Top Natural Weight Loss Supplements

April 30, 2010 by  
Filed under OBESITY

As children and adults continue to wage a losing battle against excessive weight and obesity, the impact to health and longevity is beginning to take it’s toll.  Dietary excess, lack of exercise and stress are contributing to skyrocketing levels of the major killers.

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s account for over 60% of deaths annually.  Children and teens are the largest growing segment of this epidemic, as they are increasingly raised on a processed diet of sugar, refined carbohydrates and trans fats which have been stripped of essential nutrients and are directly linked to disease when consumed for extended periods.  Targeted supplementation has been shown to be effective as a compliment to a healthy diet and can fuel weight loss through unique metabolic mechanisms.

Green Tea Steps Up Metabolism

Green Tea Fuels Weight Loss

Green Tea Fuels Weight Loss

Green tea is packed with natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenol catechins.  EGCG is a catechin which combines with caffeine in the minimally processed green tea and is effective in increasing the Base Metabolic Rate in the body.  This means that calories are continually being burned at a higher rate resulting in reduced fat storage and weight loss.

Green Tea has the added advantage of modulating the effect of insulin which determines whether carbohydrate calories are stored as fat or burned for fuel.  This is especially important for diabetics as the disorder is characterized by insulin resistance and improper uptake of glucose by the cells.  Green Tea has been shown to assist in weight loss when combined with a regular fitness program and a diet which drastically restricts refined carbohydrates and highly processed manufactured foods in favor of plenty of raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein and healthy fats.

Resveratrol Mimics Calorie Restriction

Resveratrol Influences Weight Loss Genes

Resveratrol Influences Weight Loss Genes

Calorie Restriction has long been known as an effective means to extend lifespan in animals and can also lead to healthy weight loss as a result.  By reducing calories consumed by 25%, certain genetic survival mechanisms are triggered in the body.  Specifically, a group of genes called SIRT1 are sensitive to how much food we are eating, and can slow down or speed up our longevity genetics to ensure reproduction during times of famine.

Most people today eat enough calories to prevent SIRT1 from activating, but studies are demonstrating that we can mimic Calorie Restriction by taking a powerful grape skin extract called Resveratrol.  Resveratrol works best as an adjunct to continued weight loss after calorie intake has been reduced, as it activates the SIRT1 genes to fuel fat metabolism.

DHA From Fish Oil Supports Weight Loss

DHA Increases Metabolism

DHA Increases Metabolism

Omega-3 fats from fish and fish oil have been credited with supporting heart and brain health, and now natural weight loss can be added to the impressive list of benefits.  The DHA component of fish oil is used by the body to construct the outer membrane of each cell, and when this fat is available from diet or supplementation, it creates a healthy cell wall which allows the proper influx of oxygen and nutrients.

This permits the cell to operate efficiently, and in addition to helping prevent potentially serious diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, DHA increases the metabolic rate of the cell which burns additional calories.  DHA directly influences how fat stores are released for use as energy and the regulation of blood sugar by the body.  Proper diet and exercise are essential to maximize the effectiveness of DHA.

A solid weight loss strategy is essential for every health conscious child and adult.  Hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths are recorded each year from the major killers, and lives can be spared by a sensible approach to diet and exercise.  Additionally, targeted powerhouse dietary supplements help to fuel fat burn and weight loss naturally, while providing major health benefits.  As with any health regime, supplements are only a part of the overall program, but they can provide key support toward an extended, disease-free life.

About the author:

John Phillip is a Health, Diet and Nutrition Researcher and Author of the popular Optimal Health Resource Blog who regularly reports on the alternative cutting edge use of supplements and lifestyle modifications to enhance and improve the length and quality of life. Health problems can be avoided and overcome with a sensible approach to monitoring key health factors such as weight, blood glucose, blood pressure and body temperature. His mission is to discuss the relevant findings on nutritional factors as they become available, and how you can incorporate this latest information to better your lifestyle.  Read John’s latest healthy articles, updated regularly at his Optimal Health Resource Blog.

Healthcare updates, April 30

April 30, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Oncos Therapeutics Raises € 4 Million From Healthcap to Develop Oncolytic Viruses Into Cancer Treatments
The Finnish biotech film Oncos Therapeutics is doing research on next generation of oncolytic viruses and has just received a new capital input of 4 million Euros from Healthcap, one of the largest venture capitalists specialized in life sciences. Oncos’ modified oncolytic adenovirus CGTG-102 is showing promise as cancer treatment in clinical trials.

