Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Global Health: Time to Pay Attention to Chronic Diseases

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From the 1 Ju;ly 2014 blog post

…While infectious diseases remain a significant problem in the developing world, cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases are now among the fastest growing causes of death and disability around the globe. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the 38 million people who died of chronic diseases in 2012 lived in low- or middle-income countries [1].

The good news is that many NCDs can be prevented by making lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake for hypertension, stopping smoking for cancer and heart disease, or venting cookstove fumes for lung disease. Other NCDs can be averted or controlled by taking medications, such as statins for high cholesterol or metformin for diabetes.

 

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Seven Nation Army (update on the link between heart disease and food)

Excerpts from the 11 May 2014 item at The Paleo Pocket

Investigative author Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, has been investigating dietary fat and disease for nearly a decade. She has traced the history of the academic dietary establishment’s idea that you should reduce fat in your food – the idea that has lead to a replacement of fat with carbohydrates, turning us from fat burners to sugar burners. Her story has been published in many places, among them theWall Street Journal, where it quickly went to the top of the Popular Now list:

The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease

1961 was the year of the first recommendation from the nutrition committee on the American Heart Association that people should eat less fat, in particular saturated fat, in order to reduce heart disease. This came from a Dr. Ancel Keyes, who built his career on this theory. He was a highly persuasive man who obtained a seat on the committee. America was struggling with rising heart disease at the time and people wanted answers.

Where was his proof? He had done a “Seven Countries” study that was considered the most thorough study on the link between heart disease and food. For this study he picked countries that were likely to support his theory, such as Yugoslavia, Finland and Italy. He ignored France, Switzerland, West Germany and Sweden, countries with high-fat diets and low rates of heart disease.

And so today people suffer from the effects of replacing fat with carbohydrates turning to blood sugar. Nina Teicholz:

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we’re eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Even seemingly healthy low-fat foods, such as yogurt, are stealth carb-delivery systems, since removing the fat often requires the addition of fillers to make up for lost texture—and these are usually carbohydrate-based.

The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.

The real surprise is that, according to the best science to date, people put themselves at higher risk for these conditions no matter what kind of carbohydrates they eat. Yes, even unrefined carbs. Too much whole-grain oatmeal for breakfast and whole-grain pasta for dinner, with fruit snacks in between, add up to a less healthy diet than one of eggs and bacon, followed by fish. The reality is that fat doesn’t make you fat or diabetic. Scientific investigations going back to the 1950s suggest that actually, carbs do.

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May 12, 2014 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Majority of Americans have their heart health facts wrong

From the 6 February 2014 ScienceDaily article

Summary:
Despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., about three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans do not fear dying from it, according to a recent survey.

Despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., about three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans do not fear dying from it, according to a recent survey from Cleveland Clinic.

Conducted as part of its “Love Your Heart” consumer education campaign in celebration of Heart Month, the survey found that Americans are largely misinformed about heart disease prevention and symptoms, and almost a third (32 percent) of them are not taking any proactive steps to prevent it. Even among those Americans with a family history of the disease (39 percent), who are at a significantly higher risk, 26 percent do not take any preventative steps to protect their heart health, according to the survey.

Perhaps even more concerning is that the majority (70 percent) of Americans are unaware of all the symptoms of heart disease, even though two out of three (64 percent) have or know someone who has the disease. Only 30 percent of Americans correctly identified unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances and jaw pain as all being signs of heart disease — just a few of the symptoms that can manifest.

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 4.43.42 AM

Related Slide show at the Cleveland Clinic Web site
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/default.aspx

“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in this country, so it’s disappointing to see that so many Americans are unaware of the severity of not taking action to prevent heart disease, or how exactly to do so,” said Steven Nissen, M.D., Chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “This is a disease that can largely be prevented and managed, but you have to be educated about how to do so and then incorporate prevention into your lifestyle.”

Many Americans believe the myth that fish oil can prevent heart disease.

Vitamins are viewed — mistakenly — as a key to heart disease prevention.

There is a lack of awareness about secret sodium sources.

Americans believe there is a heart disease gene.

