapidly without prior aspiration.

Dr Taddio and colleagues write that “about one-third of vaccinators do not perform aspiration, and there have been no documented harms caused by omitting this step.”

Other evidence-based pain-relieving strategies contained in the guideline may require some planning or additional resources, or both, on the part of healthcare providers and children and their families. These include:

  • breastfeeding or administering sugar water (for infants) and
  • applying a topical anesthetic and
  • psychological interventions such as distraction (for children of all ages).

The authors acknowledge in their report that “at present, the optimal pain-relieving regimen for nullifying pain, rather than simply diminishing pain, is unknown.” They say additional research is needed to determine which pain-relieving regimens reliably prevent pain in children of different ages.

New vaccine administration technologies such as microneedles and needle-free administration techniques, such as nasal sprays, hold promise for reducing pain associated with vaccination administration.

Untreated teens with ADHD at risk behind the wheel

Teenaged boys are more likely than any other drivers to have car accidents, and a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases their risk even further, a new study finds. Looking at more than 3,000 teenaged boys who had been in car accidents, a group of Canadian researchers found those who had been diagnosed with various forms of ADHD were more than a third likelier to be involved in a car accident than teenaged boys without ADHD.

In my book, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster, I discuss how teens with ADHD who are not treated are far more likely to be involved in risky behavior than teens without ADHD. Signed copies of the book are on clearance sale now and are available in softcover and hardcover versions.

ADHD

Here are the details on this new study from Reuters Health:

“If teenagers with ADHD brought their risk down to that of normal teens without ADHD, that might have prevented about 1 in every 20 crashes we observed in our study,” Dr. Donald Redelmeier at the University of Toronto told Reuters Health.

The key element here is probably “distraction,” Redelmeier said in an interview. People with ADHD often struggle to maintain focus and one lapse can have a major impact behind the wheel, he said. “A couple moments of inattention can really change your life forever.”

Reporting in the journal PLoS Medicine, he and his colleagues also found that teens with ADHD were more likely to get injured in accidents even if they were pedestrians. Here, too, distraction probably plays a role, Redelmeier said, perhaps if teens step into oncoming traffic without paying attention.

Other distractions – such as talking on the phone and texting – have been shown to increase the risk of accidents.

To investigate whether internal distractions from a hyperactive brain also had an effect, the researchers reviewed medical records on 3421 teenaged boys hospitalized following car accidents (whether or not the teens were at fault), and compared their health history to 3812 boys admitted to have their appendix removed, serving as controls.

The team found that 22 percent of the teens in accidents had been diagnosed with a form of ADHD, versus only 17 percent of controls. Boys with ADHD were 37 percent more likely to be in an accident, relative to boys without the diagnosis.

The same trend was equally present in teenaged girls. Teenaged boys are already more likely than any other group to have accidents and having ADHD is not as risky as, for instance, drinking alcohol while driving, Redelmeier noted.

But with an estimated 10 million vehicles involved in crashes in 2008 in the U.S., even a small impact on accident risk involves many people, he noted. Although many of the included teens were presumably being treated for their ADHD, the treatment itself is probably not at fault, Redelmeier noted — other research that tested driving ability in a simulated condition has found that people with ADHD taking medication were better behind the wheel, not worse, he said.

The most important steps teenagers (particularly those with ADHD) can take to stay safe behind the wheel include avoiding speeding as well as alcohol, minimizing distractions, using a seatbelt, keeping a safe distance from other cars and obeying doctor’s orders, Redelmeier said. Of course, parents can’t prevent their teenagers with ADHD from driving, but it makes sense to take extra precautions in this group, the researcher suggested.

For instance, some licensing authorities require drivers to indicate whether they have conditions that may impair their performance, such as epilepsy and diabetes. “All we’re suggesting is they add one more medical condition onto that already existing list of conditions,” Redelmeier said.

“Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?” A Letter From A Reader.

