IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  September 1, 2008

Zucchini Date Bread a Spicy Summer Treat

What is that late summer specter that lurks silently beneath the garden foliage? It's not the "Great Pumpkin," but rather, the "Great Zucchini," too big and too pulpy to saute like its early-season counterparts.

What is a chef to do? Make it into a nutritious breakfast cake or dessert, substituting honey and dates for the sugar in most traditional zucchini bread recipes. Moist, spicy and richly brown, it adds to any feast.

The sweet bread retains the fiber and vegetable qualities of the green squash. The nuts provide additional roughage for better digestion.

Zucchini date bread

3 eggs
1 cup honey
1 cup chopped and pitted dates
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups grated zucchini
(coarse and with skin)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Whisk eggs together with oil, and slowly add honey and vanilla. Mix until well blended.

Stir in a mixture of the sifted flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. Add the zucchini, dates and walnut pieces. Mix thoroughly.

Place the batter in a well-greased loaf pan or three miniature loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until golden brown and when a wooden skewer will pull cleanly from the loaf. Eat it while it's hot (you could add ice cream) or freeze the loaves for a winter treat.

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National Adult Immunization Week: Sept. 21-27

Check this list of immunizations to see what's right for you.

Immunization is one of the most important public health achievements of the 20th century. It offers safe protection from infectious diseases.

A doctor can determine which vaccines are advised for an individual considering age, lifestyle, gender and locations of travel.

Tetanus and diphtheria: Shots should be repeated every 10 years throughout adulthood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chickenpox: Can be very serious in adults. Anyone who hasn't had it should be immunized.

Hepatitis A: Shots are important for gay men, people who use street drugs and those traveling to Central or South America and other foreign countries.

Hepatitis B: A disease of the liver which can stay in the system for years without detection. It is spread by blood contact, sex with an infected person and by needle sticks.

Human Papilloma virus, HPV: Infects cervical cells. Recommended for teenage girls and young women.

Influenza: Annual shots are advised for all who want to avoid the flu and its possible complications.

Shingles: Painful condition caused by the chickenpox virus, which can remain in the system since childhood. Adults over age 60 should be immunized.

Meningococcal: Infection may lead to meningitis, which can be fatal. Spread by coughing, kissing and sharing eating utensils. College students and military recruits should be immunized.

Measles, mumps, German measles and whopping cough: Check with your doctor. If you haven't had them, get immunized if you are a student, work in a hospital or travel internationally.

Polio: Can lead to paralysis. Those who travel to infected areas should get polio shots.

Pneumonia: Get immunized if you have a weakened immune system or are over age 65.


Chuckles Corner

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

New diagnostic test will save lives.

Ovarian cancer ranks as the most lethal of gynecological malignancies. It is only 10 percent as common as breast cancer, but its mortality rate is three times as high. The reason: No test to detect it was available.

In the coming months, there will be. In what's being hailed as a milestone in women's health, researchers at Yale University have developed a simple test to detect ovarian cancer in its earliest stages. If not detected early, before it spreads, the 5-year mortality rate is more than 93 percent. About 16,000 women will die of ovarian cancer this year.

The researchers have devised a screening test that measures six cancer-related proteins in blood. Previously, the proteins had been linked individually to cancer. Now the researchers have found that by measuring all six at the same time, they could reliably diagnose ovarian cancer, a big breakthrough.

The blood test is in its final stage III trial and is expected to be widely available, probably within a year.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and mimic those of other conditions. Recent research shows that these four symptoms are predictive: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary urgency and frequency.

Often there are no symptoms, which is why the new test is so important.


Primary Care Physicians Move to Electronic Records

A survey by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston shows that only 4 percent of primary care physicians have converted paper records to a complete electronic system. Another 13 have converted from paper records to basic electronic systems. Those surveyed said the systems improved care.

An additional 42 percent of primary care physicians say they are either in the process of implementing an electronic system or are planning to do so within two years. That's good news, says Catherine DeRoches of Mass General who led the survey.

The systems include safety features for the patient, such as prompts on when a medication may react badly with another drug the patient is already taking.

The cost of converting is estimated to be about $60,000 for each doctor, or billions of dollars nationwide. The federal government has a $150 million pilot program that would help hundreds of doctors switch and create a blueprint for others to follow.

Patients benefit in several other ways. The systems allow them to request prescription refills, set up appointments, view their medical records and update them, and request referrals.


