IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  April 1, 2007

Poison Prevention Tips

When Jeff and Kathy Campbell's daughter awoke coughing one night, her parents stumbled into a dark kitchen for cough syrup but returned instead with a spoonful of Dermaton, a tick and flea killer. The pesticide contained a substance that can cause severe breathing problems, fluid in the lungs, and congestive heart failure.

“It was amazing how much the bottles were alike,” said Jeff Campbell. When Rachel complained about its taste, the Campbells recognized the pesticide smell and rushed Rachel to the hospital.

According to a news release from the Home Safety Council, 92 percent of all poisonings occur in homes. Although cleaning solutions are the most common cause of poisonings, overdoses of medicines and mistaken identity also cause numerous poisonings.

Many times accidental poisonings involve overdoses of seemingly safe over-the-counter medicines. For instance, an overdose of iron supplement is potentially fatal and swallowing an eye drop bottle’s contents can produce low blood pressure and comas.

The storage of poisonous materials can also lead to potential poisonings. Using soft drink bottles to hold paint thinner, turpentine, or gasoline invites children to taste them. Containers for pesticides, solvents, and cleaners can easily be mistaken for bottles of mouthwash and cough medicine. Sweet-smelling or good-tasting products, like perfumes and antifreeze, are particularly attractive to children.

The Safety Council recommends:

  • Evaluate where hazardous substances are stored and eliminate situations that could lead to a poisoning incident.
  • Store products in their original containers with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Store harmful products away from food and medicines.
  • Make sure all medications have child-resistant caps.

    Post the telephone number of a poison control center near the phone.


    Dietary sleepwalkers

    One Cornell University professor says many of us are dietary sleepwalking. It's like we're in a nutritional trance. We just eat whatever happens to be there without giving it a thought.

    In his book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam), Professor Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, explains the psychology behind it all.

    He writes about the "tablescape." How attractively food is arranged, how close it is to us, and how the room is lighted all affect how long we linger at the table and how much we will eat. Wansink recommends using smaller plates. With snacks, he says people using large bowls take half again as much as those using smaller bowls.

    If there is more variety, people will eat more. He recommends the rule of two, taking only two foods from a buffet at any one time. Refill as often as you want, but by taking just two foods each time, you'll eat less.

    When dining with others, the enjoyable atmosphere can cause you to eat up to 40 percent more. One tip: At a party, don't start eating until the last person at the table starts. Or go back to the rule of two.
    Wansink says it's best to avoid huge packages of snacks. He says half the food you buy in huge quantities will be gone in a week. If you want that 5 pound barrel of snacks, divide it into small plastic bags so you won't be eating a huge quantity at once.

    Want to slim down over time? Forget starving yourself. The professor says that if you cut 200 calories a day, you will be 20 pounds lighter in one year without ever feeling hungry.


    Omega-3s Go Into Foods

    Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, and possibly other diseases. The American Heart association recommends them. But because omega-3 is found naturally only in fish such as salmon, and in nuts, and oils, it's difficult to get much omega-3 in your diet.

    Food processors are changing that. Omega-3 is now the hottest food additive on the market. More than 250 different food products are now fortified with omega-3s. According to a HealthFocus USA Trend Survey, four in 10 adults are seeking more omega-3s in their diet.

    Tropicana is the first orange juice to contain it. Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter has 400 milligrams of omega-3 per serving. Omega Farms adds omega-3 to milk, cheese, yogurt, and orange juice. Eggland's Best gives its hens feed that is high in omega-3s, resulting in 100 mg per egg for consumers.

    Pet foods such as Iams and Eukanuba are fortified with omega-3s.

    Eat at home. Restaurant food has more fat, calories, and sodium.


  • Apples Protects Memory, Heart, and more

    Chalk up another victory for Mom's "apple a day" advice.

    While medical researchers spend their lives making discoveries that will improve our health, sometimes they discover that good food can be great medicine.

    When it comes to apples, the good news gets better all the time. Apples can preserve memory and help to prevent asthma, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

    Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell say the big news about apples right now is its possible ability to keep Alzheimer's disease away. Apples can increase production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, resulting in improved memory. Neurotransmitters are also vital for good health throughout the body. The UMass study mostly used apple juice.

    Apples are the best source of quercetin, an antioxidant that protects brain cells against oxidative stress. This is a tissue-damaging process associated with Alzheimer's disease.

    Drinking two cups of apple juice or eating three apples a day boosts production of quercetin. C.Y. Lee, professor and chairman of the Department of Food Science & Technology at Cornell University, says apples are among the best choices for fighting Alzheimer's.

    Lee says people should eat more apples, especially fresh ones. Red Delicious has a very high antioxidant content. Be sure to eat the skin. It can have 6 times more antioxidants than the flesh.

    Apples are well-known cancer fighters and heart protectors. They reduce risk of diabetes, asthma, and tooth loss.

    No-fuss apple-nut salad

    Set out salad bowls for the number of salads you will make. Cut apples (with skins) into small chunks and drop into each bowl. Add chopped walnuts and tiny marshmallows. Mix.

    In a separate bowl or large cup, slightly thin fat-free mayo with a little milk and sweeten to taste with sugar or sweetener. Mix well, then pour onto the individual salads. Serve immediately.


    New test reduces number of breast biopsies

    Doctors in the U.S. perform more than a million breast biopsies every year. The results come back normal eight times out of 10

    A new technology has now been developed that could greatly reduce the number of biopsies doctors feel they must do. Reported by the Radiological Society of North America, a new procedure called elasticity imaging involves no needles or scalpels. Yet it is very good at telling the difference between benign lumps, which are softer, and cancerous growths, which are harder. Elasticity imagining can easily tell the difference between the two.

    To a patient, an ordinary ultrasound and an elastogram, which requires only a few seconds more, feel the same.

    The technology is not yet available for general use. After international trials now taking place, however, it could eliminate the need for many thousands of biopsies.

    Supplement Gains Fans

    After recent studies suggest that resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, increases endurance and prolongs life span in mice, human beings are rushing to health food stores and Web sites to buy resveratrol. (Mice in the studies were given very high does of resveratrol.)

    David Sinclair, a biologist at Harvard Medical School, who led the study published in Nature, takes resveratrol himself. Others involved in the research take it too. They won't tell what brand or dosage they take. Still, Sinclair and other scientists say it's too early to recommend use of the substance to others.

    This Stent Disappears

    Abbott Laboratories' bio-absorbable stent reduces some of the risks associated with metal and drug-coated stents. It's rigid enough to widen an artery but begins to dissolve after a year. By then, the blood vessel has reshaped itself and can stay open without a prop, say doctors testing the stent in New Zealand.


    Easy Steps to Better Health

    Recommended by health writer Tara Parker-Pope, some of these ideas are not new, but put together, they can make a big difference in your weight and fitness level.

    Eat together at the table: People consume more when eating in front of the TV. And foods eaten "on the go" are generally higher in calories.

    Play with kids for at least 20 minutes a day. Ride a bike, jump rope, play touch football or soccer. You can visit this link at www.caloriecontrol.org/exercalc.html to find calories burned in various sports.

    Focus on favorite foods. Instead of trying to give up your favorites, eat smaller portions or switch to lower-fat versions. They can be just as good.

    Eat soup. "Volume" foods like soup leave you feeling full on fewer calories. Check The Volumetrics Eating Plan (Morrow Cookbooks) by Pennsylvania State University's Barbara Rolls.


    If you can't quit, at least exercise

    Smoking is a bad idea, no question about it. But if you haven't yet quit, you should know that exercise can reduce your risk of lung cancer.

    In a study of older women, researchers found that smokers who were physically active, had a 35 percent lower risk of lung cancer than sedentary smokers.

    The study of 42,000 women began in 1986. By the end of 2002, there were 36,410 participants and 777 cases of lung cancer. Of those, 125 were nonsmokers, 177 were former smokers, and 475 were current smokers.

    Among the 475 current smokers, 324 currently smoked and were not very physically active. Among the physically active smokers, there were 151 cases of lung cancer.

    Most experts think the reduction is trivial because smoking is so risky in so many ways. At the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, they say the most important thing smokers can do is quit.

    Those who quit are 10 to 11 times less likely to develop lung cancer.


    Early Detection of Kidney Disease

    Every day your kidneys go about their work of removing excess fluid and waste from your blood. You probably never think about them. But you should.

    In addition to filtering waste, the kidneys have several important jobs to do. Consider this: They produce the two hormones needed to make red blood cells and regulate blood pressure, and they produce the active form of vitamin D, which helps maintain calcium for bones and other body functions.

    At your regular checkup, ask your doctor about a blood test to measure your kidney function. Early detection of a problem is very important.

    Each kidney has millions of tiny nephrons that act as filters. Beginning about age 40, a natural loss of nephrons occurs, but because there are so many, that doesn't cause problems unless other factors are present. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or both, some nephrons will lose their ability to filter blood.

    In addition to controlling diabetes and blood pressure, you can protect your kidneys with these steps.

  • If you regularly take over-the-counter painkillers, especially for a long period of time, check with your doctor. The doctor may be able to recommend a safer alternative.
  • Get treatment for strep throat. When streptococcus invades the kidneys of adults, it can lead to kidney problems and kidney failure in some cases.
  • Know what's in "natural herb supplements." Some substances can work like prescription drugs. Patients taking blood thinners should know that garlic, ginger, ginko biloba, and ginseng all contain natural anticoagulants. They could cause internal bleeding in people taking blood thinners.


    Anger is Bad for Your Health

    Doctors at the Mayo Clinic have a story about the appetizer in a fancy restaurant: one shrimp.

    One diner was speechless, the second one laughed, and the third became angry and demanded to see the manager. These were three different responses to the same situation.

    Feeling angry is OK if it just happens now and then, but being angry too often, too intensely, or too long is not. It can make your heart race, your blood pressure skyrocket, your muscles tense, and your arteries dilate.

    This fight-or-flight response is good if you'll be fighting off a lion. If not, you're inviting your heart into a dangerous set of circumstances.

    To manage anger safely, think before you respond. Consider possible explanations for the situation. Defuse a possible blowup with humor if that's possible. This is particularly useful with discourteous drivers.

    If you get angry very often, identify your triggers so you can guard against them. With premeditation, you can be assertive but calm. Watch for similar situations and know how you will respond. Remember that when you get very angry, you hurt yourself, not the other person or other people.

    Believe it or not, getting into good physical condition can help you handle stressful situations or insults. Regular exercise can help reduce frustration. It can give you the confidence to know you can handle a problem and be in charge of it if you stay calm.

    Deciding to walk away can be the best course of action. If it's a letter, put it aside for a day or two. If it's a person, saying, "I'll get back to you on this," and walking off can diffuse the situation and give you time to come up with a good response.