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4 April 2008

How Fish Farming is Killing Salmon

A virus called infectious salmon anemia, or ISA, is killing millions of salmon in Chile. The plague has resulted in 1,000 workers losing their jobs, and has opened fish farming companies to charges that breeding salmon in crowded underwater pens is contaminating once-pristine waters and producing unhealthy fish.

Salmon producers are coming under new pressure to change their methods. According to Dr. Felipe C. Cabello, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology, “All these problems are related to an underlying lack of sanitary controls. Parasitic infections, viral infections, fungal infections are all disseminated when the fish are stressed and the centers are too close together.”

Industry executives acknowledge some of the problems, but reject the notion that their practices are unsafe for consumers. But a rash of salmon illnesses have led companies to use high levels of antibiotics, some of which are prohibited for use on animals in the United States. Nonetheless, many of those salmon still end up in American grocery stores.


* New York Times March 27, 2008

3 April 2008

'Omega-3 can help control eczema'

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the severity of eczema symptoms reported one newspaper (28 March 2008). The newspaper report generally accurately summarised the findings of a well-conducted randomised controlled trial. The small size of the trial means that further research is needed to confirm the findings.

A diet rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can help eczema sufferers reduce the severity of their symptoms, reported the Daily Telegraph (1) on 28 March 2008.

The report was based on a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology (2) involving 53 volunteer patients aged 18-40 years of age who were suffering from atopic eczema. The study was a randomised controlled trial undertaken in Germany: 44 participants completed the study course, 21 in the study group and 23 in the control group. The study group received a daily dose of 5.35 g of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 0.37 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for 8 weeks. The control group received a daily dose of saturated fatty acids over the same period. After 8 weeks eczema symptoms had improved significantly in the DHA group but not in the control group. However, the difference between the groups was not statistically significant.

The Daily Telegraph (1) accurately reported the results. The research appears well conducted but the small sample size and lack of a significant difference between groups mean that further research is needed to confirm the findings.

Evaluation of the evidence base for omega-3 fatty acids in eczema
Where does the evidence come from?

The evidence comes from a randomised controlled trial led by Margitta Worm and conducted in the Charité Department of Dermatology and Allergology in Berlin, Germany.
What were the authors' objectives?

To determine the impact of dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on clinical and immunological variables in patients with atopic eczema.
What was the nature of the evidence?

This was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) involving fifty-three patients suffering from atopic eczema aged 18-40 years.
What interventions were examined in the research?

Patients received a daily dose of 5.35 g of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 0.37 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) compared with a control group receiving a daily dose of 4.17 g of caprylic acid and 2.84 g capric acid over 8 weeks.
What were the findings?

After 8 weeks patients in the DHA group showed a significant clinical improvement of atopic eczema in terms of a decreased Severity Scoring of Atopic Dermatitis (SCORAD) score equivalent to an 18% reduction in symptoms. The control group also showed an improvement in SCORAD score over the same period, equivalent to an 11% reduction in symptoms, but this reduction was not significant. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the DHA and control groups.

A significant reduction of anti-CD40/interleukin 4-mediated IgE synthesis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was detected in the DHA group only. Supplementation led to a modulated activation status of PBMC in both groups. The DHA group showed an increase of plasma n-3 PUFA and a decrease in the n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio.
What were the authors' conclusions?

The clinical results imply that dietary DHA may be beneficial in supporting the standard treatment of eczema. Different doses of DHA and long-term treatment may be more effective in patients with atopic eczema but the results need to be confirmed in a larger study.
How reliable are the conclusions?

The research was a generally well-conducted RCT. Appropriate methods were used for randomisation and the trial was double-blinded. A major limitation was the small sample size, which limited the statistical power of the comparisons and meant that the authors could not exclude the possibility of a placebo effect influencing the results. A larger follow-up study would be required to address these shortcomings.
Systematic reviews

Information staff at CRD searched for systematic reviews relevant to this topic. Systematic reviews are valuable sources of evidence as they locate, appraise and synthesize all available evidence on a particular topic.

