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.
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
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
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
"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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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
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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By Amanda Gardner
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
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
Some people have hypothesized that the fat drains into the portal vein
and is then distributed to areas most sensitive to the development of
"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
"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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(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
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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
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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