According to research Professor Akseli Hemminki

“The results have been strong for late stage solid tumor cancers where routine therapies have failed. Time is critical in the treatment of cancer. We are confident that when treating earlier stage patients, our oncolytic virus therapy will prove even more significant.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Growing List of Insurers That Will Provide Coverage for Young Adults under Age 26
According to a statement by Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius:

I welcome the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, Kaiser Permanente, and Humana to the growing list of insurers who are offering to continue health insurance for young adults graduating from college or aging out of their parents’ plan.  This initiative, complementing the permanent policy in the Affordable Care Act, will enable young people to retain insurance coverage at an important moment as they begin their adult lives and launch their careers.
Many young adults under the age of 26 have traditionally had a difficult time getting access to – and affording – health coverage.  The Affordable Care Act, and the voluntary actions of insurers to eliminate the coverage gap for young adults on their parents plans, will give greater health security to millions of American families.
Insuring younger Americans is a top priority for the Administration and we will continue working to expand the opportunity for children and young adults to have access to quality, affordable, care.

FDA Approves New Device for Adults with Severe and Persistent Asthma
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first medical device that uses radiofrequency energy to treat severe and persistent asthma in certain adults.
The Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System is intended for patients ages 18 and older whose severe and persistent asthma is not well-controlled with inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta agonist medications.

Statement of NIH Director on Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Lines
The March 2009 Executive Order 13505: Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells is bearing fruit. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced today that 13 additional human embryonic stem cell lines have been approved for federal funding and added to the NIH Stem Cell Registry.

Breast Cancer : 0910133247

April 29, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Breast Cancer : 0910133247

Alcohol, drugs and fights

April 29, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Drugs and alcohol are associated with high-risk behaviour especially among adolescents. Let us take a look at the manifestations of these high-risk behaviours.

Physical fights

Every now and then, young people are engaged in physical fights. It is sad, however, when these fights can lead to more serious consequences such as death, disability, arrest, and criminality. Involvement in physical fights is a sign of risky behaviour. Most of these fights are associated with drug abuse or excessive alcohol consumption.

Here are some statistics from 2001 on fighting among high school students:

Girls fight, too

Can you imagine girls in a fight club? It is not only boys who can hit or kick. Girls get into fights, too. Serious physical fights that intent to hurt and do physical damage. Data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that although 43% of those who engaged in fighting were male, a large number of teen girls age (24%) 12 to 17 years get into fights, and these fights, too, are associated with binge drinking or drug use.

Other risky behaviours

Unfortunately, physical fights are just half of the story. Other risky behaviours also come with fighting, including:

Fights with weapons

Fights can turn deadly especially when weapons are involved. Those are intoxicated or stoned are most likely to use weapons when fighting, thus causing serious injuries and even death. Statistics showed that when drugs or alcohol is involved, 51% of those engaged in fights use weapon and 61% sustain serious or even fatal injuries. Without substance involvement, serious injuries have been reported in only 18% of fights.

Once the causes of high-risk behaviour have been identified, steps can be taken to help the young. Rehabilitation starts with addressing possible addiction plus other psychosocial factors involved. There are also programs on conflict resolution and anger management and even peer-mediation programs.

Mom’s weight and baby’s heart

April 27, 2010 by  

Excess weight on anyone is associated with a lot of health problems. Excess weight on a pregnant woman is associated with health problems for herself as well as for her baby. Previous research has shown that obesity among pregnant women is linked to cardiovascular problems and gestational diabetes on the maternal side that can cause pregnancy complications. Less is known about the effect of maternal obesity on the fetus but research shows that the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Women are expected to gain weight during pregnancy. However, current estimates indicate that 1 in 5 American women are obese even at the start of pregnancy and will thus gain more weight during the course of the gestation period.

A recent study showed that babies of women who were extremely overweight during pregnancy have higher chances of suffering from congenital heart defects. These are structural defects of the heart at birth and affect 8 in 1,000 newborns in the US. Congenital heart defects can be mild or life-threatening and usually require corrective surgery. Even if corrected, these defects are associated with lifetime health problems.

