F.D.A. to Restrict Avandia, Citing Heart Risk

By GARDINER HARRIS
Published: September 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — In a highly unusual coordinated announcement, drug regulators in Europe and the United States said Thursday that Avandia, the controversial diabetes medicine, would no longer be widely available.

The drug’s sales will be suspended entirely in Europe, while patients in the United States will be allowed access to the medicine only if they and their doctors attest that they have tried every other diabetes medicine and that patients have been made aware of the drug’s substantial risks to the heart. Patients now taking Avandia may continue to do so.

The Food and Drug Administration’s decision shows that the Obama administration is taking a harder line on drug safety issues, even in the face of scientific uncertainty. Along with its announcement, the agency for the first time immediately posted on its Web site internal memorandums from top staff members that in some cases offered entirely contradictory advice. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the agency’s commissioner, said that passions within the agency had run high on the Avandia decision.

“As F.D.A. commissioner, my job would be infinitely easier if we had consensus and full scientific clarity,” she said.

Dr. Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist whose studies highlighted Avandia’s heart attack risks, said that the decision brought an end to “one of the worst drug safety tragedies in our lifetime,” adding that it was “essential to fully investigate what went wrong with the regulatory process to prevent this type of tragedy from endangering patients in the future.”

One study estimated that from 1999 to 2009, more than 47,000 people taking Avandia needlessly suffered a heart attack, stroke or heart failure, or died.

The decision on Avandia signals a new era in the treatment of diabetes, a disease that is reaching epidemic proportions in much of the industrialized world. Because of Avandia, the F.D.A. announced in 2008 that it would no longer approve medicines simply because they help diabetics control blood sugar levels — the standard for more than 80 years. Instead, the F.D.A. now insists that drugmakers conduct trials lasting at least two years to show that their medicines do not hurt the heart and that they improve the quality or length of diabetics’ lives, far tougher tests.

The Avandia story also begins a new and unsettling period for pharmaceutical companies because Avandia’s risks became known only after Dr. Nissen analyzed data from clinical trials that GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of the drug, had been forced to post on its Web site as a result of a legal settlement. Such public postings are increasingly the norm, which means that drugmakers can no longer easily hide or control scientific information about their medicines.

The agency’s decision to order restrictions on Avandia’s sales also demonstrates that the F.D.A. — given new powers over drugmakers and drug distribution in a 2007 law — intends to use those powers. The agency has now ordered that dozens of drugs be sold only with special restrictions.

In explaining why the F.D.A. decided against only adding more warnings to Avandia’s label, Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the F.D.A.’s drug center said, “We know that labels are often not read.” It was an extraordinary acknowledgment from a veteran of an agency that for decades relied almost exclusively on label warnings to control drug use.

The suspension and restrictions all but ensure that Avandia’s sales — $1.19 billion last year and $3.2 billion as recently as 2006 — will plunge as regulatory authorities around the world are bound to follow with similar restrictions. Avandia was once the biggest-selling diabetes drug around the world, but concerns about heart attack risks have already cut sales. There are about 600,000 people currently taking Avandia in the United States, Dr. Hamburg said at a press conference. “I think the numbers will go down very, very significantly with these new requirements.”

GlaxoSmithKline responded that “the company continues to believe that Avandia is an important treatment for patients with Type 2 diabetes” and is working with the F.D.A. and European regulators “to implement the required actions.” The company promised that it would end Avandia promotions around the world.

The restrictions will take months to put in place. Patients now taking Avandia should continue to do so until they can consult their doctors, said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the F.D.A.’s principal deputy commissioner. But he said that doctors should now consider switching patients to other medicines.

European regulators began their own reassessment of Avandia in July after seeing a study of the drug by F.D.A. medical officers and another by Dr. Nissen in advance of a July F.D.A. advisory meeting. Once each agency learned of the other’s impending and similar decision — both were reached independently, Dr. Hamburg emphasized — they decided to coordinate their announcements.

