IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  October 1, 2006

Smoking: An Option for Quitters

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new medication for smokers who want to quit. Pfizer's varenicline, marketed as Chantix, targets areas of the brain that are affected by nicotine. It eases withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of inhaled cigarette smoke. If a patient lights up, any pleasurable effect would not be there.

The prescription drug is slated to be on the market by October or November, but the price has not been set. Even if it's high, however, money saved from not buying cigarettes could cover it in a short time.

The FDA recommends a 12-week course for the tablet, taken daily starting one week before the smoker's targeted quit date. Possible side effects include nausea, headaches, and constipation.

In clinical trials, more than one in five smokers using Chantix remained smoke-free for at least one year.

That's a big improvement over current medications according to the American Cancer Society.


New Discoveries About Healing Foods

Scientists are continually adding to what we know about the health benefits of various foods.

For example:

Whole Grains: Don't like broccoli? Eat whole grains instead. University of Minnesota researchers have discovered that whole grains deliver an army of phytonutrients that do almost as much as fruits and vegetables.

Cherries: They're an all-natural pain reliever that may even relieve the intense pain of gout (if you can eat a couple of dozen of them). Scientifically, cherries reduce C-reactive protein in the blood, which the body produces in response to acute inflammation, according to the Western Human Nutrition Research Center at Davis, Calif.

Yogurt: Those that contain "live" or "active" cultures help fight illness and disease. It is the most popular food containing probiotics. New studies found that yogurt greatly improves a person's ability to fight off pneumonia.

Salmon: Eating salmon reduces blood pressure and cholesterol. Salmon helps prevent heart disease because of its healthy content of omega-3 fatty acids.

Now researchers at the University of California report that a higher intake of omega-3s preserves bone density, keeping bones stronger. If you don't like salmon, eat more tuna or sardines.

Cabbage: Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli have anti-cancer properties. But new studies show cabbage is in a class by itself. In addition to its tendency to protect against breast cancer, the sulforaphane in cabbage protects against lung, stomach, and colon cancers.

Sulforaphane stimulates cells to eliminate cancerous substances. Eat cabbage by itself or add it to soups and salads.


Skin Protection for Drivers

The American College for Dermatologic Surgery advises that the UVA rays of the sun can penetrate windshields and damage facial skin. They recommend that drivers apply an SPF 15 sunscreen.
The dermatologists say it's a mistake to assume that a car gives sun protection.

The left arms of most drivers also get a lot of sun even if the window is closed.


Shingles Vaccine Approved

A potent new version of the chicken pox vaccine has won federal approval to prevent shingles recurrence.

The vaccine, Zostavax reduces the risk of shingles, but it is only for adults who previously have had chicken pox.

Zostavax does not prevent the initial infection by the virus, and it cannot treat active cases of shingles. But it helps to prevent re-emergence of the virus by boosting a patient's immunity to it.
Shingles results in significant and chronic pain which can last for months.

HPV Vaccine Approved

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Gardasil, manufactured by Merck. It protects against two strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), that lead to cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women. In clinical trials, nearly 100 percent of those vaccinated were protected. Gardasil also immunizes against genital warts. Some doctors say this is the biggest breakthrough since the invention of the Pap test.

In the U.S., about 80 percent of sexually active women will be exposed to HPV. Often it is harmless, but some strains are not and can lead to cervical cancer.

Immunization requires three injections over a 6-month period at $120 each. The vaccine is most effective when given before sexual activity begins.

Potassium and Alzheimer's

New research reported in Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Disorders suggests that low serum potassium levels at mid-life may be a precursor of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. (Food sources include fresh vegetables, dairy foods, fish, legumes, and grains. Rich sources are raisins, dates, prunes, yams, mushrooms, nuts, and winter squash.)

There was also an association with high blood pressure. A study in the Archives of Neurology suggests that the use of antihypertensive medications should focus on potassium-sparing diuretics to reduce the risk of dementing illnesses.