I received this email asking a question I frequently receive from young Christian couples trying to decide about which birth control to consider. My answers to him are IN CAPS: Continue reading

More Evidence That the BCP Causes Unrecognized Abortions

Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?I’ve published two academic articles on the likely association between the birth control pill (BCP) and unrecognized abortions (the so-called “post-fertilization effect” of the pill): Continue reading

Fetal Pain Should Prompt Abortion Backers to Reconsider Their Position

In the past, I’ve blogged on the topic of fetal pain during abortion (Family Research Council Responds to British Fetal Pain Study, Says It’s Flawed). Although the science of whether and when the unborn child can feel pain remains uncertain, we still have a duty to avoid the possibility of inflicting undue suffering on an unborn child. To that end, I found this article by E. Christian Brugger to be though provoking and commend it to you:

A much-discussed new law in the state of Nebraska has banned abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, citing the contested notion of fetal pain. Of course, everyone can agree that we have a duty not to cause pain to others without a just cause. Bioethicists endorse the relieving of pain as an expression of the “principle of beneficence.”

And international bodies concur that access to pain relief without discrimination is a fundamental right. As a society we even take efforts to eliminate pain from the process of executing capital offenders whose guilt is manifestly established. But how do we approach the possibility of fetal pain when the science remains uncertain?

I should note that my argument is relative to a community in which abortion is legal. If abortion is wrong by virtue of the kind of act it is, namely an act of unjust killing, which I judge it to be, then aborting a fetus knowing that he or she will or might feel pain makes the act worse. But what about a society like ours where abortion is, sadly, legal?

First, pro-lifers and pro-choicers should be able to agree on the principle of full disclosure. If fetuses feel pain, then where abortion is legal, abortion providers should disclose to the gestational mother the effects of her choice on the fetus. We may disagree about whether abortion is wrong, but we should be able to agree that withholding information relevant to making an informed abortion decision would be unfair to women.

Second, if fetuses feel pain, then where abortion is legal, abortion providers should also take reasonable measures to suppress the pain. We should be able to agree that it would be wrong not to try to remove the pain, just as it is when political authority fails to take reasonable measures to remove the pain from the process of legal execution.

If, however, evidence demonstrates that fetuses do not feel pain, then, where abortion is legal, abortion providers obviously have neither the duty to relieve that which does not exist, nor to inform women of what’s untrue.

Our moral analysis then waits upon the settling of the empirical question of whether fetuses feel pain. This settling requires convincing data. But when speculative data is used to direct normative considerations of what ought to be done, the measure of certitude justified by the data is decisive for guiding action.

To clarify my meaning, let me use an example. Some abortion opponents have argued that a secondary effect of the most common drug used in emergency contraceptives–levonorgestrel–is to render the uterine lining inhospitable to an implanting embryo. If at commonly prescribed dosages this is the case, then the drug sometimes acts as an abortifacient. Whether this is the case is an empirical question. If it is the case, it has moral implications for the behavior of anyone concerned for embryonic human life and contemplating the legitimacy of taking the drug.

Let us say for the sake of argument that rigorous data is inconclusive. I am then left with a doubt as to whether or not levonorgestrel might render the uterine lining inhospitable. According to my practical knowledge, informed, let’s say for the sake of argument, by the best available evidence, I might kill an embryo if I use this drug in such and such a way. The possibility that my action will cause a death gives rise to the duty, stemming from the requisites of fairness, to refrain from that action. I would need to be reasonably certain that it will not cause death before purposeful action is justifiable. This reasonable certitude can also be called moral certitude. And reasonable doubt and moral certitude about the same fact are mutually excluding.

Let me propose one more example. If reasonable doubt existed as to whether the new device known as the “Mosquito,” which emits a high-pitched noise to disperse loiterers, not only caused minor auditory discomfort but severe pain, the burden of proof would fall upon the manufacturer to give evidence that it does not before the device should be approved for general use. Proof, of course, would be simple to arrive at: ask those exposed to the “Mosquito.” Since fetuses cannot yet provide self-report in language we cannot simply ask them whether they feel pain.

Yet I think the principle still stands: the burden of proof would fall upon defenders of the “Mosquito” to rule out a reasonable doubt that the device causes severe pain before its common use was approved, or to take action to assure that this possibility is mitigated.

The burden falls on the one who might be doing wrongful harm to rule out reasonable doubt that they are. If you were hunting in the woods and saw something moving in the distance, but were unsure of whether it was a deer or another hunter, you would be bound not to shoot until reasonable doubt was dispelled that what was stirring in the distance was not another hunter. When a doubt of fact bears on settling whether an alternative under consideration is immoral (e.g., it would be immoral to shoot in the face of reasonable doubt), one should withhold choosing till the fact has been settled.

