Archive for October, 2007

Staph Redux:Why we Keep Getting Bugged,Part I

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

It takes tragic news of rare sporadic fatal Staph cases, like the 12 year old student in Brooklyn and the high school student in Virginia to ignite public awareness of a serious public health problem.Two weeks ago the Government announced that over 19,000 Americans died last year, after being infected with an organism commonly found on the skin and in the nose of unsuspecting healthy people, Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium, carried by almost a third of the population is itself rarely a serious public health problem, but a super-Staph called methicillin resistant staph aureus or MRSA Staph, which has developed antibiotic resistance, though carried by only 1% of healthy people, is indeed a major health menace. The vast majority of fatal cases counted by the Government, occurred not among the healthy population, but were acquired in patients subsequent to being hospitalized.

Yet a year ago I wrote about hospital-acquired infections in my newsletter after the State of Pennsylvania gave alarming statistics on life-threatening infections acquired after patients are admitted to Pennsylvania hospitals.The report, though 15 years behind several Western European countries, was the first in the United States to disclose actual number of infections reported by hospitals. Fifteen others states also require hospitals to report infection data, although, curiously, not all of them have plans to make the data public. Pennsylvania hospitals reported over 19,000 cases of hospital-acquired infection, 2.2% of all admissions, The combined mortality rate for patients with a hospital-acquired infection was 13%, more than five times the mortality rate for patients without a hospital-acquired infection.

Staph, in particular methicillin resistant or MRSA Staph is among the most common causes of hospital-acquired infections (HAI). Staph does not cause infection until it enters the body, but any carrier once admitted to hospitals spreads staph around such that it is found almost everywhere including personnel, dishes, bedrails, toilets, towels, medical instruments, clothes, furniture, trays, etc. In 1974 only 2% of staph infections were resistant to methicillin; called “methicillin resistant Staph aureus” or MRSA. Today, over 60% of staph infections are MRSA’s, i.e., resistant to the antibiotic because of widespread and irresponsibly inappropriate use of antibiotics over the last three decades.

Stay Tuned

Inflating the Dangers of Second Hand Smoking

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

An important study by Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University’s School of Public Health points the finger at the well-intentioned campaigns of Action on Smoking and Health, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and New York City’s Department of Health.

In a study published this week (Oct. 21) in the journal Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, Siegel warns that these groups are wildly inflating the health risks of exposure to second-hand smoke. “In doing so, they tarnish the very credibility that the public-health community must have in order to save lives.”

Siegel who is a vocal opponent of smoking and a supporter of smoke-free workplace rules, is a leading member of the tobacco-control community. His very stature as an opponent of Big Tobacco is what compelled him to publish his findings that some groups are harming the movement’s credibility by overstating the dangers of short-term exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

Certainly, there is evidence that long-term, high-dose ETS exposure increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. “But the evidence does not support the claim that more than 100 groups are wantonly making:… that acute, transient exposure to ETS increases heart-attack risk in healthy individuals.” (my emphasis.)

This suggests that we have enough to worry about with the war in Iraq and the subprime mortgage crisis. What about the poor folks in Southern California inhaling smoke from the forest fires 20 miles away? The air we are forced to breathe will always have its perils, but we needn’t exaggerate them.

Raw Milk: The Ugly Truth

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Finding raw milk information is an easy trip down Google Lane with 2.4 million URL’s listed. Locating raw milk producers by state is also easy, but note “Many producers have requested that their names not be listed, for fear of reprisals from government officials and for other reasons.” Organized enthusiasts like Realmilk, claim that when “Americans could buy Real Milk, heart disease, allergies and cancer diseases were rare,” crudely insinuating that pasteurization is responsible. Other cheerleaders for raw milk claim it has undeniable benefits not only for the consumer, the farmer, the cows, but also for the environment, e.g. some supporters believe that the lack of “friendly bacteria” in pasteurized milk may provide a better environment for “health harming microorganisms to flourish. ”

Critics of raw milk, including the Food and Drug Administration(FDA), most state governments, and the group Public Citizen cite the dangers of pathogens and dispute the health claims. Despite the restrictions and conditions imposed on producers of raw milk, the FDA states “raw milk, no matter how carefully produced, may be unsafe.” (my emphasis). May be unsafe?