Several consumer groups said that the F.D.A. should have removed Avandia from the market just as the Europeans did.

The Truth About Lowering Cholesterol

By Luella May on 09/07/2011

Lowering cholesterol levels has been a major focus of the medical profession for the last three decades. A routine doctor’s visit entails checking cholesterol levels, and much too often the patient leaves the doctor’s office with a prescription for some type of cholesterol lowering drug.

We are taught to fear cholesterol and told that high levels can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease. However, the truth of the matter is that our bodies need cholesterol, and it is highly unlikely that cholesterol will cause heart disease or otherwise harm our health.

While it is true that high cholesterol has been associated with heart attacks and other problems, no cause and effect relationship has ever been established. There has been no proof that high cholesterol itself causes heart attacks or other problems, nor has there been any proof that merely lowering cholesterol with drugs prevents such problems. The medical myth of cholesterol being evil sells lots and lots of drugs, but those drugs do not promote better health. In many instances such drugs actually lead to health problems.

The body needs cholesterol. Cholesterol is a vital component of every cell. Without cholesterol the body cannot make vital hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and cortisol. Cholesterol is a precursor to the hormone known as Vitamin D, which is vital for good health. In fact, too low a cholesterol level can increase a person’s risk of death.

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, fatty substance produced by the liver and found in the bloodstream and every cell in the body. Cholesterol performs vital bodily functions such as maintaining healthy cell walls and the production of bile acids. It is instrumental in the formation of memories and is necessary for neurological function.

According to the simplistic and self-serving explanations of conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical companies that make cholesterol-lowering drugs, there are two types of cholesterol:

High-density lipoprotein(HDL) is considered to be “good” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is said to keep arteries clear and remove arterial plaque.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered “bad” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is said to build up in arteries causing plaque to form, thus narrowing the arteries and making them less flexible. This is the condition called atherosclerosis. A blood clot forming in one of these narrowed arteries could result in a heart attack or stroke.

Additionally, triglycerides and lipoprotein are considered to be factors, which also determine the cholesterol count. Elevated triglycerides have been linked to heart disease and diabetes.

Lipoprotein is said to be made by “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and a protein called apoprotein. Elevated lipoprotein levels pose a high risk of heart disease. Interestingly, although lipoprotein has been well established as a high risk factor in heart disease, very few physicians check for high levels of it in their patients.

Through the years, the American Heart Association’s recommendation has been that total cholesterol levels be less than 200 mg/dl. It is interesting to note that cholesterol levels cannot determine heart disease risk unless they are above 330. However in 2004, the American Heart Association updated their guidelines, lowering the recommended LDL level from 130 to less than 100 for healthy patients, and to less than 70 for patients they consider at high risk for heart disease. There is no way to reach these ridiculously low levels other than by taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

In 2006, a review in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that there is insufficient evidence to support these numbers and further found that studies attempting to provide evidence that achieving specific LDL numbers improved health were flawed.

Beyond simplistic explanations and pharmaceutical company hype, Ron Rosedale, M.D., one of the leading anti-aging doctors in the United States, takes the cholesterol story beyond the simplistic explanation of conventional doctors and pharmaceutical company ads. He states that there is only one type of cholesterol and it is neither good nor bad, an explanation that fits with the common sense notion that Nature does not make mistakes.

Additionally, all LDL is not bad. LDL consists of different sized particles, ranging from large to small. The only LDL hat can be perceived as being a threat would be the small particle LDL, as it has the potential to squeeze through the lining of arteries, possibly oxidizing and thereby causing inflammation. Conversely, some HDL particles are also better than others, so keeping track of LDL and HDL levels really does not achieve much.

The president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Sally Fallon, goes so far as to say that high cholesterol is an invented disease. She states that if your cholesterol is high, it is because of increased inflammation in the body. This inflammation is not caused by cholesterol.

