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New Toxic Chemical Created To Stop Bitterness In Food
Lipitor Linked To Diabetes & Liver Damage
U.S. Dietary Guidelines: Toss Calorie Counter
Acid Reflux Medications Can Cause Severe Nutritional Deficiency
Diet Soda Linked To Heart Risk
SEC Staffers ‘Hard At Work’ As Economy Crashes
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March 31st, 2011
By: Katie Moisse
New research that links diet soda consumption with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke has doctors urging caution about the controversial and preliminary results.
According to a study of more than 2,500 people presented today as a poster at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles, people who drank diet soda daily had a 61 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who drank no soda, even when accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and calories consumed per day.
“This study suggests that diet soda is not an optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, and may be associated with a greater risk of stroke,” Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami and her colleagues reported at the conference.
But the questionnaire-based study garnered criticism by experts in diet, nutrition and vascular disease.
“This study has major flaws and should not change anyone’s diet soda consumption,” said ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.
The researchers used data obtained though the multi-ethnic, population-based Northern Manhattan Study to examine risk factors for stroke, heart attack and other vascular events such as blood clots in the limbs. While 901 participants reported drinking no soda at the start of the study, 163 said they drank one or more diet sodas per day.
“One of the many flaws here is that participants were asked about soda intake at only one point in time, when they entered the study,” Besser said. “It is difficult to imagine that people’s intake of soda is constant during that period.”
Association, Not Causation
Connie Diekman, a registered dietician and director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St Louis, said, “Population-based studies provide some ‘food for thought’ but shouldn’t be used as the basis of nutrition guides for individuals. This study would be another one that indicates more controlled studies are needed.”
Drinking regular or diet soda has previously been linked to diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. Surprisingly, Gardener and colleagues failed to detect an increased cardiovascular risk among daily drinkers of regular soda.
“Unfortunately, it may be that individuals with poor dietary habits do resort in some kind of calorie balancing and continue to eat high-calorie sweet foods but reduce their guilt by drinking diet soda,” said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of the New York University Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, explaining the propensity to wash down a high-fat meal with low-cal soda.
Although the authors went on to control for metabolic syndrome (a component of which is obesity), peripheral vascular disease and cardiac disease history later in their analysis — lowering the magnitude of increased risk to 48 percent — they did not account for variations in eating habits.
“In my 20 years of clinical practice, patients who consume diet soda tend to have more of a sweet tooth; to get more sweet cravings; to eat more foods with added sugar; and to like and eat more processed food than patients who avoid both regular and diet soda,” said Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.
March 31st, 2011
By: Melissa Makris
Acid reflux, and the heartburn that results, occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. About one-third of Americans experience heartburn on a regular basis. Treatment with both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications might temporarily stop the burning, but the relief can come at a substantial health cost.
Conventional doctors generally blame excess stomach acid, or hyperacidity, for acid reflux, even though a mechanism to support this claim has not been found. A defective or weakened lower esophageal sphincter, the valve at the top of the stomach, is generally where the blame is placed, although that does not address why excess acid is the culprit.
Many holistic doctors believe that the cause of acid reflux is actually too little stomach acid, or hypoacidity. From what is known about how the digestive process works, these claims can be substantiated.
After chewing, food goes down the esophagus and into the stomach via the esophageal sphincter. The presence of food in the stomach triggers a hormone called gastrin, which controls the amount of gastric juices that are secreted.
Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is one of the main components of gastric juices. Enough stomach acid needs to be produced to reduce the stomach pH to around 1.5-2.5. This triggers protein-digesting enzymes, kills harmful microbes, and allows for proper mineral absorption.
If at any time the pH of the stomach drops too low, the hormone gastrin is inhibited and the production of HCl ceases. This negative feedback mechanism is commonly ignored, or unknown, by many conventional doctors.
Frequently, it is too little stomach acid that causes digestive distress. Too little HCl inhibits proper digestion and prolongs the time the food stays in the stomach. The longer the food sits in the stomach, the greater the chance of the esophageal sphincter relaxing and allowing acids to come up into the esophagus. Pepsin, the main enzyme responsible for protein digestion, can also irritate the stomach if present for long periods of time.
When someone takes an antacid for acid reflux, the drug dramatically increases the pH of the stomach. The stomach responds by producing more HCl in an attempt to bring the pH back down.
