Thursday, 25 October 2007

Genetic Garlic?

Do you like the taste of coffee or garlic?

If you like one or both, it could be because of your genes.

Researchers at the Kings College, London have suggested that 41 - 48% of our food preferences are inherited. The researchers found that the strongest links between food habits and genetic make-up involved a taste for garlic or coffee. More about the research here.

Hmm. I used to like coffee years ago but not anymore. Garlic, like onions, I could do without. And some of my eating habits have changed, dramatically in some cases. Were these food preferences genetically programmed? Search me.

What I do know is that the next time someone asks why I don't like garlic or onions, I'll say the fault is in my genes.

Monday, 1 October 2007

What's breast feeding got to do with cancer?

Breast cancer rates have risen in the last ten years. According to Cancer Research UK, one in ten cases of breast cancer a year can be prevented by 2024 if more women made simple lifestyle changes.

These changes are:

reducing long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
staying in shape,
drinking less alcohol,
exercising more,
and breast feeding for longer.

Professor Max Parkin of Cancer Research UK said he would like to see three-quarters of UK mothers breast feed - currently, only 21% do so. I knew that breast feeding wasn't popular here but I didn't know it was this unpopular.

One way to help increase the breast feeding rates might be to share this information with pregnant women during antenatal checks and classes.

I guess it's obvious what my views are on this issue. But I digress...

There's more information about the research on breast cancer here.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Cancer is a message to change

I met a really inspiring man just last week. His name is Greg Anderson.

I think his story is truly amazing. He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in December 1984 and was given 30 days to live. So what did he do?

He didn't fold his arms and wait to die, like many others might have done. Mr Anderson refused to accept the hopelessness of his prognosis. He knew that many people had survived cancer even when it was supposedly "terminal" and he went in search of survivors. He interviewed over 16,000 of them and studied what they had done and he came up with a strategy for surviving cancer.

For Mr Anderson a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence, but simply a message to change. He changed his lifestyle and he survived. And, like a man on a mission, he decided to help other people survive and even prevent cancer. So in 1985 he and his wife set up a non-profit organization called Cancer Recovery Foundation whose mission is "to educate, empower and encourage cancer patients and family members in the integration of body, mind and spirit into a whole-person health recovery strategy".

The holistic health concept formulated by Mr Anderson resonate with me and I have a lot to learn from this inspirational man. The most important lesson for me is the power of the human mind and spirit over the body. How encouraging that is!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Why British women have cosmetic surgery?

A recent research carried out at the University of Aberdeen by a sociology lecturer, Dr Debra Gimlin, found that:
  • British women were more likely than American women to have cosmetic operations to please their partners ("to suit the desires of a particular man"). In contrast, American women had the surgery "for themselves".
  • British women were more likely than American women to conceal their surgery from friends and family.
Interesting, huh? You can read more about the research here. I remember reading elsewhere that the suicide rate for women who have had cosmetic surgery is higher than that for other women. I think that's quite sad.

All of the 60 women interviewed by Dr Gimlin for the Aberdeen University research were concerned about their physical appearance. No earth-shattering revelation there. One of the women was a British barkeeper who said she had cosmetic surgery because her husband complained that having children had ruined her figure. Don't ask me why she didn't try to lose weight without having cosmetic surgery like I did after I had my son.

And do you wonder like I do why more men don't have surgery to please their partners?

Any thoughts on that? I'd like to hear them.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

What's dark and has cancer-fighting properties?

Many people know that fruits and vegetables are good for the health. Of course, knowledge isn't the same as taking action.

A new US research shows that anthocyanins, the compounds which colour red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables their dark colour, may slow the growth of colon cancer cells.

Some of the fruits that contain these compounds are purplecorn, bilberry, chokeberries, black carrots and radishes. More details in this article.

A spokesperson for Cancer Research UK said knowledge about these cancer-fighting compounds in fruits and vegetables could help scientists develop drugs to prevent or treat bowel cancer. Drugs? Why not encourage people to include these foods in their diet?

Monday, 13 August 2007

Getting paid to lose weight

Imagine getting paid to lose weight.

As a weight loss coach, I've come across people who know they're overweight but are not interested in losing weight even when they know that doing so would improve their health. I wonder whether some of these people would lose weight if they were paid to do so.

Residents of the Italian town of Varallo have been offered money by the mayor in return for losing weight. More on this here. I'd be interested to see how many overweight people are motivated to shape up.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Botox, anyone?

No, I'm not offering Botox treatments. Sorry, if that's not what you were expecting, but stick with me a little longer and you'll be glad you did.

I just read about a UK clothing catalogue (Grattan, if you must know) that is offering Botox treatments. Botox is a diluted form of the botulism bacterium that is used to paralyze muscles, and it is becoming used more and more in the UK as a wrinkle remover.

The Grattan catalogue offer has been criticized by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons ). The BAAPS has warned the public against buying cosmetic treatments "off the shelf", because, unlike clothes, such treatments cannot later be returned or exchanged for a different size. In fact Botox injections may have harmful side effects on some people, according to a recent statement by the manufacturers of Botox. The BAAPS also stressed the need for proper consultation and informed consent before Botox treatment is carried out. More in this article.

Do you know anyone who is thinking of getting a Botox makeover? If so, I suggest you ask them to read this. Even if they decide to go ahead with the treatment, at least they will know there are potential dangers. And if they are interested in trying a natural alternative to Botox, ask them to contact me through my blog (blatant self-promotion, I know).

Office printer alert

Perhaps some laser printers ought to carry a health warning like those you see on many cigarette packs.

A team of Australian scientists carried out tests on a range of printer models and found that a third of them emit tiny particles of material that can get into the lungs and cause health problems.

The printers that were used in the research were located in an open plan office. I don't care much for open plan offices and this research finding provides yet another reason to avoid them, in my opinion. The levels of the particles released by the printers in the study showed a 500 percent increase during working hours.

Read more about the research here and feel free to pass this on to anyone you know that works in an open plan office.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Can Obesity Spread?

The "obesity epidemic" may be real, after all. Those whose close friends are obese are likely to become obese themselves, according to a new study that was carried out in the US. It was reported in the New York Times - read "Find Yourself Packing it On? Blame Friends" here.

I am so determined to stay slim that I will not gain weight even if my close friends were overweight. But I can see how obesity can become more acceptable among close friends.

So, what do you think of this research? And what would you do if your close friend became obese?

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Weight loss or psychiatric illness?

Earlier, I wrote about a new weight loss drug that was launched in the UK last year. The drug is being appraised for use on the NHS.

Rimonabant, or the brand name Acomplia, can cause psychiatric side effects in one in ten patients. Some of these side effects are low mood, depression, anxiety, irritability and nervousness. And one in hundred patients may experience suicidal thoughts.

As a result, the European Medicines Agency has advised patients who are taking anti-depressants or who suffer major depression against taking rimonabant.

I don't understand why anyone would want to take a drug to lose weight, never mind taking a drug like rimonabant, with its side effects. As a weight loss coach who has helped many people to control their weight, I know that weight loss can be achieved through diet and exercise by almost anyone who is serious about slimming down.

If you are keen to lose weight or you know someone who is, and you or they don't want to risk psychiatric illness by taking a pill, ask me for a free consultation about weight loss. Hey, I know this is a blatant plug for my services, but it may help someone.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Red 2G and the Big C

I used to enjoy eating sausages and sausage rolls, but after I watched a TV documentary about sausages, my taste buds changed. And I'm so glad they did.

Because there is new evidence that an additive that is used in some sausages and burgers could cause cancer. The additive, a food colouring known as E128 or Red 2G, is converted in the body into an oily substance called aniline which has the potential to trigger cancer.

The expert panel for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) does not consider Red 2G safe for human consumption. And the Food Standards Authority is currently considering whether this colouring is used in foods sold in the UK. Red 2G is already banned in some countries including Japan.

Under current EU laws, small amounts of Red 2G are allowed to be used in sausages and burgers. However, the EFSA believes that it is not possible to determine a level of aniline that is safe for humans and it is currently looking at the scientific evidence on all food colourings.

Sausage and burger lovers who are also health conscious (I know this sounds like a contradiction) may want to think carefully about re-training their taste buds.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

IVF and complementary therapies

Infertility affects many people, as many as one in seven couples in the UK. It can be very stressful experience - I know this from personal experience.

New research carried out by a Cardiff University team found that women using complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) alongside conventional IVF treatment were 30 percent less likely to get pregnant than those who used IVF alone. Some herbs, such as St John's Wort, may interact with IVF drug treatments.

Lead researcher Dr Jackie Boivin is quoted here as saying "it could be that there are interactions between herbal medicines and fertility medicines." She also suggested that women hold off until they have tried conventional fertility treatments. Frankly, I'm surprised at her suggestion as the research found that women who used CAMs had been trying IVF for longer. And Dr Boivin concedes that repeated failure with IVF may prompt women to use CAMs.