The purpose of the extra cholesterol manufactured by the liver during the inflammation process is to repair the inflammation. Therefore, if excess cholesterol is being distributed throughout the body due to chronic inflammation, it makes more sense to treat the chronic inflammation, instead of lowering cholesterol, especially through artificial means.

Lowering cholesterol can actually be dangerous. Despite what the medical profession says, any cholesterol under 150 is too low. An optimum level is 200. Lowering cholesterol can adversely affect the body as follows:

Cholesterol affects the metabolism of serotonin. A study conducted by Dutch researchers found that men with chronically low levels of cholesterol were at risk for depressive symptoms. Low cholesterol has also been linked to aggressive and violent behavior, two other results of low serotonin levels.

Studies performed at the Mayo Clinic have found that cancer patients with too low a cholesterol level are at a higher risk of dying. Too low a cholesterol level may impede the body’s ability to make healthy cells, thus making it difficult or even impossible for a person to recover from this disease.

Other reports indicate that cholesterol levels below 180 or 160 mg/dl are associated with a high risk of death due to hemorrhagic stroke, respiratory infections and infectious disease. It is interesting that cases of serious lung disease are on the rise along with the use of cholesterol lowering drugs.

Dangers of cholesterol medications

Cholesterol-lowering medications, besides bringing cholesterol levels dangerously low, also come with their own added dangers. Statin drugs work by inhibiting a liver enzyme that is necessary for the production of cholesterol. In the process, they deplete the body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) that is necessary for heart health, energy and muscle function.

Depletion of CoQ10 leads to fatigue, sore and weak muscles, and eventually to heart failure or cancer. The sore and weak muscles that characterize statin use are a very serious sign and can be life threatening. This condition is called rhabdomyolysis, and it can lead to muscle atrophy including atrophy of the heart muscle. Weak and sore muscles can also be a sign that body tissues are breaking down, a condition that can lead to kidney damage.

Statin drugs have been associated with a weakened immune system, liver disease, and increased risk of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

If you are intent on lowering cholesterol, do it naturally by focusing on a healthy diet and lifestyle, coupled with the following suggestions:

  • Animal-based omega 3 fats should be taken, an excellent source of which is fish oil.
  • Eliminate grains and sugar from your daily diet. Read the label on everything you buy and make sure it does not include dangerous sugars such as isolated fructose.
  • Eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible.
  • Eat healthy raw fats, including olive oil, coconut oil, organic raw full-fat dairy products (butter, cream, yogurt and cheese), avocados, raw nuts, seeds, eggs, and organic grass-fed meats.
  • Eliminate smoking.
  • Exercise daily. Exercise does not have to be strenuous. Do something you enjoy, such as walking or bike riding.
  • Work on resolving emotional issues and reducing stress. Implement methods such as meditation, relaxation, exercises, and the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

Be aware of the cholesterol myth. Our bodies need cholesterol, and too low a cholesterol level can actually endanger health. Eating the proper foods, together with following a healthy lifestyle, is the safest method of lowering cholesterol.

Glaxo chief: Our drugs do not work on most patients

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

A senior executive with Britain’s biggest drugs company has admitted that most prescription medicines do not work on most people who take them.

Allen Roses, worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), said fewer than half of the patients prescribed some of the most expensive drugs actually derived any benefit from them.

It is an open secret within the drugs industry that most of its products are ineffective in most patients but this is the first time that such a senior drugs boss has gone public. His comments come days after it emerged that the NHS drugs bill has soared by nearly 50 per cent in three years, rising by £2.3bn a year to an annual cost to the taxpayer of £7.2bn. GSK announced last week that it had 20 or more new drugs under development that could each earn the company up to $1bn (£600m) a year.

Dr Roses, an academic geneticist from Duke University in North Carolina, spoke at a recent scientific meeting in London where he cited figures on how well different classes of drugs work in real patients.

Drugs for Alzheimer’s disease work in fewer than one in three patients, whereas those for cancer are only effective in a quarter of patients. Drugs for migraines, for osteoporosis, and arthritis work in about half the patients, Dr Roses said. Most drugs work in fewer than one in two patients mainly because the recipients carry genes that interfere in some way with the medicine, he said.