The 'disease of kings' can strike anyone, especially the overweight

For centuries, gout was thought of as a disease of the wealthy or the gluttonous. It's probably because many foods that cause flare-ups were once luxuries.

Today, one to five million Americans, most neither rich nor self-indulgent, suffer the pain of gout. Most are overweight and over 40.

Gout is a type of arthritis in which glasslike shards of uric acid jab into the joints, causing searing pain. The big toe is often affected. Fever and chills may develop during an attack.

Normally, purines are broken down into uric acid. Uric acid dissolves in the blood, is filtered out by the kidneys, and eliminated in the urine. People with gout either produce too much uric acid or have trouble getting rid of it.

What a patient eats can trigger an attack. Liver, beef, pork, lamb, and all seafood have a high purine content. Overindulgence can cause a flare-up.

One study linked lower alcohol consumption to fewer gout attacks. Study authors noted, however, that those who drank alcohol also drank less milk. Low fat dairy products can help prevent an attack because the proteins in milk reduce uric acid levels.

There is no cure for gout, but high doses of NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen may control the pain. Prednisone can reduce the inflammation in people who can't tolerate NSAIDs.

Newer drugs such as allopurinol lower uric acid levels, but can't be taken during an attack. Allopurinol prevents the conversion of purine to uric acid.

Other new drugs are in the pipeline for FDA approval, say doctors at Johns Hopkins. Until then, slimming down, eating right, and drinking plenty of water will help lower uric acid levels and decrease the risk of attacks.


Shoes, Exercises, Fix Foot Pain

The workday can seem long when your feet hurt. Podiatrists at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine give this breakdown of new advice for various people:

Steel-toed shoe wearers. Try a soft over-the-counter sole, or see a podiatrist for a custom-made orthotic insert.

Diabetics: Don't buy shoes by how they feel. Get your feet measured so your feet won't become crowded.

On your feet all day? Get well-made shoes or sneakers with arch supports. Sometimes a custom-made orthotic insert is needed.

Pregnant women: When your feet expand, buy a larger size shoe.

Everyone should buy shoes at the end of the day when feet are naturally larger.

Podiatrists recommend these exercises:

Sitting with feet on the floor, first lift just your toes and hold 10 seconds. Then with heels on the floor, lift the rest of the foot and hold for 10 seconds.

To stretch the Achilles tendons, stand away from a wall with feet a shoulder width apart and toes pointed straight ahead. Lean forward, bending the elbows.

Hold for 10 seconds.


Coffee May Protect the Liver

According to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., drinking up to four cups of coffee a day may protect against alcoholic liver disease. People who consumed four cups a day had an 80 percent lower risk.

To come to this conclusion, they studied the medical and death records of 125,580 health-plan members. The new data extends a 1992 report that also came to the conclusion that drinking coffee offers liver protection.

The researchers, however, did not distinguish between regular and decaffeinated coffee.

In other studies, coffee was linked to preventing type 2 diabetes, suicide, and liver cancer.

The doctors say many people drink too much coffee and should cut back. But for those concerned about their liver, drinking up to four cups a day is not an unhealthy habit.

Lower Your Blood Pressure

If you're on a low-sodium, low-saturated diet to lower your blood pressure, here's another factor to consider: A diet that's lower in carbohydrates and higher in plant-based proteins such as those in beans, nuts, poultry, and egg substitutes.

It's Called the OmniHeart Diet.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston studied three diets. The OmniHeart diet was best. It reduced carbohydrates and increased protein by adding more legumes, nuts, seeds, poultry, and egg substitutes.

This diet reduced blood pressure and triglycerides, and it increased good cholesterol levels. Visit medicalnewstoday.com for more information.

NSAIDs Best for Arthritis Pain

A review of various studies by the American College of Rheumatology shows that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory dugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), are more effective against moderate arthritis pain than acetaminophen (Tylenol)