So the question to be settled is whether or not reasonable doubt exists concerning a fetus’s capacity to experience pain. Since empirical certitude is not available, I propose, in light of what I said above, the following principle: that the judgment that fetuses do feel pain need only be a reasonable explanatory hypothesis in light of the settled evidence. Whereas the judgment that they do not requires moral certitude before providing a speculative ground for normative judgments about how to act.

Coming from one who is not a scientific expert on the question, but who has read considerably over the past four months on most all dimensions of the question, I conclude strongly that moral certitude that fetuses do not feel pain presently cannot be reached. In other words, fetal pain experience is a reasonable conclusion from the settled evidence. This evidence includes an appeal to fetal anatomical, neurochemical, physiological, and behavioral features, as well as responses to noxious stimuli (behaviors such as facial grimacing, the withdrawing of limbs, clenching of fists, opening of mouth and even crying).

Although we are not warranted in moving from these features and responses to a certain conclusion that fetuses do experience pain–I realize that fetal consciousness is a central factor in the equation–we are justified in concluding from the evidence–in fact, we are rationally required to conclude–that moral certitude does not exist that fetuses do not feel pain.

Unless and until contrary evidence is presented, we have a duty to act with the presumption that they do. In a territory such as our own where abortion is legal, we have a duty: 1) to inform women considering second- and third-trimester abortions that their actions may cause their babies pain; and 2) to guarantee that suitable analgesics and anesthesia be administered to fetuses during second- and third-trimester abortions.

E. Christian Brugger is Associate Professor of Moral Theology at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado. This paper is adopted from remarks given at the conference “Open Hearts, Open Minds and Fair-Minded Words,” held at Princeton University October 15th-16th, 2010. This opinion column first appeared in Public Discourse and was reprinted by LifeNews with permission.

“Mammography Saves Lives” Slogan Doesn’t Tell Full Story and May Mislead Many Women

The current “Mammography Saves Lives” campaign in the United States and previous campaigns promoting screening for breast cancer are not providing balanced information, because they underreport, or don’t mention at all, potential harms from the procedure, say critics.

One expert says the advertising for a screening mammogram should say something like this:

MAMMOGRAPY HAS BOTH BENEFITS AND HARMS … THAT’S WHY IT’S A PERSONAL DECISION. Screening mammography may help you avoid a cancer death or may lead you to be treated for cancer unnecessarily. But both are rare; most often mammography will do neither.

That’s why screening is a choice.

Women who want to do everything possible to avoid a breast cancer death should feel good about getting mammograms (every year if they wish).

Women who don’t like the procedure or the prospect of unnecessary testing and treatment should feel equally good about not getting mammograms (or getting them less often or starting them later in life).

You can see a sample of the ad in another post of mine, New Evidence-Based Mammography Ad Suggested. Here are the details behind the ad:

Some experts now estimate that a 10-year course of screening mammography for 2500 women 50 years of age would save the life of 1 woman from breast cancer.

At the same time, up to 1000 women would have had a “false alarm,” about half of those would undergo biopsy, and breast cancer will have been overdiagnosed in 5 to 15 women, who would have been treated needlessly with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, alone or in combination.

Ouch!!!

In other words, over a decade of annual testing of 2500 women at 50 years of age, there would be one life saved and 1000 women harmed (1000 false alarms or false positives). And, 5 to 15 women would be the most harmed by having cancer overdiagnosed.

Ouch, again!!!

Here are more details about this concerning story in a report from Medscape Medical News:

This campaign slogan is 1-sided, several critics told Medscape Medical News , and it oversells the benefits of mammography.

When asked for a more accurate headline, H. Gilbert Welch MD, MPH, from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire, had the following tongue-in-cheek suggestions: “Mammography could save your life, but it’s a long shot” and “Chances are it won’t, but mammography could save your life.”

Dr. Welch recently wrote an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine discussing the benefits and harms of screening mammography, in which he reviews new data from Norway that — he says — confirm that “the decision about whether to undergo screening mammography is, in fact, a close call.”

Public information campaigns about mammography should reflect this, he told Medscape Medical News.

Another critic of the promotional campaign is John D. Keen, MD, MBA, from the Cook County John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Explaining to Medscape Medical News that he is a diagnostic radiographer and breast imager with no conflicts of interest and no axe to grind, he said he is very concerned about physicians getting a balanced picture of mammography screening for breast cancer.

