Sunday, 29 July 2007

FDA looking at possible death in gene therapy experiment

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Although gene therapy treatment is really nothing new these days, the possible complications that go along with the territory may be increasing. As such, a patient undergoing this kind of treatment for arthritis conditions has died and U.S. health officials are trying to figure out what happened.

This is not new, as patients of various types of gene therapy have died in the past. Heck, the human genome was not completely mapped until just recently, and if we think we know all there is about every single genetic fact that comprises each human being, that is way, way too generous even for the most advanced genetic research.

However, we'll get there one day most likely. For now, gene therapy patients are, as they have been, under possible dangers with the current state of research.

Can you be too fat to adopt?

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Couples and individuals have been turned down in their attempts to adopt a child because of their sexual orientation, because they smoke and now because they're too fat? That's what happened to a 278-lb woman in Australia -- wannabe mother Kylie Lannigan was told to lose 115 lbs.

What do you think of this ruling? I can see both sides -- on one hand, obese people have more health problems than those at a normal weight. They're prone to more illnesses, have a much shorter projected lifespan and most likely don't have the energy to keep up with kids. They also most likely don't have a healthy diet or get an acceptable amount of activity, which could lead to unhealthy habits in their adopted child, too.

And yet, if someone was denied the chance to adopt because of something like their ethnic background, it provoke a zealous outrage that they were being discriminated against. So how is this any different?

Fit Mama: Goody new shoes

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Despite the heat and overwhelming humidity I ran nearly six and a half miles last Saturday. Today I will attempt to run over seven. I am, folks, living proof that you CAN get back into shape, even if you haven't run in a year. That's right--I stopped running sometime in June of 2006...I think. In fact, once I started running again it had been so long that I could no longer remember when I'd stopped.

To aid me in my quest to get back into shape, this week I bought new running shoes. For me, running shoes are the bane of my existence. I have a total love/hate relationship with such shoes. I need them to speed me along my course, to protect me feet and to give me a little extra bounce when I need it most (which, er, is always, especially these days when I'm carrying a little extra weight around).

I hate them because they never ever fit. I have horribly hard to fit feet. Or, at least, I thought I did. I need a wide toes box because the balls of my feet are rather wide for my otherwise slender foot. My ankles are ridiculously small so I need something that basically latches onto my Achilles tendon so the shoes don't slip.

Somewhere in the land of time before I got pregnant I spent what seemed like hours with a very helpful, professional young man who was a runner himself and who was more determined than I was to find me the right shoe. Previous to my encounter with him I'd spent the same amount of hours online trying to track down the same shoe I'd been running in for years, which, it turned out, even though I thought they were a great fit, were not right for my feet.

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Surgery-free lipo: Lipo-dissolve

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If you're considering LipoSuction but don't want to have surgery, there's a new procedure out there called Lipo-Dissolve. During the procedure, patients recieve a number of injections (60-70 per side) of a soybean derivative called phosphatidylcholine and an emulsifier called sodium deoxycholate in their fatty tissue. This compound helps break down fat and leave the body through urination. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Not so fast -- The FDA hasn't approved this compound, so you should think twice about putting it into your body. And while the manufacturers are trying to get away with marketing it on the basis that it's a 'natural' product, the FDA is saying that it's not--it's a drug--and it hasn't gone through any proper testing to prove that it's either safe or effective.

Losing weight without all that pesky healthy eating or exercise sounds too good to be true -- and it probably is. Sure, you can lose weight, but at what cost?

Make your own salt scrub

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It's amazing what summer weather and activities can do to the skin. Sand, sun, wind, and outdoor adventure can make it dry and lackluster. The same weather conditions that cause dry skin also make you want to bare that skin in fun summer clothing and bikinis, however, so what's a person to do? Try a salt scrub! Salt scrubs exfoliate and soothe dry skin, leaving it soft and smooth. You can pay for a professional service, or you can check out this easy, homemade salt scrub from DIY Life. Spend a few minutes in the kitchen, then sit back and soak that tired skin away.

Anyone else have a homemade beauty secrets they'd like to share? Let's hear them!

Compliment machine lets you know you look great!

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Having a bad hair day? Wearing your fat jeans? Just having one of those days when nothing seems to fit or look right? If you live in Washington, D.C., you might want to take a stroll by this compliment machine. Put in place as an art installation, the machine -- really an iPod Nano tucked inside a box -- lets passersby know that they're appreciated through a rotating set of 100 comments.

Sure, the compliment doesn't always fit, but spreading a little sunshine can never be a bad thing, right? You look great pass it on!

Sun may protect youth against MS

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Sunlight's getting a lot of press lately, with emerging research that vitamin D is crucial for the prevention of certain diseases. Sun exposure is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to get vitamin D, but because sun exposure also brings with it the risk of skin cancer, getting enough but not too much is a balancing act.