The researchers analyzed the health records of over 1.5 million births that took place during an 11-year period.

They compared about 7,000 women whose children were born with major heart defects to about 56,000 women whose offspring had no birth defects. The researchers calculated the mothers’ body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9; overweight is 25 to 29.9 and obese is 30 and above. [The authors] reported that the chance of having a child with a congenital heart defect increases for obese women, and rises sharply for morbidly obese women. While moderately obese women are 11% more likely than normal-weight women to have a child with a heart defect, morbidly obese women are 33% more likely. Women who were overweight but not obese had no increased risk.

According lead author Dr. James L. Mills, researcher at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD):

“The trend is unmistakable: The more obese a woman is, the more likely she is to have had a child with a heart defect. If a woman is obese, it makes sense for her to try to lose weight before becoming pregnant. Not only will weight loss improve her own health and that of her infant, it is likely to have the added benefit of reducing the infant’s risk for heart defects.”

Other infant conditions linked to maternal obesity are type 2 diabetes and neural tube defects.

The Changing Brain: Alzheimer’s Disease And Advances In Neuroscience

April 27, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

In The Changing Brain, Ira Black tells the fascinating story of modern neuroscience. A rich, multifaceted tale spanning a century and taking place on multiple continents, it moves from Fascist Italy, with the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF) by a young scientist working secretly in a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom, to current experiments in which transplanted, laboratory-grown cells lead to recovery and function in damaged brain regions. In the mid 1990s, a revolutionary new conception of the brain emerged–instead of the traditional view that the brain’s role in perception, memory, learning, and emotions was based on a static, non-renewable network of brain cells and connections, research revealed that the human brain is an ever-changing, fantastically complex system that is continually being shaped and reshaped by a subtle interplay of genetic clues and life experiences. To bridge the gap between abstract concepts and real-world experience, Dr. Black draws upon his expertise as a clinical neurologist to provide a dramatic account–the fictionalized story of a successful investment banker named Enoch Wallace and his battle with Alzheimer’s disease–that vividly illuminates the narrative. From his first fleeting memory lapses to his final descent into dementia, each step in Wallace’s decline becomes a window into another aspect of brain function and the latest groundbreaking research in neuroscience.

The young drinker and her risk for breast cancer

April 27, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Young and free – that’s how adolescents feel. But remember that you are not free to do anything you want as if there is no tomorrow. What you do today, can affect your health in the future.

Take the case of alcohol consumption. Teenage binge drinking is becoming a widespread problem in developed countries. A previous post indicated the health risks of adolescent drinking. Here is another study that reports an additional and very serious risk: the risk for breast cancer.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Harvard University report that teenage girls who drink alcohol increases their risk for benign breast disease and eventually more aggressive cancerous form of the disease.

According study author to Dr. Graham Colditz at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital:

“Our study clearly showed that the risk of benign breast disease increased with the amount of alcohol consumed in this age group. The study is an indication that alcohol should be limited in adolescence and early adult years and further focuses our attention on these years as key to preventing breast cancer later in life.”

The researchers looked at 6,899 American girls aged 9 to 15 years old as part of the Growing Up Today Study. The results of the study indicate that alcohol consumption increased the likelihood of developing benign lumps in the developing breasts. The higher the alcohol consumption, the greater is the risk. Those who drank 6 to 7 days a week have a 5.5 times likelihood of developing breast lumps and lesions. You may ask: who cares about a few benign breast lumps? However, many aggressive breast cancer start as benign, thus making these seemingly innocuous lumps important markers for cancer risk.

The validity of the results is high because it studied adolescents and followed them up to adulthood. Other studies on association between alcohol and breast cancer were on adult women who had to report on drinking habits in their younger years.

“There’s growing evidence that physical activity can lower breast cancer risk. We also know that diet and weight are important factors. Now it is clear that drinking habits throughout life affect breast cancer risk, as well.”

There has been evidence showing that alcohol consumption increases cancer risk. The current study suggests that the earlier a woman starts drinking alcohol, the higher is risk increase.

Volcanic ash: does it or does it not pose health risks?