Some fertility experts believe that stress is a key factor. True. And many CAM therapies help to reduce stress, which is a good thing, as anyone who has undergone IVF knows. It's an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy (if I had one).

And so while I agree that some complementary therapies may interact with fertility drugs and reduce the effectiveness of the latter, I can understand why many women would still want to use them. The first reason may be to "cover all bases" and increase their chances of getting pregnant. And secondly, to reduce their stress levels because IVF is challenging on many levels - physical, emotional and financial.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Don't "weight" to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's

The Alzheimer's Society has warned that in 50 years' time, up to 2.5 million people in the UK could suffer from dementia unless there is a reduction in the levels of obesity.

Here are some facts about obesity and Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and there is no cure for this condition.

Currently, around 700,000 people suffer from dementia (more than half have Alzheimer's disease) in the UK.

Age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's.

1 in 3 older people will end their lives with a form of dementia.

Obesity is a huge risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. According to Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, "People who are obese at 60 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's by the time they are 75."

Research has shown that a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.

But lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol also affect a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's.

For tips and advice on what you can do to to reduce your risk, visit the Alzheimer Society's website here.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Heart disease in the obese

Did you know that heart attack and angina patients who are obese are more likely to survive treatment than those of normal weight? I didn't until recently.

A German and Swiss study involving 1,676 patients suggests that heart survival rates are higher in obese patients, but cannot explain why. Some theories about this are described here.

The lead researcher Dr Heinz Buettner said that there was no doubt that people who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease in the first place. He added that obese people should make efforts to lose weight, saying

"It is well known that even a modest intentional weight loss can improve or prevent obesity-related cardiovascular risk factors."

Although obese people seem to have a better chance of surviving heart treatment, I know I would rather prevent heart disease in the first place by maintaining a healthy weight.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Diet is a dirty word. Take pills instead.

I don't know who chooses the names for new drugs, but many of them sure sound unpleasant to me.

Take Rimonabant, for example. It's a diet pill that was launched in the UK last year. But it has been rejected by a US committee advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of concerns that it increases the risk of suicide.

Rimonabant can aid weight loss by reducing appetite. Apparently, it can help users lose up to 10 percent of their body weight and it's currently recommended for obese people who are at risk of diabetes or heart disease. About 37,000 people have been prescribed the drug in the UK. at the cost of £720 a year.

But the US committee of experts, after reviewing studies on Rimonabant, say that it is linked with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts even in those with no history of depression. They warn that the drug is targeted at obese people who have a higher incidence of depression and eating disorders than the rest of the population.

UK experts had also raised concerns about the side effects of Rimonabant: anxiety and depression. But the increased risk of suicide is small, according to Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of UK-based Weight Concern. He says the risks of the drug have to be balanced with the advantages.

Are there other ways for obese people to improve their quality of life, without risking anxiety and suicide by taking a weight loss drug? Sure, dieting is one way to achieve that. To find out about a safe and effective weight loss programme, go to

Monday, 11 June 2007

How safe is your child's drug?

UK researchers say that more safety studies are needed for newer drugs being given to children with epilepsy.

Many medicines are not tested on children prior to being licensed because of the difficulties of including children in clinical trials. This means that consultants have to rely on experience and estimate a safe and effective dose based on the age and size of the child. More information here.

According to Dr Colin Ferrie, a consultant paediatric neurologist at Leeds General Infirmary, "when you are prescribing a drug 'off licence' to a child, it's important to let the family know exactly the implications of this."

Perhaps it would be wise for parents to request information about drugs, anti-epilepsy and others, that are prescribed for their children.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

What's testosterone got to do with health?

A new US study suggests that low testosterone levels may increase the risk of death in men over 50. Men with lower levels have a 33% increased risk of death over an 18-year period than those with higher levels.

The co-author of the study, Professor Elizabeth Barrett-Connor does not recommend that men use testosterone supplements. The author, Professor Gail Laughlin, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said that lifestyle may determine testosterone levels, which may be altered by lowering obesity.

The researchers noted that men with lower testosterone levels are three times as likely to have 'metabolic syndrome'. This is the collective term for a cluster of risk factors that are associated with heart disease and diabetes. The risk factors are waist measurement over 40 inches, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

According to Professor Richard Sharpe from the MRC Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh, research has shown that levels of testosterone in men of all ages are falling. He also said:

"Being obese lowers the available testosterone and that makes you more obese so it's a vicious cycle.

"Testosterone gives you a zing. If you have low testosterone it tends to make you less active."

Professor Sharpe recommends that instead of using testosterone supplements, men should maintain their testosterone levels by keeping a good body shape.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Folic acid benefits

Many people know that folic acid is recommended for pregnant women and women who are thinking of having a baby.

However, some recent studies suggest that folic acid may also decrease the risk of heart disease, bone disease and stroke in some people. Experts have warned though that these benefits must be balanced against other risks and that folic acid can increase the risk of heart disease in some people.

Go here to see more information about the folic acid research.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

A hard fact about soft drinks

Did you know that some soft drinks may contain a cancer-causing agent?

I didn't know that until I read about a lawsuit that has been brought against soft-drink manufacturers in New York, including PepsiCo.

The lawsuit alleges that the soft-drink makers are selling drinks, such as Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, which are made with ingredients that can form a cancer-causing agent known as benzene.

Benzene can form in soft drinks containing vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate. Heat or light exposure can trigger a reaction that forms benzene in beverages.

Coca Cola was formerly involved in the lawsuit, but they settled with the plaintiffs earlier this month.

PepsiCo claim the lawsuit is without merit. However, a federal court has ruled that the case will move forward.
It will be interesting to see what happens. I'll watch this space. In the meantime, soft drink lovers may want to reduce their consumption of the beverages to safeguard their health.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Alcohol Alert

Alcoholic drinks sold in England are to carry health warnings by the end of 2008, following a voluntary agreement between the government and the drinks industry.

The warnings will not be as strong as those on cigarette packs and will, apparently include words like "know your limits".

Currently, more than 7 million people in the UK drink more than the recommended units, which are 3 to 4 for men and 2 to 3 for women.

I don't think many people who drink are going to pay much attention to the health warning on the bottle or can. After all, the strong health warning on cigarette packs doesn't seem to have stopped many people from smoking, has it?

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

High salt diet and ulcer

Many people know that eating a high salt diet increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. It is also known that a diet that is rich in salt increases the risk of gastric cancer.

But new research has found a link between a stomach environment that is rich in salt and the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers. In such an environment, the bacterium overproduces factors that increase the risk of disease in the long term.

It would make sense for anyone who has ulcers to eat a low-salt diet, would it not? So I was amazed to read in an article that Dr Perminder Phull, a consultant in gastroenterology at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said that diet used to be a major factor in how people with ulcers were treated, but that medical advances mean that diet is no longer an issue. Really?

I don't think taking medicines which have side effects is better than watching what one eats. The first option may be easier (for people who don't want to make any lifestyle changes) and more expensive, but is it really more advanced than eating the right diet?

Friday, 18 May 2007

Don't eat that yoghurt, take this drug instead

A team of Dutch scientists have called for "functional foods" to be subjected to checks. Functional foods are foods such as yoghurts and spreads that claim to improve health and well-being.

According to this article, the scientists are concerned that people who are taking drugs for conditions such as high cholesterol are more likely to buy functional foods. They warn that these foods may interfere with drugs designed to target medical conditions.

The researchers reported that:

"Very little is known about exposure, long term or otherwise, and safety under free conditions of use, and whether and how functional foods interfere with drugs designed for the same target."

Hmm... could this not also be said of many drugs? Uncertainty about their long term exposure has not prevented the licensing of some drugs for use by medical professionals. Sure, it's important to monitor the effects of functional foods. But the team of scientists seem not to have considered the possibility that eating such foods may help more people reduce their dependence on those "all-important" drugs.

Now, that would not be good for the pharmaceutical companies would it?

And, Tim Lang, the professor of food policy at City University in London said that functional foods are at best a "technical fix" masking an underlying diet. He could have been referring to prescription drugs.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Vitamin D may ward off TB

As someone who believes it is beneficial to take vitamins and supplements, I was pleased to read about a new study about vitamin D.

The study suggests that taking vitamin D could help prevent tuberculosis (TB). As TB is a major global problem, the research finding is encouraging.
You can read more about the research in this article.

In other studies, vitamin D has also been linked to a reduction in the risk of cancer and diabetes.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Aspartame: some unsweet facts

I remember once when I was shopping at a large supermarket and thought I'd get a bottle of flavoured water. When I noticed they all contained aspartame, I decided to avoid these drinks. And I have.

So what is aspartame? It is an artifical sweetener that is still used in the UK, despite concerns about its toxic effects on the body. Even small amounts taken regularly can impact negatively on one's health.

Aspartame can be found in sweets, drinks, prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, supplements, and many other foods.

Some of the newer sweeteners are not much better. And many of these are found in "diet" versions of soft drinks.

It's best to read the label. That is, if you want to avoid aspartame.

