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* Low-carb Diet Interest Is on the Wane


* Moderation Is Best, Even for Vitamin E


* Fast Foods Under the Spotlight Again


Low-carb Diet Interest Is on the Wane

A study by the NPD Group, an independent marketing information company, found that the percentage of American adults on any kind of low-carbohydrate diet in 2004 peaked at about 9% in February and dropped to 5% by early November. Only 1 of 4 people surveyed was significantly cutting the carbs and "virtually none" were reducing the carbs as much as the diets they were trying to follow actually recommended.


This is bad news for the many companies that rode the low-carb wave. They are either out of business or desparately refocusing their strategies. For example, there is reduced demand for specialty proteins and starches used to reduce carbohydrates in foods, and so companies in this business are struggling. However, Smart Money has it that low-carb products aren't going to disappear. For example ACNielsen LabelTrends reports that sales of products labeled for low-carb lifestyles were still growing but that they had slowed considerably. Sales, in terms of dollars, rose only 6.1% for the 13 weeks ended late September 2004, compared with the previous quarter ending in June, whereas there was a 105% increase during the quarter ending in March 2004.


Source: Dow Jones Newswire


Moderation Is Best, Even for Vitamin E

Vitamin E may have health benefits and reduce risks of some types of cancer. But a recent meta-analysis of more than 135,000 people who took part in 19 clinical trials shows that it may be possible to get too much of a good thing like Vitamin E, and that possibly in large amounts Vitamin E does more harm than good. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin E for most women is about 16.5 and 22.5 IU, respectively, for men and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Multivitamins contain an average of 30 IU of vitamin E. Many people take vitamin E supplements containing 400 to 800 IU per capsule in hopes of reducing risks for cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer disease, even though its effectiveness has not yet been established for these purposes.


These researchers analyzed the relationship between vitamin E supplementation and all causes of death. The doses ranged from 16.5 to 2000 IU, with an average intake of 400 IU per day. They found that taking high doses of vitamin E-defined at 400 IU or more per day-for at least 1 year increased the risk of death from all causes. The effects of smaller doses of vitamin E, particularly when intakes were less than 200 IU, were unclear. After a review of this research, the American Heart Association recommended that daily use of vitamin E supplements in doses of 400 international units (IU) or more should be avoided.


Source: American Heart Association Annual Meeting


Fast Foods Under the Spotlight Again

A study published in The Lancet found that young people who frequently ate fast food gained 4.5 kg more than those who did so less often, and were more than twice as likely to develop an insulin disorder linked to diabetes.


The United States-based team analyzed data from 3000 young people enrolled in a study of cardiac health over 15 years, who received medical checkups and answered questions about diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors. Statistical techniques were used to try to minimize the impact of other factors that might affect these outcomes. Those who said they visited fast-food outlets twice a week or more gained 4.5 kg more over the course of the study than those who dined there less than once a week. Those patronizing fast-food places more also had more than double the chance of developing insulin resistance, which is considered a predictor of Type 2 diabetes. Fast foods are high in calories and are tasty, so it is easy to eat a lot. Some fast-food chains have begun offering healthier alternatives, including water, low-fat milk, salads, and fruit. Additional efforts, including use of leaner meats; whole-grain bread; lower-fat fries; lower-sugar, lower-calorie soft drinks; and more vegetables are being urged by advocates. It remains to be seen if such innovations sell.


Source: The Lancet. 365(9453)


Immigrants, Beware!! Living in the United States is Fattening!!

Immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least 15 years are nearly as fat as United States-born adults, say Mita Goel, MD, a researcher at Northwestern University in The Journal of the American Medical Association.


Immigrants generally originate from countries where the prevalence of obesity is lower than in the United States. As they acculturate to American norms over time they seem to fatten up. Perhaps the fact that they also face more barriers to quality healthcare and are less likely to receive preventive healthcare, including discussions about diet and exercise with their doctors and obesity treatment, than persons born in the United States, contributes to the problem as well. Immigrants are the fastest growing segment of Americans, comprising more than 11% of the total US population, and therefore what happens to them will have a large effect on the country.


Source: JAMA 292:2860-2867


Diabetes Among Older Americans Cost $133.5 Billion in the 1990s

Diabetes is harming the nation's purse as well as its health, according to a University of Michigan study. It showed that lost productivity among older Americans with diabetes had cost the country nearly $133.5 billion by the year 2000, and that even greater costs might occur in the future.


The study, published in Health Services Research, analyzed diabetes-associated death, disability, early retirement, and work absenteeism among a national household sample of older adults interviewed over an 8-year period. Analyzing the health and work history of study participants who were born between 1931 and 1941, and controlling for other health conditions, the researchers found that diabetes was a significant predictor of lost productivity. The average person with diabetes lost $2800 in wages owing to early retirement, $630 owing to sick days, and $22,100 owing to disability, the researchers discovered. When these results were extended to all diabetics born between 1931 and 1941-2.3 million people-the economic losses climbed to $58.6 billion. The study also found $60 billion in lost productivity prior to 1992 in the same age group, suggesting a total productivity loss due to diabetes of nearly $120 billion for the 8-year period analyzed. The analysis excluded people who were already disabled by diabetes at the start of the study. When the lost productivity of this group was added, the economic toll of the disease mounted to $133.5 billion. Since the analysis was limited to Americans born between 1931 and 1941, the total cost of productivity lost as a result of diabetes is much greater, the researchers said. Still, they point out that there is room for hope since some of the economic impact of the disease can be attenuated by early treatment or, better still, by prevention.


About 18.2 million Americans are estimated to have diabetes. Because Americans are aging, and because of the dramatic increase in obesity and sedentary lifestyles even among the young, the prevalence of diabetes is increasing at an epidemic rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US Department of Health and Human Services recently estimated that given current trends, 1 in 3 people born today will develop diabetes.


Source: Wall Street Journal


Obese Women Face Higher Risk For Colorectal Cancer

New study findings show that a high body mass index (BMI) among women is a more significant risk factor for colorectal cancer than it is for men. According to data released during the recent Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology, researchers from Stony Brook Medical School found a relationship between increased BMI and the risk for colorectal cancer. The researchers divided the women into several groups on the basis of their BMI and evaluated whether their screening tests detected large polyps or multiple polyps, high-grade dysplasia (a precancerous change in the colon) or cancer. Women who had a BMI of 40 (considered obese) or more were more than 5 times more likely to have significant colonic cancer detected during colonoscopy compared with women with a BMI of 25 or less (considered healthy weight). The study controlled for smoking, age, alcohol use, and family history of colorectal cancer.


Source: American College of Gastroenterology Scientific Meeting


Healthy Americans May Not Need All the Fixings at the Annual Trip to the Doctor

If you are healthy, you may not need a complete physical every year, although you may need a bit of a tune-up in some areas. New research suggests that the traditional annual exam just doesn't seem to pay off in terms of early disease detection and prevention, or a longer life. Instead, experts say, physicians and patients should schedule less comprehensive health checks that take into account an individual's risk factors and age. These suggestions come from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which recommends that physicians use only those procedures and tests that have proved to be effective, such as cholesterol screening, mammography, Papanicolaou smears, and colon cancer screening. However, seeing your physician for a yearly exam offers benefits that can't be measured. For example, it fosters a strong doctor-patient relationship and provides important background information that can help your physician care for you more effectively. Thus, the annual physical is not necessarily totally obsolete. But there's something to be said about discarding the routine use of procedures and tests with no proven preventative value in favor of tailoring a woman's care to her personal risk profile.


Source: Harvard Women's Health Watch, November 2004