A recent small study of identical twins has now also linked sun exposure with a reduced risk of developing multiple sclerosis. The study found that female Caucasian twins who spent more time tanning or in the sun were 50% less likely to develop the condition. The finding was not replicated in male twins or in other races. Because the study was based strictly on input from the participants, it's purely preliminary, but experts say that further studies in this area should be a high priority for MS prevention.

Multiple sclerosis is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 and is more common in women than in men. Remember, a little sun exposure goes a long way and for some, just 2 minutes may make all the vitamin D the body can process, so if you do get sun exposure without sunscreen, play it safe and smart.

Burn even more calories: 10 tips

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The difference between weight loss and weight maintenance is a matter of calories and how many of them we're burning off. So if you're trying to lose weight and your current routine just isn't cutting the mustard, consider doing one of the following to up your calorie burn, courtesy of eDiets:
  • Do 10 minutes of exercise every morning when you wake up
  • Walk faster, and challenge yourself. If it takes 15 minutes to walk to the store, try to make it in 12.
  • Take the stairs up to your office every morning
  • While seated, perform small isometric exercises
  • Get a pedometer, and make sure you get to 10,000 steps a day
  • Exercise during the commercials
  • Pick an exercise each day and do it for 7 minutes (ie. dips off your office chair)
  • Always take the longest route
  • Double up on the stairs
  • Find a fitness buddy and do any of these with them!
What tips do you have for burning a few extra calories?

Chili sauce cans now bursting on shelves

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It's been a little over a week, and the canned chili botulism scare is still in full force in some areas of the country. This week, I read several reports on retailers who still had not pulled the affected products from store shelves.

The signs are starting to poke through though, as some cans are so filled with expanding bacteria that they are literally bursting on the shelf. That ought to get someone's attention, yes?

In a state of the art society like the one in the U.S., word must take more than a week when a food poisoning scare starts for things to be taken care of. Happy joy.

Virtual Relay for Life kicks off in Second Life

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The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life is a big deal in my town, and this time of year local fund raisers for the event hit a fever pitch. All across the country communities are participating in this event to celebrate cancer survivors and to raise money for the American Cancer Society. But did you know there's another way you can participate in the event, without ever leaving your house?

Second Life, a popular online virtual community, kicked off it's third annual virtual Relay for Life this weekend. Participants can participate through avatars, which are virtual people who will gather at an online park and participate in the event. Donations will reach $90,000 this year and will also celebrate the opening of the American Cancer Society's virtual headquarters inside Second Life, which will provide information, education, and a place for people to form support groups.

And remember, participating in the virtual Relay for Life certainly doesn't disqualify you from joining the events in "real life." Not only will you raise money for a great cause, you'll also boost your own fitness by walking with your team for 24-hours straight.

Sara Lee breads recalled

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I don't know if the manufacturing of processed foods is just sliding downhill, or if recalls are just getting more attention lately, but it seems as if every week a new food is being recalled for some dangerous and unsettling reason.

Today, the culprit is certain kinds of Sara Lee breads, which may contain metal pieces (eek!). The recall was announced after a broken flour sifter was discovered at the factory, and officials aren't sure if some of the metal pieces may have made their way into the bread.

A list of the brands in question can be found here, and if you already bought some of the bread, you can return it to the store for a full refund.

Tips for eating low-carb on the road

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Road trips are next to impossible if you're trying to follow a low-carb plan. Gas stations and roadside stops are heaving on the white bread, fries, potato chips and sugary goods, and light on healthy things like salads.

So how can you stay on track on the road? Planning is key. Don't rely on finding something healthy on the side of the highway -- bring your own snacks. Pack a cooler full of healthy snacks like cheese, veggies and nuts. Bring lots of water, even if it means you'll need a few extra bathroom breaks -- keeping hydrated will help keep cravings at bay. And if you have to stop for something to eat, plan ahead and make an educated choice -- burgers without the bun and salads are good choices. If you find yourself at a sub shop, order yours on a small dinner roll instead of the huge sub bun.

How do you stay on track on the road?

Don't be a slouch

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It's amazing what siting posture can (or can't) do to your physical being. Ever sit at a computer all day and then wonder why you are lethargic and worn out in the evening? Thank bad posture (in part) for that.

What do do? Sitting up straight is the answer, although it is hard to constantly remember not to slouch while sitting for extended periods of time.

As a result, scientists at Duke University estimate that back pain is costing the country $90 billion a year. That sounds about right. If the place where you work has not given ergonomics training to employees along with workplace items not conducive to slouching all day long, maybe it's time you remind them.

