Friday: Health Points

Uncontrolled diabetes wreaks havoc on the body, often leading to kidney failure, blindness and death. A new study shows that the nation's unchecked diabetes epidemic exacts a heavy financial toll as well: $174 billion a year.

That's about as much as the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terrorism combined. It's more than the $150 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The incidence of diabetes has ballooned — there are 1 million new cases a year — as more Americans become overweight or obese, according to the study, released Wednesday by the American Diabetes Association. The cost of diabetes — both in direct medical care and lost productivity — has swelled 32% since 2002, the report shows.

Diabetes killed more than 284,000 Americans last year, according to the diabetes association.
  • Much to my personal delight, Yoga is growing in popularity. Katie Zezima of The New York Times investigates a boot camp for Yoga teachers. Check it out:
In May 2006, Sue Jones started YogaHope, an organization that teaches yoga at eight Boston-area women’s homeless shelters, substance-abuse treatment programs and domestic-violence safe houses, as well as two programs in Seattle. The focus is on teaching restorative yoga, and though many teachers have completed at least 200 hours of training, it is not a requirement.


Driven by a sometimes missionary zeal and a sense that yoga has become an exclusive pursuit, a small but growing number of yoga practitioners are forming organizations that teach yoga in prisons and juvenile detention centers in Oakland, Calif.; Los Angeles, Seattle and Indianapolis. They are working with the addicted and the homeless in Portland, Ore., and with public-school students in New York City.

Though concern about the cost of yoga is an issue (studio classes can cost $20 for a drop-in session, though some offer free or low-cost classes taught by less experienced teachers), most of the practitioners are motived by a desire to introduce yoga to those who might need it most, but wouldn’t think to do it on their own.
Stop-and-go pushup
Assume a pushup position. Brace your core and lower your chest to the floor. When you’re halfway down, pause 2 seconds before continuing. Then, when your chest is 2 inches from the floor, pause again for 2 seconds before pushing halfway back up. Hold for 2 more seconds, then straighten your arms. Do eight reps.


Stop-and-go split squat
Stand with one foot 3 feet forward and hold a barbell across your shoulders. Rise on the ball of your back foot, then bend at the knees. When halfway down, pause for 2 seconds. Pause again when your back knee is just off the floor. Push halfway up, pause again, and return to the starting position. Do six reps with each leg.
The campaign, to be launched in the summer, will form part of a wider strategy including aspects like food labelling, urban design and the promotion of exercise.


Department of Health officials said it will use simple messages -- such as the "five pieces of fruit and veg a day" slogan -- and be based on research into what actually works to make people change from unhealthy lifestyles.

"Tackling obesity is the most significant public and personal health challenge facing our society," said Health Secretary Alan Johnson as he launched the 372 million pound cross-government strategy.
"A didgeri-what?" you ask. While aborigines in Australia have been playing this long wooden trumpet for centuries, it's just recently been redefined as a modern-day medical device. Researchers reporting in the British Medical Journal evaluated 25 people with sleep apnea--a breath-stealing condition caused by flabby throat muscles--and found that those who took 4 months of didgeridoo (DIH-jeh-ree-doo) lessons had about 31/2 times less daytime sleepiness than the folks who didn't blow their own horns. The newly minted musicians also snored significantly less. Credit this uncommon cure to vibrations that exercise tissue in the mouth and throat, says researcher Milo Puhan, Ph.D. "When these muscles are strengthened, the tongue has less tendency to obstruct the airway."


If huffing on a wooden tube to treat your sleep apnea sounds a tad too weird, then you probably aren't familiar with the alternatives. The most commonly prescribed option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which involves spending every night hooked up to a machine that pumps air down your throat to keep it from collapsing. The other approach is surgery, and that's only 30 to 60 percent effective. Now are you ready to toot the didgeridoo? You can pick up a beginner-friendly model for about $80 at L.A. Outback (laoutback.com). And don't worry; it's intuitive to learn, says co-owner Barry Martin. You purse your lips and blow into it with the beat.
  • Diet Blog hardly has a glowing endorsement for “Slim Coffee.” Jim Foster thinks it’s nothing but a big scam:
It must be so tempting for unscrupulous entrepreneurs:


Find an obscure weight loss product from somewhere overseas. Re-brand it. Hype it up. Create an infomercial. Make millions.