April 26, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Does the volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajokull hovering over Europe present health risks to the population on the ground? I mean health risks aside from the increase in stress levels, not to mention blood pressure, of those who got stranded because of flight cancellations.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) statement on April 16, as long as the volcanic ash stays in the upper atmosphere, the health risks for those who are on the ground are minimal. However, in case of ash fall, there are health risks to people on the ground.

What’s blowing in the wind?

The US Geological Survey gives a general description of volcanic ash:

Small jagged pieces of rocks, minerals, and volcanic glass the size of sand and silt (less than 2 millimeters (1/12 inch) in diameter) erupted by a volcano are called volcanic ash. Very small ash particles can be less than 0.001 millimeters (1/25,000th of an inch) across. Volcanic ash is not the product of combustion, like the soft fluffy material created by burning wood, leaves, or paper. Volcanic ash is hard, does not dissolve in water, is extremely abrasive and mildly corrosive, and conducts electricity when wet.

Let us take a look at what is in this particular flying ash. Ongoing analysis by WHO shows that the Eyjafjallajokull ash consists about 25% of fine particulate matter smaller than 10 microns. Particles of this size, when inhaled, can penetrate deeper into the lungs.

Who is susceptible?

People suffering from chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, emphysema or bronchitis are susceptible to fine particulate matter. The usual preventive measures to mitigate respiratory problems are recommended including staying indoors, wearing protective masks, and avoiding strenuous physical exercise.

According to statement by Dr Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment Department at WHO

“Particulate matter is identified according to its diameter. The small particulates less than 10 microns in size are more dangerous because they can penetrate deeper into the lungs. Since the ash concentration may vary from country to country depending on the wind and air temperatures, our advice is to listen to local public health officials for the best guidance for individual situations,” says Neira. “If people are outside and notice irritation in their throat and lungs, a runny nose or itchy eyes, they should return indoors and limit their outdoor activities.”

What should we do during ash fall?

Not all volcanic ash falls are the same just as no two volcanoes are the same. However, there are general guidelines from US Geological Survey for households, communities and businesses that in case of ash fall. The recommended lines of action are:

More details are available for downloading as pamphlets from the Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN):

How climate change is affecting our health

April 26, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

As a follow-up to our Earth Day post last week, let us explore further the association between climate and our health. A healthy environment supports a healthy population. A sick environment, however, results in a population that is unfit. If Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory were to be true, then we might have to ask ourselves, are we fit enough to survive climate change. A recent report by an interagency group led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) underlines the significant impact of climate change on human health. The report entitled A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change identified 11 categories of human diseases that are affected by climate change, namely:

  • Asthma, respiratory allergies, and airway diseases
  • Mental health and stress-related disorders
  • Cancer
  • Neurological diseases and disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Waterborne diseases
  • Foodborne diseases and nutrition
  • Weather-related morbidity and mortality
  • Heat-related morbidity and mortality
  • Vectorborne and zoonotic diseases (like malaria, which can be transmitted from animals to humans)
  • Human developmental effects

According to Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), whose institute led the interagency initiative

“This white paper articulates, in a concrete way, that human beings are vulnerable in many ways to the health effects of climate change. It lays out both what we know and what we need to know about these effects in a way that will allow the health research community to bring its collective knowledge to bear on solving these problems.”

Climate change goes beyond than just the weather. It changes the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. It even changes the sun rays that touch our skin. It is no wonder that it has a great impact on our health.

According to Dr. Howard Koh, assistant US Secretary for Health

“Increasingly, studies including some co-funded by NIEHS, recently published in The Lancet, have shown us that by understanding how climate change, human health, and human activities intersect, we can prevent some of climate’s worst impacts while providing huge benefits to human health that actually offset the costs of mitigation and adaptation. The white paper integrates these new data in a framework that is a new way of looking at this complex and critical problem.”

Are our environmental transgressions coming back to haunt us and the generations to come?

The Black Health Library Guide To Obesity (the Black Health Library)

April 24, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

The Black Health Library Guide To Obesity (the Black Health Library)

Earth Day tips for your health and the environment

April 23, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

My apologies for missing the Earth Day 2010 (April 22) by a day. That is what happens when you blog and travel at the same time. However, it is never too late to start our own personal Earth Day initiative.