Encouraging more HCl production is beneficial, but the way these OTC drugs go about this actually makes the problem much worse. This is because the cells responsible for making stomach acid, the parietal cells, need to have reserves of certain minerals in order to produce the HCl. The most important of these minerals are zinc, magnesium, and chloride.
But a person experiencing frequent episodes of heartburn is more than likely already depleted in these minerals, so the parietal cells do not have enough energy to keep up the HCl production. When the antacids stop working, conventional doctors tend to recommend protein-pump inhibitors (PPI). These kinds of drugs completely block stomach acid production.
Low stomach acid, and the corresponding higher stomach pH, already leaves people vulnerable to food poisoning, ulcers, parasites, and other kinds of stomach infections. It also makes it difficult to utilize protein and critical nutrients from food.
Acid reflux medications greatly increase these nutrient deficiencies, notably B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium. In fact, last May the FDA warned that long-term users of PPI`s were at increased risk of bone fractures. The agency was unable to link deficiencies in calcium and magnesium to the bone loss, however, stating “the association between the drugs and bone fractions is still not understood.” Other side effects seen from long-term PPI usage are stomach atrophy, liver damage, anemia, fungal growth in the esophagus, and cancerous stomach polyps.
March 31st, 2011
By: Stacy Finz
After more than a half century of counting calories, experts are advising dieters to ditch the numbers game and take a more holistic approach to losing weight.
Tom Vilsack, the U.S. secretary of agriculture, signaled a major change in mind-set last month while unveiling the country’s new dietary guidelines. “Not all calories are created equally,” he said.
A 1,200-calorie Twinkie diet isn’t going to do the body as much good as a 1,200-calorie diet of whole grains, even though both may achieve weight loss.
But the country’s multibillion-dollar diet industry has mostly operated on a calories-in, calories-out philosophy. Now, nutritionists and dietitians, many of whom have always thought calorie counting was a flawed way of losing weight, are preaching a new course of action.
“At the end of the day, we’re seeing that the calorie-in, calorie-out approach was the wrong message,” said Heather Schwartz, a dietitian with Stanford Hospital and Clinics. “Of course, if you significantly reduce calories, you will lose weight. But how long can you sustain that?”
The answer is not for very long, Schwartz said. Studies show that most people gain back weight within six to nine months of losing it, she said.
Since the 1950s, dieters have focused on counting calories, and when the obesity rate started climbing in the 1970s and ’80s, the emphasis became even stronger. In the past 20 years, a rash of fad diets have promoted everything from eliminating carbohydrates and fats to adopting packaged-food plans. But when you get right down to it, Schwartz said, those diets have focused on calories.
“They were quick fixes, not lifestyle changes,” she said. She added that despite the conventional wisdom that reducing calorie intake is the way to a trimmer waistline, a whole school of nutritionists and dietitians opposed that notion.
“We knew that a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie,” Schwartz said. “But how do you fight a mega industry saying otherwise?”
March 31st, 2011
People on a high-dose regimen of the cholesterol drug Lipitor may have a slightly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes — particularly if they have several of the classic diabetes risk factors, a study published Monday finds.
A number of studies have linked Lipitor (known generically as atorvastatin) and other cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to a small increase in users’ risk of diabetes.
This latest study, based on data from three large clinical trials, strengthens evidence of a connection.
But it also suggests that the risk may largely exist among people who also have the well-known risk factors for type 2 diabetes — including excess weight, high blood sugar, elevated triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and high blood pressure.
Those four factors appear “very good at distinguishing people at high or low risk for developing new-onset diabetes with atorvastatin,” lead researcher Dr. David D. Waters, of the University of California at San Francisco, told Reuters Health in an email.
So managing those risk factors — by shedding excess pounds, for example — would be important for curbing any extra diabetes risk, Waters said.
He also stressed that the diabetes risk tied to statins is small.
“An important point,” Waters said, “is that the risk of developing new-onset diabetes and its complications (is) greatly outweighed by the benefit of statins in reducing cardiac death, heart attack and stroke.”
The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, are based on data from three clinical trials comparing high-dose atorvastatin (80 milligrams) with either a lower dose statin or placebo pills in people with cardiovascular disease.
In the trial with the placebo group, the study found, atorvastatin users had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes over 5 years. Just under 9 percent did, versus 6 percent of the placebo group.
That trial included 3,800 adults who were diabetes-free at the outset; all had a history of stroke or “mini” strokes known as transient ischemic attacks.