And if you're wondering what research studies about aspartame have found, go here.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Home test for pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a serious illness that affects up to one in ten pregnant women in the UK every year. Worldwide, one woman dies every six minutes from this condition, which is mostly symptomless.

The good news is that a new home test is being developed to help mothers-to-be find out whether they are at risk of pre-eclampsia. There's more information on the home test in this article.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Drink Shrinks

A new study carried out in the US has found that heavy drinking can shrink brains. Here are a few facts about the study.

People who have been drinking heavily for longer periods have smaller brain volumes than those who have recently joined the group of heavy drinkers.

For the study, people were divided into three groups: non-drinkers, former drinkers, low drinkers (1-7 drinks a week), moderate drinkers (8-14 drinks a week) and heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks a week).

Heavy drinking had a greater impact on women's brain volume than it did on men's. Heavy drinking seemed to have a greater effect on women in their 70s.

Anyone who drinks regularly may want to rethink their drinking habits in light of this study. Especially if they are female.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Weighing up the risk of asthma

Being overweight increases the risk of developing arthritis, stroke, heart disease, diabetes. Now a new study done in the US has found that asthma can be added to this list of medical conditions.

The research findings show that for every person of normal weight who has asthma, there are 1.5 people who are overweight or obese. It is not yet clear why being overweight increases the risk of asthma. More here.

Overweight people may also experience breathlessness because the lungs do not work properly.

Th new research may encourage more people to control their weight before it controls them.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Preventing diabetes without drugs

Diabetes type 2 can be prevented by making changes to one's lifestyle. Being overweight, for example, increases one's risk of developing diabetes. And people who already have the condition can control it by following a healthy diet and doing more exercise.

Recently, a lady who has diabetes type 2 and is on medication experienced a drop in her blood sugar levels two weeks after she'd been using some nutritional products she purchased from me. (Shameless plug, but it might help someone).

I've known for a while that good nutrition can help diabetics or pre-diabetics improve their health. So I was pleased to read this article about a recent US study that shows that giving people drugs to prevent diabetes is not justified when lifestyle changes are just as effective. Without the side effects that drugs have.

My guess is that the companies that manufacture these diabetes drugs probably don't want the research findings disseminated widely. I'd like to see this information circulated beyond the medical establishment so that more people realize that taking pills isn't the only way to prevent diabetes; making changes to one's diet is much safer.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Under Pressure?

I recall my surprise a year or so ago when I called a friend only to learn that he'd had a stroke and was in hospital. He was only about 40. He had to undergo rehabilitation and he was out of circulation for a long time.

I thought of my friend today while reading an article about the incidence of high blood pressure in the UK. Here are some quick facts taken from the article.

High blood pressure is the major cause of death and disability through stroke and heart disease.

About one in three people in the UK have high blood pressure, according to the Blood Pressure Association.

Many people do not know their blood pressure levels. Tests carried out by the Stroke Association showed 26% of people in East Anglia and the Home Counties had not known they had high blood pressure.
In the north-east, only 18% were unaware that they had high blood pressure. In the south-west, the percentage rose to 30%.
Every five minutes someone in the UK has a stroke, but over 40% of these strokes could be prevented by controlling high blood pressure.

Each year, about 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK; a quarter of them are under 65.

Many strokes could be prevented if people lowered their blood pressure by stopping smoking, eating less salt and fat, watching one's weight and doing more exercise.

Getting your blood pressure checked could help you avoid becoming a victim of "the silent killer".

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Another "clue" to obesity

Research carried out at Cambridge University suggests that women who have their first periods early (before 11) are more likely to have children with weight problems.

Also, mothers who had their first periods before 11 are five times more likely to be obese than those whose periods started after age 15. And the children of "early puberty" mothers are three times more likely to be overweight than children whose mothers had their first period later.

The researchers found that rapid growth in children, early puberty and obesity tend to run in families. It is not clear whether this is due to genetics, feeding behaviours or environmental factors, according to this article. The research team plan to carry out another study that will look at avoiding overfeeding in formula-fed babies.

Not surprisingly, the lead researcher has called for breastfeeding to be encouraged. I think more mothers might choose to breastfeed if they knew that doing so could help control their children's weight in infancy and adulthood.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Weight loss: a matter of life and death?

A few days ago, I saw an interesting ad in a local newpaper. It was a full-page ad for weight loss surgery - gastric banding or gastric bypass.

Written in very large type and highlighted in colour, the first few lines of the ad said:

"Obesity is more than a cosmetic problem. It is a disease and a serious health threat."

True. Next was the following sentence, printed in smaller lettering:

"Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke are just some of the ways in which your health can be affected by being overweight or obese."

Also true. But then, the ad went on to say:

"Compared to non-surgical treatments, obesity surgery allows patients to lose weight and keep it off."

I think that is misleading. Some non-surgical weight loss programs (such as those I market) do allow people (not "patients") to lose weight and keep it off.

Surprisingly or maybe not, there was no mention in the ad of the risks that weight loss surgery involves, including the risk of death. The ad seemed to imply that weight loss surgery was a simple, straightforward and risk-free procedure. It is none of the above. I hope that overweight people who saw the ad will do their "due diligence" before choosing to undergo weight loss surgery.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Smoked Bacon?

Anyone who smokes and eats large quantities of cured meats like bacon has a higher risk of developing COPD, according to new research by a Columbia University team.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The disease kills 30,000 people in the UK each year. Smoking is the single most important cause of COPD, although the research suggests other factors may result in an increased risk of the disease.

The research report suggests that nitrates may be responsible for the increased risk. According to Dr Rui Jiang who led the research, high levels of nitrites are used in cured meats like bacon, as preservatives, anti-bacterial agents and colour fixatives.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

The fault is not in our genes, but in ourselves...

A new study suggests that some people find it harder to lose weight because of their genes.

The study, which you can read about here, found that those who had one copy of the "fat" gene had a 30% higher risk of being obese compared to someone with no copies.

Those who had two copies of the fat gene had a 70% higher risk of being obese, and were on average 3kg (6.5 pounds) heavier than someone with no copies.

I help people lose weight and so I know that some people find it more difficult to lose weight than others. But even allowing for a genetic predisposition to obesity, people still have a responsibility to make good lifestyle choices. For example, someone who knows she has a family history of cancer, and yet chooses to smoke, can't blame it on her genes if she gets cancer.

In the same way, someone who finds it difficult to lose weight because of his genes, or who has thyroid problems can't blame anyone but himself if he ends up being obese. According to the research findings, people who had the "fat" gene were on average 3kg heavier than those who had no copies of the gene. Not 15 kg heavier.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Job Burn Out Increases Diabetes Risk

I'm currently trying to help a lady who is diabetic to lose weight and so I've been reading a few news articles about diabetes. New research, undertaken in Israel, suggests that people affected by job "burn out" are almost twice as likely to develop diabetes type 2.

Other studies have also suggested a link between stress and diabetes type 2, according to Natasha Marsland, a care adviser at Diabetes UK. In the article I read, Ms Marsland says that high blood pressure and fat deposits around the waist are both high risk factors for diabetes type 2.

It is estimated that 750,000 people in the UK have diabetes but do not know it. Are you at risk?

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Fat and Breast Cancer

A major study suggests a direct link between the amount of fat in a postmenopausal woman's diet and her risk of invasive breast cancer. The researchers suggest that fat may affect breast cancer by stimulating hormone production.

A report of the study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. But in an editorial in the same journal, two researchers say that to prevent cancer, it is more important for women to control their body fat rather than the fat they eat. For more information about these two different views, see this article.

So what are we to believe? Is breast cancer risk linked to dietary fat or body fat?

One thing seems clear. Maintaining a healthy weight can help cut breast cancer risk.

According to Dr Emma Pennery of UK-based Breast Cancer Care: "A high fat diet can lead to weight gain, and it is widely accepted that being overweight, particularly after menopause, does increase the risk of breast cancer."

And Dr Sarah Rawlings of Breakthrough Breast Cancer adds: "Whether you have been through the menopause or not, being overweight is associated with a variety of health problems, including increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and several types of cancer."

If you need help with controlling your weight or body fat, I may be able to help. You can contact me by sending an email to nutritioniq at gmail dot com (I've disguised my address to foil spammers so use the usual symbols). You can also visit

Monday, 2 April 2007

How to Be a Salt Detective

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recently launched a series of TV ads to show people how to check food labels for salt content. The FSA says that three quarters of the salt we eat is already hidden in the food we buy.

Did you know that ready meals, sandwiches and pizza are some of the biggest sources of hidden salt? Other sources are some brands of bread, baked beans, soup, hot chocolate, breakfast cereals, cakes, and meat products like ham, sausages and bacon.

More facts about salt:

A pack of food with 1 gram of sodium contains more salt than one with 1 gram of salt. Multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5 to find the amount of salt eaten.

High salt content is 1.25 g or more of salt per 100g (or 0.5 grams or more of sodium).

Low salt is 0.25g or less of salt per 100g (or 0.1g sodium or less per 100g)

There is always a lower-salt option.