Somebody told me recently (my big brother actually) that he doesn’t believe in the slogan “Save Mother Earth.” According to him, Mother Earth has been here for zillions of years and will still be here when we are gone. That whatever we do to Mother Earth, she has her ways and means of compensating and recovering – be it in the form of earthquakes, hurricanes, or volcano eruptions. Mother Earth is strong and resilient. She has outlived the ice ages, the dinosaurs, countless of wars. She will outlive other major disasters. The question is: can we? As big bro has said, our slogan should be “Save the Human Race.”

I fully agree with my philosophical brother. That is why, I am always thinking of ways and mean of saving ourselves in the short- and long-term. Saving ourselves in the short-term means paying attention to our health. Saving ourselves in the long-term means paying attention to what we do to our environment. And there is no reason that we cannot combine these. Here is how:

Walk or cycle. By walking or taking the bike, you do your heart and health a lot of good, at the same time you help decrease carbon emission.

Buy local and fresh. Go for local produce. Local products are less likely to be loaded with chemicals that extend their shelf-life. And they needed less fossil fuel to get to the supermarket shelves. Local produce also needs less packaging, thus less garbage.

If you buy organic, then buy the real organics. If you buy organic, then go for the real organic products that take into consideration not the methods used in the production process but the labor and transport methods as well. From my point of view, a product labeled as organic but has flown thousands of miles to get to my dining table defeats the very principle of organic farming.

Save water. Water is a very precious resource. Every drop counts! Check out these resources: A to Z of water saving tips, BBC News; Water Saving Tips, Sydney Water; American Water and Energy Savers.

Recycle. Everything matters, no matter how small. Save, reuse and recycle.

Keep yourself fit and healthy. The healthier you are, the less you will need in terms of medicine and health services, and the less is your impact on natural environment. Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce carbon emission. A healthy environment supports a healthy population.

Preserve your health. Preserve our environment. Save the human race.

Heart(y) News, April 23

April 23, 2010 by  

What we need less

Public ban on trans fat leads to rapid improvements in health, says BMJ editorial
First it was smoking, now it’s trans fat in the food that health experts are pushing to ban, to promote rapid heart health improvements. The smoke ban has proven itself – most countries which implemented the ban reported lower cardiovascular events. The trans fat ban might be next.

IOM recommends FDA set new standards for salt in foods
Or perhaps it should be dietary salt first? The US Institute of Medicine (IOM) is urging the US FDA to review the current salt standards in foods. IOM reports that common food items contain too much salt and the consumers unknowingly take in too much sodium. High salt consumption is believed to be a major risk factor for hypertension. According to Dr George Bakris of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and incoming president of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH):

I take my hat off to the IOM. ASH, along with the AHA and other societies, has been actively campaigning against high salt in the diet, but there needs to be a partnership with the government in doing this; otherwise physicians will fail.”

Certain Powerheart/CardioVive/CardioLife AED Recalled
Cardiac Science Corp recalled some models of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) due to possible failure during a resuscitation attempt. The recall affects more than 12,000 AEDs manufactured or serviced between October 19, 2009 and January 15, 2010.

What we need more

Diet high in B-vitamins lowers heart risks in Japanese study
We may need more dietary intake of folate and vitamin B-6 to prevent heart disease, stroke and heart failure, according to a Japanese study. Sources of folate include vegetables and fruits, whole or enriched grains, fortified cereals, beans and legumes. Sources of vitamin B-6 include vegetables, fish, liver, meats, whole grains and fortified cereals.

Fear of Rejection — Monitoring the Heart-Transplant Recipient
In the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, results from Invasive Monitoring Attenuation through Gene Expression (IMAGE) trial are present, which the editorial hailed as issue “an important advance in the assessment of noninvasive methods for monitoring rejection after heart transplantation.”

FDA to Address Challenges of Using Complex Medical Devices in the Home
Hemodialysis equipment to treat kidney failure, wound therapy care, intravenous therapy devices, and ventilators are complex medical products that are now possible to have within the home setting. To ensure the use of their safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new initiative to ensure that caregivers and patients can operate the devices and perform the therapy safely.

