Healing Points Issue 28 HealingPoints Newsletter

Provided by Richard Grossman, L.Ac., O.M.D., Ph.D.

Volume 3, Issue 28
Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In This Issue:

Education, Acupuncture Help Smokers Kick the Habit

Fish oil may help relieve stubborn depression

Waist Circumference Helps Predict Cardiovascular Risk

Real Oven Better Than Microwave for Killing Germs

Drug-makers gifts to doctors finally get needed scrutiny


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Welcome to Issue 28 of Healing Points.  I offer Healing Points to you as a gift and as a service.  I spend many hours each week reading current stories that relate to natural health care, and I provide them here for you as an educational public service. 

Education, Acupuncture Help Smokers Kick the Habit

By Steven Reinberg

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - While acupuncture and education alone can help people to quit smoking, combining the two strategies works even better, according to a report in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Acupuncture has been used to help people addicted to a variety of substances, from tobacco to heroin. There is some evidence that the ancient Chinese healing technique can help smokers quit, but previous research has been variable in quality.

To further investigate acupuncture's effect, Dr. Ian D. Bier of I. B. Scientific in Durham, New Hampshire and colleagues evaluated acupuncture, sham acupuncture and education in 141 smokers. I. B. Scientific is a company that conducts natural medicine research.

In sham acupuncture, needles are inserted near, but not at, traditional acupuncture points.

Study participants were assigned to receive either acupuncture and education, sham acupuncture and education, or education alone. They received five treatments a week for four weeks and five weeks of education.

The education program was designed to develop individual strategies to help subjects cope with their addiction, break their smoking habit and continue to steer clear of cigarettes.

All groups showed significant reductions in smoking and cigarette use after treatment. The greatest effect was seen in people given both acupuncture and education. Forty percent of patients in that group stopping smoking compared with 22% of patients receiving sham acupuncture and education and 10% of those receiving acupuncture alone.

Bier noted that the results of acupuncture and education were comparable to those seen with antidepressant drugs and behavioral support. Although during 18-months of follow-up the trend continued, the difference between the groups did not persist, the researchers found.

The study also found that combined acupuncture and education was particularly effective for study participants who smoked the most for the longest time.

"Therefore, although logic may dictate that the people who smoke the least would be easier to help, this study showed that the most addicted people show the largest effect with this treatment protocol," Bier said.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health 2002;92:1642-1647.

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Fish oil may help relieve stubborn depression

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Daily supplements of an omega-3 fatty acid--found in fish and fish oil--may help alleviate the symptoms of depression in patients who do not respond to standard antidepressant medications, new research findings suggest.

Dr. Malcolm Peet of the Swallownest Court Hospital in Sheffield, England and his colleague found that depressed patients who received a daily dose of 1 gram of an omega-3 fatty acid for 12 weeks experienced a decrease in their symptoms, such as sadness, anxiety and sleeping problems.

The only side effect of the treatment appeared to be gastrointestinal problems, which Peet and his co-author Dr. David F. Horrobin of Laxdale Research, Ltd. in Stirling, Scotland, deemed "mild."

All of the patients had tried other medications before enrolling in the current study, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac and medications from an older family of drugs called tricyclic antidepressants. Both types of drug are considered standard treatments for depression.

This is not the first study to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, such as the form of eicosapenaenoic acid (EPA) used in this report, may help patients with psychiatric disorders. Previous researchers have suggested that the balance of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain may become skewed in people with depression, and earlier studies have shown that fish oil supplements can help alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, or manic depression.

In addition, researchers have found that people who are depressed, as well as those diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases and other conditions associated with depression, have relatively low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood.

In the current study, reported in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, Peet and Horrobin asked 70 depressed patients who had not benefited from previous treatments to take a daily dose of either 1 gram, 2 grams or 4 grams of EPA, or an inactive drug. The treatment lasted 12 weeks.

The investigators found that people given the 1 gram daily EPA dose experienced improvements--relative to those given the inactive drug--in all of the measured aspects of depression, including sadness, anxiety, low libido and suicidal tendencies. In fact, 69% of the patients treated with the 1-gram daily dose achieved a 50% reduction in their symptoms of depression, a result seen in only 25% of the patients given an inactive drug. "The effect of ethyl-eicosapentaenoate (the form of EPA used) applies to all major components of the depressive syndrome and is seen equally in the patient and physician assessments," the authors write.

Peet and Horrobin did not note any improvements in the patients given higher doses of the fatty acid relative to the placebo group, which they suggested may be due to the small number of people who were given either 2 grams or 4 grams per day.

"Although there appeared to be a trend toward significant efficacy at the 4-gram per day dosage, larger studies would be required to elucidate possible beneficial effects of the higher dosages," they write.

SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry 2002;59:913-919.

NOTE:  I highly recommend EPA/DHA Complex from Metagenics, available through my office.  This is one of the only fish oil complexes that is processed to remove all heavy metals like mercury.

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Waist Circumference Helps Predict Cardiovascular Risk

By Amanda Gardner
HealthScoutNews Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthScoutNews) -- If you want to determine your risk for cardiovascular disease, maybe you should throw out your scale and grab the measuring tape.

A study appearing in a recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (news - web sites) suggests waist circumference is more strongly associated with cardiovascular risk factors than body mass index (BMI).

"There's been some research that shows that it may not be the total amount of fat in your body but where it is stored. In other words, fat distribution," says Stanley Heshka, a co-author of the study and a research associate at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.