There is too much salt in processed food so it makes sense to cut down on your intake of processed food.

You can't always taste the salt in some products. Salt, like crime, is sometimes lurking in the most unlikely places.

The ideal daily salt consumption is 6g (that's the target the government has set for 2010) but the average daily consumption is 9g.

Too much salt can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease, according to Betty McBride of the British Heart Foundation.

You can do your heart a favour by checking the salt content in foods and switching to a lower salt option.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Pensions and Partners, Japanese Style

I read an interesting article today about the baby boomer generation (aged about 60) in Japan. I know that this blog is mainly about health-related issues and so you may be wondering whether the article I read is relevant.

Well, read on and find out.

Pension rules in Japan are due to change in April. The new system will, for the first time, allow wives to claim up to half of their husbands' pensions if they divorce. Traditionally, many Japanese men have been absentee spouses, forcing women to take on most of the responsibility for raising the family.

This year more than 5 million Japanese workers are expected to retire. Experts think that this will put a strain on many marriages as previously absent husbands begin to spend more time at home with their wives.

One woman whose husband will be retiring soon is 59-year old, Yoshiko Yamauchi. She says:

"I am so used to not having my husband around the house I am so worried about his retirement, to be honest".

Another woman, Kinuko Ito agrees:

"If we get too involved with each other, it will become too stressful for both of us."

There is no doubt that stressful relationships and divorces can affect one's health.

To read more about the Japanese men and women of the baby boom generation go here.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Smoking Ages Skin

Here's more evidence that smoking is not good for the body. The findings from a new study show that smoking ages skin across the body, not just on the face as was previously thought.

Maybe this will persuade some smokers to give up. More on the research here.

Friday, 23 March 2007

New Drug Rankings?

Some scientists have proposed a new classification of drugs according to the level of harm they cause the individual and society. Under the new system, alcohol and tobacco, which are legal drugs, are considered more harmful than cannabis and ecstasy.

The study may be seen by some people as a justification to use drugs that are low down on the "harm scale". Certainly, some readers of this news article about the proposed classification seem to be justifying the use of "less harmful" drugs.

I think the new "league table" plays down the health risks of all of the (legal and illegal) drugs on the scientists' list.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Why Women Need to Watch Their Blood Sugar Levels

A major European study has found a link between high blood sugar and pancreas, skin, womb and urinary tract cancers in women. The same study also links high blood sugar to an increased risk of breast cancer. More information in this article.

Diabetes causes high blood sugar but this can also be caused by eating too much sugary food. The research findings show women with high blood sugar levels have an increased cancer risk, even when they do not have diabetes.

Some diabetes experts have said that more work needs to be done to confirm these findings, but I don't think it would hurt to eat a healthy diet, especially if you are a woman. Blood sugar levels can be controlled by eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

At least 40% of cancers can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. Previous research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of cancer.

People who are white and over 40, or black or South Asian and over 25, and has a family history of diabetes or are overweight should consider getting tested for diabetes.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Does Fast Food Slow Kids?

A new study suggests that an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA may help improve reading, concentration and memory in children.

Four overweight children aged between eight and 13 were given a supplement containing EPA for three months. At the end of this period, it was as if their brains "were the brains of children three years older," according to Imperial College researcher, Professor Basant Puri, quoted in this article.

Some experts have criticized the study saying it was not large enough and the results are inconclusive.

Until larger studies are carried out, I'm hedging my bets by giving my son a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids, and I'm also ensuring he doesn't eat junk food.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Is the "Kiss of Life" Necessary?

Giving someone I don't know well mouth-to-mouth ventilation has never appealed to me and so I was relieved to read in a news article that a Japanese study says this method of resuscitation is off-putting and unnecessary. The researchers say that chest compressions are just as good if not better. But the British Heart Foundation disagrees.

For many people the "yuk factor" in mouth-to-mouth breathing outweighs any altruistic considerations. That is, unfortunately, the case for me.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Mummy, Please Stop It Now

To mark No Smoking Day a survey was carried out among 500 smoking mothers. Almost half of them said their children had asked them to quit -of course this does not include the children who are too young to speak. And nearly all of the mothers said they were concerned about the effects of their smoking on their children's health.

So why don't they stop smoking? I don't understand why a mother would place her nicotine addiction over her child's health, not to mention her own health (women who smoke have a higher risk of cervical cancer and osteoporosis). And why a pregnant woman would even think of smoking is beyond me.

I find the results of the survey interesting. There's more information about it in this article.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Trudi's Story

Not long ago, I got on a train and noticed a man smoking a cigarette even though smoking is clearly prohibited on trains in the UK. Not wanting to inhale his noxious fumes, I walked down the aisle and moved into another carriage. Smoking, active or passive, isn't for me.

But many people continue to smoke even when they know they are risking their health. I wonder whether they would be moved by Trudi Endersby's story, which I read in a recent news article.

Aged 43, Trudi is dying from lung cancer and will be leaving behind two daughters aged 20 and 11. The older daughter, Kirsti, is a former smoker (well done, Kirsti!) and she says nothing is more difficult than planning Trudi's funeral and preparing her little sister for their mother's impending death.

I am impressed by the family's willingness to share their pain with the public in a TV anti-smoking campaign, with the hope that doing so may encourage some smokers to quit. I've known people who refused to stop smoking despite losing a family member to smoking-related cancer. Now that to me is incomprehensible, to say the least. I hope that Trudi's story inspires some smokers to make a life-changing decision.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Obesity in Pregnancy

A new study reported in this article says that obese mothers-to-be need more NHS (National Health Service) care than pregnant women of a healthy weight. Obese pregnant women need closer monitoring and special equipment and are at risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia.

In an earlier post on this blog, I wrote about the connection between weight and pre-eclampsia, revealed by a research, and I posted this link on Mumsnet, a UK-based website for mothers. A couple of women responded by questioning the research I had cited, and a few others went as far as making false and malicious accusations against me that had nothing to do with the research. I asked the owners of the website to delete the defamatory responses but they refused to do so, saying it was all about freedom of expression. Long story short, I have stopped visiting Mumsnet and I would not recommend the site to any mother who is seeking a forum for mature and reasonable people. But I digress.

There have been suggestions that regular weighing of pregnant women be re-introduced at antenatal checks in the UK to help reduce the health risks facing obese mothers-to-be. I think it's more important that more women are made aware of the health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight before conception.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Food Traffic Lights

In a previous post, I talked about food "traffic light" labelling and GDA (guideline daily amounts) labelling. Netmums, a UK parenting site carried out a survey in which 80% of those who responded said they preferred traffic light labelling to the GDA system. More about the survey in this article.

In the traffic light system, foods are labelled red, amber or green. Many of the parents who took part in the Netmums survey said they didn't have the time to work out what the percentage figures used in the GDA meant. During shopping trips accompanied by their children, these parents want to be able to choose what foods to buy based on the traffic light labels.

As a mother of a young child, I can understand this. Shopping for groceries with a young child in tow sure has its challenges, and anything that simplifies the shopping experience is often appreciated by parents.

Still, I wouldn't want to rely on the traffic light labels alone as a yardstick for working out the nutritional content of a particular food item. I'd want to have a bit more knowledge than that about good nutrition. I think the GDA system is complicated for many people and misleading. And I don't think the GDA system is likely to change customer behaviour like Tesco insists it will. Many people just don't have the time or the inclination to decipher the GDA information.

I think the real reason Tesco does not want to use the traffic light system is its fear that people will not buy food items with red labels. But that isn't likely. Just look at the number of people who buy and smoke cigarettes despite the health warning on the packs.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Heroin on the NHS?

Some people have called for heroin to be available on the NHS. No kidding.

Making heroin on the NHS is supposed to prevent female drug addicts from becoming prostitutes (or sex workers, if you prefer euphemisms) to finance their habit. This isn't a novel idea, however. There are already a select group of drug addicts who get heroin on the NHS. Take Erin O'Mara, whose story you can read in this article. She is one of 400 users in the UK who are currently being prescribed heroin, on the NHS. Each of these "special" addicts cost the taxpayer about £10,000 a year.

And if some policy makers have their way, more drug users would have access to heroin on the NHS. Arguments supporting this range from reducing drug-related crime, improving the quality of drug addicts' lives and protecting women (presumably from the dangers of working on the streets).

I'm all in favour of protecting women and cutting crime of every kind. But giving addicts heroin on the NHS? Wouldn't that encourage more people to use heroin even when they know they may end up becoming addicted to it? Hmm. There are more questions than answers, it seems.

I agree with Dr Emily Finch, a consultant psychiatrist at one of the sites conducting trials into heroin prescribing, that society will have to think seriously about whether they want to pay (financially and otherwise - my own words) for this drug to be made available.

What do you think? Add your comment below.

Friday, 23 February 2007

A Controversial Vaccine

Gardasil is a controversial vaccine designed to prevent cervical cancer. It is licensed to be given to boys and girls aged 9 to 15 and women aged 16 to 26. The vaccine is expected to protect against the most common sexually transmitted infection, human papillomavirus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer.