In a recent communication in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine , Dr. Keen writes that “the premise of a near universal life-saving benefit from finding presymptomatic breast cancer through mammography is false.”

Statistically, there is only a 5% chance that a mammogram will save a woman’s life, he points out. And that chance has to be balanced against potential harms, which vary with age, Dr. Keen continues. For instance, women who are 40 to 50 years of age are “10 times more likely to experience overdiagnosis and overtreatment than to have their lives saved by mammography,” he writes.

Dr. Keen told Medscape Medical News that he is concerned that much of the ongoing debate about mammography has been dominated by screening advocates, but pointed out that many of these experts have professional and financial interests in mammography. He is concerned that they are promoting screening without presenting the whole story.

This point has also been raised by others, including the authors of a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Lessons From the Mammography Wars.”

There is no regulation of marketing in healthcare, they point out — “the same group that provides a service also tells us how valuable that service is and how much of it we need, as when the Society of Breast Imaging sets the recommendations for mammography.”

New Campaign in the United States

The new Mammography Saves Lives campaign is produced by the American College of Radiology, the Society of Breast Imaging, and the American Society of Breast Disease. It is currently running on television and radio across the United States, and features testimonials from several women who report that mammography saved their lives.

“In fact, there is no way of knowing if an individual was indeed ‘saved’,” Karsten Juhl Jorgensen, MD, from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, told Medscape Medical News.

The Nordic Cochrane Center group, which includes Peter Gøtzsche, PhD, has developed an evidence-based outline of the harms and benefits of mammography. They have been very vocal in criticizing information sent out to the general public in national campaigns for breast screening in many countries in Europe, and in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

The leaflets sent out to invite women for mammography screening in these countries have not contained adequate descriptions of the harms and benefits, they argue; their fierce criticism led to a very public controversy in the United Kingdom last year when a government-produced leaflet was withdrawn and redesigned.

“The situation in the United States is different, in that there is no national screening program to set a common standard for information at invitation,” Dr. Jorgensen said. “It is much harder to tease out what information is given in the United States, as this may vary considerably across health plans and physicians,” he told Medscape Medical News.

“There is no doubt that screening mammography has generally been oversold” in invitations to screening and in campaigns from cancer societies and other interest groups everywhere in the world where this has been studied, Dr. Jorgensen said.

The result is that women “trust screening to reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer to an extent that is in no way scientifically justified,” he continued.

We would all like to believe that a woman’s life will be saved by mammography “if a cancer that she did not know about is detected at screening,” he said. “But in fact, the likelihood that the woman in question will be diagnosed with breast cancer unnecessarily is 10 times greater.”

“There is no way of knowing if the symptom-free cancer she was diagnosed with would ever have developed into clinical disease. And if it was destined to do so, we cannot know if the screen-detection changed the prognosis in her particular case. She may very well have survived her disease without screening or died from relapsing breast cancer 10 years later,” he said.

Estimates of Harm Not Universally Accepted

However, a leading advocate of mammography, Carol Lee, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission, who is quoted on the MammographySavesLives.org Web site, suggested that the estimates of harms used by Dr. Keen and Dr. Jorgensen are not universally accepted, and have been questioned by others in the field.

Some of the numbers used are “very debatable,” Dr. Lee said in an interview with Medscape Medical News. The view from the Nordic Cochrane Group is well known to be at the extreme end of a very polarized debate, she added. “We all have different perspectives and different ways of looking at data,” she said.

Dr. Lee emphasized that there is absolutely no doubt that screening reduces breast cancer mortality. In the United States, there has been a nearly 30% reduction in breast cancer mortality since the introduction of widespread mammography screening in the mid-1980s. Although there have been improvements in treatment during this time, she “cannot believe that at least part of this reduction is not due to screening.”

“Screening is not perfect,” she noted. “There are harms; there are harms with every test,” Dr. Lee acknowledged. But the discussion of benefit and harm is a very complex one. It is different for each individual woman, and the place for that discussion is in the doctor’s office, Dr. Lee insisted. Every person needs to have that discussion with their healthcare provider whenever any tests is ordered, she emphasized.