“The vast majority of drugs – more than 90 per cent – only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people,” Dr Roses said. “I wouldn’t say that most drugs don’t work. I would say that most drugs work in 30 to 50 per cent of people. Drugs out there on the market work, but they don’t work in everybody.”

Some industry analysts said Dr Roses’s comments were reminiscent of the 1991 gaffe by Gerald Ratner, the jewellery boss, who famously said that his high street shops are successful because they sold “total crap”. But others believe Dr Roses deserves credit for being honest about a little-publicised fact known to the drugs industry for many years.

“Roses is a smart guy and what he is saying will surprise the public but not his colleagues,” said one industry scientist. “He is a pioneer of a new culture within the drugs business based on using genes to test for who can benefit from a particular drug.”

Dr Roses has a formidable reputation in the field of “pharmacogenomics” – the application of human genetics to drug development – and his comments can be seen as an attempt to make the industry realise that its future rests on being able to target drugs to a smaller number of patients with specific genes.

The idea is to identify “responders” – people who benefit from the drug – with a simple and cheap genetic test that can be used to eliminate those non-responders who might benefit from another drug.

This goes against a marketing culture within the industry that has relied on selling as many drugs as possible to the widest number of patients – a culture that has made GSK one of the most profitable pharmaceuticals companies, but which has also meant that most of its drugs are at best useless, and even possibly dangerous, for many patients.

Dr Roses said doctors treating patients routinely applied the trial-and-error approach which says that if one drug does not work there is always another one. “I think everybody has it in their experience that multiple drugs have been used for their headache or multiple drugs have been used for their backache or whatever.

“It’s in their experience, but they don’t quite understand why. The reason why is because they have different susceptibilities to the effect of that drug and that’s genetic,” he said.

“Neither those who pay for medical care nor patients want drugs to be prescribed that do not benefit the recipient. Pharmacogenetics has the promise of removing much of the uncertainty.”

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story.

Chiropractic: A Safer Alternative to Deadly Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Drugs

HRT drugs cause breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke, serious blood clots, dementia, and even brain shrinkage. MenopauseHormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) drugs (a combination of estrogen and progesterone) are still prescribed frequently for relief from sleep-disrupting night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings. Despite clearly documented risks, about 15 percent of postmenopausal women in the United States still take hormone therapy. Others suffer needlessly, when safe, gentle, effective chiropractic care may provide relief.

The risks of taking the combination of estrogen and progesterone—breast cancer, stroke, serious blood clots, dementia, even brain shrinkage—have been well established.

A study published in the February 5, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine, found that taking hormones for a full five years doubles your annual risk of getting breast cancer.

A study based on data from the landmark Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trial in May, 2009 concluded that use of combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is associated with a higher risk of dying for women diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.

Now a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows an association between hormone use and ovarian cancer—and it kicks in almost immediately after women begin taking hormones.

In the study, which culled the health records of nearly 1 million Danish women, researchers found a 38 percent greater risk of ovarian cancer among women who were currently taking hormone therapy. The risks didn’t appear to be affected by the types of hormones women were taking, the dose, the duration, or whether they were taking estrogen alone or a combination of estrogen and progesterone.

Unfortunately, bioidentical hormones—which have been touted by some as safer than traditional hormone therapy—are associated with the same increased ovarian cancer risk.

Women in the Danish study all took estradiol, a bioidentical hormone that has the same chemical structure as estrogen made by the body. And there was no difference in cancer risk between women who took non-identical synthetic progestin and those who took bioidentical progesterone.

Chiropractic care has an important and unique role in women’s health, including during menopause. Its benefits warrant exploration and consideration by all women.

Chiropractic care serves to promote function and repair communication and coordination of the nerve system through subluxation detection and correction. These factors can influence the success of the complex hormonal system, the stress response system and the immune system, to name a few areas important to women’s health.

How exactly does chiropractic care impact menopause symptoms? Here’s how it works.

Estrogen and progesterone are stimulated by the anterior pituitary gland, which is controlled by the hypothalamus portion of your brain. The hypothalamus is often referred to as the master control of your body, because it regulates and controls so many functions.

The hypothalamus receives its information from the internal organs through the nerve system that is housed within your spine.

The hypothalamus, in addition to regulating estrogen and progesterone, also receives information from other sections of your brain as well, such as your thalamus and limbic system. These systems control critical, delicate functions of your body such as emotions, sexual desire, thirst and hunger, body temperature, and sleep patterns.

Chiropractic specifically deals with your nerve system and spine. The spine, when under stress, irritates and decreases the function of the nerves that send the signals to control the levels of estrogen and progesterone. Simple stresses such as sitting for long periods, preservatives in foods, or a stressful day at work, can easily and often cause the spine to misalign causing subluxation.

Chiropractors reduce or eliminate these misalignments (subluxations) with safe, gentle chiropractic adjustments of the spinal vertebrae.

Since the nervous system controls all the functions of your body, it is imperative that you get your spine checked by a chiropractor regularly.

Simply getting under chiropractic care, exercising regularly, eating as many “hormone free” foods as possible (read the labels) and getting proper rest will help regulate and balance your hormonal system and help manage and diminish the effects of menopause.

Doesn’t that sound like a better idea than taking a drug that causes breast cancer, ovarian cancer, stroke, serious blood clots, dementia, and even brain shrinkage?

Back to school checkup: learning disorders and chiropractic

Learning disorders are just one of many neurological problems that affect children today. They also include hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and minimal brain damage among others.

The number of children diagnosed with these conditions is growing at a staggering rate, as medical historian Harris Coulter, PhD, has noted.

These disorders have received the appellation developmental disabilities. Probably the leading one is dyslexia, also called minimal brain damage. Another prominent one is autism. But there are many others. Approximately twenty percent of American children — one youngster in five — suffers from a developmental disability.

The Minnesota Chiropractic Association (MCA) is encouraging parents to include a regularly scheduled chiropractic checkup in their child’s health regime. Children under chiropractic care will experience optimal development of the nervous system, as interference with growth and development will be eliminated.

Just as with adults, a child’s brain and spinal cord is the power source for the entire body. However, during childhood connections are still being formed. When the connections are being developed we want them to be assembled perfectly. This will allow the body to function properly from the very beginning.

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Although not a treatment for neurological disorders, chiropractic has given many children suffering from neurological disorders new hope. Chiropractors, parents, and school officials have reported on the effectiveness of chiropractic for children with many kinds of neurological conditions including learning disorders, hyperactivity, inability to concentrate and behavior problems.

Be sure to mark your calendar for Sept. 30, 2011 when nationally known, Dr. Robert Rakowski will address “How to Control Learning Disorders with a Wellness Approach to Health (Position Your Child to Succeed).” This event will take place at the Southtown Conference Room at 8120 Penn Ave. South, Bloomington, Minn. from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The cost for this event is $15 per person or $25 for two people. For more information call 800-864-3769 or 952-882-9411.

Case study on ADHD

Chiropractic has been shown to help benefit children that suffer from learning disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. This disorder affects approximately 5 million children between ages of 4 and 17, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Boys are three times more likely to be affected by ADHD than girls.

Chiropractic offers an alternative to help manage ADHD. Studies have shown that chiropractic treatment that assesses motor dysfunction reduces symptoms and enhances cognitive performance.

Chiropractic has helped Leah, a 6-year-old girl who presented to the clinic with symptoms of more aggressive behavior, a hard time concentrating or completing a task and could not sit still. Her mother noted that her symptoms started around age 3 and had progressed every year since.

