IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  April 1, 2006

Yes, Quit Smoking, Carefully

Smoking is dangerous to your health, but a study published in the British journal Nature shows that quitting can be a little risky too. It puts you in danger of having an accident, at least in the day or two after you quit.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms appear to make people less careful at work and elsewhere. Study leaders analyzed a decade's worth of accident reports in industry and found a small but persistent surge in the number workers sent home with injuries on the day of The Great American Smokeout.

Whatever day it is when you quit for good, remember to be a little more careful in everything you do.


Chili Can Keep You Healthy

It's a great dish to make, especially on a cold day when you need to feed a lot of people.

Chili is not really a Mexican dish. Some say the first recipe was written by a Spanish nun, Sister Mary of Agreda, in 1618. That was just the beginning. By the 1850s, Texas trail cooks planted chili peppers, oregano, and onion in mesquite patches (that kept cattle away) to be used on future trail drives.

As a health-conscious cook today, your first priority is to start with good quality ground beef. Choose 83 percent to 85 percent lean in order to reduce fat content.

Meat being its main ingredient, chili is high in protein, iron that fights fatigue, zinc that boosts immunity, and vitamins, B-6 for vitality, B-12 for healthy blood cells, niacin for nerves, and thiamine to convert blood sugar into energy.

The tomato paste in chili brings abundant lycopene which fights free radicals before they can cause cancer.

The onions in chili can raise HDL, the good cholesterol, thin the blood, and prevent hardening of the arteries. And they contain quercetin, a cancer fighter.

The capsaicin in chili peppers is an anticoagulant that helps to keep blood clots from forming. It is also used to treat asthma and migraine headaches.


Low Back Pain and Physical Therapy

A new study reported in the British Medical Journal shows that physical therapy exercises can reduce low back pain as much as spinal fusion surgery.

Patients in the exercise program took 75 hours of treatment led by physical therapists. Daily exercises tailored to the patients' individual capabilities included stretching of muscle groups, spinal flexibility and stabilization exercise, muscle strengthening, aquatic therapy, and cardiovascular endurance exercise such as treadmill walking, stepups, cycling, and rowing.

Psychologists in the program helped patients overcome fears and unhelpful beliefs that many developed when they were in pain.

An equal group of patients in the study had spinal surgery including spinal fusion, and/or titanium cylinders placed between spinal discs, bone grafts, and stabilization surgery.

After six, 12, and 24 months, results of physical therapy were just as favorable as the results of back surgery.


New Home HIV Test

The FDA is slated to approve a new over-the-counter HIV test very soon.

The $15 OraQuick Advance gives a positive or negative diagnosis within 20 minutes. The kit requires a swab of saliva from the gums.

HIV is now treatable with anti-viral drugs.


Protein Keeps Hunger Away

It's true that protein suppresses appetite in a way that fats and carbohydrates can't. The success of high-protein diets attests to that.

Protein has a second quality that may be equally important to people who are losing weight. One of protein's amino acids, leucine, appears to be the key to keeping muscle while losing fat, say researchers at the University of Illinois. Other studies show that leucine can promote muscle building when overall calories are low.

To get plenty of leucine from protein and still avoid the animal fat in meat, consider these low-fat sources as recommended by Prevention:

  • 1/2 cup of firm tofu, 1,511 mg.
  • 1/2 cup 1% fat Cottage cheese, 1,440 mg. of leucine.
  • 8 ounces fat-free milk, 818 mg.
  • 1 ounce reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, 670 mg.
  • 1 ounce reduced fat cheddar cheese, 608 mg.
  • Hard-boiled or soft-boiled egg, 538 mg.
  • 1 cup coucous, cooked, 464 mg.


    Statins Do a Body Good

    Millions of people who take statin drugs to lower cholesterol appear to be enjoying more benefits than they bargained for.

    Those who regularly take medicines like Lipitor, Lescol, Pravachol, and Zocor may have just half the usual risk for cancer of the colon, prostate, pancreas, and esophagus.

    Additionally, a three-year study reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry concludes that statins slow the progress of Alzheimers Disease.


    Asthma Doesn't Have to Control Your Life

    Experts say that virtually all asthma deaths are preventable, but more than 5,000 people in the U.S. die from it each year. Asthma accounts for a quarter of all emergency room visits, is the fourth leading cause of work absence, and is the leading cause of school absences.