The government is considering whether all children aged 11 and 12 should be given the vaccine routinely in schools before they become sexually active and can be infected with HPV. This is supposed to help reduce cervical cancer rates.

Because HPV can also cause genital warts and anal and penile cancer, some men are arguing that they also need the vaccine. And many private clinics have been offering it to men. Merck, the company that make the vaccine are testing its efficacy with 4000 men, including men who have sex with men.

Dr Anne Czarewski, clinical consultant for Cancer Research UK, is quoted in this article as saying "it is bad enough suggesting to people that their 12- year-old daughter might need a vaccine against a sexually transmitted infection."

She says she would be interested to see the response if parents are told their 12 year old boys should be given the vaccine in case they become gay.
Talk about controversy. Let's stir it up a bit more. Why doesn't there seem to be any mention of abstinence in these discussions?

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Fertility Detection

A natural family planning technique that monitors two indicators of fertility can be just as effective as oral contraception, according to a European study reported here. Learning to use the natural method requires more effort and time, but it is not associated with any health risks. That's more than can be said for "modern" methods of contraception, including the pill.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Video Games and Surgery

Playing video games apparently helps laparoscopic surgeons improve their skills, according to a study reported in this article. Surprised? So was Iowa State University psychology professor Douglas Gentile, one of the study's authors. He thought it was surprising that video games skills, more than length of training or prior experience in laparoscopy, detemined how well the surgeons performed in surgical skills tests. "Surprised" isn't the word I'd use to describe my own reaction, but I digress.

According to the study, this supports previous research which showed that video games can improve "fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, visual attention, depth perception and computer competency". Impressive. It makes me wonder who sponsored the initial research.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Higher Cholesterol Levels in Women

Many of us know there are health risks associated with having raised cholesterol levels - raised "bad" cholesterol, that is.

But it seems that among healthy women with no history of major illness (such as heart disease and cancer ) those who have raised cholesterol levels have a much higher risk of stroke than those with the lowest levels. More information in this article.

I had a cholesterol test about six months ago and fortunately my levels were OK. Do you know what your levels are?

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Back Pain and the Brain

Chronic back pain seems to be a common ailment. About eighty percent of the population suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, according to Dr Alison McGregor, a back pain expert from Imperial College London.

A recent article reported that researchers in Germany have found that back pain is linked to physical changes in the brain. More research is needed to determine whether the changes are a cause or result of the pain. The researchers said their work provided evidence that back pain is a real condition, and not just a subjective experience.

Of course, back pain is a real condition. I know this from personal experience. I used to suffer from lower back pain and because I didn't want to take drugs in the long term, I tried using some naturally derived products that I market. The result? I got rid of my back pain. You can read my story here.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Breastfeeding and Social Class

Breastfeeding tends to arouse strong emotions among many people. When advocates and opponents of the practice engage in passionate debate, sparks often fly - enough to start raging fires.

And breastfeeding in public, that's even more controversial. Let's not go there. I enjoy breastfeeding my son, in public and in private. Those who are offended by the sight of a mother breastfeeding her child can always look away, just like I do when I see people wearing outfits that reveal more than I'd like to see.

Anyway, I just wanted to share the results of a study on breastfeeding that I read about in this article. I knew breastfeeding had many health benefits, but I wasn't aware that breastfed children were more likely to move up the social ladder as adults. That's what this research shows. Of course, not everyone will agree this is beneficial. But for those who do, that's one more reason to breastfeed, rather than bottlefeed, their child.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Siestas and Stress

Taking an afternoon nap is good for the health, especially for young working men, according to a six-year Greek study, reported in this article. Experts think napping reduces stress. It is known that in countries that have lower levels of deaths from heart disease, siestas are common.

The researchers found that those who took midday naps had a 34% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who did not take naps. Among working men, however, those who took naps had a 64% reduced risk of dying, compared to a 36% reduced risk among non-working men.

Lead researcher Dr Dimitrios Trichopoulos of the Harvard School of Public Health thinks that if these findings are supported by further research, taking an afternoon nap may be an interesting way to reduce heart disease as it has no side effects.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

To Ban Or Not to Ban?

Should skinny models be banned from the catwalk? That is a question
many people are asking in the wake of the death of some models due to anorexia.

As London Fashion Week opened this Monday, the question has again been raised. Campaigners for eating disorder groups were distributing leaflets backstage at some shows. The British Fashion Council, which organized the event, has issued guidelines to designers asking them not to use underweight models for their shows. The Council has declined to issue an outright ban. More in this article.

Asked why it would not ban skinny models outright, the Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council said it was not possible to tell by looking at a model or by weighing her whether she was underweight or had an eating disorder. I think that's true.

But I also think that more could be done by the Council and by designers to reduce the incidence of eating disorders among models.

Monday, 12 February 2007

15 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

According to the World Health Organization, 10 million cases of cancer are diagnosed worldwide. This number is expected to rise to 15 million by 2010 if we don't make lifestyle and dietary changes.

Most cases of cancer don't develop overnight but are the culmination of processes that occur over many years. I read an interesting article in the Reader's Digest that lists 31 ways to reduce one's risk of the big C. Some of the tips are:

1. Steam broccoli rather than microwaving it. Broccoli has cancer-preventing nutrients, but microwaving the vegetable destroys 97% of these.

2. Eat some Brazil nuts. They contain selenium, an important trace mineral that helps fight cancer.

3. Take a calcium supplement with vitamin D. A study suggests that the supplements reduce colon polyps, a risk factor in colon cancer in people susceptible to the growths.

4. Add garlic to everything you eat. Studies suggest that garlic can reduce the incidence of stomach cancer by as much as a factor of 12.

5. Eat several pieces of cantaloupe every morning. This is a good source of carotenoids, plant nutrients shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer.

6. Mix half a cup of blueberries into your morning cereal. Blueberries have antioxidant power. Antioxidants destroy free radicals which can damage cells and lead to diseases including cancer.

7. Coat barbecue food with a thick sauce. Grilling meat can create cancer-causing chemicals, but researchers found that coating meat with a protective marinade to prevent direct contact with the flames can help reduce the amount of such chemicals produced. Another way to do this is to precook meat before grilling it.

8. Drink a glass of water every time you go to the bathroom. A major study found that men who drank six eight-ounce glasses of water every day reduced their risk of bladder cancer in half. Another study found that women who drank more water reduced their risk of colon cancer by up to 45%.

9. Take a multivitamin every day. Studies have found that getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals can help improve the body's immune function and prevent cancer.

10. Eat kiwifruit regularly. Kiwi contains cancer-fighting antioxidants like vitamin C, lycopene and copper. You can also rub cut kiwi on low-fat meat as a tenderizer.

11. Eat more oranges. A study found that a daily dose of citrus fruits may cut the risk of mouth, throat and stomach cancers by half.

12. Buy organic foods. They're grown without pesticide or hormones, both of which can cause cellular damage that may lead to cancer.

13. Buy clothes that don't need to be dry cleaned. Many dry cleaners still use a chemical called percheloroethylene found to cause kidney and liver damage and cancer in animals that have been exposed to it repeatedly. If you must dry-clean your clothes, air them outside or in another room before wearing.

14. Avoid smoked and pickled foods as studies have found that they contain various cancer-causing agents.

15. Play a game or do some other activity that reduces stress. A study found that men with high levels of stress and those with less satisfying contact with family members and friends had higher levels of prostate-specific antigen in their blood, a marker for prostate cancer.

I've only listed 15 out of the 31 suggestions in the Reader's Digest article. To read the rest, go here.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

All That You Can Eat?

I take nutritional supplements because I believe they are beneficial to my health. I know that some people still think they can get all the nutrients they need from their food. The question I would ask these people is "how do you know you are getting enough of everything that your body needs?"

Research has shown that various health benefits can be obtained by taking certain supplements. For instance, a recent study shows that Vitamin D can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Read more about this study here.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Second Hand Smoke? No, Thanks.

As I said in an earlier post, I do not suffer second-hand smoke gladly. I feel no compunction about removing myself from a smoky environment, and I do not feel that I have to apologize for doing this. Protecting my health matters more to me than not hurting a smoker's feelings. Especially if the smoker seems not to care that others may not wish to inhale noxious fumes.

I can't count the number of times I've walked away from people in the middle of a conversation because they lit up without asking if it bothered me. Before walking away, I would always explain that I liked to avoid second-hand smoke . It never even occurred to me to grin and bear it, or more aptly, inhale it. I felt that if someone was inconsiderate enough to light up without asking me if I minded the smoke, they couldn't take the high moral ground if I interrupted the conversation and moved away. I feel sorry for the babies who can't do the same when their parents smoke over them. That's something I can't understand - why anyone would do that to their child. But then there's a lot about smoking that I don't understand.

It's generally known now that second-hand smoking is bad for the health. A new study in the US shows that up to 20% of women who develop lung cancer have never smoked. In men, 8% of lung cancer patients are non smokers. It is not clear why the figure is much higher in women: perhaps women are more susceptible to smoking, whether it is direct or second hand.