“The Mammography Saves Lives campaign does tell women to talk to their doctor,” she said, “but the bottom line is that mammography does save lives and we need to get this message out, because mammography can’t save lives if women don’t utilize it.”

The message needs to be clear, she continued. “We can’t say you might do it, or you might not’,” she said. And the proposition that “if you are 40 years old you should have a discussion but if you are 50 years old you should have a mammogram doesn’t make sense to me.”

Dr. Lee was referring to last year’s recommendation from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that made that age distinction, sparking outrage from screening advocates.

That USPSTF recommendation has been generally interpreted as questioning the efficacy of mammograms, Dr. Lee explained, adding that she has heard women around the world saying that the US government thinks that mammograms are not worthwhile. “This is very frustrating to me,” she said, because “here we have a public health measure that works.”

One of the stated aims of the new campaign is “to clear confusion.”

The message has to be clear or it will just create more confusion, Dr. Lee emphasized. Something along the lines of “mammography saves lives but it may not be a good thing for you individually” would just add to the confusion that is already out there, she argued. The campaign emphasizes the point that screening does reduce breast cancer mortality, but whether it is right for each individual woman is for her to discuss with her healthcare provider, she said.

Better Than Previous Campaigns, But Still Unbalanced

The current campaign is better than some of the previous campaigns promoting breast cancer screening, said Dr. Welch.

Both he and Dr. Jorgensen were critical of the American Cancer Society’s campaign in the 1980s, which declared: “If you haven’t had a mammogram, you need more than your breasts examined.”

This is an example of a 1-sided campaign — it mentions nothing about the harms of screening, Dr. Jorgensen pointed out. “The truth is that mammography screening today has marginal benefits and serious harms, and that a decision not to get screened can be as sensible and responsible as the decision to get screened.”

Dr. Welch echoed this sentiment in his recent editorial, entitled “Screening Mammography — A Long Run for a Short Slide?”. It was prompted by new data from Norway that appeared in the same issue, which highlighted the fact that the mortality benefit from mammography is modest.

The benefit seen was smaller than that previously reported in clinical trials, he explained to Medscape Medical News, but in the meantime, there have been improvements in the treatment of clinical detected breast cancer, and an increasing awareness among women to report any breast abnormalities. “There is no debate about the value of diagnostic mammography in these circumstances,” Dr. Welch emphasized, but there are questions about the value of screening mammography in healthy women.

“These new data from Norway are probably the best representation we have of effectiveness in clinical practice,” Dr. Welch said. They confirm the view that “the decision about whether to undergo screening mammography is, in fact, a close call.”

There is “a delicate balance between modest benefit and modest harm,” Dr. Welch wrote in his editorial, using data from the Norwegian study to illustrate his point.

Dr. Welch estimated that a 10-year course of screening mammography for 2500 women 50 years of age would save the life of 1 woman from breast cancer. At the same time, up to 1000 women would have had a “false alarm,” about half of those would undergo biopsy, and breast cancer will have been overdiagnosed in 5 to 15 women, who would have been treated needlessly with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, alone or in combination.

“Although the current campaign doesn’t suggest that women who forgo mammography need their head examined, it remains 1-sided,” Dr. Welch told Medscape Medical News. It still focuses only on the benefit of mammography, which is why he suggested alternative tongue-in-cheek slogans, such as “Mammography could save your life, but it’s a long shot.”

“What we really need to do is develop a more balanced campaign that respects the fact that different women can make different choices,” he explained. “Since there is no single ‘right answer’ about screening mammography, our goal should be to encourage women to feel good about the answer that’s right for them,” he said. To that end, Dr. Welch suggested that the promotion of screening mammography should reflect this, and offered the following as an example of the way in which the message could be publicized.

New Evidence-Based Mammography Ad Suggested

There’s a new ad being touted for mammogram screening for breast cancer that I think is fair, balanced, and accurate:

mammo_ad small

You can read the debate about this ad in another post of mine, “‘Mammography Saves Lives’ Slogan Doesn’t Tell Full Story and May Mislead Many Women.”

Probiotics have health benefits in some children

The AP reports, “For years, companies have been making claims that their probiotic pills, yogurts, milks and juices help digestive health and the immune system. Some experts are still not so sure, however.