 …

There is no single way to prevent heart disease, given that every person is different,” Dr. Nissen added.
“Yet there are five things everyone should learn when it comes to their heart health because they can make an enormous difference and greatly improve your risk:

eat right,
exercise regularly,
know your cholesterol,blood pressure, and body mass index numbers,
do not use tobacco,
and know your family history.
Taking these steps can help lead to a healthier heart and a longer, more vibrant life.”

Read the entire article here

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February 8, 2014 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Health News Items, Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

WHO Issues New Guidance on Dietary Salt and Potassium

An image of a grain of table salt taken using ...

An image of a grain of table salt taken using a scanning electron microscope. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 31 January 2013 press release

 

 

 

Adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 grams of salt, and at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day, according to new guidelines issued by the WHO.

 

 

 

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

Vegetarianism Can Reduce Risk of Heart Disease by Up to a Third

On a related note, I’ve started collecting vegetarian recipes and posting them online here and also here.

This Lent the goal is to eat vegetarian, with the savings going to CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children and Aging).

(If anyone has any recipes from CFCA countries, please share! You can use the comment section or email me at jmflahiff@yahoo.com
CFCA countries–Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatamala, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuala, Liberia Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda, India, and Philippines )

I sponsor Betsy, who lives in Monrovia, Liberia. She is now in 12th grade at age 20. It has been a long haul for her, and I am so very, very proud of her!

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From the 30 January 2013 article at Science Daily

The risk of hospitalisation or death from heart disease is 32% lower in vegetarians than people who eat meat and fish, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.

Heart disease is the single largest cause of death in developed countries, and is responsible for 65,000 deaths each year in the UK alone. The new findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that a vegetarian diet could significantly reduce people’s risk of heart disease.

‘Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease,’ explains Dr Francesca Crowe, lead author of the study at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford.

Read the entire article here

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Take A Break

Always thought it was a good idea to take a break from sitting every hour or so…
This came from a post at LearnStuff.org
Take A BreakIf you think working overtime, skipping your lunch hour and staying chained to your desk will make you more productive, you need to cut yourself some slack and take a break.Working non-stop without taking a break can increase your chances of weight gain, heart disease and worse. Staring at a computer screen for more than 2 hours per day can cause Computer Vision Syndrome, a real affliction, which causes blurry vision, headaches, dry eyes and can lead to long-term nearsightedness. However, getting up and away from your desk for just 5 minutes can alleviate eye strain and reduce fatigue in addition to making you feel better. The mere act of standing at your desk instead of sitting at it can help you burn up to 2500 calories per week. Not bad for just standing around.Work hard and break hard; doing so will make you a healthier, happier and more productive employee.

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Stress May Hamper Worker Performance and Health (& rebuttal article)

Yes, this is just anecdotal, but I believe there is more to this than an either/or debate.
My husband took high blood pressure medicine for years. And he often complained about the stress at work.
Within a month of changing jobs to an organization that was less stressful, his blood pressure went down and he no longer needed the blood pressure medication.

 

From the 14 September article at news@JAMA

Some bad news for workers facing stress on the job and elsewhere in their life, suggested by 2 studies published this week: stress may contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and may impair short-term memory.

Workers who encounter substantial demands at work and have little control over their situations have an elevated risk of developing heart disease compared with individuals who don’t have to face such psychological stress in the workplace, according to results of  an analysis published in the Lancet yesterday…

..

Stress may also impair an individual’s performance, a study published in PLOS Computational Biology suggests. The researchers found that exposure of rats to stress in the form of blasts of sound alter the firing of neurons in the prefrontal cortex. These changes in firing impair the ability of rats to retain short-term memory, hampering their performance in a maze task. Animals under stress completed the task only about 65% of the time compared with 90% of the unstressed rats.

The rebuttal

Don’t Blame Your Employer If You Are Feeling Stressed By Your Job

From the 18 September 2012 article at Medical News Today

Work stress, job satisfaction and health problems due to high stress have more to do with genes than you might think, according to research by Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. This information has been published two days after a separate study suggesting that work stress increases an employee’s risk of heart attack by 23%.