This time it's Slim Coffee. The claims are impressive: "Reduce appetite. Clinically tested. Lose 5 pounds per week". All from drinking coffee with a few supplements added (or so they say).

The makers of Slim Coffee have been pursued by the FTC - resulting in a $923,000 settlement.
Previous studies had suggested that people living in polluted areas are more at risk of heart disease. For example, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year showed that women in 36 American cities were more likely to develop heart disease if the air they breathed was rich in particles measuring 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter - known as PM2.5s - which are present in car exhaust fumes.


It now seems that a greater hazard may be posed by so-called "ultrafine" particles, about a dozen times smaller at 0.18 micrometres wide. The latest study in mice has shown that they clog up arteries with fatty atherosclerotic deposits, and chemically alter "good" cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, reducing its beneficial effects.
How does yoga help a professional athlete's game?
Yoga improves balance in the body and works the smaller muscles that normally wouldn't get worked. It also improves range of motion, whether that means swinging a golf club, throwing a baseball or shooting a basketball. It builds stamina through breath control and teaches techniques for relaxing in tense moments. Most important, yoga gives you confidence that your body will do what you want it to do when you need it to.

Cholesterol: Well Blog Encounters a Loon

The shortcomings of cholesterol-lowering medications are all over the news lately, but rather then continue the beat down. Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times Well Blog wants to know, is it possible to lower your cholesterol without drugs. Here’s a bit:

In fact, many doctors think dietary changes are too difficult for most of their patients. While they typically encourage better eating and a diet low in saturated fat, they also prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins as a faster way to lower bad cholesterol.


But many people can’t tolerate statins and their side effects. Others simply don’t want to take a pill every day or shoulder the cost of a prescription. For those patients, dietary changes may be a better option.

In 2006, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study of 55 patients with high cholesterol who, over the course of a year, started eating a diet rich in soy proteins, fiber and almonds. All those foods may have cholesterol-lowering properties. Twenty-one patients managed to lower their cholesterol by 20 percent or more by the end of the year. The researchers noted that whether the patient was motivated and actually stuck with the diet most of the time was key.

Kudos to Tara! There needs to be more talk about this, because as Dr. Fuhrman explains, dietary intervention is the best way to lower cholesterol and prevent and reverse heart disease. Check out this excerpt from Cholesterol Levels and Heart Attacks:

Make no doubt about it: lowering your LDL cholesterol below 100 offers powerful protection against heart disease. The evidence is overwhelming today that heart attacks, which kill half of all Americans, are entirely preventable. Heart disease is a condition that is preventable and reversible through aggressive nutritional intervention and cholesterol-lowering.

Now, in this post Dr. Fuhrman points to some specific foods that have well-documented cholesterol-lowering properties. I’ve clipped this snippet from Ideal Cholesterol 199? Have a look:

A vegetable, fruit, nut, and bean-based diet has been shown to be the most effective cholesterol-lowering dietary approach in medical history. This newsworthy data with the potential to save millions of lives has been ignored by the mass media. With this dietary approach, most patients drop their total cholesterol below 150 and LDL below 100, without the need for medications. In areas of the world where people eat a diet of unrefined plant foods, people have total cholesterol levels below 150, and there is zero incidence of heart disease in the population.1

Okay, one last excerpt. In this post Dr. Fuhrman points to the landmark China Study; which illustrated the rarity of heart attacks in plant-food eating rural Chinese. From Can Cholesterol Be Too Low:

Clearly, if we attempt to rival the low cholesterol of populations that eat mostly natural plant foods and do not have heart disease, we are always looking at total cholesterols below 150 mg/dl. The average cholesterol level in rural China, as documented in the massive China Cornell Project, was 127 mg/dl. Heart attacks were rare, and both cancer and heart disease rates plummeted as cholesterol levels fell, which reflected very low animal product consumption. The lowest occurrence of heart disease and cancer occurred in the group that consumed plant-based diets with less than two servings of animal products per week.