The researchers know that second-hand smoking increases the risk of lung cancer. They believe many of the cases they studied can be attributed to this. The leading cause of lung cancer is smoking, but radon, asbestos, chromium and arsenic are also associated with the disease.

Anyone still in doubt as to whether second-hand smoking is dangerous to health may want to read this article about the new research.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Snow, Snow, Everywhere

There was heavy snow today (well, heavy by British standards) in many parts of the UK. As is usual here, this caused widespread disruption and more than 2000 schools were closed due to the severe weather. And a senior member of the government admitted that Britain could cope "a little bit better" with this type of weather.

I didn't venture out in the snow and I spent way too much time on the internet. I'm leaving cyberspace now, but not before sharing some pictures of landscapes in the snow, which I found on the internet. I particularly like the one that shows an intrepid postman in shorts striding out in style!

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Are Health Warnings Any Good?

I've always wondered whether serious smokers paid any attention to the health warnings on cigarette packs. Frankly, I think the warnings aren't worth the paper they are printed on - they don't seem to have put many people off buying cigarettes . I'm not a smoker myself. I tried it many years ago and fortunately didn't like it.

Maybe the health warnings do help some smokers quit. A new study shows that pictorial warnings on cigarette packs have a greater impact on smokers than warnings that consist of plain text. On the face of it, this seems to provide some evidence to support the UK's plans to introduce picture warnings later this year.

And then there are the graphic anti-smoking messages that are sometimes shown on British TV. Don't get me started on that one. I don't think die-hard smokers take any notice of those messages or health warnings for that matter. I know smokers who continue to smoke even after losing a family member to smoking-related cancer. What graphic image or large pictorial health warning is going to stop someone like that?

Monday, 5 February 2007

Voodoo Nutrition

Manufacturers or marketers of nutritional products who make "unverified" product claims may face legal challenges.

This may be a problem for Coca-Cola Co and Nestle who launched a new drink called Enviga which they say "gently" burns calories. The two companies have been asked by a Connecticut (US) Attorney General to show scientific evidence of the calorie-burning claims. Without such evidence, the Attorney General says such claims would be no more than "voodoo nutrition".

The two companies maintain that their claim is backed by scientific studies. Apparently, a study conducted on behalf of the companies showed that drinking the equivalent of three cans of Enviga a day resulted in burning more calories.

Hmm. I wonder how many calories are contained in a can of Enviga. This information was not included in the article I read.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Are Trans-Fats on the Way Out?

British Retail Consortium members (Asda, Boots, Co-op, Iceland, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose) have said they will stop using trans-fats in their own-brand products by the end of the year. That's good news - of which more details can be found here.

Trans-fats have no nutritional value. Like saturated fats, they raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Some people say they should be allowed to eat whatever they like, even if that includes unhealthy foods. So I guess not everyone will welcome the announcement by the Bitish Retail Consortium. But then you can't please everyone...

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Boutique Ultrasounds

I remember the first time I had an ultrasound scan done during my pregnancy. Our excitement was palpable as my husband and I watched the moving image of our baby on the screen. I was a bit disappointed that they wouldn't tell us the sex of the baby, but I figured I could wait until the birth. We thought the grainy black and white picture we were given afterwards was the most beautiful picture we'd ever seen!

Although I would have wanted to find out whether the baby I was carrying was a boy or girl, it wasn't that important. But I knew some women in my position chose to have an ultrasound scan done privately so they could find out the sex of their baby. Sometimes they would have 3D scans.

It seems, however, that not everyone thinks it's a good idea for pregnant women to have ultrasound scans for reasons that have nothing to do with health. A recent news article talks about the risks of carrying out so-called "boutique ultrasounds".

Friday, 2 February 2007

Unhealthy Emotions

I believe that holding on to negative feelings like anger, bitterness, and hatred can endanger one's health. It's best to let go of these emotions so that they do not consume one's thoughts.

That seems to be the moral of a book I've just finished reading, titled "Every Breath You Take" by Ann Rules. It's a true story about a man who was so obsessed with anger and revenge that he hounded, stalked and finally ordered the killing of his ex-wife and mother of his two oldest children. This man was immensely wealthy and had remarried and started a new family, but he was consumed by hatred for his ex from whom he had been divorced for ten years. Imagine spending ten years of one's life hating someone else! In the end, he lost everything when he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Hatred is a waste of human potential. Love is so much more fun.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Are expectant mothers getting heavier?

In an earlier post, I referred to a study that looked at women who gained weight between their first and second pregnancies. The study found that inter-pregnancy weight gain carries some health risks.

I tried to share this information with other mothers in an online forum but I was criticized for circulating falsified research findings. A woman's weight, my critics claimed, has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of her pregnancy. The capacity of the human mind to believe anything is infinite.

I wonder whether these critics, who are quite possibly overweight, would dismiss just as blithely the recent report by researchers from UK-based North East Public Health Observatory which states that maternal obesity is on the rise. The research team consider this a "serious public health time bomb" and they want urgent action to be taken to stop it.

An article about the research explains why being overweight during pregnancy is a risk for both mother and baby. Obesity is a factor in 35% of maternal deaths.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Smoke-Free Spaces

Many non smokers do not want to inhale other people's smoke. I find it annoying when someone lights up in a public place, deliberately ignoring the rights of others not to be subjected to the noxious fumes from their cigarettes.

And so I was pleased to read a news article saying that the European Union's Health Commissioner has called for a ban on smoking in public places in EU member states. Smoking in public is already banned in Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Sweden.

The rest of Britain is expected to follow suit later this year. I can't wait for that to happen.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Eat Less, Live Longer?

It's generally agreed that diet and exercise are both important tools for people who want to lose weight. But many believe in the supremacy of one over the other.

Now, a new study seems to show that the same amount of weight is lost through dieting as is done through taking exercise. But the research findings seem to contradict a few well-known concepts about diet and exercise, as this article shows.

And there is even a small suggestion from the research team that cutting calories might extend life. Interesting.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Body Fat and Health

A body fat monitor is a scientific device that measures the percentage of body fat a person has. Many people think that being a normal weight means having a healthy amount of body fat. Wrong. I realized this when I got a body fat monitor for use in my work. I found quite a few slim people who had a high percentage of body fat. This isn't good for the health.

A small study carried out recently seems to show that people who are a normal weight but have high body fat (referred to as "normal weight - obese" in the study) may have an increased risk of heart disease. More information on this research is here.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

A Networking Question

Networking is a skill and I'd like to get better at it. I've always thought there had to be more to networking than exchanging business cards with as many people as possible at "networking" events.

So I was pleased to read a blog post by Ben Yoskovitz titled "The most important question you can ask when networking". Very interesting post.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Violence Against Women Endangers Health

Violence against women is a worldwide problem. It exists in various communities, regardless of race, nationality, culture, or socioeconomic class.

Violence against women is a reflection of the unequal status of women in relation to men. It is an under-reported crime and a human rights issue. And it's also bad for women's health.

At the World Social Forum (WSF) in Kenya this week, activists stressed the link between violence against women and the spread of HIV. This may explain why more women than men are infected with the virus. More on the violence-HIV connection in this news report.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Are You Getting Enough Fibre?

I don't think you could place too much emphasis on the importance of eating enough fibre. It's essential to good health, and not just because it helps keep us "regular".

We need about 30 grams of fibre a day. The average Briton gets about 12 grams.

New research at the University of Leeds has shown that fibre can reduce the risk of breast cancer in younger women. However, eating fibre does not seem to have the same cancer-reducing effect on post-menopausal women who are overweight or obese, as they have a greater risk of breast cancer.

You can read more about the research here.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

"Flaming" as Freedom of Expression

I posted to an online forum recently and got "flamed" (defined in Wikipedia as "the act of sending messages that are deliberately hostile or insulting"). I responded to the unfounded accusations, taking care to use courteous and restrained language but I got flamed some more. So I decided to stay away from the forum.

I contacted the website owners asking that my posting be deleted so that it would not attract any more flaming. The website owners refused to oblige. They claimed that freedom of expression meant forum members could post any messages they wanted and I had the right to respond. But responding only seemed to spark more personal attacks from these people, so of course I wasn't going to give them the pleasure. That would be a total waste of my time.

The website owners' assertion that forum members had absolute freedom of expression was not, strictly speaking, accurate. Members are not allowed to make any references to rival sites. So much for the website owners' mantra of freedom of expression.

Sounds like hypocrisy to me.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Africa's Health Plans

I am saddened by the news about events in sub-Saharan Africa. I can almost empathize with the African American journalist who said some years ago he was thankful his "ancestors got on that slave ship". I don't think his ancestors would have agreed with him but, hey, he's entitled to his opinion.

I was reminded of that comment today after I read a news article called "Africa's failed health plan costing 40 million lives". Depressing is all I can say.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Gambling Addiction

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for problem gambling to be recognized as an addiction and for treatment to be available on the NHS (National Health Service). Just like the services that deal with alcohol and drug dependency. More about this story here.