In recent blogs about probiotics and kids, I’ve told you, “Friendly Bacteria (Probiotics) Help Calm Colicky Babies and May Help Constipated Babies” and “Probiotics may ease kids’ belly aches (especially IBS).” And now, a “leading medical group says there’s some evidence that probiotics, or ‘good’ bacteria, may have limited benefits for certain illnesses in children.”

A new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) review published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that giving probiotics early to children with diarrhea from a viral infection, but who are otherwise healthy, can shorten the duration of illness.

The Time “Healthland” blog reported, “The review also found that probiotics can help prevent diarrhea in children who are taking antibiotics.”

But the AAP “stopped short of recommending that probiotics be added to children’s formula (although infant foods and formula that already contain probiotics, such as Bifidobacterium lactis, which has been available in formula since 2007, aren’t considered harmful to healthy children), and warned that the live microorganisms should not be given to seriously ill children with weakened immune systems or who use intravenous catheters.”

Investigators also pointed out that its “been proposed that in individuals with genetic susceptibility to [inflammatory bowel disease], chronic inflammation occurs in response to commensal digestive microflora because of various inherited defects of innate inflammatory-response pathways,” MedPage Today reported.

“However, although experience with probiotics thus far may be promising in chronic ulcerative colitis, further research with larger numbers of patients is needed.

As for Crohn’s disease in children, there has been no evidence of efficacy and probiotics are not recommended, the report said.”

But, if you want to try probiotics in the U.S., buyer beware. ConsumerLab.com says in its report about quality testing probiotics:

ConsumerLab.com selected thirteen probiotic products sold in the U.S. and/or Canada. Some products only listed the amount of organisms that were viable when the product was manufactured and not through the expiration date. This labeling practice is not typically employed with other types of supplements and can mislead consumers when a diminished amount is actually in the product at time of use. One of the products selected by ConsumerLab.com (Kashi Vive) did not list any amount of organisms.

Among the products selected by ConsumerLab.com, only two (Advocare Probiotic Restore and Udo’s Choice Adult Formula) were found to accurately list the number of cells that were viable at the time they were tested.  Other products were found to contain as little as 7% to 58% of the amount listed on their labels.

The ConsumerLab report lists several brands of probiotics that passed quality testing

Research suggests grateful people are healthier

In my book 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy I discuss the cutting-edge research demonstrating that people who are more grateful are more highly healthy. Furthermore, those who work on increasing their attitude of gratitude also become more healthful. Continue reading

Study says smoking marijuana may have long-lasting effects on brain development

USA Today reported, “Teenagers respond differently to drugs than adults, and early use may lead to long-lasting effects on brain development, according to new research.”

Staci Gruber, of Harvard Medical School, presented the study “at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, in San Diego,” noting “people who start using marijuana at a young age have more cognitive shortfalls.”

Gruber “evaluated 29 non-smokers and 35 chronic marijuana smokers,” and said she found that “while the smokers performed tasks quickly, they did not learn from their errors when corrected — a hallmark that the part of the brain that governs executive function is impaired.”

Notably, “functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) backed that up.”

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that “marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the US with 25.8 million Americans ages 12 and older reporting at least one instance of abuse in 2008.”

Here’s are some of my other blogs on marijuana:

“Vaccines cause autism” theory now suspected to be fraud

In a recent blogs I’ve told you, “Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: The Myth is Finally Debunked” and “U.K. bans doctor who linked autism to MMR vaccine.” But, even I was shocked when, while watching ABC World News last night, I saw a report suggesting, that the vaccine-autism link now appears to have been a deliberate fraud. Not only have untold children have been harmed because of this alleged fraud — but autism research has actually been set back. My hope is that criminal charges will soon follow. Here are the details:

ABC World News reported reported that many parents “know that vaccines protection their children from serious illness. But many still fear that the vaccines might cause autism because of all of the reports through the years.” Now, there is “new outrage over the doctor who first reported a link.”

USA Today reports, “An infamous 1998 study that ignited a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism — and led millions of parents to delay or decline potentially lifesaving shots for their children — was ‘an elaborate fraud,’ according to a scathing three-part investigation in the British medical journal BMJ.”

In 2009, “British medical authorities … found the study’s lead author, Andrew Wakefield, guilty of serious professional misconduct, stripping him of his ability to practice medicine in England.”