Alright, now this is where I feel for Tara. In the comments of her post she encountered the persistent of lunacy of the low-carb consortium. Here’s the comment and Tara’s response from the Well Blog:

Commenter: Alternatively, you and Jane Brody could look at the growing mountain of evidence that the diet you think is “healthful” is actually the problem…evidence which includes Brody’s own health!
Or you could read the most important book on diet in the last century, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.

But you won’t; you’ll keep passing out the same old misinformation.

Nor will you publish this comment.

Tara: Of course I will publish your comment, and I think your point, if you strip away the personal attacks, is a good one. Nutrition writers like myself certainly have been complicit in confusing people’s notions about what constitutes healthful eating. (Although I’m curious about what I’ve written that offends you so.) I’m not sure I agree that Gary Taubes has written the most important book on diet (I’m a fan of Pollan as readers of this blog know). However, Mr. Taubes has certainly raised many important issues in his work. I agree, as Mr. Pollan writes, that the culture of nutritionism — viewing food as a sum of its nutrient parts — has been largely detrimental to the nation’s health.

Tara, I feel for you. This nonsense and its lemming-like supporters pollute the information super highway. Before I go any further, here’s Dr. Fuhrman dropping the hammer on Gary Taubes’ “most important book on diet in the last century.” From Nutrition Science and Gary Taubes:

Amazing how stupid people are. Gary Taubes is a known Atkins' devotee and nutritionally naïve and led by the Atkins' crowd. Now he has his own book. All I can say is that this makes me look like a genius comparatively when I am only stating the obvious. All I can say is: Health = Nutrition / Calories.


Your health is predicted by your nutrient intake divided by your intake of calories. Health = Nutrition / Calories, or simply H = N/C, is a concept I call the nutrient-density of your diet. Food supplies us with both nutrients and calories (energy). All calories come from only three elements: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Nutrients are derived from non-caloric food factors—including vitamins, minerals, fibers, and phytochemicals. These non-caloric nutrients are vitally important for health. Your key to permanent weight loss is to eat predominantly those foods that have a high proportion of nutrients (non-caloric food factors) to calories (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins).

I think Tara did a great job handling this over-zealous loon and luckily for her he wasn’t as radical as most of them. Just get a load of these vitriolic comments from one of Followhealthlife’s low-carb blog-trolls. Oh! Despite the different names, it’s all the same person:

RN: “STOP lying to people. NOW! Support your contention NOT SUMMARIES of summaries The blind leading the blind…I can and WILL argue this all day because I UNLIKE Dr. Fuhrman CAN back up my views.”


Susan: “FUHRMAN FRAUD.”

Razwell: “Persons who claim "paradise health" by following a certain diet are CHARLATANS.”

What does all this prove? That no matter how much you back up your claims the crazies, the cultists, and the sensationalists will do their best to disrupt your day—just another day in the life of a health-blogger!

Continue Reading...

More on Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Last week we learned that many popular cholesterol-lowering drugs fail to deliver. Dr. Fuhrman is no fan of cholesterol medications. Take statins for example:
When resorting to medical intervention, rather than dietary modifications, other problems arise, reducing the potential reduction in mortality possible, as these individuals are at risk of serious side effects from the medication. The known side effects for various statins (the most popular and effective medications to lower cholesterol) include hepatitis, jaundice, other liver problems, gastrointestinal upsets, muscle problems and a variety of blood complications such as reduced platelet levels and anemia.
Now, some doctors have come to the defense of popular medications. Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times looks at What That Cholesterol Trial Didn’t Show. Here’s a bit:
“I think this study is being interpreted wrong,” said Dr. Paul D. Thompson, director of cardiology at Hartford Hospital, who personally uses Zetia and (like most of the doctors quoted in this article) has consulted with makers of cholesterol drugs.