The mother was informed by her teacher that she was very disruptive in school and was falling behind in school work because she could not follow instruction. She did a lot of fidgeting with her hands and feet and was easily distracted. She had classic symptoms of ADHD and when tested was diagnosed with ADHD.

When doctors of chiropractic evaluate a child with ADHD, they look at the whole child. Evaluation of past and present health revealed that Leah had a history of ear infections and sinus issues. She was not good at eating breakfast and her diet was the typical American diet of less than nutritious food.

On evaluation of the spine, she had uneven shoulder and hip heights. She had abnormal motion to different levels of her neck, mid, lower back and pelvis. This abnormal motion causes the nervous system to malfunction. In chiropractic care, this lack of communication of the nervous system is called a subluxation.

When Leah started her chiropractic care, her mother reported changes within two weeks. These changes happened when normal motion was restored to her spine by gentle chiropractic adjustments. As chiropractic treatment continued, her mother had made diet changes that included less refined sugar, no dyes and she increased her fruits and veggies as prescribed by the chiropractor.

After four weeks, her mother started to report that she was able to participate in small groups in school without being disruptive. She started to read sitting by herself without someone there to keep her on task. Her teacher reported after three months that she was no longer a “challenging child.” Her mother also reported that her ability to establish friendships and interact with other children had returned to normal and no longer was there any aggressive behavior.

Leah went through two visits per week for four weeks and then one visit per week for another four weeks. Her mother one year later seeks chiropractic care for Leah on a once every three month basis as she feels Leah’s concentration starts to diminish. Her mother feels these visits “tune her up” and put her back to optimal levels of mental function.

Source: Minnesota Chiropractic Association, Mary Beth Minser, DC, FIPCA, www.mnchiro.com

Source: Abundant Life Chiropractic, www.abundantlife-chiropractic.com

Spine: Higher body fat leads to increased back pain

Spine: Higher body fat leads to increased back painPhiladelphia, Pa. – Increased back pain among people who are overweight or obese is specifically related to increased body fat content, reports a study in the September 15 issue of Spine. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

With further research, interventions to prevent increased fat mass may help to reduce the risks of back pain and related disability, according to the new study, led by Donna M. Urquhart, Ph.D., of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. For her research, Dr. Urquhart was named winner of Spine’s 2011 Young Investigator Award.

Increased Fat Mass Linked to Back Pain—But Which Comes First?

The study included 135 participants, ranging from normal weight to obese. All completed a standard questionnaire to measure low back pain intensity and related disability. They also underwent a test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry for detailed assessment of body composition, including measurement of fat and lean body mass.

The results showed that heavier people had higher levels of back pain intensity. For each five-unit increase in body mass index (BMI)—equivalent to the difference between being classified as overweight or obese—the odds of high-intensity back pain increased by 35 percent. For back pain disability, the association was even stronger: 66 percent per five-unit increase in BMI.

However, the increase in back pain at higher BMIs was specifically related to increased fat mass. For each five-kilogram (eleven pounds) increase in body fat mass, the odds of high-intensity back pain increased by 19 percent. For increased fat mass in the lower limbs, the increase was 51 percent.

In contrast, lean body mass was unrelated to back pain. Thus the increase in back pain intensity among people with higher BMIs was wholly related to their higher body fat content—not just the fact that they were heavier. People with higher body fat also had increased disability from back pain.

Back pain and disability were also related to specific patterns of body fat—including increased fat in the trunk area, around the abdomen (android fat mass), and around the hips, thighs, and buttocks (gynoid fat mass). On adjustment for possible confounding factors, “[N]o measures of lean tissue mass were associated with higher pain intensity or disability,” Dr. Urquhart and colleagues write.

Low back pain is an extremely common problem that is usually “nonspecific”—unrelated to any spinal abnormality. Particularly with the rising obesity rate, it has been suggested that increased body weight may contribute to back pain. However, previous studies found only a weak relationship. The new study is the first to look at how back pain is related to more detailed measures of body fat—including specific patterns of fat and lean mass distribution.

