WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES
Yo! All kinds of news you’ll want to check out today, Apples. Here’s the best of it:
Bite My MDA
The FDA says it wants stricter warnings on the dangers of over-the-counter pain pills like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxin sodium. Since thousands of people die every year from painkiller-related problems (even when following dosage directions!), this is a good thing, but we’re still not forgiving the FDA for what we feel is a moronic decision yesterday to allow Celebrex for tiny tots. It’s not at all about being anti-drug – drugs serve a tremendously important role in improving human health and survival. But we think it’s short-sighted to approve the prescription of a very problematic drug to the wee ones.
There’s no clear-cut data on just how many people die from painkillers, according to the FDA. Sure. If you believe that, you’ll also believe the FDA’s claim that they wanted to issue stern warnings back in 2002, but it just takes so long to write warnings. Yes, that’s right – your eyes do not deceive you. It has taken over four years to deal with this because, well, writing a few paragraphs for pill bottle labels just takes a really, really long time. We know there are things like rules, regulations, and procedures. But don’t lives take precedence? Nope – lobbyists do, and that’s why it takes so long. That’s why they get paid the big bucks, Apples.
Feed Those Kids Some Sushi!
While this is a small, simple study, it’s certainly interesting news for your little ones’ health that isn’t the least bit fishy. Read up.
Why Supplements Are Important As We Age
Here’s a good study out of Cornell University that discusses the importance of supplements for older women. Stay healthy, ladies!
Trans Fats Make It to State
First, Chicago and NYC had to start in with the fat bans. We’re still waiting on Los Angeles to join the city competition, but in the meantime, an entire state – Massachusetts – is all set to ban trans fats, too. They always have to be first, don’t they? However, we’re glad to see the trans fat issue finally getting some serious political sizzle (we know, we know…bad pun).
WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES
Howdy! Here’s the latest & greatest from the world of health news (of course, with our views):
Where Studies Get Tricky
More breast cancer news. A study of about 2,400 women found that non-hormone-receptor breast cancer survivors who ate 20% fat in their diets had a lesser chance of cancer relapse than those who ate just under 30% fat in their diets. The lower-fat group had 238 relapses, while the higher-fat group had 302 relapses. What’s unclear about this is if the weight loss is what spurred better survival rates, or the actual percentage intake of fat. Or, if there were other factors unforseen (smoking rates, family history, pregnancies). Or, if a difference of about 60 is enough to make a claim. This is where studies get difficult…clickativity. Let’s discuss, Apples.
Food Poisoning? I’ll Take That to Go, Thanks.
Again? Seriously, again? We’re starting to think restaurants just really hate their customers.
It’s a Good Day for Alcohol…Is That a Good Thing?
We’re not exactly impressed. Liquor is medicine now? (Well, it is a drug…)
We still say be careful with the alcohol hype. Better to get your antioxidants from something that can’t also poison you (like a good multivitamin). However, because we’re big proponents of moderation here at the MDA, we do agree that a glass of wine with dinner is probably nothing to worry about, and may even be good for you. We’re also glad to hear this news.
We’re a Little Scared to Let the Big Apple See This One
And in another genius decision, the FDA approves Celebrex for tots. Terrific. What’s especially terrific is that, while these folks voted 15-1 to approve the drug for kids, they only voted 8-7 to approve it as safe. Basically, what this boils down to is that they don’t know for sure that it’s safe, but they’re going to allow it anyway, and Celebrex has to keep tabs on the situation. While we would like to believe that Celebrex has kids’ best interests at heart, that’s kind of like telling a criminal who is out on parole that he should monitor himself in case he gets into trouble. Mind-boggling, is it not? Truth really is stranger than fiction.
HRT is all over the news again. This, from Newsday:
“Statistics from a major study revealing that rates of the most common form of breast cancer dropped dramatically between 2002 and 2003 are being greeted with applause and skepticism as the medical and advocacy communities digest the news.”
Yes, it’s a tough one to chew. In brief, cases of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer (which accounts for nearly 3/4 of breast cancer cases) dropped dramatically from 2002 to 2003. This was the same time that several key studies, including a famous government-funded study (the Women’s Health Initiative), found that hormone replacement therapy (or HRT), particularly that derived from mares – in drugs like Prempro and Premarin – was linked to a significant increase in breast cancer risk.
It makes sense. Estrogen is a powerful hormone and using it in drug therapy has been and continues to be a risky proposition. A dramatic drop in estrogen-receptor breast cancer cases, occurring in tandem with the much-publicized discontinued use of HRT by millions of women, isn’t something I think the drug industry or medical community ought to be stumped by. These are highly-trained, intelligent individuals, and frankly, I think the situation is quite clear. What’s to digest? In one year – the same year in which Prempro saw its sales cut by half – breast cancer rates dropped by over 7%; for women over age 50, the rate was 12%.