When Waters and his colleagues accounted for a number of other factors — like age, weight and smoking habits — atorvastatin use was linked to a 37 percent increase in the odds of developing diabetes, versus the placebo.
But a closer look showed that the extra risk appeared limited to patients with at least two of the “big-four” risk factors for diabetes.
Of patients with all four risk factors, nearly half of atorvastatin users — 26 of 56 — developed diabetes, versus just over 20 percent of the placebo group (11 of 52 participants).
Waters’ team found no strong connection between high-dose atorvastatin and diabetes risk in the other two trials.
In one, researchers compared 80 mg of atorvastatin against 20 mg of simvastatin (Zocor) in nearly 7,500 heart attack sufferers who were free of diabetes. Over 5 years, 6.4 percent of atorvastatin users developed diabetes, as did 5.6 percent of simvastatin users.
The third trial compared high-dose atorvastatin against a 10 mg dose of the drug in people with stable heart disease. Of the 7,600 who were free of diabetes to start, 9 percent in the high-dose group and 8 percent in the low-dose group developed diabetes over 5 years.
Statins are not the only drugs that have been linked to diabetes risk. Certain high blood pressure treatments (beta-blockers and thiazide diuretics), niacin (sometimes used to lower cholesterol and triglycerides) and glucocorticoids are among the others.
In most of those cases, the reason for the risk appears to be the drugs’ effect on the body’s ability to control blood sugar.
In contrast, it’s not yet clear why statins would contribute to diabetes, Waters said.
He and his colleagues suggest that doctors might want to carefully monitor atorvastatin users for diabetes. But, they write, the benefits of the drug “clearly outweigh” the risks for people with heart disease or a history of stroke.
People without heart disease or prior stroke may be able to first try diet changes and exercise alone for lowering their cholesterol.
Waters and other researchers on the study have financial ties to Lipitor-maker Pfizer Inc. as well as other drug companies. Three co-researchers are Pfizer employees.
March 31st, 2011
By: Jason Best
For generations, kids (and plenty of adults) have been asking the same question: “Why do so many things that are good for you have to taste so bad?”
Well, scientists haven’t yet figured out how to make broccoli taste like a root beer float, but they are working on a way to at least make healthier foods more palatable. We all know that foods like spinach and broccoli are packed with nutrients like calcium, magnesium and zinc. The only problem is: those same nutrients taste nose-wrinklingly bitter on the tongue.
But what if you could take the taste of, say, spinach down a notch or two?
At the national conference of the American Chemical Society, researches have announced that they’re trying to do just that. As Live Science reports, scientists as the Givaudan Flavors Corporation in Ohio have developed an enhanced “bitterness blocker” called GIV3616. Added to food, it targets certain taste buds and keeps them from recognizing bitter tastes.
An estimated 25 percent of the population (and, let’s face it, probably 100 percent of kids) are what food scientists call “supertasters,” people who have a heightened sensitivity to bitter foods. While vegetables like broccoli and spinach may always taste too bitter to them, even with added bitterness blockers, food companies are hoping to use additives like GIV3616 to make their products healthier. Until now, off-tastes in processed foods have often been masked with things that aren’t so great for you, like excess salt, sugar and fat.
As one of the scientists who developed GIV3616 put it: “Blocking flavors we call off-notes could help consumers eat healthier and more varied diets. It could encourage them to switch to non-calorie soft drinks and help children and seniors swallow bitter-tasting medications.”
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March 30th, 2011
By: Melissa Keith
Last year Health Canada released Fluoride in Drinking Water, a document for public inspection and comment, prepared by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water.
A panel of six experts, four of them dentists, investigated fluoride exposure data with the intent of “revising the current drinking-water guideline” for Canada, while explicitly stating that their objective was not to dictate municipal fluoridation practices.
Fluoridated water is a tough mouthful to swallow for the increasing number of Canadians questioning its impact on their bodies and the environment. Critics have questioned the lengthy report on multiple fronts, including failure to rigorously assess the role of fluoride in a globally pervasive health condition—thyroid disease.
The Health Canada study did not seriously consider thyroid health when it put forward a maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) level of 1.5 mg of fluoride per litre of tap water, according to a response from Carole Clinch, research coordinator with People for Safe Drinking Water.
Why focus on thyroid function?
For starters, the thyroid gland is a repository where fluoride accumulates throughout one’s lifetime.