Not everyone is going to back this proposal. Why should gambling addicts, instead of, say people who have fertility problems, be entitled to free treatment? What about sex addiction? Reminds me of the convicted rapist who tried to get Viagra on the NHS (his doctor said he was depressed because he suffered from impotence). No, I didn't make that up.

And if gambling addicts are to have access to NHS treatment, should health professionals expect to see more problem gambling after the Gambling Act comes into force in September? This piece of legislation will increase gambling facilities in the UK. The plot thickens...

I read an article in which the writer (also a gambler) opposed the BMA's proposal, saying that character flaws should not be seen as illnesses. Gamblers, the commentator argued, ought to take personal responsibility for their gambling, like he did. I think he's raised an interesting point.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Frozen in Time: The Ashley Case

It's not surprising that Ashley's story has sparked so much controversy.

Ashley is the nine year old brain-damaged girl whose parents have opted for medical treatment to keep her "frozen in time", for her own benefit. The parents have written about the difficult choice they made, and some people have expressed their support.

Others, like British disability organization Scope, have voiced their disapproval for what they consider the abuse of Ashley's human rights. Scope has launched a campaign to prevent a similar situation from arising in the UK. More about the campaign here.

I don't, however, see the issues in this case in black and white. And I'd ask anyone to walk the proverbial mile in Ashley's parents' shoes, before criticizing them.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Water Intoxication?

Most of us know we need to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water to maintain good health. Well, the amount of water may vary depending on who's doing the recommending.

They say you can have too much of a good thing, and it seems the same thing applies to water. It is possible to drink too much water, as a recent news report shows.

A young woman in the US died last week after taking part in a water-drinking contest held on air. The "Hold your wee for a Wii" radio contest, was to see how much water the 18 contestants could drink without going to the bathroom (the prize on offer was a Nintendo Wii). Ten employees of, including three DJs have since been fired by the California-based radio station that aired the contest.

You can read the sad story here.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

The Heart Is Not Too Old

It's never too late to start getting healthier.

Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of heart disease. And a new study shows that older people who are obese can improve their heart health through diet and exercise.

It is often harder for elderly people to make lifestyle changes. But the study showed that it can be done. That's heartening news.

For more information on this, go here.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Diet Doughnuts

Doughnuts are not generally considered to be healthy food. Many of us know that, doughnut-lovers included.

Now, it seems that some doughnuts are getting a 'makeover', and being reinvented as "healthier" versions of the sugary, fat-loaded lump of dough. Makers of "all-natural" and "all-organic" doughnuts, say they do not contain trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Trans fats are thought to clog the arteries, boost "bad" cholestrol and lower "good" cholestrol, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Enter the "new and improved" doughnuts. Despite being free of trans fats, these doughnuts are still, well, made from dough. Which means they contain a fair amount of calories, but not necessarily essential nutrients. I was impressed by the honest comment of one maker of "natural" doughnuts, quoted in this news article :

"I'm not saying this is good for you. But it's definitely not as bad."

I think that's putting it mildly.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Benefits of a Bilingual Brain

I've always believed that being able to speak more than one language is beneficial in many ways.

Like being able to communicate with a wider audience, and gaining a better understanding of different cultures. And it's been my experience that learning a second language makes it easier to learn a third.

And now, it appears that being fully bilingual is good for the health. benefits. A study done in Canada found that using more than one language every day for most of one's life could delay the start of dementia by up to four years. Apparently, this protective effect can be attributed to the fact that speaking two languages engages parts of the brain that need constant exercise to stay robust and fight off dementia. There is no known cure for this illness.

You can read more about this research here.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

What's yoghurt got to do with pain relief?

I like yoghurt but I didn't know it could help relieve stomach ache. A "friendly" bacterium found in yoghurt and probiotic drinks may be used to treat serious abdominal pain. You can read more about this finding by a team of scientists here.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Weight gain between pregnancies

Preeclampsia is an illness that affects women during pregnancy, or straight after the baby is born. It can affect both the woman and her unborn baby. After a relative of mine was affected by this illness, I decided to see if research had shown a link between a woman's weight and her risk of developing preeclampsia. Here's what I found on the Action on Preeclampsia website.

A study of 150,000 women found that those who gained weight after their first baby risked serious complications during a second pregnancy.
Even women who were not overweight but who gained weight after their first baby were at risk if they had a second one.

The study looked at the body mass index or weight-height ratio (BMI) of the women both after their first and before their second pregnancy. Researchers found that a gain of one or two BMI units increased, by an average of 20 to 40 percent, a woman's risk of pregnancy-linked diabetes, high blood pressure, or babies with a high birth weight. An increase of three or more BMI units resulted in a 63% greater chance of stillbirth compared with a gain of less than one BMI unit.

The research was carried out by Eduardo Villamor, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, in collaboration with Sven Cnattingius, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. According to Dr Villamor, women do not need to become overweight or obese between pregnancies to increase their risk of serious complications. Even a moderate increase in weight between the first and second pregnancy could result in serious illnesses. Weight loss in overweight women seemed to lower their risk of pregnancy complications.

In The Lancet medical journal Dr Villamor said: “A key public health message from our study is that women of normal weight should avoid gaining weight between pregnancies. In addition, overweight and obese women are likely to benefit from weight loss if they are planning to become pregnant.”

Thursday, 11 January 2007

False Formula

Whoever said advertising doesn't work?

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an increasing number of Americans wrongly believe that infant formula is as good as breast milk, "despite widespread information on the benefits of breastfeeding". At the same time, it appears more Americans are uncomfortable with mothers breastfeeding in public. Seems to me, the same applies to breastfeeding in the UK.

[Full disclosure - I'm a breastfeeding mother myself and I do it in public sometimes.]

The Center's findings, reported in the January edition of the American Dietetic Association, "underscore the need to educate the general public that breastfeeding is the best way to feed and nurture infants".

Two nationwide surveys conducted in 1999 and 2003 showed that the number of Americans who agreed that formula is as good as breastmilk rose from 14.3% in 1999 to 25.7% in 2003. Although breastfeeding rates in the US have been on the rise since 1990, the percentage fell for the first time between 2002 and 2003, from 70% to 66%.

The CDC researchers attribute this drop in breastfeeding can be attributed partly to the introduction in 2002 of infant formulas that were advertised as "mimicking the positive influence of breastmilk" on brain and vision development. The researchers also pointed out that the amount spent on advertising infant formula increased from $29 million in 1999 to $46 million in 2004.

Advertising sure works. In this case it seems to have obscured the fact (for some people anyway) that there is a world of difference between the real thing and something that "mimicks" the real thing.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

The Thinnest Cut

Obesity operations have increased in the U.S.

A study released today reports that more than 120,000 Americans had some kind of surgery to lose weight in 2004. In 1998, 772 people aged 55-64 had a gastric bypass, stapling or a similar procedure known as bariatric surgery, but that number increased to 15,086 in 2004, according to the Agency for Healthcare Researcy and Quality.

One of the reasons for the increase in obesity surgery, according to the agency, is the reduction in deaths from surgery-related complications. The national death rate fell from 0.9% in 1998 to 0.2% in 2004. I guess that's good news. For those who are considering surgery, anyway.

The agency says that a growing number of younger people are undergoing obesity surgery. Of the over 120,000 people who had surgery in 2004, 103,000 were aged 18-54, and 349 were aged 12-17. The agency says that the health care system should be prepared for an increase in the rate of obesity surgery and its potential complications.

The average cost of an obesity operation, excluding physician fees, was over $10,000 in 2004.

Given the cost and the potential complications of weight-reducing surgery, I don't understand why many people neglect to control their weight through diet and exercise in the early stages of weight gain, before they start to feel desperate. I'm not keen on operations of any kind, not even a "minor" one. So, how could I understand why anyone would choose to have drastic obesity surgery?

Monday, 8 January 2007

Housework is good for women's health

Did you do a double take after you read the title of today's posting? I know I would. It sounds sarcastic or provocative, but it's not - just the plain truth. According to a new research, anyway.

The Cancer Research UK-funded study involving 200,000 women from nine European countries found that doing housework can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Seriously. The research looked at both pre- and post-menopausal women doing a range of physical activities such as work, leisure and housework. When taken together, all forms of activities reduced tbe breast cancer risk in post-menopausal women, but had no visible effect on pre-menopausal women.

Only housework, of all the activities, significantly reduced the risk of breast cancer in both pre- and post-menopausal women. In fact, doing household chores cut the risk by 30% among the first group and 20% among the latter.

The women in the research were studied over an average of 6.4 years. They spent an average of 16 to 17 hours a week doing housework. The results of the research suggested that moderate forms of physical activity like housework may be more important than more intense but less frequent activity in reducing breast cancer risk.

It has long been known that exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Women who maintain a healthy weight are also less likely to develop breast cancer, according to Dr Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK.

