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29 November 2007

What the World Eats

These photographs, shot by Peter Menzel from the book "Hungry Planet," were part of a previous Time Magazine story I posted about science confirming the secret key to weight loss. They didn't include these photos in their article at the time, and only printed four of them in the magazine.

This is a fascinating look at what's on people's dinner tables across the globe, and is a telling visual of why the health of the Western world is in rapid decline from all our prepackaged, chemically processed and sugar-laden goods, and how much we're actually paying for the privilege.

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods: sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
Favorite foods: fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks

China: The Dong family of Beijing
Food expenditure for one week: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03
Family recipe: Mushroom, cheese and pork

Alzheimer drugs don't delay dementia onset: study

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - Giving Alzheimer's drugs to people with early memory problems does not seem to delay the onset of the disease, researchers said on Tuesday.

Three main drugs -- Aricept, or donepezil; Exelon, or rivastigmine; and Reminyl, or galantamine -- are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.

They are also often prescribed on a so-called "off-label" basis to people with pre-dementia.

But doctors are divided over their effectiveness, leading to differing rates of use and bitter arguments over patient access to treatment, notably in Britain where a dispute over their cost-effectiveness has led to legal clashes.

Some experts and patient groups have called for such anti-cholinesterase drugs to be given to people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) -- a condition where people have memory problems that are more severe than those normally seen in others of their age.

People with MCI are thought to be at high risk of developing Alzheimer's or dementia.

Italian researchers, however, found that in none of six clinical trials they examined did using the drugs significantly reduce the rate of progression from MCI to dementia.

Accurate assessment of the effect of anti-cholinesterase medicines was muddied by the lack of a precise definition for MCI, Roberto Raschetti and colleagues at the National Centre for Epidemiology, Surveillance and Health Promotion in Rome reported in the online journal PLoS Medicine.

Their findings may prompt a rethink among doctors who are currently using anti-cholinesterase drugs off-label in MCI. Off-label use refers to the common practice of prescribing drugs for uses for which they are not officially approved.

In Italy, an estimated 27 percent of patients diagnosed with MCI are given Alzheimer's drugs off-label and Raschetti said it was likely the situation was similar in other countries.

He argued more clinical trials were needed, using a single agreed definition of MCI, before there could be any justification for doctors to use the drugs in pre-dementia cases, especially as the drugs can have harmful side effects.

Aricept is marketed by Japan's Eisai Co Ltd and Pfizer Inc, while Novartis AG sells Exelon. Reminyl is sold by Shire Plc and also by Johnson & Johnson under the brand name Razadyne.

A row over who should get these drugs ended up in court in London earlier this year after Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said they should not be given to newly diagnosed patients with mild Alzheimer's disease.

Drugmakers claimed the agency's cost-effectiveness calculations were flawed but the court backed the restrictions in a ruling handed down in August.

Eat Grains and Sugars if You Want to go Blind

Carbohydrates that cause blood sugar levels to spike and fall rapidly could be a risk factor for central vision loss with aging. Central vision loss is one of the first signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness among the elderly.

Diets high in carbohydrates that are quickly digested and absorbed, such as white bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugars and corn syrups is also suspected of being involved in the vision loss that sometimes accompanies diabetes.

The type of damage to eye tissue produced by these “fast” carbs could be similar in both AMD and diabetic eye disease.


* Science Daily November 27, 2007

Processed Meat Unsafe For Human Consumption; Cancer Experts Warn of Dietary Dangers

World cancer experts have finally declared what NewsTarget readers learned nearly four years ago: That processed meats cause cancer, and anyone seeking to avoid cancer should avoid eating all processed meats for life.

Hundreds of cancer researchers took part in a five-year project spanning more than 7,000 clinical studies and designed to document the links between diet and cancer. Their conclusion, published in the World Cancer Research Fund's report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective (2007), has rocked the health world with a declaration that all people should immediately stop buying and eating processed meat products and that all processed meat should be avoided for life!

Processed meats, the report explains, are simply too dangerous for human consumption. And why? Because they contain chemical additives that are known to greatly increase the risk of various cancers, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, brain tumors, pancreatic cancer and many more. The report, published at this website also recommends that consumers:

• Avoid all sugary soft drinks for life.
• Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
• Get lean and fit, without becoming underweight.
• Limit consumption of ALL meats (even fresh meat).
• Breastfeed all infants for their first six months, avoiding infant formula.