The lead author of “Genetic influences on core self-evaluations, job satisfaction, work stress, and employee health: A behavioral genetics mediated model,” published inOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Judge studied nearly 600 twins – some identical, some fraternal – who were raised together and reared apart. He found that being raised in the same environment had very little effect on personality, stress and health. Shared genes turned out to be about four times as important as shared environment.

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , | Leave a comment

The New Science Behind America’s Deadliest Diseases – WSJ.com

The New Science Behind America’s Deadliest Diseases – WSJ.com (16th July 2012)

What do heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer have in common? Scientists have linked each of these to a condition known as chronic inflammation, and they are studying how high-fat foods and excess body weight may increase the risk for fatal disorders.

While much focus has been on fighting inflammation with drugs, researchers are getting a better understanding of the links connecting diet, inflammation and illness and discovering ways that foods can help keep inflammation in check. Laura Landro has details on Lunch Break.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and outside irritants. But when the irritants don’t let up, because of a diet of high-fat foods, too much body fat and smoking, for example, the immune system can spiral out of control and increase the risk for disease. Experts say when inflammation becomes chronic it can damage heart valves and brain cells, trigger strokes, and promote resistance to insulin, which leads to diabetes. It also is associated with the development of cancer.

Much of the research on chronic inflammation has focused on fighting it with drugs, such as cholesterol-lowering statins for heart disease. A growing body of research is revealing how abdominal fat and an unhealthy diet can lead to inflammation. Some scientists are investigating how certain components in foods might help. Dietary fiber from whole grains, for instance, may play a protective role against inflammation, a recent study found. And dairy foods may help ease inflammation in patients with a combination of risk factors…

…A substance known as C-reactive protein, measured with a simple blood test, is an indicator of inflammation in the body. A report published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007, which analyzed results of 33 separate studies, found that losing weight can lower C-reactive protein levels. For each one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of weight loss, whether by dieting, exercise or surgery, the mean reduction in C-reactive protein among participants was 0.13 milligram per liter…

..At a meeting in Quebec City last week on abdominal obesity and its health risks, experts in cardiology, endocrinology, nutrition and related specialties presented a wide range of new research linking obesity to inflammation-related diseases…

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Measuring HDL Particles as Opposed to HDL Cholesterol Is a a Better Indicator of Coronary Heart Disease, Study Suggests

English: HDL

English: HDL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 From the 11 July 2012 ScienceNewsDaily article

Until recently, it seemed well-established that high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good cholesterol.” However there are many unanswered questions on whether raising someone’s HDL can prevent coronary heart disease, and on whether or not HDL still matters. A team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) and other institutions, have discovered that measuring HDL particles (HDL-P) as opposed to HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) is a much better indicator of coronary heart disease (CHD), and that HDL does indeed, still matter.

July 13, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Some “Good” Cholesterol May Be Bad For Heart

Fr0m the 20 May 2012 article at Medical News Today

It appears that in some cases, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the so-called “good” cholesterol, does not protect againstheart disease, and may even be harmful. A new study suggests a subclass of HDL that carries a particular protein is bad for the heart.

Previous studies have shown that high levels of HDL cholesterol are strongly linked to low risk of heart disease. But trials where people have been given drugs to increase their levels of HDL cholesterol have yielded inconsistent results: leading to the idea that HDL cholesterol may actually have protective and non-protective elements.

Now, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that when the surface of HDL cholesterol bears a small protein called apolipoprotein C-III (apoC-III), there is an increase in the risk of heart disease, and when it is absent, HDL cholesterol is especially heart protective….

May 21, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Proof Found That Gum Disease Causes Heart Disease or Stroke

(I will continue to floss, tho, for the sake of my gums.  However it is a relief to know there is one less thing to think about when it comes to heart health)

From the 18th April 2012 article at Science Daily article

Despite popular belief, gum disease hasn’t been proven to cause atherosclerotic heart disease or stroke, and treating gum disease hasn’t been proven to prevent heart disease or stroke, according to a new scientific statement published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

Keeping teeth and gums healthy is important for your overall health. However, an American Heart Association expert committee — made up of cardiologists, dentists and infectious diseases specialists — found no conclusive scientific evidence that gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, causes or increases the rates of cardiovascular diseases. Current data don’t indicate whether regular brushing and flossing or treatment of gum disease can cut the incidence of atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Observational studies have noted associations between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, but the 500 journal articles and studies reviewed by the committee didn’t confirm a causative link.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there,” said Peter Lockhart, D.D.S., co-chair of the statement writing group and professor and chair of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. “The message sent out by some in healthcare professions that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease, can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus on prevention away from well known risk factors for these diseases.”

