January 11, 2012
By Lindsey Tanner
“No one is telling you that smoking a fat blunt is good for you, but research is clearly showing that marijuana isn’t nearly as bad as some people make you believe. Nobody can overdose from pot – it’s virtually impossible. Yet, go ahead of drink a bottle of whiskey and tell me how you feel. There is a chance you’ll be dead – and that’s legal?” –KTRN
Smoking a joint once a week or a bit more apparently doesn’t harm the lungs, suggests a 20-year study that bolsters evidence that marijuana doesn’t do the kind of damage tobacco does.
The results, from one of the largest and longest studies on the health effects of marijuana, are hazier for heavy users – those who smoke two or more joints daily for several years. The data suggest that using marijuana that often might cause a decline in lung function, but there weren’t enough heavy users among the 5,000 young adults in the study to draw firm conclusions.
Still, the authors recommended “caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.”
Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law although some states allow its use for medical purposes.
The study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham was released Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The findings echo results in some smaller studies that showed while marijuana contains some of the same toxic chemicals as tobacco, it does not carry the same risks for lung disease.
It’s not clear why that is so, but it’s possible that the main active ingredient in marijuana, a chemical known as THC, makes the difference. THC causes the “high” that users feel. It also helps fight inflammation and may counteract the effects of more irritating chemicals in the drug, said Dr. Donald Tashkin, a marijuana researcher and an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Tashkin was not involved in the new study.
Study co-author Dr. Stefan Kertesz said there are other aspects of marijuana that may help explain the results.
Unlike cigarette smokers, marijuana users tend to breathe in deeply when they inhale a joint, which some researchers think might strengthen lung tissue. But the common lung function tests used in the study require the same kind of deep breathing that marijuana smokers are used to, so their good test results might partly reflect lots of practice, said Kertesz, a drug abuse researcher and preventive medicine specialist at the Alabama university.
September 3rd, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Growing awareness about the prevalence and risks of vitamin D deficiency is leading more and more doctors to test their patients’ blood levels of the vitamin.
“Upwards of 70 percent of American adults are vitamin D deficient or insufficient,” said cardiologist James O’Keefe of St. Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute. “In the last year, awareness of vitamin D deficiency has really exploded.”
Vitamin D is more properly classified as a hormone, and it helps regulate gene function in various parts of the body. It is naturally synthesized in the skin upon exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, but sedentism and growing use of sunblock have worsened deficiency rates in recent decades.
According to O’Keefe, vitamin D testing has become the most popular “a la carte” blood test ordered by doctors in the past year. The test costs about $100, and is covered by some insurance providers.
Vitamin D is known to play a role in bone health and immune function, but many doctors are now fingering deficiency for a number of more general complaints. Carla Aamodt, another doctor at St. Luke’s, notes that when she orders supplementation for patients with vitamin D levels below 10 nanograms per milliliter, the patients feel better overall, have more energy with less muscle aches and pains.”
The jury is still out on optimal vitamin D levels, but researchers agree that they fall somewhere between 30 and 40 nanograms per milliliter.
Billie Howard Barnes of Kansas City suffered from chronic pain until her doctor ordered a vitamin D test and discovered that her blood levels were a paltry 5 nanograms per milliliter.
“I’m 43, and getting up in the morning, my feet would hit the floor and every joint in my body was sore,” Barnes said. “I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. It just kind of crept up on me.”
After taking a high-dose supplement for a few weeks, Barnes began to recover.
“It wasn’t an instant thing, but I just feel much better,” she said. “I’m not as stiff. Colleagues say there’s more pep in my step.”
June 4, 2010
By Luis Martinez
The U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington will participate in a joint naval exercise with South Korea next week in the Yellow Sea, the same waters west of the Korean peninsula where North Korea is accused of sinking a South Korean warship last March, ABC News has learned.
A U.S. official said the carrier, which operates from its home port in Japan, “will be sent to the waters off South Korea within coming days to participate in joint exercises” with the South Korean navy.
January 15, 2010
By Mike Adams
Many breast cancers are estrogen-dependent. So a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors (AI) that block the synthesis of estrogen are used by mainstream medical doctors to attempt to slow the growth of estrogen sensitive breast tumors. Unfortunately, as the Mayo Clinic web site points out, AI drugs — which include anastrozole (Arimidex), letrozole (Femara) and exemestane (Aromasin) — come loaded with side effects including hot flashes, severe joint pain, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, bone fractures and a potential risk of heart disease.