The results show that greater fat mass is specifically associated with increased back pain and disability, while lean tissue mass is not. Several factors probably contribute to the link between fat mass and back pain, including greater mechanical demands on the spine. Metabolic factors related to higher fat mass—such as increased inflammatory activity—may also play a role.

Because of its cross-sectional design (participants studied once), the study can’t determine which comes first: increased fat mass or back pain. Longitudinal studies (participants studied repeatedly over time) would be needed to determine whether higher fat mass predicts the later development of low back pain. If so, then measures to control body fat might be effective in preventing back pain and related and disability.

Review: Probiotics have slight preventive effect on colds

September 16, 2011 — Taking probiotics seems to provide both children and adults with a mild degree of protection against many upper respiratory tract infections including the common cold, according to a new systematic review.

People who consume probiotics are also less likely to end up taking antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, the review found.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods like yogurt, soy yogurt and kefir. People also often take probiotics as supplements. The reviewers compared how often colds and other respiratory infections occurred in people who consumed probiotics to people who took placebos and found a statistically significant difference.

“Probiotics intervention was better than placebo in reducing the number of participants experiencing episodes of acute upper respiratory tract infections,” said review co-author Quikui Hao in an email. “Limited information from three of the 14 studies we included in our analysis also showed that probiotics can reduce the prescription of antibiotics.”

Hao is a medical student at Sichuan University in China, where he works with lead review author Bi Rong Dong, MD.

Colds and other upper respiratory infections are the most common reason that people in the U.S. seek medical care, the reviewers say. The average American has two to six colds each year, usually mild viral infections that resolve themselves after a few days.

Upper respiratory infections also include tonsillitis, laryngitis, and pharyngitis, an inflammation of the pharynx and the most common cause of a sore throat. Other frequently occurring upper respiratory infections are acute sinusitis, acute middle ear infection, and croup. Symptoms including nasal congestion, sore throats, hoarseness, and coughing.

The researchers based their conclusions on 14 randomized controlled trials that included 3,451 participants. More than two-thirds of participants were children. The average age of adults was 40. Studies were conducted in Australia, Chile, Croatia, Finland, Japan, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S.

Probiotics include a wide variety of live active microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria, also called lactobacillus, and bifidobacteria. The review considered any probiotic, whether it was a single strain or multiple strains, at any dosage level for more than seven days.

There was no difference in how long a respiratory infection lasted in the probiotics group compared to the group consuming placebos. Participants taking probiotics experienced only a few minor side effects. These were mostly gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, flatulence and discomfort or pain in the lower intestinal region.

The researchers found when studying all the pooled data that there were no significant differences in the occurrence of such side effects among people taking probiotics and those taking placebo.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

In Greek, the word “probiotics” means “for life.” Hao said that more than a century ago, Elie Metchnikoff a Nobel Prize-winning researcher in immunology, ran a series of studies that showed that the ingestion of microbes produced by lactic acid, that is probiotics, could help relive both respiratory tract and digestive disorders.

However, more recent studies focusing on the impact of probiotics upon URTIs have been inconclusive, Hao said. “With the increasing consumption of probiotics in fermented foods or as dietary supplements, we feel that it is very important to understand the effects of probiotics on acute URTIs and their potential adverse effects in humans.”

Mohamed Mubasher, PhD, a former associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas, said, “What’s exciting about this research is the fact that probiotics, a drug-free natural product, can potentially boost and enhance the human immune system and also regulate the production of beneficial bacteria within the human system.”

Mubasher said that he considered the authors of this review to have competently evaluated the results of the 14 studies they reviewed. However, he added that with regard to reducing the duration of URTIs, he suspected that many of the studies covered by this analysis were of insufficient sample size to really support such claims.

He also noted a drawback which the authors had themselves acknowledged: Elderly adults were not included among the study participants. As people age, their immune systems weaken. Older adults might stand to benefit significantly from immune system enhancements, even mild ones such as those that probiotics seem to offer to younger people.