There were no related systematic review identified on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) however there was one on the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE)(3).
References and resources

1. Omega-3 can help control eczema. The Daily Telegraph, 28 March 2008, p2.

2. Koch C, Dölle S, Metzger M, Rasche C, Jungclas H, Rühl R, Renz H, Worm M. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in atopic eczema: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology 2008;158(4):786-792.

3. Van Gool C J, Zeegers M P, Thijs C. Oral essential fatty acid supplementation in atopic dermatitis: a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. British Journal of Dermatology 2004;1506(4):728-740. [DARE Abstract]

2 April 2008

Message from Dr Lau: My book

Sometime ago, I read somewhere that the birth of a book is no different from the birth of a baby. The author necessarily goes through the same trials, tribulations and birth pangs, as a woman in labor; or perhaps worse, as was experiences with my first book on Curing Scoliosis Naturally.

Since it was my first "pregnancy" the doubts and apprehensions of being able to put my ideas to paper as succinctly as I wanted, weighed heavy on my mind, even as I struggled to brush aside those nagging thoughts and gamely strove to clear all the cobwebs, before rolling up my sleeves to get down to the more serious business of actual writing.

At the outset, since I had no clear agenda or plan in my head, except for my intense desire to help my patients by sharing with them every bit of information that I had painstakingly gathered in my head and through my practical experiences of working with virtually hundreds of scoliosis patients, besides what I randomly picked from medical journals, I decided to begin with an outline, a more formal content plan.
At this point, I decided that I wanted to write not one, but two books, one devoted exclusively to nutritional research --- essentially detailing the good and bad that we derive from food, while dispelling the prevailing myth that there could be a uniform, one-size-fits-all diet for every person on this planet.

In my view, and here I am speak on authority, one of the biggest myth amidst us is that there could be one, “healthy” diet plan for all; a “fix-all” for all health-related problems. On the contrary, as I have explained in my book there is now enough research (I have meticulously marshaled and presented these scientific evidences in my book) to establish that since each one of us is significantly different from the other in terms of genetic make-up and our cultural practices and environmental exposure; our nutritional needs and requirements are also vastly different. Indeed as different as chalk from cheese.

Therefore, if your doctor, dietitian or chiropractor is unable to help you figure out what your exact nutritional requirements are --- in terms of the exact proportion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates that you should be consuming every day --- he/she is doing a disservice to you. Your doctor is in fact also holding back one of the best-kept secrets of the medical world, and that is that diet plans can not be mass marketed and work on everyone.
In my considered vie (and I have strong evidence in support of it) diet plans have to be customized to individual patients in order to be of any use to them. This is as true for patients of scoliosis, as anybody else.

I for all my patients starting a program with me I often struggle to disclose and share all the information I have with these hapless girls and their parents and wish I had some sort of ready literature to thrust into their hands, explaining why bracing or surgery is not effective; and that there could be a much more simpler, easier and a painless way of straightening a curved spine, such as the choice of the right food and a few corrective exercises.

All this marked the first stirrings of an idea in my head.

And that’s how this book, “The Scoliosis Cure” was born. Title needs a bit of work but that will do for now.

1 April 2008

Does an Apple a Day Keep Colon Cancer Away?

Apples may have a positive effect on your colon. Components of apple pectin and polyphenol-rich apple juice have been shown to enhance biological mechanisms that produce anticarcinogenic compounds during the fermentation process.

Researchers hypothesized that the compound butyrate could be increased in the presence of apple pectin and apple juice extracts. Butyrate is a chemopreventative metabolite that could prevent the occurrence of colorectal cancer.

Using human fecal matter as the test substance, laboratory tests showed increased production of butyrate and inhibition of histone deacetlyases (HDAC) as a result. With slowed production of HDAC, there would be significantly less growth of precancerous and cancerous cells.


* Eurekalert March 26, 2008

Does This Foot Gel Cause Cancer?

Regranex, a Johnson & Johnson foot gel used by diabetics, may increase their risk of cancer and death. A study of the gel found an increase in the number of cancer deaths among patients who had been prescribed the gel three or more times.
Regranex is used to treat leg and foot wounds. Diabetic patients are especially susceptible to developing leg and foot wounds.

A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson said the company was working with the FDA and that Regranex is safe when used as directed.