Body mass index (the measure of body fat based on height and weight) is the most widely used gauge to tell if adults are overweight or obese. The problem is that it doesn't take into account the wide range of fat distribution found in people.

Meanwhile, various studies have found body fat distribution is a better predictor for many diseases.

In the new study, the researchers looked at information on white men and women gathered for NHANES III, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which collected data on the health and nutrition of 9,019 Americans. Then the researchers correlated BMI values of 25 and 30 (which indicate overweight and obese, respectively) with cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors. They set out to determine what waist circumferences have the same degree of risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes as the BMI guidelines.

To minimize the risk of heart disease, men should not go above a 35-inch waist and women should not go above 33 inches, Heshka says. Men whose waists are 39 inches or more and women whose waists are 37 inches or more should lose weight -- and inches, he says.

Though the study data involved exquisitely precise measurements (taken just above the top of the hip bone and at the end of a normal exhalation), regular folks don't need to be quite that exact.

If you come close to the recommended cutoff points, though, you need to take them seriously, Heshka cautions.

The researchers are still working to figure out why girth may be a better predictor of risk for cardiovascular disease. It may be because the amount of fat around the waist reflects more fat inside the abdominal cavity, something that has been associated with coronary vascular disease, Heshka says.

Some people have hypothesized that the fat drains into the portal vein and is then distributed to areas most sensitive to the development of cardiovascular disease.

"No one really knows how the fat works," Heshka says.

Heshka is quick to add that waist circumference alone may not be the best measure to determine cardiovascular disease risk.

Heshka and other researchers are now trying to see what combination of measures (for example, height, weight, waist circumference, body frame size…) are the best predictors for the development of cardiovascular disease.

"We may find that waist circumference and BMI in combination have an even stronger association," Heshka says. "That's what the goal is now: To find optimal predictors so we can find those people at risk."

More data is also needed to confirm that people with large waists are also the ones who eventually develop cardiovascular disease.

What To Do

To learn more about cardiovascular disease, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To calculate your body mass index, visit this CDC site.

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Real Oven Better Than Microwave for Killing Germs

(HealthScoutNews) -- Before you heat up that doggie-bag full of the leftovers from last night's barbecue at Bill's house, be warned.

According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, nuking them is not as good as reheating in the oven or a frying pan.

That information comes from the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) in Atlanta, which was tracing an outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium in Juneau, Alaska.

Researchers found that all the people who became sick had been to the same picnic, and they all had taken home leftovers. But while 30 people had taken home doggie bags, only 10 became sick. What protected the others?

According to the CDC, all who became sick had reheated their food in a microwave oven. Those who didn't become sick had used a conventional oven or frying pan.

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Drugmakers' gifts to doctors finally get needed scrutiny

Christmas trees. Free tickets to a Washington Redskins game, with a champagne reception thrown in. A family vacation in Hawaii. And wads of cash. Such gifts would trigger a big red ''bribery'' alert in the mind of just about any public official or government contractor. But not, it seems, in the minds of many doctors. They have been raking in jaw-dropping gifts from pharmaceutical firms battling to give their products an edge in an increasingly competitive market.

Bad enough that the practice taints the independence of doctors who are supposed to advocate for patients, not drug companies. But the ''marketing'' costs are built into skyrocketing drug prices, which have risen more than 15% a year on average since 1999. Those who pay for prescription drugs ultimately foot the generous inducements, including patients, employers and taxpayers, who spend $30 billion for drugs through Medicare and Medicaid.

Yet government regulators have largely ignored pharmaceutical-company practices that would have set off ethical and legal alarms in other industries. Until now, that is. In a welcome case of calling a bribe a bribe, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (news - web sites) (HHS) is warning drugmakers that gifts or payments to doctors could violate federal fraud statutes.

A credible threat of fines and jail time is needed to halt the multibillion-dollar effort to buy doctors -- and drive up consumers' drug costs in the process. Ending the marketing tactics also would help restore patients' trust in the integrity of doctors.

The need for change is great. An April survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit health-research group, estimated that pharmaceutical companies spent $13.2 billion last year on promotional activities for doctors, more than $15,000 per physician. The survey found that 61% of physicians had received free meals, travel or tickets to events from pharmaceutical salespeople, 13% had accepted money, and 12% had been paid to participate in drug trials.

Such abuses mock voluntary guidelines the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted in 1990 to discourage gift taking. It bans doctors from accepting presents from pharmaceutical companies that have no patient benefit or are worth more than $100. Examples: New York Mets tickets or golf balls with company logos.

In anticipation of the critical HHS report, the pharmaceutical industry rushed out a voluntary code of ethics based on the AMA guidelines that took effect July 1. The effort has had an impact. According to ImpactRx Inc., a pharmaceutical promotion-research group, meetings between drug representatives and doctors at entertainment venues such as casinos and sports events fell from 10% of all get-togethers in May to about 1% from July to September.

Still, the code leaves big loopholes. Companies can cover some physicians' expenses at educational conferences and pay doctors as consultants. And without tough penalties, incentives are lacking to deter drug companies from reverting to bad practices once the spotlight fades.

That's what happened after the AMA issued its guidelines, which is why the threat of legal action is needed. Until the legal bribery of doctors ends, too many patients will keep paying inflated prices for medicines they might not even need.

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