Gum disease and cardiovascular disease both produce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, and share other common risk factors as well, including cigarette smoking, age and diabetes mellitus . These common factors may help explain why diseases of the blood vessels and mouth occur in tandem. Although several studies appeared to show a stronger relationship between these diseases, in those studies researchers didn’t account for the risk factors common to both diseases….

“We already know that some people are less proactive about their cardiovascular health than others. Individuals who do not pay attention to the very powerful and well proven risk factors, like smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure, may not pay close attention to their oral health either” Lockhart said.  [Janice's emphasis]

Statements that imply a cause and effect relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, or claim that dental treatment may prevent heart attack or stroke are “unwarranted,” at this time, the statement authors said.

The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs agrees with the conclusions of this report. The statement has been endorsed by the World Heart Federation.

 

April 21, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Optimism May Help Protect the Heart

myocardial infarction - Myokardinfarkt - scheme

myocardial infarction - Myokardinfarkt - scheme (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 18th April 2012 article at Medical News Today

Harvard researchers suggest optimism, happiness and other positive emotions may help protect heart health and lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events. It also appears that these psychological well-being factors slow the progress of cardiovascular disease.

The findings are the result of the first and largest systematic review of its kind, and are reported in the 16 April online issue of Psychological Bulletin, by lead author Julia Boehm, a research fellow, and senior author Laura Kubzansky, an associate professor, in the department of society, human development, and health, at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in Boston, Massachusetts….

April 21, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dentists Could Screen 20 Million Americans For Chronic Physical Illnesses

NYU Study Concludes That Dentists Could Screen 20 Million Americans for Chronic Physical Illnesses

 

From a December 2011 press release of New York University

An Opportunity to Identify Diabetes, Hypertension, and Other Chronic Diseases

Nearly 20 million Americans annually visit a dentist but not a general healthcare provider, according to an NYU study published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study, conducted by a nursing-dental research team at NYU, is the first of its kind to determine the proportion of Americans who are seen annually by a dentist but not by a general healthcare provider.

This finding suggests dentists can play a crucial role as health care practitioners in the front-line defense of identifying systemic disease which would otherwise go undetected in a significant portion of the population, say the researchers.

“For these and other individuals, dental professionals are in a key position to assess and detect oral signs and symptoms of systemic health disorders that may otherwise go unnoticed, and to refer patients for follow-up care,” said Dr. Shiela Strauss, an associate professor of nursing at the NYU College of Nursing and co-director of the statistics and data management core for NYU’s Colleges of Nursing and Dentistry.

During the course of a routine dental examination, dentists and dental hygienists, as trained healthcare providers, can take a patient’s health history, check blood pressure, and use direct clinical observation and X-rays to detect risk for systemic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. ……

Read the entire news article

December 27, 2011 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Environment And Diet Leave Their Prints On The Heart

From the 30 November 2011 Medical News Today article 

A University of Cambridge study, which set out to investigate DNA methylation in the human heart and the ‘missing link’ between our lifestyle and our health, has now mapped the link in detail across the entire human genome.

The new data collected greatly benefits a field that is still in its scientific infancy and is a significant leap ahead of where the researchers were, even 18 months ago.

Researcher Roger Foo explains: “By going wider and scanning the genome in greater detail this time – we now have a clear picture of the ‘fingerprint’ of the missing link, where and how epigenetics in heart failuremay be changed and the parts of the genome where diet or environment or other external factors may affect outcomes.” …

DNA methylation leaves indicators, or “marks”, on the genome and there is evidence that these “marks” are strongly influenced by external factors such as the environment and diet. The researchers have found that this process is different in diseased and normal hearts. Linking all these things together suggest this may be the “missing link” between environmental factors and heart failure.