Fluoride is a very small, chemically reactive particle that tends to displace other minerals in certain storage sites within the body. For this reason, it has been used in osteoporosis treatment—fluoride reinforces bone where calcium has been depleted—and dentistry to replace minerals lost from the teeth.
It should be remembered that the World Health Organization (WHO) treats fluoride more like a drug than an essential nutrient. Fluoridation of a municipal water supply is, in effect, administration of a substance that can create “chemical hazards with clearly defined health effects” for all users of that water, according to WHO.
Unless reverse osmosis, distillation, or activated alumina systems are used, you are not able to remove the fluoride. As Paul Connett, PhD, professor emeritus of environmental chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, declares in his critique of Health Canada’s proposed MAC level for fluoride, “Once fluoride has been added to the water it is no longer possible to control the dose that people get. There will be literally millions of people who will get a higher dose of fluoride drinking water at 0.8 ppm [parts per million] than people would get drinking water at 1.5 ppm.”
How fluoride affects the thyroid
Evidence that fluoride accumulates in the thyroid dates back to the early 1900s, where its presence in the glandular tissue first came to light because of obvious goitres (swollen, enlarged thyroid glands).
In the thyroid gland, fluoride can prevent iodine from playing its proper role in synthesizing two hormones critical for normal metabolic activity throughout the body—T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).
The names of these hormones allude to the number of iodide particles the thyroid needs to build them. When fluoride—a more reactive substance from the same chemical family as iodine (the halides)—enters the picture, it can interfere with the T3 and T4 manufacture by blocking iodide receptors.
March 30th, 2011
By: Kevin Maurer
A North Carolina congressman said Thursday that he wants an investigation into reports that levels of a cancer-causing chemical in tap water at a Marine Corps base were downplayed and then omitted from official documents.
Democratic Rep. Brad Miller called for the probe by his House science subcommittee Thursday a day after The Associated Press reported on new documents that indicate massive fuel leaks at Camp Lejeune and high concentrations of benzene found in a water well there in 1984.
“I am just disbelieving of their failure to act. It may have been worse than a failure to act. They may have acted to minimize or prevent the risk from being disclosed,” Miller told the Associated Press on Thursday. “It is hard to imagine they would let this go on. There was too much information that they had to have consciously disregarded.”
Benzene, a carcinogen, is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline. Drinking water containing high levels of it can cause vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions and death. Long-term exposure damages bone marrow, lowers the number of red blood cells, and can cause anemia and leukemia, according to the EPA.
In 1984, an environmental contractor found benzene at 380 parts per billion at a well near a fuel farm. When a draft report was turned in, the level was changed to 38 parts per billion. The company’s final report on the well, issued in 1994, did not mention the benzene.
The Marine Corps had been warned nearly a decade earlier about the dangerously high levels of benzene, which was traced to massive leaks from fuel tanks at the base on the North Carolina coast. The benzene was discovered as part of a broader, ongoing probe into that contamination.
Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., the Chair Emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the Marines and their families “deserve to know exactly what was in the water.”
“I want to know whether there are still toxic chemicals contaminating the water at Camp Lejeune. If there are, what is the Navy’s plan for dealing with them?” Dingell said.
Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted water at the base before the wells closed two decades ago. Critics say little information on benzene contamination had been publicly known until recently.
“It is hard to believe that they let Marines and their families drink this water for 30 years and didn’t say a word about it when they knew they had a fuel tank farm right by the water supply that was hemorrhaging fuel,” Miller said.
North Carolina’s congressional delegation has been active on behalf of the health claims of former Camp Lejeune residents.
A bill introduced by Miller would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care to veterans and their family members who have fallen ill from the water. Miller’s bill is identical to the now-rejected Senate bill introduced by Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
Burr called the revelations disturbing.
“It’s very likely that this information will significantly change the direction and broaden the scope of the government’s scientific inquiry into the water contamination at Camp Lejeune,” Burr said.
The Senate passed legislation in September, backed Burr and Hagan, Richard Burr preventing the military from dismissing claims related to water contamination pending completion of several studies.
Among those is a mortality study that would determine if there are higher mortality rates for those who served at the base during the years water was contaminated.
A Hagan spokesman said that the senator would welcome a hearing, but that her top priority is completion of the studies.
“Right now there are Marines and their families who are sick and seeking answers. It is clear that benzene, a known carcinogen, was in the water supply in dangerous amounts,” Hagan said in a statement to AP. “We cannot leave these families with mounting medical problems and half answers.”