But now comes good news: there appears to be a natural alternative to AIs. Researchers say they’ve found a substance that could prevent the development of hormone-dependent breast cancer and halt the growth of estrogen-driven tumors — pomegranate fruit.
Pomegranates contain phytochemicals known as ellagitannins that work much like aromatase inhibitors, according to results of a study just published in the January issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. And there’s little reason to think any cancer treatment derived from pomegranates would have harmful side effects because the fruit has long been safely consumed as a food.
Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., director of the Division of Tumor Cell Biology and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program at City of Hope in Duarte, California, worked with Lynn Adams, Ph.D., a research fellow at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, and other scientists to investigate whether phytochemicals in pomegranates can suppress aromatase and thereby inhibit cancer growth. They screened and analyzed 10 ellagitannin-derived compounds in pomegranates. The results? The research team discovered these natural phytochemicals have the potential to prevent estrogen-dependent breast cancers. One particular substance found in pomegranates dubbed Urolithin B significantly inhibited the growth of cultured breast cancer cells in the lab.
“Phytochemicals suppress estrogen production and that prevents the proliferation of breast cancer cells and the growth of estrogen-responsive tumors,” said Dr. Chen, the principal investigator, in a statement to the media.
Gary Stoner, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Ohio State University, commented in a statement to the media that additional studies are needed in animals and humans to confirm the ability of Urolithin B to stop hormone-dependent breast cancer. Dr. Stoner, who was not part of the study research team, also recommended additional studies to test pomegranate juice for its effect on estrogen levels, menopausal symptoms and breast density (dense breast tissue is a risk for breast cancer) and to see if it is a cancer preventive agent.
Until then, Stoner said people “might consider consuming more pomegranates to protect against cancer development in the breast and perhaps in other tissues and organs.”
January 4, 2010
The Seattle Times
By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.
Q. I have suffered from arthritis in my right hip for several years. By last fall, it got so bad I could hardly walk. Through the years, I tried all of the supplements for joint health advertised on TV. I also have had two expensive injections into my hip that gave me relief for only a few days. Nothing was helping.
I don’t remember when I heard about cherries, but I started eating Bing cherries in the spring. I also started drinking tart cherry juice concentrate mixed in water. I finally got some real relief!
I will still go in for hip surgery next summer, but until then, tart cherry juice is the best!
A. Tart cherries contain anthocyanin compounds that inhibit enzymes called COX-1 and COX-2 (Phytomedicine, September 2001). These enzymes are targeted by anti-inflammatory drugs like Celebrex, diclofenac and ibuprofen, so it is not surprising that cherry juice appears to alleviate pain (Behavioural Brain Research, Aug. 12, 2004).
We discuss many other natural remedies for joint pain in our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. AA-2, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. I used to catch lots of colds every year. When I was tested for vitamin D a few years ago, it was really low. I took a lot of vitamin D to get into the normal range.
Since then, I’ve had only two colds, each three days long. Vitamin D made a huge difference in my immune system.
A. Research shows vitamin D is extremely important for the immune system. It helps to regulate T cells, which are important immune actors. It also turns on the gene that produces cathelicidin, a natural antimicrobial compound that fights infection (Future Microbiology, November 2009).
Since many Americans don’t get enough vitamin D because we stay out of the sun, recommendations for supplementary vitamin D may rise beyond the current RDA of 400 IU daily. Many experts believe vitamin D intake should be five to 10 times higher than that.
Q. I take several medications, so I was pleased to learn that the herb milk thistle may reduce the liver toxicity of certain drugs. I am very conscious of maintaining healthy liver function.
When purchasing the herb, however, I got confused. It is available in various strengths.
What advice can you give me A. The dosage varies depending upon the purpose for which milk thistle is being used. For general liver protection, 200 mg of an extract standardized to 80 percent silymarin (the active ingredient) is taken two or three times a day.
ConsumerLab.com recently tested milk thistle products and found that relatively few of them meet the claims on their labels. Details are available for a fee at www.consumerlab.com.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers.