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1 February 2008

Doctors Want TV Episode Killed

The influential American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the nation's largest pediatricians' group, has said that ABC should cancel the first episode of the new drama series "Eli Stone" because it will give weight to the idea vaccines can cause autism.

The episode features a lawyer who argues in court that a flu vaccine made a child autistic. When it is revealed in court that a vaccine company executive didn't allow his own child to get the shot, jurors side with the family.

Greg Berlanti, a co-creator of the show, said the episode is intended "to participate in what is a national conversation" about a controversial subject. ABC said it would still air the show, but would include a disclaimer about the plot line.


* Seattle Times January 29, 2008

* New York Times January 29, 2008

Infants With Poor Intestinal Flora Develop Eczema

A new study has shown that children with only a limited variety of bacteria in their intestines one week after birth are more likely to developed atopical eczema by the age of 18 months.

The composition of a child’s bacterial flora is dependent on the mother’s vaginal microflora, as she is the source for the child’s bacteria at birth. However, currently as many as a third of all women of childbearing age in the U.S. have bacterial vaginosis, a condition in which negatively affects the balance of bacteria in the vagina.

Foods that promote good intestinal bacteria include cheese and soured vegetables such as sauerkraut, marinated olives, capers, and salted pickles.


* Science Daily January 27, 2008

Low Vitamin E Levels Linked to Greater Physical Decline

Low blood levels of vitamin E have been linked to greater physical decline in older adults. Researchers looked at several micronutrients, including folate, vitamins B6, B12, D and E, but only vitamin E was associated with physical decline.
The study examined almost 700 people in Tuscany, Italy. Over a period of three years, physical performance was measured using the Short Physical Performance Battery, which included three objective tests of physical function.

The researchers proposed three possible mechanisms which could explain the vitamin E relationship. Vitamin E could prevent the oxidative stress can result in damage to muscle or DNA, diminish atherosclerosis or other pathologic conditions, or prevent neurodegenerative disorders.


* January 23, 3008

Omega-3 Slows Late-Onset Alzheimer's

Supplements of the omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can reduce levels an enzyme linked to Alzheimer's disease.
In both mice and cultured human cells, DHA increased the production of LR11, a protein which clears away enzymes in the brain that make the beta amyloid plaques that are thought to cause Alzheimer's disease.

The research adds to a growing body of science linking omega-3 fats to improved cognitive function and slower cognitive decline.


* January 25, 2008

30 January 2008

What's Cholesterol Got to Do With It?

This article in the New York Times reflects the rapid disintegration of the medical orthodoxy that states cholesterol is a key cause of heart disease. In the wake of drug trials that show the drug Vytorin lowers cholesterol levels but not heart risks, an increasing number of doctors are examining the evidence and finding it lacking.

The very language used to discuss heart disease confuses the cholesterol carried in the bloodstream with the particles, known as lipoproteins, that actually carry it. Some of these lipoproteins may pose dangers, but whether or not the cholesterol itself does is much more questionable.

In fact, studies have shown that total cholesterol levels are not a risk factor for coronary heart disease at all, and the cholesterol in low-density lipoproteins is a “marginal risk factor”. A large percentage of people who suffer heart attacks have low levels of low-density lipoproteins.

The main reason cholesterol is assumed to be bad actually comes from circular logic: saturated fat was assumed to be bad because it raises LDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol was assumed to be bad because it is the thing that saturated fat raises. But researchers have been unable to generate compelling evidence that saturated fat in the diet causes heart disease.


* New York Times January 27, 2008

Why Vitamin D Supplements Are NOT the Same as Sunlight

New research has shown that ingested vitamin D is immunosuppressive and may make some diseases worse, a problem that does not occur when vitamin D is generated by your body in response to sunlight.

The Vitamin D Nuclear Receptor (VDR) acts in the repression or transcription of hundreds of genes, including genes associated with diseases ranging from cancers to multiple sclerosis. However, ingested vitamin D can actually block VDR activation, the opposite effect from vitamin D generated by sun exposure. This means that ingested vitamin D can suppress the proper operation of your immune system.

According to the study’s author, Trevor Marshall, “We need to discard the notion that vitamin D affects a disease state in a simple way. Vitamin D affects the expression of over 1,000 genes, so we should not expect a simplistic cause and effect between vitamin D supplementation and disease. The comprehensive studies are just not showing that supplementary vitamin D makes people healthier.”

How Drug Companies Deceive You About Bone-Strengthening Drugs

Drug companies have been understating the risks and overstating the benefits of prescribing bone-strengthening drugs for women who do not yet have osteoporosis.

Drug makers have argued that similar treatments should be used for both osteoporosis and pre-osteoporosis (osteopenia). However, drugs such as raloxifene, alendronate and risedronate provide almost no benefit for women with pre-osteoporosis.
Four drug company studies that examined the effects of osteoporosis drugs on women with osteopenia exaggerated the benefits and downplayed the potentially harmful side effects; for example, studies on raloxifene made no mention of the increased risk for blood clots.


* Washington Post January 18, 2008

How to Achieve Deep, Uninterrupted Sleep

This Reader’s Digest article offers 24 great tips on how you can get the sleep you need. Since lack of sleep can dramatically increase your blood sugar levels, and contribute to weight gain, depression, diabetes, and brain damage -- or even, in the worst case scenario, kill you instantly if you run your car off the road -- this is clearly information everyone should have.

Just a few of their great tips include:

1. Create a transition routine. This is something you do every night before bed. It could be as simple as letting the cat out, turning out the lights, turning down the heat, washing your face, and brushing your teeth. Or it could be a series of yoga or meditation exercises. Regardless, it should be consistent to the point that you do it without even thinking about it. As you begin to move into your "nightly routine," your mind will get the signal that it's time to chill out and tune down, dialing down stress hormones and physiologically preparing you for sleep.

2. Figure out your body cycle. Ever find that you get really sleepy at 10 p.m., that the sleepiness passes, and that by the time the late news comes on, you're wide-awake? Some experts believe sleepiness comes in cycles. Push past a period of sleepiness and you likely won't be able to fall asleep very easily for a while. If you've noticed these kinds of rhythms in your own body clock, use them to your advantage. When sleepiness comes, get to bed. Otherwise, it might be a long time until you are ready to fall asleep again.

3. Sprinkle just-washed sheets and pillowcases with lavender water and iron them before making up your bed. The scent is scientifically proven to promote relaxation, and the repetition and mindlessness of ironing will soothe you. Or, instead of ironing your sheets, do the next best thing: Put lavender water in a perfume atomizer and spray above your bed just before climbing in.

4. Hide your clock under your bed or on the bottom shelf of your night stand, where its glow won't disturb you. That way, if you do wake in the middle of the night or have problems sleeping, you won't fret over how late it is and how much sleep you're missing.

5. Switch your pillow. If you're constantly pounding it, turning it over and upside down, the poor pillow deserves a break. Find a fresh new pillow from the linen closet, put a sweet-smelling case on it, and try again.

Adjust Your Bedroom
6. Choose the right pillow. One Swedish study found that neck pillows, which resemble a rectangle with a depression in the middle, can actually enhance the quality of your sleep as well as reduce neck pain. The ideal neck pillow should be soft and not too high, should provide neck support, and should be allergy tested and washable, researchers found. A pillow with two supporting cores received the best rating from the 55 people who participated in the study. Another study found that water-filled pillows provided the best night's sleep when compared to participants' usual pillows or a roll pillow. Yet another study found that a pillow filled with a special "cool" material composed of sodium sulfate and ceramic fiber provided a much better night's sleep than one filled with polyester. The reason, the researchers suggest, is that the cooler pillow kept the subjects' head cooler during the night, improving their sleep. While you may not be able to find a sodium sulfate-filled pillow, you can buy a pillow made of natural fibers, which are better at releasing heat than polyester.

Other pillow tips: if you're subject to allergies or find you're often stuffed up when you awake in the morning, try a hypoallergenic pillow. And experiment with the pillow's thickness. While a thick, fluffy pillow might sound appealing, it might be too thick for you, leading to neck strain. Try a thin pillow.

7. Switch to heavier curtains over the windows, and use them. Even the barely noticeable ambient light from streetlights, a full moon, or your neighbor's house can interfere with the circadian rhythm changes you need to fall asleep.

8. Clean your bedroom and paint it a soothing sage green. Or some other soothing color. First, the more clutter in your bedroom, the more distractions in the way of a good night's sleep. The smooth, clean surfaces act as a balm to your brain, helping to smooth out your own worries and mental to-do lists. The soothing color provides a visual reminder of sleep, relaxing you as you lie in bed reading or preparing for sleep.

9. Move your bed away from any outside walls. This will help cut down on noise, which a Spanish study found could be a significant factor in insomnia. If the noise is still bothering you, try a white noise machine, or just turn on a floor fan.

10. Tuck a hot-water bottle between your feet or wear a pair of ski socks to bed. The science is a little complicated, but warm feet help your body's internal temperature get to the optimal level for sleep. Essentially, you sleep best when your core temperature drops. By warming your feet, you make sure blood flows well through your legs, allowing your trunk to cool.

11. Kick your dog or cat out of your bedroom. A 2002 research study found that one in five pet owners sleep with their pets (and we're not talking goldfish here). The study also found that dogs and cats created one of the biggest impediments to a good night's sleep since the discovery of caffeine. One reason? The study found that 21 percent of the dogs and 7 percent of the cats snored!

Lose Some, Gain Some
12. Sleep alone. Sure you love your spouse or partner, but studies find one of the greatest disruptors of sleep is that loved one dreaming away next to you. He might snore, she might kick or cry out, whatever. In fact, one study found that 86 percent of women surveyed said their husbands snored, and half had their sleep interrupted by it. Men have it a bit easier; just 57 percent said their wives snored, while just 15 percent found their sleep bothered by it. If you absolutely will not kick your partner out (or head to the guest room yourself), then consider these anti-snoring tips:

* Get him (or her) to stop smoking. Cigarette smoking contributes to snoring.

* Feed him (or her) a light meal for dinner and nix any alcohol, which can add to the snoring.

* Buy some earplugs and use them!

* Play soft music to drown out the snoring.

* Present your lover with a gift-wrapped box of Breathe Right strips, which work by pulling the nostrils open wider. A Swedish study found they significantly reduced snoring.

* Make an appointment for your sleeping partner at a sleep center. If nothing you do improves his or her snoring, your bedmate might be a candidate for a sleep test called polysomnography to see if sleep apnea is the cause. Better to help your partner -- and yourself -- than to exile the poor sonorous soul!

13. Take a combination supplement with 600 mg calcium and 300 mg magnesium before bed. Not only will you be providing your bones with a healthy dose of minerals, but magnesium is a natural sedative. Additionally, calcium helps regulate muscle movements. Too little of either can lead to leg cramps, and even a slight deficiency of magnesium can leave you lying there with a racing mind.

14. Eat a handful of walnuts before bed. Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid.

15. Munch a banana before bed. It's a great natural source of melatonin, the sleep hormone, as well as tryptophan. The time-honored tradition, of course, is warm milk, also a good source of tryptophan.

16. Drink water before bed, not fruit juice. One study found it took participants an extra 20 to 30 minutes to fall asleep after drinking a cup of fruit juice, most likely because of the high sugar content in juice.

Relax Yourself
17. Take antacids right after dinner, not before bed. Antacids contain aluminum, which appears to interfere with your sleep.

18. Listen to a book on tape while you fall asleep. Just as a bedtime story soothed and relaxed us when we were children, a calming book on tape (try poetry or a biography, stay away from horror novels) can have the same effect with us grown-ups.

19. Simmer three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add two sprigs of mint, and sip just before you go to bed. Lettuce contains a sleep-inducing substance called lactucarium, which affects the brain similarly to opium. Unlike opium, of course, you won't run the risk of addiction!

20. Give yourself a massage. Slowly move the tips of your fingers around your eyes in a slow, circular motion. After a minute, move down to your mouth, then to your neck and the back of your head. Continue down your body until you find you're so relaxed you're ready to drop off to sleep. Another option: alternate massage nights with your significant other. You get Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Your significant other gets Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You do each other on Sundays.

21. Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. A research study published in the journal Sleep found that women with insomnia who took a hot bath during this window of time (water temperature approximately 105°F), slept much better that night. The bath increased their core body temperature, which then abruptly dropped once they got out of the bath, readying them for sleep.

22. Use eucalyptus for a muscle rub. The strongly scented herb provides a soothing feeling and relaxing scent. You can find eucalyptus oil to mix into a carrier oil, or even a eucalyptus-scented cream.

23. Spend 10 minutes journaling the day's events or feelings after tucking yourself into bed. This "data dump" will help turn off the repeating tape of our day that often plays in our minds, keeping us from falling asleep.

24. Keep a notepad at your bedside along with a gentle night-light and pen. Then, if you wake in the middle of the night and your mind starts going, you can quickly transfer the to-do list to the page, returning to sleep knowing you "caught" those thoughts.

29 January 2008

Traditional Scoliosis Treatment

The three medically-sanctioned methods of scoliosis treatment - observation, bracing, and surgery - have been around for decades, and a great deal of research has been done on the risks & benefits of each option. However, the general conclusion of this research suggests that a new paradigm is desperately needed, as there are many conflicts and inadequacies present in the current model.

Once an individual has been diagnosed with scoliosis, no treatment is initially prescribed, and no action is immediately taken, until the Cobb angle has progressed to 25 degrees (which is an arbitary figure; there is no clinical significance to this number), at which point bracing is typically prescribed. This period, which is termed "watch & wait," consists only of regular visits to an orthopedic surgeon, where full-spine x-rays are taken consistently to gauge the progress of the patient's condition.

Surprisingly enough, there are no reported cases of scoliosis being improved by observation alone. In addition, if there ever were a time when a patient could benefit most greatly from chiropractic, therapeutic exercise, or non-surgical intervention, it would undoubtedly be during the mild stages of the disease, before the muscles & tissues of the body have been deformed by months or even years of compensating for the abnormal twisting & bending of the spine.

There are also valid concerns regarding the value of the repeated x-rays necessary to monitor the scoliosis during this time. Some studies have found that rates of breast cancer almost doubled in scoliosis patients who had been subjected to "observation." This is especially disheartening when one considers that there is very little information of clinical significance obtained from these x-rays.

A full-spine x-ray requires a much stronger beam, and hence produces greater tissue damage, than a "spot" view of only one area of the spine. Chiropractors trained by CLEAR Institute take seven precise, small x-rays to evaluate the biomechanical integrity of the spine. With this information, they are able to apply scientific, specific adjustments and prescribe exercises & rehab protocols that are based upon that patient's specific posture, and the end result of this treatment is a measurable reduction in the severity of the patient's scoliosis. One full-spine x-ray exposes the patient to approximately 300 times more radiation than these seven precision x-rays and, unfortunately, the only information obtained from this x-ray is whether or not the patient is ready to move on to the next step in medical scoliosis management - bracing.

Bracing dates back to approximately 650 AD, when Paul of Aegina suggested bandaging scoliosis patients with wooden strips. The first metal brace was developed by Ambroise Pare in the 16th century. Today, there is a bewildering assortment of braces in use, ranging from the venerable and bulky Milwaukee brace, to the traditional TLSO (thoraco-lumbar-sacral orthosis) braces such as the Boston and the Wilmington brace. There are "part-time" braces, designed to be worn at night - the Providence brace, and the Charleston brace - and there are also "dynamic corrective braces," which may use soft, elastic materials, and claim to be able to do more than simply stabilize the progression of scoliosis. An example of a dynamic corrective brace would be the SpineCor brace, developed at the Sainte-Justine Hospital in 1992, or the Copes brace, developed by Arthur Copes to be used in conjunction with his STARS (Scoliosis Treatment Advanced Recovery System) rehabilitation protocol.

This dizzying variety is further complicated by the fact that not every doctor prescribes the braces to be used in the same manner, and not every patient may follow their doctor's recommendations to the same extent. As a result, research is often conflicting (to say the least) in regards to the true effectiveness of bracing in scoliosis treatment. Some studies have shown very little difference between patients who wore the brace for the prescribed time, and those who wore it barely, if at all. Others have demonstrated patients who have been successfully stabilized for years by wearing a bracing constantly; yet, there are also studies on patients who wore the brace for 23 hours out of every day, seven days a week, and continued to worsen. In every case, all corrective benefit is lost very quickly once the patient stops wearing the brace, and the general consensus is that bracing may prove helpful for some, but not for others.

This possible benefit must be weighed against the negative side-effects of bracing, which can include pain, skin & bone problems related to the constant pressure, adverse effects on the heart & lungs, and, perhaps most damaging of all, the psychological trauma that can result from having to wear a brace throughout adolescence. The authors of one study went so far as to conclude that the emotional damage inflicted by bracing was so severe that surgery might actually be considered a preferable alternative in some cases. In another research article, 60% of the patients treated with a brace stated that it handicapped their lives, and 14% considered the experience to have left a psychological scar.

Those patients for whom bracing fails to prevent the progression of their scoliosis are left with only one option: surgery. Those who are confronted with this choice may be told that having a metal rod fused to their spine will not impair their daily activities, and will reduce the rib arch & improve their cosmetic appearance. However, research has consistently shown that surgery - which primarily focuses upon the sideways bending, and does little to address the rotation of the spine (and hence the rib protrusion) - will actually cause the rib arch to worsen (Chen 2002, Goldberg 2003, Hill 2002, Pratt 2001, Weatherly 1980, Wood 1991, Wood 1997). Furthermore, the theory that unfused regions of the spine become more mobile to compensate for the lack of motion at fused regions is, in a word, incorrect. A study published in Spine in 2002 found that mobility was decreased not only in the fused area, but also in the unfused regions of the spine. The authors explicitly stated that, "the lack of compensatory increase at unfused regions contradicts current theory."

Spinal surgery, like most highly-invasive procedures, carries with it the ever-present risk of death. Although mortality rates of less than one percent are claimed, no surgeon can completely eliminate this possibility. There is also the danger of neurological damage, resulting in the loss of sensation or motor function to the arms & legs (paraplegia or quadraplegia). This has become a greater concern in recent years, as surgeons strive for greater corrections in their patients, and place more stress upon the nerves running through the spinal column.

The rate of hardware failure is virtually 100%; it may occur immediately after the surgery or several years later, but one or more components of the rod is highly likely to fail or break. The author of one study stated, "One would expect that if the patient lives long enough, rod breakage will be a virtual certainty." Another study found that amongst seventy-four patients who underwent the surgery, pseudoarthrosis (failed fusion) occurred in 27% of patients within a few years after the procedure.

The truth of the matter is that scoliosis is an abnormality of the spine which involves much more than merely a sideways curve. Yet the "effectiveness" of surgery is measured only by the degree to which it can reduce the lateral deviation through the application of brute force, and a fused spine is every bit as abnormal and dysfunctional as a scoliotic spine.

Since observation is not, technically, a method of treatment, it would be safe to say that the only options for treatment which are formally endorsed by orthopedic surgeons are orthoses (braces) and surgery; a classic example of the old adage, if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem tends to resemble a nail. If you have a few more tools under your belt, however, new opportunities may arise.

In conclusion, it is not the intention of CLEAR Institute to disparage the efforts of medical professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping individuals with scoliosis. We would, however, like to add to the current list of options; to educate those who are personally involved with scoliosis about what the research says; and, to empower these individuals to make their own decision regarding their own spine, and their own life.

Credit is given to Martha C. Hawes, PhD, for her amazing & invaluable contribution to the body of scoliosis literature, "Scoliosis and the Human Spine," from which text much of the information under this heading received its inspiration and references. This book can be purchased at; it is perhaps the most comprehensive review of every piece of research ever done in regards to scoliosis.