Watch your cholesterol, watch your sugar intake

April 22, 2010 by  

Worried about your cholesterol levels? Are you on statins? Are you watching your fat intake? Well, it’s not only the transfats that you have to watch out for. Look out for the added sugar in your food as well. This is according to the results of a recent study by researchers at Emory University in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers looked at more than 6,100 participants and monitored their sugar intake and lipid profiles. The results revealed that:

  • Participants consumed an average of 21.4 teaspoons of added sugars a day, equivalent to more than 320 calories a day.
  • About 16% of the total daily caloric intake of the participants was from added sugars, up from 11% about 30 years ago.
  • Higher intake of added sugars was associated with lower levels of the good cholesterol HDL and higher levels of triglycerides or blood fats.

So what constitutes as added sugar? Well, it’s anything added to food during the processing and the preparation of food. This would include

  • sugar (table, brown, cooking)
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • molasses
  • syrups from brown rice, agave, maple, etc.
  • other caloric sweeteners

Almost everything that we eat besides fresh fruit and 100% juice contains added sugar, from bread and pastries to soft drinks and lemonade.

The researchers recommend that consumers cut down on their consumption of foods with added sugar, a move that doesn’t go well with the food industry.

Senior author Miriam Vos tells USA Today:

“We need to get used to consuming foods and drinks that are less sweet. People have been so focused on fat that we haven’t been focused on sugar, and it’s gotten away from us. This data show we can’t let either one or the other get too high.”

Clinicians warn their patients with hyperlipidemia about reducing their fat intake but gives sugar consumption attention.

Current guidelines from the American Heart Association recommend the following:

  • Women – maximum of 100 calories (6½ teaspoons) a day of added sugars.
  • Men – maximum of 150 calories (9½ teaspoons) a day from added sugars.

Thus it is not only the weight watchers who have to watch their sugar intake. Those who are at risk of cardiovascular disease (high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease) should keep an eye on their sugar as well as fat intake. In the end, a healthy diet is the key to a healthy heart.

Golden Age Of German Music And Its Origins (encore Music Editions)

April 21, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Golden Age Of German Music And Its Origins (encore Music Editions)

Transparency site on medical radiation devices launched

April 21, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Due to the recent events in connection with medical radiation-associated health problems, regulators in the US are taking steps to resolve these issues. The US FDA has recently launched its Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) Transparency Web site which provides “information about medical device and radiation-emitting product regulatory processes and decisions, and summaries of data that provide the rationale for agency actions.”

To back track a bit, several studies have investigated radiation exposure of patients when undergoing diagnostic procedures that involved radiation-emitting devices, including the widely used computer tomography (CT) scans. These studies found that radiation levels used by these machines vary considerably and are not regulated. Previous research has shown strong links between radiation and cancer.

In addition, several cases of radiation overdose, some of them with very serious consequences, have been reported.

The new site covers the following:

Information on clearance reviews and premarket approvals will be incorporated in the near future.

We as patienst and consumers hope that this initiative will improve the safety levels of medical radiation.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Superbugs and disinfectants

April 21, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

The recent FDA warning about contaminated handwashing liquid in Puerto Rico was a paradox considering that billions of people use handwashing liquid each day to avoid contamination.

Handwashing liquids contain disinfectants, which by definition are substances which hinder growth of even kill bacteria. Disinfectants come in many forms, from handwashing liquids, to gels and soaps. In recent years, however, more and more evidence is accumulating that disinfectants and other germ-killing compounds in our armory are simply losing their potency against superbugs that are so adaptable that they learned how to survive, even thrive in the compounds meant to kill them.

One such superbug is Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Researchers at the University of Ireland in Galway report that this bacterial species can withstand and survive increasing amounts of disinfectants. What is even more cause for concern is the fact that this bacteria is so adaptable that constant exposure to disinfectants enabled it to build up a strong defence mechanism against, not only to the said disinfectants, but even to antibiotics it wasn’t exposed to before.

The researchers report that this disinfectant-resistant species also developed resistance to ciprofloxacin – a commonly-prescribed antibiotic – even without being exposed to it. The resistance developed through a DNA mutation that made them resistant to ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics. In addition, the bacteria have also developed a more efficient system of pumping out antibacterial agents.

P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic bacterial species that may cause mild symptoms in a healthy individual but life-threatening infections in the immunodepressed. Patients with HIV, cystic fibrosis and diabetes are especially susceptible.

Another bug is the notorious Staphylococcus aureus (sometimes called Staph or SA for short), the bug that has evolved into the dreaded MRSA (methicillin-resistant SA). MRSA is responsible for a lot of the so-called nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections and is resistant not only to disinfectants but to a lot of antibiotics currently available.