    The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has a new set of treatment guidelines aimed at changing those numbers. It calls for an individualized and often-modified treatment plan aimed at symptoms.

    Most patients aren't reaching their asthma control goals. Of the 88 percent who believe they are in control, more than half have to catch their breath while running upstairs, have to interrupt exercise because of symptoms, and wake during the night because of breathing problems. This is not control. Asthma is controlled if:

  • Symptoms occur twice a week or less.
  • Bronchodilator medication is used twice a week or less.
  • There are no breathing problems at night or early in the morning.
  • Peak air flow is normal or at a personal best.

    One difficulty is that circumstances are constantly changing. Allergic triggers, other illnesses, exercise, and stress can change asthma from day to day.

    The new guidelines are:

    1. Patients should use a peak-flow monitor daily and keep a peak-flow chart so they can quickly see when their condition is worsening.

    2. They should visit their doctors regularly and bring their chart. With this information, doctors can design a treatment plan that incorporates needed medicines such as inhalers, inhaled steroids, and rescue medications as needed.

    3. Keep the bedroom allergy free. Use allergen-impermeable covers for pillows and mattresses and keep rugs and pets out of the bedroom.


  • Pueblo Reduced Heart Attacks

    The city of Pueblo, Colo., passed smoke-free ordinances which banned smoking in restaurants, offices, and other indoor spaces. Within the following 18 months, heart attacks were reduced by 27 percent. Heart attack numbers fell soon after the ordinances went into effect.

    Almost all heart attack patients in Pueblo are treated in one of two hospitals, both of which maintain electronic medical records. This made gathering of statistics relatively simple.

    Moderate Alcohol Use Produces New Brain Cells

    It is well known that one or two glasses of alcohol, especially red wine, is good for the nerves and good for the heart.

    Now there is more good news. Drinking moderately over a long period of time can enhance the formation of new nerve cells in the adult brain. Research published by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, shows that the new brain cells discourage dementia in later life.

    Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center studied the effect of alcohol and determined that older women who drank a moderate amount each day performed better on cognitive functions and reason, and suffered less dementia than women who abstained.

    Antibiotic Decreases Osteoarthritis Progression

    Osteoarthritis (OA), the wear and tear form, affects about 21 million Americans. Until now, treatment was mainly for the symptoms and didn't alter the course of the disease.

    New research suggests that doxycycline, an inexpensive antibiotic can inhibit the degradation of the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in joints, allowing joints to move smoothly.

    Further studies by Indiana University School of Medicine show that after 30 months of treatment with doxycycline, patients lost 33 percent less joint space than those who took a placebo. Joint space narrowing indicates loss of cartilage and osteoarthritis progression.


    You CAN Get a Cold If You Are Chilled

    Though infectious disease specialists have long said that getting chilled or having cold, wet feet can't give you a cold, research proves they are wrong.

    Studies at Cardiff University's Common Cold Centre in Britain show that chills can lower the nose's natural defenses and unleash latent viruses. They say we all carry cold viruses, but respiratory defenses keep them in check.

    For everyone you see with a cold, there are two or three who have a subclinical infection. It's those people who are prone to developing a common cold when they are chilled, say the researchers.

    Dog Walking Beats Dieting

    Studies reported in the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter show that walking a dog regularly can encourage people to lose more weight than dieting can. The study showed that those who walked dogs for 50 weeks lost an average of 14 pounds. They began walking 10 minutes daily, three times a week, working up to a routine of 20 minutes a day, five times a week.

    Participants in the study said they knew it was good for their health, but they mostly enjoyed walking because it was good for the animals.

    Fish is Food For Your Brain

    Want your brain to stay young or get younger? Eat fish. Research at Rush University studied mental function of people age 65 and older. They found that those who ate fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids once a week slowed their rate of cognitive decline by 10 percent.

    Don't Use Peroxide on Cuts

    The American Academy of Family Physicians says peroxide can damage living tissue. Application of the powerful disinfectant can lead to a wound that heals slowly or not at all.

    Soap and water are a much better choice. If you're worried about infection, consider a triple-antibiotic cream such as Neosporin.