* Reuters March 27, 2008

Cigarette Company Paid for Lung Cancer Study

In 2006, cancer researchers were jolted by a controversial new study claiming that 80 percent of lung cancer deaths could be prevented through widespread use of CT scans.
Small print in the study noted that it had been financed in part by a little-known charity called “The Foundation for Lung Cancer: Early Detection, Prevention & Treatment.” But a recent review of tax records showed that the foundation was underwritten almost entirely by $3.6 million in grants from the makers of the Liggett Select, Eve, Grand Prix, Quest and Pyramid cigarette brands.

Prominent cancer researchers and journal editors were stunned to learn of the association. Critics are now questioning the validity of the study, including its survival projections and its assumption that all lung cancer patients who were diagnosed by screening would have died without it.


* New York Times March 26, 2008

Does This Foot Gel Cause Cancer?

Regranex, a Johnson & Johnson foot gel used by diabetics, may increase their risk of cancer and death. A study of the gel found an increase in the number of cancer deaths among patients who had been prescribed the gel three or more times.
Regranex is used to treat leg and foot wounds. Diabetic patients are especially susceptible to developing leg and foot wounds.

A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson said the company was working with the FDA and that Regranex is safe when used as directed.


* Reuters March 27, 2008

Shocking Facts About the Pharmaceutical Industry

Big drug companies have been accused of putting profits above patients, spinning false PR campaigns and more. Here are some of the most shocking facts about the pharmaceutical industry.

The price of drugs is increasing faster than anything else a patient pays for: The prices of the most heavily prescribed drugs are routinely jacked up, sometimes several times a year. Some medications have a mark-up of 1,000 percent over the cost of their ingredients.

Your doctor may have an ulterior motive behind your prescription: Drug reps often give gifts to convince doctors to prescribe the medications that they represent. These drug reps usually have no medical or science education.

Pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than research: Almost twice as much!

Guilty of Medicare fraud: Pharmaceutical companies are being tried in federal courts as a result of their exploitation of Medicare. AstraZeneca had to pay more than $340 million in penalties for coaching doctors to cheat Medicare.

The combined wealth of top 5 pharmaceutical companies outweighs GNP of sub-Saharan Africa: In fact, the combined worth of the world’s top five drug companies is twice the combined GNP of that entire region.

Americans pay more for prescription meds than anyone else in the world: $200 billion in 2002 alone.

"New" Drugs aren't really new: Two-thirds of “new” prescription drugs are identical to existing drugs or modified versions of them.

Drug companies are taking advantage of underdeveloped countries to perform clinical trials: In developing countries, government oversight is more lax.

For more shocking facts, click the link below.


* Nursing Online Education Database March 27, 2008

Why Infant Formula Must Contain Omega-3's

New recommendations by international experts state that infant formula should include DHA omega-3 and AA omega-6 to guarantee a correct eye and brain development.

These recommendations were developed by a panel of child health experts from 11 countries. They have been endorsed by organizations such as The World Association of Perinatal Medicine, Child Health Foundation and the Early Nutrition Foundation.

They emphasized that breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding. However, in cases where the mother is unable or chooses not to breastfeed, they argued that many research studies have highlighted the importance of DHA omega-3 and AA omega-6 in infant development.


* Eurekalert March 26, 2008

Cod Liver Oil Cuts the Need for Arthritis Drugs

A daily dose of cod liver oil can cut painkiller use in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Taking 10 grams of cod liver oil each day reduces the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by 30 percent.

Patients in the study were either given cod liver oil or a placebo. After 12 weeks, they were asked to gradually reduce their use of NSAIDs. 39 percent taking cod liver oil reduced their daily dose of NSAIDs, compared with 10 percent taking a placebo. The reduction in drug use was not associated with any worsening of pain or the disease.

It is thought that the fatty acids in the fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties.


* BBC News March 25, 2008

Risks of Increased Access to Over-The-Counter Medicines May Outweigh Benefits

Experts have warned that the risks of increasing access to over-the-counter medicines may outweigh the benefits.

The controls on prescription-only medicines are relaxed when they are made more freely available. Although there are benefits to making medications over-the-counter, there are also problems.

A patient who uses an inappropriate over-the-counter medicine can actually worsen their condition. And there are no prescribers to reinforce instructions for safe use.