So if you're a woman and you don't enjoy doing housework (I still don't), you might begin to see it as a health-enhancing activity. I imagine some men will use this as another reason not to do any household chores. Well, I'm off now - to do some housework, of course.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Saved by the search engine

I admit I'm seriously addicted to the internet. If I was asked what (not who) I would take with me to a remote island, it would be any gadget that would give me access to the internet.

I also like search engines, especially Google. No, I haven't been paid to promote Google, honest. It's just that I've been able to find a lot of life-enhancing information via their search engine. And so I can understand why Louise Barker feels that Google saved her daughter's sight.

I read Ms Barker's story in the Reader's Digest; it seems to have been first published in The Guardian. Ms Barker's daughter was born with a birthmark that two health visitors, five GPs and four midwives said was nothing to worry about. But Ms Barker WAS worried because the birthmark was growing "like some alien" and she kept asking about it during her daughter's six-week check. To keep her quiet, she said, she was offered a non-urgent appointment with a dermatologist.

Ms Barker was, however, desperate to get to the root of her daughter's strange birthmark and so she "Googled" it. Within minutes, she found photos of the same condition her daughter had. She emailed the Birthmark Support Group and within 24 hours, a parent who helped run the group arranged an appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Long story short, Ms Barker's daughter was diagnosed with a rare condition that could have caused her to go blind. The consultant who treated her was thrilled to able to save her sight as he sees many children with reduced prospects as a result of poor diagnosis and referral.

Ms Barker doesn't recommend people "second-guess their GPs with Googled symptoms" but she believes the Net can be a godsend. I know it's helped me too. When I had an unusual (for me) condition affecting my wrist, the GP I saw recommended surgery or steroid injections for what I was told could be a chronic condition. Now I'm not keen on surgery or strong drugs and so I decided to search for less invasive alternatives. So I googled my symptoms (the GP had told me the name of the condition but I forget what it's called) and found that it could take months to recover from surgery, not to mention the risks involved. I opted for a few sessions of physiotherapy as well as taking nutritionally advanced supplements that I also happen to market. Within a month, I was pain free.

Moral of the story: we're all responsible for maintaining our own health. And Google's a great search engine.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Counting calories

I'm an online junkie and I like to trawl the internet for information on various subjects. All wholesome, of course.

I found an interesting post which I thought I'd share. If you are into healthy eating, you might find this helpful, and even if you're not, just take a look anyway. You don't have to change anything about the way you eat if you don't want to.

Do you know what 200 calories look like? Go here to see colourful pictures. You may be surprised.

It's late so I'm off to bed. I hope I don't count calories in my sleep (hey, that's got to be better than counting sheep!)

Friday, 5 January 2007

All you can eat

In January many people think about losing weight. Either because they stuffed themselves over the holiday period or because they make a new year resolution to control their weight. Unfortunately, many resolutions are short-lived.

I'm interested in the different approaches to weight control . Take weight loss surgery, for instance. I've just read an interesting article on the subject. What follows may be too graphic for some. You've been warned.

Apparently, a gastric balloon can be placed down your oesophagus to control obesity. Once inside your stomach, the balloon is inflated, causing it to take up space so that you eat less. Some doctors have even proposed a sleeve that can be shoved up your intestines to block calorie consumption.

Weight loss surgery involves stomach-intestine procedures. The intestinal part bypasses your bowels so that you don't absorb calories. With the stomach procedure, the aim is to reduce the amount you can eat by making you feel full. But it's now possible to stretch the reduced stomach by eating past the point of fullness. In the US, some doctors even offer to 'readjust' the gastric band so you can eat more.

The gastric bypass is supposed to discourage you from eating too much sugar - apparently your body suffers if you do. Still, it is possible to work around this limitation by having procedures focused on the intestines. These procedures reduce more fat than gastric bands and bypasses, and they allow you to have a much bigger stomach too.

These are all drastic procedures that are not without risk. Yet, reports suggest more and more people are undergoing weight loss surgery. It seems that people can now lose excess weight without changing their eating behaviour. As a weight loss coach, I believe that it is better to control one's weight through diet, exercise and self-restraint rather than surgery (if you need help with weight control, click here). But some doctors that carry out weight loss procedures may disagree.

Will the increasing availability of such procedures promote guilt-free gluttony? I don't know. What do you think?

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Chocolate Alert

I'm sure glad I don't have strong cravings for chocolate anymore.

Would nutritional labelling have helped me control my consumption? Perhaps, but not before I was ready to eat more healthily.

A campaign to promote nutritional labels is being launched by some of the UK's biggest food manufacturers, including the company that makes Mars and other chocolate bars. The labels will show percentages of guideline daily amounts (GDA) of sugar, salt, fat and calories in each serving.

The GDA labelling differs from the "traffic lights" system (with its red, amber or green labels) approved by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The FSA says its research shows traffic light labels are easier to understand than the percentages used in the GDA system. The GDA group claims the opposite is true. But they also say consumers will avoid products with red labels. Could this be the real reason for the campaign?

I don't think the GDA group need worry that people will avoid products with red labels. Those who aren't interested in making healthy food choices will ignore all labels, just as many smokers ignore the health warnings on cigarette packs and the anti-smoking TV ads.

Nutritional labels of any type will help only people who WANT to eat healthier food.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Take control or take risks - your call

Just how much control does one have over one's life?

Depending on their worldview, people tend to ascribe a greater or lesser role to predestination, circumstances outside their control, or simply, "fate". In a survey conducted by Cancer Research UK, 4000 people were asked if they thought they could cut their risk of developing cancer or whether it was out of their hands.

In total, 27% said it was "down to fate" whether they would be affected by the disease. In the most deprived areas, the percentage of those who believed they had no control over their cancer risk rose to 43%, and in most privileged areas it was as low as 14%. Make of this what you will. The poll also showed that 34% of smokers and 36% of over 65s shared this worldview.

Dr Lesley Walker, the director of cancer information at Cancer Research, was shocked by the results of the survey. Dr Walker says that half of all cancer cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes. Smoking and obesity can increase the risk of cancer.

I know people who disagree with this. They say that life's too short to deny oneself of pleasures such as smoking or overeating. I can see how someone can think like that. What I don't understand though is why many people treat some of their possessions, take cars for instance, with much better care than they do their bodies. After all, a car can be replaced if it is beyond repair; the same can't be said of the body.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

'Hair' Me Out

Hair is an emotive subject for many black women. When the terms 'good hair' and 'bad hair' have been used, they have often meant long, straight, soft and silky (Caucasian-like) hair; and short, coarse and tightly curled ('kinky', 'nappy', Afro) hair respectively.

From the pressing combs to the earlier straighteners, permanent relaxers, jheri curls and more recent weaves, black women everywhere have sought to make their hair 'more manageable'. Although so called 'natural styles' are increasingly being sported, most black women have their hair chemically processed in some way. For many years I had my hair processed despite extreme pain, discomfort and hair loss. Then ten years ago I made the decision to stop processing my hair. I continued to use vegetable dyes to cover grey hair (I went grey in my teens) until recently.

I remember when I first started wearing my hair in locks some years ago. A few black women, one of whom was a very close relative, made disparaging remarks and tried to talk me into wearing a more 'acceptable' hairstyle. Acceptable to whom? I told them it was my hair and I could choose what I did with it. And I believe that's true for everyone. I'm not going around telling women who choose to process their hair to go natural. The safety of the ingredients contained in many hair products, particularly those marketed to black women, have not been determined. And so I am careful about what I use on my hair.

Now I will get off my soap box. Below is some information you may find interesting.

I was inspired to write this post by an article that was forwarded to me by a friend (thanks, Mary). The article is by Debbie Norrell, a 15-year breast cancer survivor. You can read it Center of Environmental Oncology in Pittsburgh, U.S. has studied the links between personal care products and cancer. Their findings show a possible link between the use of certain products containing hormones like placenta and the greater incidence of breast cancer in black women under 40 (when compared to white women). You can read about the Center's research here.

I admit to using placenta-based products myself many years ago, and I shudder to think that I used them without thinking. Now I have questions like: how is the placenta obtained? What possibly unethical practices was I encouraging by my purchase of hormone-containing products?

While browsing the Center of Environmental Oncology's website, I also came across another interesting article. They have investigated the earlier onset of puberty in African-American girls (when compared to European- American girls) and while the causes have not been determined, it is thought that hormone-containing hair products used by black girls and their mothers may be a factor. You can read more about this here.

I found all of the above information interesting and wanted to share it with you, regardless of how you choose to wear your hair. You can forward this post to others by clicking on the envelope icon below. I will be updating this blog daily so you can either bookmark this page or click on the 'subscribe' link at the end of this post and you will be notified of updates.

I'd like to hear your comments. So if you've got an opinion on the subject, please share it by clicking on the 'comments' link below. Select 'Other' (not 'Anonymous if you want to enter the draw), enter your name and then type in your comment. As an incentive, everyone who sends in a comment by Saturday midnight GMT will have their name entered into a draw. The prize is a natural hair product, free of hormones, of course.

I hope you have a 'good hair' day.