This is why it is so important to be critical of any drug therapy that is recommended to us, especially for treating health matters that are either part of aging or can be prevented or better addressed through lifestyle choices. Blood pressure pills and cholesterol-lowering pills and arthritis prescriptions can help, but as we see with the HRT scandal (and last year’s Vioxx and Celebrex disasters), there are always side effects. There are always unintended consequences.
This doesn’t mean you ought to toss your medications if there is a legitimate need for them; but arm yourself with knowledge, be ruthlessly critical of everything that anyone recommends to you, and consider whether there are safer, more natural alternatives. The alternatives are often not as easy in the short term, but they’re certainly easier than painful and even fatal side effects down the road.
WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES
Drug-Eluting Stents Elude Trouble…for Now
An FDA panel is
not really concerned that drug-eluting stents might cause serious blood clots. There are two kinds of stents: those that elute and those that do not. The latter are simple metal devices used to prop open arteries that are gunked up. The former release drugs and are far more popular. In fact, drug-eluting stents make up 90% of stents sold, which means about $6 billion a year in profits for the medical device industry.
So, the news* that they might kill more than they should (remember, the FDA accepts a relative number of “oops” when approving a drug) is not making Big Pharma happy. Over at the Motley Fool, they’re surmising that the FDA will probably let it all slide. Poor Pfizer just lost torcetrapib, so maybe it’s a little bit of a pity party. At any rate, ateriosclerosis, which stents address, is almost entirely preventable with a good diet and daily exercise. Something to think about. Apples?
Will I Miss Out If I Never Eat a Kumquat?
Junior Apple Jessica B. wants to know if we need variety in our diets, after all. Good question, Jess (can we call you Jess?). That does seem to be one of the hallowed tenets of friendly nutritionists everywhere. It’s right up there with 8 glasses of water daily and flail-away-at-the-cardio-machine.
What we want to know is: what do we really know? For all of human history, people ate locally, seasonally, and their variety was often limited. Evidence indicates that cave-dudes and cave-ettes didn’t really struggle much with things like obesity and diabetes. As long as they weren’t wiped out by the latest glacier or wild boar attack, people were reasonably healthy on diets that centered around one or two fiber sources, some type of greens (anything from kelp in Japan to moss in Siberia), and a protein source or two (fish in New Zealand, reindeer in Finland). What do you all think about the variety debate? Get thee to the forum!
* UPDATE MAY/24/07: news article updates latest drug-eluting stent issue. We’ve replaced the old article with the most up-to-date news.
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
1) Taco Bell’s Fourth Meal Campaign – where they’re advising you to revisit mealtime late at night – is suddenly wrought with a lot of potential for humor in bad taste…and terrible puns. We’re not going to stoop to such low standards, but you can bet someone in the blogosphere will. And all because of scallions – scandalous. Clickativo. Good job, Big Agra. Way to win one for the team.
2) The intersection of morality judgments, motherhood and drugs: the debate over breast-feeding continues. The UK reports epidural drugs induce a desire in the mother to breast-feed; depending on when the drugs are given, there may be some unhealthy side effects; and doctors have concerns about another side effect: guilt in mothers who cannot breast-feed. Clickativity.
3) And the kids up at Evergreen U in Washington weigh in (sorry) on the whole Chicago-foie-gras-New-York-trans-fat fracas, which is apparently beginning to turn into a multi-city competition. Will Los Angeles (if it even notices) be the next to ban an unhealthy food? (What, no more white rice in the sushi?). Will Dallas come down on BBQ sauce? Will we start talking about “bootleg” buffalo wings? “Hooch” hamburgers? You know what the unintended consequences are of banning stuff people love: you get organized crime and mob syndicates. You’d think Chicago, of all cities, would remember that one.
Myspace, blogs, cell phones: the infrastructure exists, people. Soon we’ll see 14-year-old boys pelting city headquarters with ketchup packets on their way to deliver forbidden French fries to suburban housewives whose stressed-out husbands just have to have the hooch. Or not. Hey, we know this is absurd, but isn’t it absurd to live in a country where obesity is so out of control, cities actually ban certain foods?
The Evergreen U article suggests posting menu information instead of trying to tell people what to eat. That’s really logical and reasonable (one of the Worker Bees grew up a stone’s throw from Evergreen, and gosh, are they thoughtful people up there). But while it’s a nice idea, this food problem is way past logical. As Mark questioned last week in his musings on relative gluttony, would people really pay attention to the menu information? No one wants to be told what to do, but let’s face it, gluttony is the backbone of the American diet. So here’s the clickativity. Discuss, Apples!
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