Sadly, the WCRF still does not recommend that consumers use nutritional supplements to help protect themselves from cancer, indicating that the group still has a lot to learn about the role of medicinal mushrooms, sea vegetables, microalgae, Chinese herbs, rainforest herbs and superfood extracts in preventing and reversing cancer. But at least the group's recommendation that consumers now avoid all processed meat products is a huge step in the right direction. It is the first time that any internationally-recognized cancer organization has found the courage to make a partial proclaimation about the health hazards of the chemicals found in processed meat products. It's almost as big a deal as when the American Medical Association, after years of taking millions of dollars from tobacco companies, finally admitted that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. (A decade after the scientific evidence was irrefutable, of course, but then again, the AMA was making money off Big Tobacco by running tobacco ads in JAMA...)

What is "processed meat" exactly?
A woman asked me this question at a recent live event where I was warning the audience about the dangers of chemicals found in popular grocery products. Frankly, I was surprised to hear the question. But I've since learned that many people really don't know the difference between processed meat and non-processed meat ("fresh" meat).

Here's the difference:

Fresh meat usually has only one ingredient: The meat! Fresh meat is refrigerated and has a very short shelf life (just a few days, usually). It's usually packaged in simple wrappers, with no fancy logos or color printing.

Processed meat has many ingredients and is usually packaged for long-term shelf life. These products almost always contain sodium nitrite, the cancer-causing chemical additive that meat companies use as a color fixer to turn their meat products a bright red "fresh-looking" color. Processed meat products include:

• Bacon
• Sausage
• Pepperoni
• Beef jerky
• Deli slices
• Hot dogs
• Sandwich meat (including those served at restaurants)
• Ham
• Meat "gift" products like Christmas sausages
• Meat used in canned soups
• Meat used in frozen pizza
• Meat used in kid's lunch products
• Meat used in ravioli, spaghetti or Italian pasta products

... and many more meat products.

Unless it says "NITRITE FREE" on the front label, you can bet it's made with cancer-causing sodium nitrite!

(Hint: You will only find nitrite-free meat products in two places in the grocery store: 1) In the fresh meat section where you can buy freshly-ground hamburger, for example, and 2) In the freezer, where you can find "natural" meat products that are nitrite-free.

What are the dangerous chemicals in processed meats?
Sodium nitrite is one of the most dangerous chemicals added to processed meats. Please be aware:

• You MUST read the ingredients list to find the sodium nitrite! Meat product companies do not list this ingredient on the front of the package.

• Even ORGANIC meat products and NATURAL meat products can still contain sodium nitrite. So read the labels to be sure, and avoid buying any meat product made with sodium nitrite.

• Be especially careful of food for kids! Virtually all packaged food products containing meat and marketed to children contain sodium nitrite! (Read the ingredients to protect your children.)

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a second dangerous chemical found in virtually all processed meat products. MSG is a dangerous excitotoxin linked to neurological disorders such as migraine headaches, Alzheimer's disease, loss of appetite control, obesity and many other serious health conditions. Manufacturers use MSG to add flavor to dead-tasting processed meat products.

Essentially, dead meat products look and taste dead (because they are), so meat companies use the following three ingredients to make them look fresh and taste interesting:

Sodium nitrite makes the meat look red and fresh. (But it promotes cancer.)

MSG makes the meat taste savory. (But it causes neurological disorders.)

Processed salt makes the meat taste more interesting. (But it causes nutritional problems and high blood pressure.)

On top of these three chemical additives, processed meats also contain saturated animal fat that is often contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals, pesticide residues and other dangerous substances.

27 November 2007

High omega-3 fatty acid diet may lower Parkinson’s disease risk

Researchers at Université Laval in Quebec have demonstrated for the first time that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) confer a protective benefit against the development of Parkinson’s disease. The finding was reported online on November 21, 2007 in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology ( FASEB).

