Saturday, April 11, 2009


Your Health: Trans Fat a Major Health Hazard in American Diet Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H.

Like it or not, New York City restaurant patrons soon will be eating less trans fat when they dine out. On Dec. 5, 2006, New York City's Board of Health adopted a resolution to restrict the service of food products containing artificial trans fat at New York City restaurants. While the political and economic implications of the resolution have been hotly debated, there's little doubt that consumption of trans fat has negative health consequences. In clinical studies, trans fats have been shown to elevate total blood cholesterol and levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Even worse, they tend to reduce levels of heart-healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. No other known dietary component has both of these adverse effects, each of which contributes to the development of heart disease, a condition shared by more than 12 million Americans. Each year, heart disease claims the lives of more than 500,000 people in the United States. There's also evidence to suggest that consumption of trans fat can trigger insulin resistance, boosting the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the body, trans fat may interfere with the normal metabolism of essential fatty acids, leading to disruptions in the production of various hormones and blood clotting factors. Most of the trans fat in the typical American diet is artificially created in a process known as hydrogenation, in which plant oils are exposed to hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst at high temperatures. The process changes the structure of the chemical bonds in fat, transforming them from a liquid to solid state. With their revised chemical structure, hydrogenated oils don't break down or become rancid as quickly as naturally occurring oils and fats. This property comes in handy in the preparation of fried foods, including chicken, donuts, and French fries. It also helps retard spoilage and prolong the shelf-life of commercially prepared baked goods, including cakes, pies, cookies, and crackers. Not all trans fat in the U.S. diet is artificially engineered: Small amounts occur naturally in grazing animals used in food production. While trans fat may contribute as much as half of the total fat content in commercially prepared foods, it typically comprises just 2 to 6 percent of the total fat content of beef and dairy products. The chemical structure of trans fat in animal products is different than the structure of artificially produced trans fat. At this point, it isn't entirely clear if this difference makes them less of a hazard to human health. Regardless of the source, health and nutrition experts agree that Americans consume too much of the bad fat. According to data published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the average daily intake among adults is about 5.8 grams. Guidelines issued by the American Heart Association recommend that trans fat consumption be kept below one percent of total energy intake. The Institutes of Medicine concluded that because trans fat confers no known health benefit and contributes to heart disease, intake should be as low as possible. One way to reduce your consumption of trans fat is to avoid eating commercially prepared fried foods. Choosing a bagel instead of a donut for breakfast will eliminate about 5 grams of trans fat from your diet, and foregoing the French fries at lunch will cut out another 8 grams. While you're reducing your consumption of fried fare, you can also choose pre-packaged foods that are free of trans fat. Since January 2006, the FDA has required food manufacturers to list trans fat content on the Nutrition Facts panels of all food items and many nutritional supplements. When you're preparing food at home, it's a good idea to use ingredients that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Unlike trans fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do not elevate blood cholesterol levels, and both offer a number of health benefits when consumed in moderation. Polyunsaturated fats are found in plant oils, including sunflower, safflower, and sesame seed oil, as well as in some varieties of fish, including tuna and salmon. Canola oil and olive oil contain monounsaturated fats. To reduce your consumption of trans fat in animal products, choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and lean meats, including baked poultry without the skin, and the leanest cuts of beef and pork. It's not practical to completely eliminate all trans fat from your diet, but lowering your intake will go a long way toward reducing your risk of heart disease and improving your overall health.

Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., is a family physician in Kingsport, Tenn., and author of "Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her Web site is To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc

Monday, April 6, 2009

Indigenous children in several nations at risk

OTTAWA (UPI) -- Indigenous children are more likely to get sick, hurt or die than other children in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, researchers say. Study leader Dr. Smylie at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health, part of the Keenan Research Centre at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital found indigenous children suffered from infant mortality rates up to four times the national average, higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome, child injury, suicide and accidental death. Indigenous children also experience a disproportionate level of ear infections, respiratory illnesses and dental problems. "Until now, there has been no comprehensive data source on indigenous child health in Canada -- the data is flawed and incomplete," Smylie said in a statement. "It is our hope that the health information from this report will be used to help develop strong policies and programs to improve Indigenous children's health. We would like to see this research help to create positive change and start the discussion on how to make the future better for all indigenous children." The Children's Health Report: Health Assessment in Action is an international research project that summarizes health data on indigenous children from Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Some with eczema allergic to fragrance
GOTHENBURG, Sweden (UPI) -- About 5 percent of those with eczema were allergic to the air oxidized form of a popular shampoo and soap fragrance, a researcher in Sweden said. Dermatologist Johanna Brared Christensson said considerably more people than previously believed are allergic to the most common fragrance ingredient -- linalool -- used in shampoos, conditioners and soap. "I would suspect that about 2 percent of the complete population of Sweden are allergic to air oxidized linalool. That may not sound like very much but it is serious since linalool is so widely used as a fragrance ingredient," Christensson said in a statement. "Linalool is found in 60 percent to 80 percent of the perfumed hygiene products, washing up liquids and household cleaning agents that can be bought in the nearest supermarket and it can be difficult for people who are allergic to avoid these products." About 1-in-5 people in Sweden has some form of contact allergy, nickel is by far the most common substance that causes eczema, but the thesis shows that oxidized linalool occupies third place in the list, after nickel and cobalt, Christensson said. In the study, oxidized linalool was added at patch testing for more than 3,000 patients who wanted to find out what was causing their eczema and 5 percent to 7 percent proved to be allergic to the oxidized form of the fragrance ingredient. The thesis was presented at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Lifelong Health: Dealing With the Danger of Contaminated Foods Dr. David Lipschitz
In a recent speech nominating former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg as director of the Food and Drug Administration, President Barack Obama placed food safety center stage as he seeks to improve the under-funded, understaffed FDA. Obama said he would create a Food Safety Working Group to review the outdated (circa 1906, during the Theodore Roosevelt administration) laws that establish food safety guidelines. But even with all this added attention, can we ever truly escape the dangers of contaminated foods? Unfortunately, the answer may be no. With the huge degree of human error -- in processing plants and in homes -- food contamination likely will be a challenge forever. Every year, contaminated meat, fruits or vegetables enter the marketplace and initiate a variety of food-borne infections. The contamination almost always occurs by exposure to animal feces, which happens during growth or because of poor hygiene in processing plants. In addition, contaminated water can contribute to food-borne illnesses. The failure of an infected worker to wash his hands adequately or to wear protective gear can also lead to problems. Some plants are outdated, use old equipment and do not have rigorous safety systems to prevent contamination. The most recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have occurred because of contamination by salmonella. In the past 12 months alone, salmonella contamination has occurred in spinach, Mexican serrano peppers and peanut butter. Last year, salmonella in peppers made more than 1,300 people ill and led to one death. In 1996, peanut contamination led to 600 cases of salmonella poisoning in Australia. A 2006 outbreak of peanut butter contamination caused 620 cases of salmonella infection in 47 states. This year's outbreak led to 500 infections and three deaths in the United States and Canada. Investigations by the FDA have localized the contamination to a peanut processing plant in Georgia, which led to one of the largest food recalls in history and a dramatic reduction in peanut butter sales nationwide (which certainly did not help the unsuspecting peanut farmer). While these nationwide "outbreaks" receive much attention, it is highly likely that contamination of food at home and restaurants leads to far more cases of salmonella infections than those reported. Each year, about 36,000 cases are officially reported in the United States, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about 1.4 million cases and 600 deaths occur annually. Salmonella accounts for 31 percent of all food-related deaths. Salmonella is a tough little bug. Once the bacteria have contaminated a certain food, there is no good way to remove them other than irradiation, a process that is frowned upon. From a food processing perspective, the better solution appears to be modernized facilities, trained workers and more frequent inspection. Even with a massive overhaul of the food safety guidelines, Americans still will have to deal with food contamination. Exposure to contaminated food typically leads to abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea. Most salmonella infections are self-limiting, meaning they can be resolved without anything more than symptomatic treatment, including adequate fluid intake and antidiarrheals for loose stools. On occasion, salmonella infection can be much more serious and can lead to death. Always see a physician if you develop diarrhea and have blood, mucus or pus in your stools or if your abdominal pain is extremely severe, especially if you have traveled out of the country recently. An evaluation always is warranted if you develop a fever of higher than 100 degrees. If you experience a rising fever, a persistent headache or confusion, seek help immediately. In certain people, the bacteria can enter the blood, causing life-threatening septicemia. Here, appropriate use of antibiotics can cure the problem and prevent death. When it comes to food safety, you are your biggest advocate. Here are some rules to protect yourself: Wash your hands. Always clean your kitchen counters. Keep raw meat and poultry away from other foods. Remember: Heat kills germs. Make sure your food is well-cooked. Be wary of food contamination, and take reports of infections seriously. With a little effort, you can protect yourself.

Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book "Breaking the Rules of Aging." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at More information is available at

Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.


Canadians don't understand Schizophrenia
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (UPI) -- Ninety-two percent of Canadians have heard of schizophrenia, but most do not understand what it is or its symptoms, a survey indicates. Sixty percent of Canadians assume that people living with schizophrenia are likely to act violently toward others, officials at the Schizophrenia Society of Canada said. "While 92 percent of Canadians surveyed have heard of schizophrenia, most do not understand what it is or its symptoms. In fact, the majority confuse it with split personality disorder," Chris Summerville, chief executive officer of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada said in a statement. "Misconceptions such as these lead to negative stereotyping and stigma towards people living with schizophrenia," he said. The report examines how stigma negatively impacts the lives of people living with schizophrenia, Summerville said. Stigma causes gradual social isolation, making it harder for them to seek the help and treatment they need to manage their illness. No margin of error of the survey was reported. Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Friday, April 3, 2009


War wounded at Risk of Superbugs
HARROGATE, England (UPI) -- Soldiers who survive severe injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan can be at risk of developing infections in their wounds, U.S. researchers say. Dr. Clinton K. Murray of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, said that at the beginning of the 20th century improved military hygiene and disease control led to a steady decline in wartime deaths attributable to infections, classically known as "war pestilence," which included cholera, dysentery, plague, smallpox, typhoid and typhus fever. Though most infections can be treated with standard antibiotics, some -- methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella species and E.coli -- may be caused by pathogens resistant to many, if not all, of them. This requires clinicians to prescribe less commonly used antibiotics such as colistin, Murray said. "The development of more effective personal protective equipment, as well as training medics to provide life-saving procedures on the battlefield, has greatly improved survival rates," Murray said in a statement. "Positioning surgical and advanced medical care nearer to the point of injury has also enabled casualties to survive near-catastrophic wounds. But even though combat casualties are surviving these severe injuries, they risk developing wound infections." Murray presented the findings to the Society for General Microbiology Meeting at the International Centre in Harrogate, England.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International