Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us?

Amy Croan MPH

Hang in there with me for just a few minutes, folks.

The leading causes of U.S. deaths are heart disease, cancer, respiratory ailments and stroke. Right? In the vast majority of cases, these are attributed to poor nutrition, not genetics. What food groups do we as a nation consume the most? Meat and dairy. Consumption of which foods increases at the same rate as chronic disease and fatal illness? Meat and dairy. What are two of the main food groups the Food Pyramid encourages us to eat as part of our daily diet? Meat and dairy. Why would an agency of the federal government urge us to consume the two most unhealthy foods as part of each meal? (defended my 10-year old son).

Welcome to the Western diet, Western diseases and the cozy kinships within the USDA, a not unbiased agency which regulates and promotes their own interests. According…

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May 21, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shanna Swan on Stealth Chemicals


From EurActiv:

Shanna H. Swan, a renowned scientist specialising in reproductive medicine, has warned about the health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) known as phthalates which can end up in food via pesticides or plastics. In an interview with EurActiv, she calls on regulators to better protect consumers against those “hidden chemicals”.

Shanna H. Swan, PhD is Professor and Vice-Chair for Research and Mentoring Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr Swan is known for her work on the impact of environmental exposures on male and female reproductive health and has served on the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Hormone-Related Toxicants. She was speaking to EurActiv’s editor, Frédéric Simon.

You are a well-known scientist in the field of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), which you have been researching for many years. What were your main findings?

The major findings I have are that certain EDCs…

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May 21, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainable R&D framework needed to address essential health needs of developing countries

Logo DNDi Português do Brasil: Logo DNDi

Logo DNDi Português do Brasil: Logo DNDi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 21 May 2012 EurekAlert

DNDi welcomes World Health Organization expert recommendations to begin negotiations for an R&D convention at the World Health Assembly

After a decade-long process of analysis and deliberations on ways to better address the health needs of developing countries, a recently released report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG) will be discussed this week at the 65th World Health Assembly (agenda item 13.14). The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a not-for-profit research and development (R&D) organization, welcomes the experts’ conclusion that ‘the time has now come for WHO Member States to begin a process leading to the negotiation of a binding agreement on R&D relevant to the health needs of developing countries’.

A decade ago, R&D for poverty-related neglected diseases was at a virtual standstill. Since then, there have been significant changes in the landscape for these diseases, with now some 150 new R&D projects, including for drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines, in the pipeline. This progress stems from international pressure and the engagement of new public and private actors and donors in both endemic and non-endemic countries, as well as initiatives such as product development partnerships (PDPs), which were set up to fill the gaps left by policy and market failures.

However, despite incremental progress, the essential health needs of the vast majority of the world’s population are still largely unmet, current R&D efforts are still too fragmented, and financing is still far too fragile. Genuine therapeutic breakthroughs that are adapted to the needs of patients in resource-limited settings and that have the potential to fundamentally transform the treatment of many neglected diseases, notably those with the highest death rates, have yet to make their way through costly clinical trials and reach patients in need.

May 21, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment

OSHA Regulations Can Be Good For Workers’ Health, Save Lives

From the 19 May 2012 article at Medical News Today

Research published in Science sheds light on a hot-button political issue: the role and effectiveness of government regulation. Does it kill jobs or protect the public? ..

..The results overturn conventional wisdom: Workplace inspections do reduce on-the-job injuries and their associated costs, and the researchers could not detect any harm to companies’ performance or profits. ..

..The study found that within high-hazard industries in California, inspected workplaces reduced their injury claims by 9.4 percent and saved 26 percent on workers’ compensation costs in the four years following the inspection, compared to a similar set of uninspected workplaces. On average, inspected firms saved an estimated $355,000 in injury claims and compensation for paid lost work over that period. What’s more, there was no discernible impact on the companies’ profits. ..
In future work, the research team hopes to better understand which subsets of firms benefit most from inspections and whether the inspections yield benefits in other domains such as improved compliance with environmental regulations.

Beyond workplace safety, the authors believe that randomized trials could be used widely throughout government and business to evaluate new policies, from environmental regulations to educational programs.

“More trials like this would help us find out where regulations work and where they don’t,” Toffel said. “Because the cost of regulations is very real, governments should be investing constantly to learn how to make them as effective and efficient as possible.”

May 21, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , , | 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

Junk Food Not Cheaper Than Healthy Food

Fr0m the 18 May 2012 MedPage Today article

It doesn’t cost any more to eat healthy food than it does to eat junk food, a government study found, casting doubt on the popular belief that many people can’t afford healthful foods.

The study, released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service, found that foods like beans, carrots, milk, and yogurt are actually less expensive than ice cream sandwiches, cinnamon buns, and soda.

One reason that many people assume junk food is more affordable is because many studies that compare the cost of unhealthy foods with healthy ones use cost-per-calorie as a measurement.

By this metric, vegetables and fruit are relatively more expensive ways to consume “food energy” (i.e., calories) because they don’t contain many calories, whereas less healthy foods (also called “moderation foods”), which tend to be high in saturated fat and sugar, are a cheaper way to consume a lot of calories….

May 21, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , | Leave a comment

Goal Oriented Patient Care

Photograph of a male doctor talking to a female patient


From the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Director’s Comments (5/14/2012)

The success of medical treatment might improve if the outcomes for persons with multiple conditions, severe disability, and short life expectancy were more based on a patient’s (rather than a health care provider’s) goals, suggests a stimulating commentary recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The commentary’s two authors note the primary outcomes for patients with multiple conditions, severe disability, and short life expectancy often are based on medically-posited, condition-specific protocols. The authors add treatment success often is envisioned as meeting short and longer-term clinical indicators.

David Reuben M.D. and Mary Tinetti M.D. write (and we quote): ‘rather than asking what patients want, the culture has valued managing each disease as well as possible according to guidelines and population goals’ (end of quote).

However, the authors explain for patients with multiple conditions, severe disability, and short life expectancy (and we quote): ‘the overall quality of care depends on more than just disease-specific care processes’ (end of quote). As an alternative, the authors suggest a more patient-centered option should focus treatment on individual tailored goals, which might be quite different than what health care providers admirably hope to achieve.

The authors (who are from the University of California-Los Angeles and Yale University respectively) provide several hypothetical examples where a patient’s goals do not match the clinical indicators physicians seek and there may be differences in how physicians versus patients perceive the ultimate success of medical treatment….

Overall, underlying the commentary’s thought-provoking ideas is the foundational importance of good communication between doctors and patients, which is the focus of’s talking with your doctor health topic page.’s talking with your doctor health topic page provides an array of links to help you improve interpersonal communication with a health care provider. One highly useful site (from the Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality) provides 10 basic questions to ask a clinician that cover a wide range of medical situations. This website is available within the ‘overviews’ section of’s talking with your doctor health topic page.

A website from Harvard Medical School (available in the ‘related issues’ section) supplements the former site with specific questions about 40+ diseases and conditions that you can take with you to a doctor. Let’s Talk … and Listen also in the ‘related issues’ section helps you establish more rapport and shared decision making with a physician.’s talking with your doctor health topic page additionally contains updated research summaries, which are available within the ‘research’ section. Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the talking with your doctor health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus….

May 21, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment


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