These superbugs present a major headache for hospitals and clinics. Disinfection and sterilization is of great importance in these environments. Hospital patients usually have a weakened immune system, are suffering from metabolic problems, or have suffered from major injuries. Exposure of these patients to superbugs can have some severe consequences.

According to Dr. Gerard Fleming, who led the Irish study on P. aeruginosa:

“In principle this means that residue from incorrectly diluted disinfectants left on hospital surfaces could promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. What is more worrying is that bacteria seem to be able to adapt to resist antibiotics without even being exposed to them.”

Disinfectants are used to kill bacteria on hospital surfaces and staff to prevent their spread. If the bacteria manage to survive to infect patients, antibiotics are used to fight the infection. However, bugs that that can resist both disinfectants and antibiotics are unbeatable and uncontrollable – and deadly.

It is therefore important to study the environmental factors that might promote antibiotic resistance. Dr. Fleming continues:

“We need to investigate the effects of using more than one type of disinfectant on promoting antibiotic-resistant strains. This will increase the effectiveness of both our first and second lines of defence against hospital-acquired infections.”

Traveling tips for families

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

The volcanic eruption in Iceland has hindered air travel in Europe during the last couple of days. Bad luck for a lot of Swiss families who are scheduled to fly during the start of the Swiss spring holidays. We are one of those families.

And we are among the lucky few who could take off before the Swiss airspace was completely closed last Friday, April 17.

There are however, many people out there who are stranded somewhere. Being an avid travelling, I’m no stranger to be being stuck somewhere. But this has never happened to me when travelling with my kids. I hope this will never ever happen but these are circumstances beyond our control. Today I am bringing you some health tips when travelling, being prepare for all eventualities:

Medications. Hand carry all essential medications enough for a couple of days. In addition, hand carry a clearly written prescription from your doctor. Do not assume you will get access to your check in luggage within a day. Luggage gets lost, planes get grounded. Hand carry optional medications for common health problems such as anti-diarrhea pills, analgesics/antipyretics for pain and fever, and anti-histamines for allergies.

Do not give your children medicine that would make them drowsy (e.g. Benadryl). I know of parents “drugging” their kids so they would sleep on long flights. Such a practice, however, is dangerous and is discouraged by doctors and health authorities.

Ear aches. Give children something to chew/suck during takeoff and landing to prevent ear aches.

Nausea and motion sickness. Some kids would feel nauseous during the flight and throwing up is a common problem. My sons have this problem. There are some anti-nausea medications out there but so far, I haven’t really used them as their side effects might be worse than the original symptom they are treating. The first thing I reach for after fastening the children’s seatbelts is the airsickness bag. Make sure that there is one in the pocket front of you. Keep it easily accessible. All these years, my kids and I got the routine perfectly figured out. The kids are now the ones who willingly check for the bags. Mom is always ready to help. We had two vomiting incidents this trip, without any mess whatsoever. In a previous, when we had one mishap, I was pleasantly surprised how the crew of the airline Emirates handled the situation. They had a vomiting clean up kit ready, complete with gloves, disinfectant, a powder that congealed the mess into manageable form, and got rid of the residual odor. All I had to do was change my son’s clothes. Bravo for this airline.

Change of clothes. Yes, I’ve learned that a change of clothes is always handy to have, not only for the children, but for myself, too.

Thrombosis. Sitting still for long periods of time can play havoc with your cardiovascular health. I am prone to edema in the legs but anti-thrombosis stockings/pressure socks were the one major piece of hand carry luggage I forgot on this trip. I did manage to prevent edema formation by standing up regularly to do stretching exercises. OK, so the other passengers looked at me a little funnily. Who cares? I remember on a flight to Asia once, a group of senior citizens (presumably Chinese) regularly got up, stood on the aisle, and performed Tai chi moves. What a swell idea!

Drink, drink, drink. Finally, keep yourselves hydrated during long-haul flights, not with alcohol or coffee, but with water.

The latest on retinopathy of prematurity

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

As a mom of twin preemies, I always keep my eyes and ears open about health problems related to prematurity. Here’s the latest about retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

ROP occurs in approximately 15,000 babies in the US each year, according to recent estimates. ROP is one of the most common causes of visual impairment in children.