The safety of over-the-counter medicines should be continually reviewed in order to prevent adverse effects.


* Eurekalert March 27, 2008

FDA Probes Suicide Risk for Blockbuster Asthma Medication

Health regulators are probing a possible connection between Merck’s blockbuster asthma drug Singulair and suicidal behavior in adults and children.

The FDA decided to review the issue after receiving reports of mood and behavior changes, suicidal thinking and suicide in patients who took the drug. The FDA is also reviewing reports of behavioral changes related to similar drugs such as AstraZeneca’s Accolate and Critical Therapeutics’ Zyflo.

Singulair is used to treat stuffy nose, sneezing and other allergy symptoms as well as asthma. It is Merck's biggest selling product and one of the world's top selling medicines.


* Reuters March 27, 2008

Hair Loss Isn't Just for Men

It’s true, hair loss happens to women as well as men. This may come as a shock, but hair loss in women is not as rare as you might think. The fact is, women do experience hair loss, but they may not realize it until later in life.

Just like with men, hair loss in women comes on gradually. Unless you are paying attention, you may gaze into the mirror one morning and be shocked that your hair appears to have lost its fullness; there may be thinning spots, which upon close inspection reveal balding areas.

1 Out of Every 3 Women Will Lose Hair

When a woman begins losing her hair, it is usually due to a condition known as androgenetic alopecia. The result of this form of hair loss is a thinning of the hair in the top, and front areas of the head. Androgenetic alopecia is hereditary and can be inherited from either side of the family. It is estimated that about 33% of postmenopausal women experience hair loss that can be contributed to androgenetic alopecia.

Additional causes of hair loss in women include, stress, birth control pills, and hormone imbalance. Though distressing, hair loss due to these causes normally only lasts about a year. After giving birth, a woman may also experience some hair loss, and a number of women are extremely shocked when it occurs, but can take comfort in knowing that it is not usually permanent.

Permanent hair loss can occur if the hair follicle dies, but if the hair follicle is in a dormant state, there is still hope to stop, and possibly even reverse hair loss. Fortunately there is a way to combat hair loss.

Incredible Discovery: A Natural Nutrient Can Stop or Even Reverse Hair Loss

Research has shown that by applying a tissue nutrient such as Emu oil, the tissue becomes healthier and more lively. In addition to restoring health to tissue, the regular use of Emu oil has shown to bring up to 80% of the hair follicles out of their doormat state. This allows for additional hair growth, and not only that, the hair is healthier.

For hair loss in women, it is recommended that a small amount of Emu oil be massaged into the scalp about three times daily. At least twice a week, a heavy application of Emu oil should be applied and kept on the scalp for approximately 20 minutes, before washing the hair with a very mild shampoo.

With regular use of Emu oil, there should be noticeable re-growth within 1 – 3 months. The best part about using Emu oil to fight baldness is that it is a completely natural alternative to some of the more expensive and intrusive treatments available today.

The Appendix Has a Purpose After All: Repopulating the Gut with Friendly Flora

Researchers believe that they may have uncovered the function for the appendix, which has long been thought to be superfluous: the organ may act as an incubator for beneficial bacteria that aid the body in digestion.

Writing in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, researchers from Duke University Medical School speculate that the appendix provides a reservoir of beneficial microbes so that the body can replenish its supply in case a disease such as cholera or amoebic dysentery causes the bacteria in the lower gut to be purged.

The researchers observed that the appendix is located just beneath the large intestine, in a spot that food and bacteria usually flow past in only one direction. This would be an ideal location for the hypothesized function.

According to the researchers, the dense populations found in modern cities make it easy for people to be re-exposed to digestive flora after losing them. But in earlier times, the researchers say, a cholera epidemic might have devastated a whole region and necessitated an internal replenishing source.

The researchers noted that appendicitis is significantly less common in Third World countries, where epidemics of diseases targeting the digestive system are more common. They theorized that appendicitis may be a disease of affluence, triggered by an environment more sterile than that in which the body evolved.

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes infected and inflamed. Appendicitis can lead to inflammation of the abdominal cavity, which is nearly always fatal if not treated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 321,000 people in the United States were hospitalized for appendicitis in 2005, and 300 to 400 people die from the condition each year.