He pointed out that Vytorin users did experience a larger drop in cholesterol than the Zocor users. The disappointment was that the decline didn’t translate into a bigger benefit in arterial health. “It didn’t show harm,” Dr. Thompson said. “There were no more cardiac events, no more side effects. There was just no change.”

The fallout from the study was not limited to Vytorin. It has led to a whole new set of questions for scientists about cholesterol drugs. Is lowering LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, all that counts? Or must a drug also raise HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and fight inflammation?

Adding to the confusion, the Vytorin makers dragged their feet on releasing the results, issued the findings in a press release rather than a medical journal and made a lot of people mad.
Okay, this makes me ask… Actually, I’ll shut up. Dr. Petrillo was very eager to drop the hammer on this report. Brace yourself, she’s shot out of a cannon! Check it out:
Here's an idea. Stop gorging on cheeseburgers and you won't have to take Zocor or Zetia or Vytorin! Drug reps love to promote these "combo"-type medications with the argument that you're getting two meds for the price of one and attacking the condition in two different ways. But with asparagus as your sword and broccoli as your shield, you will attack high cholesterol without putting expensive drugs with uncertain effects into your body.


According to this recent study, while Vytorin users saw a greater decrease in cholesterol than Zocor users, there was no difference in plaque formation in the coronary arteries between the two groups. Don't just prevent plaque formation! Reverse it by following a high-nutrient-density diet and exercising and you won't need to rely on pills! Cholesterol comes from animal products (even the ads for the cholesterol drugs acknowledge this), so, to avoid blockages in your coronary arteries, fewer animal products, more veggies, less pharmaceuticals, more exercise, less cow, more kale!
“Asparagus as your sword and broccoli as your shield.” Perfect! Especially since I just saw the movie 300—yes, I’m a little behind on the times—here’s the perfect amalgamation of phytonutrients and battle. Enjoy:


This is Sparta! Oops. I mean…these are Phytonutrients!

Mevacor, The FDA, and Consumers

You remember the news about the over-the-counter statins right? A bizarre concept indeed! In case you need reminding, here’s some of the article from HealthDay News. Steven Reinberg reported:
For the third time in seven years, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has been asked to recommend making Merck & Co.'s statin drug Mevacor available over the counter.


But with groups such as the American Medical Association, Public Citizen and Consumers Union lined up against it, experts think Merck's proposal is likely to be rejected once again when the panel meets on Thursday.

"The third time is not the charm," said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "It's time to move on."

Merck's proposal is being presented to a joint meeting of the FDA's Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee and its Endocrinology and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee. The FDA does not have to follow the advice of its advisory panels, but it usually does.
Now, let’s ignore the fact that Dr. Fuhrman thinks taking statins are a bad idea. How would the average person know when to take these? I mean it’s not like popping a Tylenol! The FDA seems to agree...kind of; FDA Weighs Cholesterol Drug Mevacor. Here’s a bit:
The government is questioning if too many of the wrong people will take cholesterol-lowering Mevacor if it's sold without a prescription, days before Merck & Co. makes its third try to move the drug over the counter.


Merck says selling a low dose of this long-used medication on drugstore shelves, next to the aspirin, could get millions of people at moderate risk of heart disease important treatment that they otherwise may miss.

A preliminary Food and Drug Administration review released Tuesday agreed that nonprescription Mevacor would be "a reasonably safe and effective" option — if consumers used it as directed.

But when Merck tested if consumers could judge who was a proper Mevacor candidate, only 20 percent answered all the questions completely correctly — 50 percent if researchers counted people who said they'd check some things with their doctor before purchasing, concluded FDA's lead medical reviewer.
What do you think? “If consumers used it as directed.” I’m not sure consumers can be trusted. How many people do you know who take handfuls of Tylenol every time they have a headache?