Ever since Louis Pasteur in 1862 first invented the process that bears his name, cascades of words, articles, opinions, and arguments have issued forth. Here are just some of the facts: Raw milk and unpasteurized milk products, such as cheese, ice cream, yogurt, puddings, and others, can transmit an archipelago of don’t-let-the-daunting-names-turn-you-off diseases, including but not limited to listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes), Coxiella Burnetii (Cause of Q Fever), camplyobacter infection (one of the most common causes of bacterial diarrheal illness in the U.S.) Brucellosis (undulant fever or brucellosis), Salmonella, not to mention E. coli, tuberculosis, & etc. Outbreaks of listeria, Q fever, and camplyobacter and other diseases transmitted from raw milk continue to be reported in North America and throughout the world.

Here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization:
“• Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and
allergic reactions. …
• Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value.
• Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk
out of the refrigerator for extended time, particularly after it
has been opened.
• Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
• Pasteurization DOES save lives.”

Need I add that people who consume raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products are taking big time health risks?

The Great Green Tea Epidemic

Sunday, October 7th, 2007


Americans are apt to be unduly interested in what average opinion believes average opinion to be.

J.M Keynes

The public will believe anything, so long as it is not founded on truth.

Edith Sitwell

Millions are feeling the heat from the latest media blitz, The Great Green Tea explosion, appearing in print and TV. Quotes continue in millions of spam mail as well as interviews featured on ads and interviews from CBS, CNN “100 times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times better than vitamin E,” Dr. Perricone on Oprah. “…10 pounds in six weeks, I guarantee it” Read all about the New drink that will “Burn Calories” (Food News Story), Coca Cola, makers of Nestea, jumps on the green tea bandwagon, launching Enviga beverage with Nestle.

In a USDA chart on green tea read about the flavenoids, polyphenols, thearubigins, epicatechins, and catechins it contains. These antioxidant compounds, described in my newsletter, are hailed by enthusiasts and green tea marketers as “more than 10-100 times more potent than in black tea,” and better and more potent than antioxidants present in fruits and veggies. If you do a Google search on “green tea,” you’ll find 24 million sites among which are uncountable url’s where the health benefits of this astounding drink are catalogued. For example, you can discover ways to treat Alzheimer’s, prevent cancer (tell that to Asians with some of the highest rates of esophageal and gastric cancer in the world), and achieve robust health and long life. I could go on.

Green tea is not the first product to move from health foods stores into the supermarket mainstream thanks to its alluringly seductive image. Prefigured in the New Age niche by tofu, soy and rice-based milk, and, don’t forget chai (Chinese, Persian, Hindi, and Russian equivalent for the word tea), virtually unavailable in supermarkets 10 years ago, green tea received its first big push from Starbucks. No reliable Government or other research has confirmed tea’s purported anti-oxidant-rich healing powers. However, the day after Starbucks introduced the green tea frappuccino in the United States, The American Institute for Cancer Research (a privately-funded organization) described on its web site as “The cancer charity that fosters research on diet and cancer prevention and educates the public about the results,” in a funded report claimed that green tea contained a substance, EGCG, that may “short-circuit” cancer development.

An Enviga Web site says that the drink’s blend of green tea and caffeine burns more calories than it contains and can help drinkers maintain an ideal weight.

In the meantime, the Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, said that his office was investigating claims by Coca-Cola and Netstle that a new drink can burn calories, saying it may amount to “voodoo nutrition.”

Mr. Blumenthal said the investigation would focus on Enviga, a green-tea drink that contains caffeine, calcium and a green-tea extract known as epigallocatechin gallate. Coke says the extract speeds metabolism and increases energy use.