Frédéric Calon, of Laval’s center for research in molecular and oncologic endocrinology, and his associates fed mice a diet enriched with the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and linolenic acid, or a control diet deficient in these fatty acids. After ten months on the diets, the animals were injected over a five day period with an inert substance or MPTP, a neurotoxin that damages the brain in a manner similar to Parkinson’s disease. “This compound, which has been used for more than 20 years in Parkinson’s research, works faster than the disease itself and is just as effective in targeting and destroying the dopamine-producing neurons in the brain,” Dr Calon explained.

Two weeks following the administration of MPTP, examination of the animals’ brains revealed an increase in frontal cortex levels of DHA and a decline in the omega-6 fatty acid DPA in those that received the omega-3 fatty acid rich diet. In mice that received the control diet, treatment with MPTP resulted in a 31 percent reduction in the substantia nigra’s dopaminergic neurons, which are progressively destroyed in humans with Parkinson’s disease. This effect was prevented in mice that received high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids also appeared to help protect against the decrease in dopamine transporter levels observed in MPTP-treated mice that received the control diets. (Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced by dopaminergic cells, and is involved with movement control.)

Because the brains of the omega-3 group did not show significant changes in arachidonic acid, linolenic acid, or EPA levels, the authors suggest that DHA is the primary omega-3 fatty acid involved in the protective effect demonstrated in this study, or, alternately, that the relatively high omega-6 fatty acid content of the control diet may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

“In North America, the average intake of DHA is between 60 to 80 mg a day, while experts recommend a daily minimum of 250 mg,” Dr Calon observed. “Our results suggest that this DHA deficiency is a risk factor for developing Parkinson’s disease, and that we would benefit from evaluating omega-3’s potential for preventing and treating this disease in humans.”

“As our present results suggest, this prevalent low consumption of DHA might be an important modifiable risk factor for Parkinson’s disease,” the authors conclude. “Fortunately, it is easy to treat omega-3 PUFA deficiency by changes in dietary habits or by administration of inexpensive supplements. Indeed, omega-3 PUFA are nonpatentable, widely available at low cost, and have an excellent safety profile.”

Dr. Drug Rep

During a year of being paid to give talks to doctors about an antidepressant, a psychiatrist comes to terms with the fact that taking pharmaceutical money can cloud your judgment.

New York Times

Pine Bark Extract Shows Arthritis Benefits

Extracts from French maritime pine bark may reduce the pain associated with arthritis of the knee by about 40 percent. It can also result in about a 52 percent improvement in physical function.

Researchers used the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) Osteoarthritis Index as a measure of arthritis symptoms. Pain and physical function scores improved after 60 and 90 days of supplementation with pine bark extract, and after 90 days of supplementation the WOMAC scores for self-reported pain, stiffness, and physical function were reduced by 43, 35, and 52 percent, respectively.

The beneficial effects of pine bark extract might be due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


* November 20, 2007

How Does Stress Worsen Blood Cancer?

In cell cultures, the stress hormone norepinephrine promotes the signals that cause certain tumor cells to grow and spread. This means that stress hormones may play a completely different role in cancer development than researchers once thought.

Researchers looking at multiple myeloma, one of several types of cancers of the blood, found that a tumor cell line known as FLAM-76 responded strongly to the hormone. The norepinephrine bonded to receptors on the surface of the cells, causing them to produce a compound known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that is key to the formation of the new blood vessels which the tumor needs in order to grow.

The researchers are now working with other forms of cancer to test the effects of stress hormones like norepinephrine on their growth. In the past, it was believed that stress hormones worsened cancer by weakening the immune system.


* Science Daily November 21, 2007

Cigarette Smoke Negates Heart Benefits of Alcohol

Breathing tobacco smoke is bad for cardiovascular health, and drinking alcohol at the same time only makes it worse, in spite of the reputed heart-protective qualities of moderate alcohol consumption.

Mice exposed to smoky air and fed a diet containing alcohol had a nearly five-fold increase in artery lesions. Mice on a normal diet who were exposed to the smoky air had only a 2.3-fold increase in artery lesions. Artery lesions are a key sign of advancing cardiovascular disease, and a common problem in heavy smokers.

The blood-alcohol concentrations of the mice were the equivalent of a 150-pound adult consuming 2 drinks per hour, and they experienced cigarette smoke exposure similar to being in an automobile with a chain smoker, with the windows closed.


* Eurekalert November 21, 2007