But how does ROP occur? Medline Plus describes this condition:

The blood vessels of the retina begin to develop 3 months after conception and complete their development at the time of normal birth. If an infant is born very prematurely, eye development can be disrupted. The vessels may stop growing or grow abnormally from the retina into the normally clear gel that fills the back of the eye. The vessels are fragile and can leak, causing bleeding in the eye. Scar tissue may develop and pull the retina loose from the inner surface of the eye. In severe cases, this can result in vision loss.

In addition, preemies are usually treated with oxygen at birth. Excessive oxygen can stimulate the growth of blood vessel that can lead to ROP. Improved monitoring of oxygen supply has reduced ROPs caused this way. However, babies born before the 31st week of gestation and weighing less than 3 pounds are at high risk for ROP. However, all preemies should be screened for ROP.

Long-term results from the Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ETROP) show that ROP, when caught early, can reduce or prevent impairment. Screening entails an eye exam that examines the appearance and location of the blood vessels in the eyes. Through the examination, the severity of ROP can be determined.

ROP may be categorized into the following types based on the characteristics of the blood vessels:

  • Type 1 ROP is characterized by lots of new blood vessels growing which may be dilated or twisted, with a very high risk for visual impairment
  • Type 2 ROP is characterized by moderate amounts of growing blood vessels.

ROP treatment options include laser therapy or cryotherapy (using freezing temperatures) which stops or slows down the growth of blood vessels.

The ETROP study revealed that babies with Type 1 ROP benefits from early treatment but not those with Type 2 ROP. These findings, which were initially based on a short-term 9-month study, have been confirmed by a long-term study which followed up the patients for up to 6 years. 75% of those with Type 1 ROP cases treated early were spared progression to legal blindness compared to 67% of those who receive treatment at standard time. No difference in outcomes was observed in those with Type 2 ROP regardless of the timing of the treatment.

According to study leader William V. Good of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco:

“The long-term study has given clinicians evidence that infants with ROP should be treated with different strategies based on an infant’s risk for a severe form of the disease, which can be determined through an exam at the bedside.”

What you should do about food allergy symptoms

April 19, 2010 by  
Filed under ALLERGIES

Do you have a child with food allergy? Do you know what to do in case of severe allergic reactions? An Australian study indicates that many parents with children with food allergies are actually unprepared to act accordingly in case their kids develop allergic symptoms.

According to a study involving preschool children in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australian parents may actually be short on food (e.g. peanut and other nuts) allergy awareness. Some figures that came out from the study are:

  • 3.8% of 5-year old children in the region have a history of peanut allergy.
  • 94% of local schools are aware of their pupils’ allergies.
  • 76% of these schools have a management procedure in place to mitigate allergic-related situations.

The study revealed some points that caused major concerns. The parents of children in this age group seem to lack the awareness of how to deal with allergic reactions.

According to Professor Marjan Kljakovic of the ANU Medical School:

“The study showed two things of concern. The first is that action on food allergy was influenced by the level of worry the parent had about their child’s allergy. In other words, the less worried parents were about food allergies, the less likely they were to observe their child having symptoms and to act on them.

The second concern is that some parents reacted inappropriately following seeing their child having an allergic reaction to peanut. In such cases, it is not appropriate to ‘watch and wait for the reaction to subside’, ‘induce vomiting in the child’ or ‘apply calamine lotion to the skin’, as some parents seemed to think.”

So what are the symptoms of food allergy?

According to

  • Itchiness in the mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing and breathing
  • Rashes, hives or eczema
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain

Allergic reaction manifesting in all of the above in severe forms is called anaphylactic reaction which is life-threatening.

The Australian study identified the following common mistakes of parents in handling allergic reactions:

  • Watching and waiting for the symptoms to subside.
  • Inducing the child to vomit
  • In the case of skin reactions, applying calamine lotion to the skin.

The recommended correct line of action is:

  • Administration of oral antihistamines which are available over-the counter.
  • If the child develops severe anaphylactic reaction, he or she should be taken to the doctor immediately. an adrenalin auto-injector is necessary.

Additional resources:

Take the Food Allergy Screening Quiz.

Info on Anaphylaxis on Severe Allergic Reaction

How to Avoid Heart Disease

April 19, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

How to Avoid Heart Disease

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.