Prescribed and Over-the-Counter Pain Relief Patches

The safest pain patches are those sold at drugstores without a prescription. Typically, they contain camphor or menthol and are versions of Bengay, Aspercreme or Tiger Balm creams.

Pain patches provide more consistent relief than pills because the relief from pills decreases between doses.

In February 2008, the Food and Drug Administration approved Flector, a prescription pain relief patch. It can be used for short-term pain such as that from pulled muscles, or severe bruises. It is applied directly to the sensitive area and can be reapplied every 12 hours, but Flector is still strong medicine.

It contains diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. Stomach upset may be experienced but not as much as with other NSAIDs. Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Centers say the Flector patch should not be used by people who are at risk for heart disease. It raises the risk of blood clots, which can cause heart attack, or stroke.

The strongest prescription pain relief patch, Duragesic, is made with fentanyl, a powerful narcotic. It may be prescribed for people who need around-the-clock pain relief, such as cancer patients. It should not be used by surgery patients or people with occasional pain from conditions like bursitis or a pulled muscle.

If your doctor prescribes a Duragesic patch, follow the directions very carefully. Overdose can cause difficulty breathing, feeling faint and dizziness. Some fatalities have occurred.


MD or DO, What's the Difference?

Medical doctors (MDs) and Osteopathic physicians (DOs) seem to do the same things, so you could be wondering what the difference is.

An MD is a physician trained at a standard four-year medical school. DOs receive the same four-year medical school education but with osteopathic philosophies tied into the basic principles of medicine.

They take special training for treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Some specialize in rehabilitation and sports medicine and may work as team doctors.

As with MDs, DOs take residency training in any of the medical specialties, from family medicine to surgery.


Another Stem Cell Success

Doctors at the University of Minnesota Medical School have successfully eliminated a genetic disease suffered by a 2-year-old boy. The treatment, they say, could open the door for a variety of stem cell treatments.

Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow that circulated through the patient's blood, they treated recessive epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic disease that affects one in every 100,000 children. Such children lack a protein called collagen type VII that anchors the skin and lining of the gastrointestinal system to the body.

Those with the disease suffer skin tearing and blistering, wounds and scaring. Solid food erodes the esophagus, and death results from malnutrition, infections or aggressive skin cancer.

New Lupus Genes Identified

International researchers have identified six new genes that may increase a person's risk of developing lupus. The discovery could mean better diagnosis and treatment in the future.

All genes encode or produce proteins, and these genetic factors can predict patterns that occur in lupus, an autoimmune disease.

Study leaders at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery say the international studies confirm what investigators have been finding over the past decades. The six proteins described in the study function in cells of the immune system.

Men and Silent Osteoporosis

More than 2 million American men have osteoporosis but are seldom diagnosed. Another 12 million have osteopenia, a condition that leads to full-fledged osteoporosis.

A sedentary lifestyle and nutritional deficiencies, mainly of calcium and vitamin D, are among the main causes in men. Those who have taken oral steroids for a six-month period in their lifetime are also at increased risk. Regular exercise and supplements of calcium and vitamin D are protective for men.


Physical Activity Reduces Cancer Risk

For men: Studies at UCLA and elsewhere show that physically active men have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Physical activity on a job that included walking and light labor was best.

For women: Those who are physically active over their lifetimes are at lower breast cancer risk. Researchers found that in women who were the most active, cancer risk decreased by 26 percent compared to those who were the least active.

Everyone: Many studies show exercise helps prevent cancers of the colon.

Eye Health and AMD

Almost everyone has seen grids published in magazines. They look like the outline of a checkerboard. If you first close one eye, then the other to look at it, you might have discovered that with one or both eyes, the lines were a little wavy in the center of the grid.

The bad news is that you may have a very early case of macular degeneration or AMD. The good new is that eye-health supplements could make those lines look straight again.

Doctors at Tufts University say a combination of vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin increase central-retinal function in patients with early AMD. Most of these are incuded in a multivitamin. The last three are not.

Good for Your Heart: A Cat

Yes, it appears to be true. Owning a cat reduces your risk of having a heart attack. Researchers for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study II found that people who don't own cats have a 40 percent greater risk of dying from a heart attack than cat owners do.

Researchers at the Minnesota Stroke Institute suggest that cats help reduce their owners' stress and anxiety. They found cat owners to be at a lower risk of dying from all cardiovascular diseases, but the difference was significant only for heart attack.