The BMJ now “reports that Wakefield, who was paid more than $675,000 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine makers, was not just unethical — he falsified data in the study, which suggested that children developed autism after getting a shot against measles, mumps and rubella.”

“The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems,” the AP reports. “Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.”

The LA Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that “none of the details of the medical histories of any of the patients could be matched to those cited in The Lancet article.”

What’s more, “all had been altered to make Wakefield’s claims more convincing. Ten of the authors subsequently asked that the paper be retracted.” In 2009, The Lancet withdrew Wakefield’s 1998 paper.

CNN points out that Wakefield’s “now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella.”

In the US alone, “more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.”

HealthDay reported that “besides harming those children who got sick after not receiving a vaccine, the alleged fraud may have even set back autism research, experts noted.”

Pediatric neurologist Max Wiznitzer, MD, of University Hospitals Case Medical Center, stated that “[autism] research monies were diverted to disprove a hypothesis that was never proven [in the first place], rather than invested in exploring issues that would be of benefit to the public and to children with the condition.”

This is a truly sad finale to a truly sad story. But, I’ll let you know about any future developments.

Probiotics may ease kids’ belly aches (especially IBS)

In a past blog about probiotics, I told you, “Friendly Bacteria (Probiotics) Help Calm Colicky Babies and May Help Constipated Babies.” Now, an Italian study is suggesting that a daily dose of “friendly bacteria” (probiotics) could provide relief for kids suffering from the cruel pain of a CHRONIC tummy ache. Here are the details from a report in Reuters Health:

Yet little evidence exists to date for helpful medications or dietary changes, Dr. Ruggiero Francavilla of the University of Bari, in Italy, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

Given recent research hinting at the therapeutic value of probiotics for adults with stomach problems, particularly a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome that can cause pain and abnormal bowel movements, Francavilla and his team wanted to see if good bacteria might benefit kids too.

The team studied 141 Italian children between the ages of 5 and 14 suffering from chronic belly pain, mostly resulting from irritable bowel syndrome. They randomly assigned each child to daily doses of either a common strain of probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG, or a placebo that looked and tasted similar, for eight weeks.

At the end of the treatment period, L. rhamnosus GG appeared to reduce the frequency and intensity of the kids’ stomach pain, report the researchers in the journal Pediatrics.

While both groups averaged about four stomach aches per week prior to the study, frequencies reduced to about one per week for kids taking the probiotics and two per week for those on the placebo. Based on a 10-point scale, with 10 being worst, the average level of pain reported before treatment was 4.3 in both groups.

These scores dropped to 2.3 and 3.4, respectively, for kids in the treatment and placebo groups. Further, the researchers found that the effects of the probiotic lasted at least another eight weeks beyond completion of the study treatment.

Although they note that the probiotic’s pain-relieving benefits could still wane and require repeated use to maintain the effect. L. rhamnosus GG is widely available at drug stores and sold online, generally costing less than a dollar per daily dose.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG is one of the best-studied probiotic bacteria in clinical trials for treating and preventing several intestinal disorders and is widely available in different countries,” said Francavilla.

He added that his team conducted the study with kids recruited through their pediatricians in a wide range of communities in southern Italy, so the results could be applicable to the general population.

No other strain of probiotic is currently a valid alternative for this particular condition, Francavilla noted. “Probiotics are not all the same and should not be used deliberately for all the possible indications; we are entering the era of targeted probiotic use,” he said.

To fully achieve the specific stomach ache-reducing benefit of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Francavilla advises taking the probiotic long-term or for at least eight weeks.

But, if you want to try probiotics in the U.S., buyer beware. ConsumerLab.com says in its report about quality testing probiotics:

ConsumerLab.com selected thirteen probiotic products sold in the U.S. and/or Canada. Some products only listed the amount of organisms that were viable when the product was manufactured and not through the expiration date. This labeling practice is not typically employed with other types of supplements and can mislead consumers when a diminished amount is actually in the product at time of use. One of the products selected by ConsumerLab.com (Kashi Vive) did not list any amount of organisms.

Among the products selected by ConsumerLab.com, only two (Advocare Probiotic Restore and Udo’s Choice Adult Formula) were found to accurately list the number of cells that were viable at the time they were tested.  Other products were found to contain as little as 7% to 58% of the amount listed on their labels.

The ConsumerLab report lists several brands of probiotics that passed quality testing and also contain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.