ParentDish meets The China Study

T. Colin Campbell’s China Study is a big deal here at Followhealthlife. It’s really drives home the point that a vegetable-based nutrient-dense diet is the way to go. In this video Dr. Campbell talks all about it:


Now, if you’re a parent or aspiring to be one, I suggest you give ParentDish a look. It’s a great blog. In this post Kristin Darguzas talks about her recent discovery of The China Study. Here’s a blurb:
I read the China Study. It's not written by an animal rights activist, nor by anyone who could be called insane by any stretch of the imagination. It's written by an extremely intelligent and respected nutritionist and researcher who presents his studies in a logical, methodical, terrifying way. And as I read the last page, I realized, oh no. I don't think I can eat dairy anymore. For me, this book is one of those soul-altering books that has changed the way I see the world, permanently.


Among some of the startling ideas in the book include the suggestion that the Dairy Industry's marketing board has been "educating" children with completely false information on the healthiness of cow's milk for decades, that animal meat causes cancer, that the knowledge (ie. a plant-based diet) is there to prevent heart disease but it's routinely ignored because...well, there is money to be made.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell suggests that he has the answers to America's obesity problem. I tend to believe him. My Dad says it's total hoey, there's a new fad every day... he'd also refuse to read it. My Mom just read it and says she won't be eating meat again. )
For more on The China Study, check out this interview with T. Colin Campbell over at Raw Vegan Radio. Here are a couple great quotes:
“We’ve had inklings and pretty good evidence to show, for example, that consuming vegetables and fruits and grains could help to prevent heart disease. And then it came about that also in the more recent years it was shown also to be associated with prevention of cancer as well.”


“It turns out that plant-based diets not only help to prevent these major diseases, these chronic degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease, but also consuming that kind of diet, low in fat, low in salt, low in sugar, consuming that kind of diet also can be used to keep under control diabetes, and it can be used to control obesity to a great extent if its done right. Certainly a lot safer way to keep bodyweight down than the really rather silly Atkins nonsense that crept into our vernacular over the last few years.”
I love how the phrase “silly Atkins nonsense” just rolls off the tongue, but seriously, if you’re unfamiliar with The China Study, check it out. From The China Study website:
If you’re looking to enhance your health, performance and your success read The China Study immediately. Finally, scientifically valid guidance on how much protein we need and where we should get it. The impact of these findings is enormous.


Joel Fuhrman, M.D., Author of the bestselling book, Eat To Live
Hey! We know that Joel Fuhrman guy.

Zetia...Failed

No surprise here. A recent clinical trial has determined that the cholesterol drug Zetia failed to show any medical benefits. Alex Berenson of The New York Times reports:
The results will add to the growing concern over Zetia and Vytorin, a drug that combines Zetia with another cholesterol medicine in a single pill. About 70 percent of patients who take Zetia do so in the form of Vytorin, which combines Zetia with the cholesterol drug Zocor.


While Zetia lowers cholesterol by 15 to 20 percent in most patients, no trial has ever shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes — or even that it reduces the growth of the fatty plaques in arteries that can cause heart problems.

This trial was designed to show that Zetia could reduce the growth of those plaques. Instead, the plaques actually grew somewhat faster in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone. Patients in the trial who took the combination of Zetia and Zocor were receiving it in the form of Vytorin pills.

Dr. Steven Nissen, the chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said the results were “shocking.” Patients should not be prescribed Zetia unless all other cholesterol drugs have failed, he said.
You guessed it! Dr. Fuhrman is no fan of taking needless magic pills. Here he talks about something all physicians should remember. Take a look:
In the first pharmacology lecture that I head in medical school, the physician impressed on us that all drugs are toxic and we should never forget this. We were taught that medications work because of their pharmacologic properties—properties that enable the substance to interfere with, block, or stimulate an activity of the body. Drugs typically modify the way the body expresses the signs and symptoms of disease, but in chronic disease states, they do not undo the damage or remove the disease.
I’m curious. How do drug-makers market around this debacle? That’s the real magic!