Pharmacists sue for being forced to carry contraceptive pill

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In what looks like a stand on moral and religious principle, some pharmacists have sued Washington state based on a newly approved state regulation that requires them to sell the "morning after" emergency contraception.

The lawsuit stated that a pharmacy owner and actual pharmacists believe the requirement violates their civil rights. In other words, they would be forced to choose between pharmacy revenue or their own moral beliefs about birth control.

If you're a morning-after pill fan, should your pharmacy be able to stand in your way if you want to purchase this kind of emergency contraceptive? Who do you believe is right here?

FDA mulling pulling Avandia from shelves permanently?

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When British pharmaceutical drug giant GlaxoSmithKline reported quarterly earnings the other day, a huge black eye for the company was the sluggish sales of its Avandia diabetes drug since it was found to be linked to potential heart disease in May.

The backlash towards Avandia has grown since then, and now the FDA not only wants a suggestion of a "black box" warning on Avandia packages, but possible other suggestions. Could this lead to a ban of Avandia from U.S. shelves soon like Vioxx years back? I would not be surprised.

West Nile season off to a strong start

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When we checked into a campground last week for a week-long vacation, the owner told me, "You'll like it here, we don't have any bugs." I laughed out loud, because camping and mosquitoes go together like bread and butter, right? I was happily surprised to find out he was telling the truth; the sandy soil meant there was no standing water for mosquitoes to breed. With the exception of a stray fly or bee, the entire week was happily bug free.


Doctor-dietician combo aids weight loss

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When it comes to weight loss, many people turn to their doctors while others may turn to dietitians to help them learn more about nutrition. But what if the two fields teamed up to fight obesity together? Could they make a significant difference?

According to a recent study, maybe so. Obese participants who met with a physician and a dietitian during the study maintained a clinically significant weight loss of 5.3% and exercised more frequently than those who didn't maintain their weight loss. Researchers says that this study indicates that more physicians and dietitians should work together to provide workshops to educate people on lifestyle changes that can lead to weight loss.

For some virtual dietitian advice, check out this list of 10 changes you can make to lose weight, from Ask the Dietitian.

Allergic to cats? Dander under tongue may help

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Despite being a pet owner (including cats) since childhood, a recent allergy test revealed that I am now allergic to cats. Wonderful. Surprisingly, my allergist didn't recommend that I get rid of any pets (not that I would have anyway), but he did recommend allergy shots, which I'm taking under consideration.

Cat allergies are especially hard to deal with because cat dander is small and sticky, and getting rid of a pet doesn't address allergic symptoms that may happen outside of the home. New research suggests, however, that an immunity to cat dander can be built up through a new procedure called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Like allergy shots, SLIT gradually builds up a person's immunity to an allergen until the immune system learns to handle allergy triggers. The procedure involves putting small amounts of the allergen under the tongue, where it is absorbed by the body. In trials, the procedure reduced allergy symptoms by 67%.

The study was carried out in children, and as a parent I can see why this procedure would be preferred over shots, which can be painful. If you have a cat allergy, check out this website to learn more about natural ways to reduce your allergy symptoms at home.

Surgery fires increase: new guidelines being drafted

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The words surgery and fire generally do not belong in the same sentence, but with surgical fires still happening in pretty decent numbers, the American Society of Anesthesiologists wants to form a battle plan to prevent them from happening in the first place.

In many cases, oxygen used in operating rooms can be sparked by tools and other objects, creating an immediate fire hazard in a place where patients need acute care rather than exposure to possible fires.

It's amazing that the number of fires related to actual surgical procedures are not required to be reported or tracked (yet), but all that may change this fall. Yes, they are rare, but the one time it happens can be life-threatening. Isn't that enough for change?

Heavy drinkers have lower Omega-3 levels

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We all need at least some semblance of "healthy fats" every day, and Omega-3 fatty acids (in foods or in supplement form) are very good ways to keep your nutritional intake in top form. Well, that is unless you're a binge drinker at the same time.

A new study concluded that those who are heavy drinkers tend to have much lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their systems compared to non-binging peers.

While I'm not sure those who regularly binge drink are that concerned about their overall health, perhaps a little fish-oil capsules mixed in with that intoxicating brew could do the trick?

DWI laws saving hundreds of lives per year

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The immediate suspension of a drunk driver's driving license (when caught, of course) has been found to save hundreds of lives per year, according to new research out of Florida.

In a study that spanned 1976 to 2002, alcohol-related car crash data was looked at and compared against the nationally maintained Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a system for collecting data on every traffic crash where at least one fatality is involved.

A deterrent effect from policies that require immediate license suspension for DWI offenders was then found to contribute to saving the lives of over 800 people a year during the studied annual periods.