The findings deepen our understanding of the genetic changes that can lead to heart diseaseand how these can be influenced by our diet and our environment. The findings can potentially open new ways of identifying, managing and treating heart disease.

The DNA that makes up our genes is made up of four “bases” or nucleotides – cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymie, often abbreviated to C, G, A and T. DNA methylation is the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to cytosine.

When added to cytosine, the methyl group looks different and is recognised differently by proteins, altering how the gene is expressed i.e. turned on or off.

DNA methylation is a crucial part of normal development, allowing different cells to become different tissues despite having the same genes. As well as happening during development, DNA methylation continues throughout our lives in a response to environmental and dietary changes which can lead to disease.

As a result of the study, Foo likens DNA methylation to a fifth nucleotide: “We often think of DNA as being composed of four nucleotides. Now, we are beginning to think there is a fifth – the methylated C.”

Foo also alludes to what the future holds for the study: “…and more recent basic studies now show us that our genome has even got 6th, 7th and 8th nucleotides… in the form of further modifications of cytosines. These are hydroxy-methyl-Cytosine, formylCytosine and carboxylCytosine = hmC, fC and caC! These make up an amazing shift in the paradigm…”

As in most studies, as one question is resolved, another series of mysteries form in its place. The study shows that we are still on the frontier of Epigenetics and only just beginning to understand the link between the life we lead and the body we have. 

DNA Methylation in E. coli

DNA methylation in E.coli

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dangers Of Snow Shoveling

 

myocardial infarction - Myokardinfarkt - scheme

Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)

From the 28 November 2011 Medical News Today article

Urban legend warns shoveling snow causesheart attacks, and the legend seems all too accurate, especially for male wintery excavators with a family history of premature cardiovascular disease. However, until recently this warning was based on anecdotal reports. …

Dr. Baranchuk and his team retrospectively reviewed KGH patient records from the two previous winter seasons and discovered that of the 500 patients who came to the hospital with heart problems during this period, 7 per cent (35 patients) had started experiencing symptoms while shoveling snow.

“That is a huge number,” says Dr. Baranchuk. “7 per cent of anything in medicine is a significant proportion. Also, if we take into account that we may have missed some patients who did not mention that they were shoveling snow around the time that the episode occurred, that number could easily double.”

The team also identified three main factors that put individuals at a high risk when shoveling snow. The number one factor was gender (31 of the 35 patients were male), the second was a family history of premature coronary artery disease (20 of the 35 patients), and the third was smoking (16 out of 35 patients). The second two factors may carry much more weight than the first, however, since the team could not correct for high rate of snow shoveling among men in their sample.

A history of regularly taking four or more cardiac medications was found to be preventative. 

 

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Heart disease prevention: A good investment for individuals, communities

From the 25 July 2011 Science Daily article

ScienceDaily (July 25, 2011) — Preventing heart disease before it starts is a good long-term investment in the nation’s health, according to a new policy statement from the American Heart Association.
The policy statement, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, summarizes years of research on the value of investing in prevention, particularly through community-based changes to make it easier to live a healthy lifestyle:

  • Every dollar spent on building trails for walking or biking saves $3 in medical costs.
  • Companies that invest in workers’ health with comprehensive worksite wellness programs and health work environments have less absenteeism, greater productivity and lower healthcare costs.
  • Initiating a nationwide plan to drastically cut the amount of salt in the food supply to support an average intake of 1500 mg per day may reduce high blood pressure in the country by 25 percent, saving $26 billion in healthcare costs annually.

As a call to action, the statement puts an equal amount of responsibility on individuals and on society — specifically federal, state and local policy-makers.
“People often don’t realize the power to stay healthy is in their own hands,” said William S. Weintraub, M.D., lead author of the statement and the John H. Ammon chair of cardiology and cardiology section chief at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del. “But it’s not something many individuals or families can do alone. It takes fundamental changes from society as a whole.”
It’s more difficult to make healthy choices in some neighborhoods because it’s hard to find a safe place to bike or a nearby store with fresh vegetables at an affordable price, he said.

Read the rest of this article

July 26, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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