Source: Health Behavior News Service, Center for Advancing Health, www.cfah.org/hbns

Why a Growing Number of Parents are Choosing Chiropractic

Chiropractors for kids: Could working on a child’s back help more than just aches and pains?

Some D.C. area parents say yes!

31-year-old Marietta Watts is concerned her five-month-old baby, Hugh, is going to develop asthma and allergies. So right after he was born, she took him to the chiropractor.

“His dad does have asthma, did have asthma as a child and I had allergies as a child as well, so. It could be hereditary but if we can prevent it, we will,“ she said.

Watts is part of a growing number of parents taking their children to chiropractors. A recent National Institutes of Health report found that three percent of American children were cared for by a chiropractor, making it the 2nd most common type of alternative medicine for children.

“Parents should bring their kids regardless if there’s something wrong or not,“ said Natasha Smith, who is a chiropractor.

Natasha Smith says manipulating a child’s spine or giving “adjustments” can help with more than just back problems. She believes it can cure chronic ear infections, allergies, colds, even bed wetting and problems with sleep.

“Our main goal, our main function is to remove any nervous interference that affects the body’s ability to heal. So with all of our patients, that is our goal. We are just assessing the spine, feeling for any type of misalignments,“ Natasha Smith said.

She also says when the nerves along the spine become compressed, that can cause problems in other parts of the body, even other organs.

“Once you remove that spinal misalignment that’s putting pressure at the nerve, the nerve is then able to function better, so as a result of the nerve functioning better, you’re able to supply those muscles, organs in the body better and therefore overall, feel a lot better,“ she said.

While a 2007 safety review found that injuries were rare, some medical experts worry that one wrong move could seriously injure a child.

“The biggest concern that I have is that some chiropractors, probably all chiropractors are trained to do high velocity movements, but I think that some chiropractors have used them on children and that’s very, very dangerous,“ Dr. Sally Evans, a pediatrician, said.

Dr. Sally Evans from Children’s National Medical Center says since a child’s ligaments are more flexible, some types of sudden, quick movements could cause spinal cord injuries.

But Smith says, she’s very gentle when it comes to working with children. The amount of pressure she applies to the back is similar to how a person would feel a ripe tomato.

“I believe that if there is a way that you can treat a child or treat a person non conventionally, in the sense of using medicine, why not try it?,“ she said.

Doctors say that if you are going to bring your child to the chiropractor, make sure that the person is board certified.

There are some chiropractors who specialize in working with children.

Chiropractic Provides Relief from Major Depression

46-year old man overcame his major depression and increased his quality of life after chiropractic care.

A case study published in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research credits regular chiropractic care with helping a 46-year old man overcome his major depression and increase his quality of life. The study documents the important role chiropractic care can play in the management of depressions.

More than 15 million American adults are diagnosed with mood disorders every year, which include major depression, Dysthymia and Bipolar Disorder. The disease is usually treated with antidepressants, according to the study, but the quality of life of people who are clinically depressed is subdued by the medications’ many unwanted side effects.

In this particular study, a 46-year old man suffered from major depression and was taking an antidepressant with unwanted side effects, such as decrease in his sex drive, dizziness, muscle weakness and insomnia. A chiropractic evaluation revealed that he had suffered physical trauma in the past, which led to vertebral subluxations. A subluxation is a condition in which the body is unable to function properly because of interferences with the nervous system, and the condition may be corrected with chiropractic adjustments.

The patient had a total of 34 adjustments done on various parts of his spine over a period of 11 months. After the first visit, his dizziness subsided, and he experienced a decrease in lower back and neck pain. After three visits, he felt less anxious and fatigued and reported an increase in muscle strength. Over time, his depression significantly improved, and he was eating healthier.

Previous studies have shown a correlation between injury or trauma to the spine and the onset of social disorders, in addition to biochemical changes in the brain.

A healthy spine is vital to your health, to your overall state of well being and thus to your quality of life.