November, 2005 Visit Website
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In This Issue

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Double Your Risk of Urinary Retention

E-nose sniffs out hospital superbug MRSA

Brown Rice Sales is on the Rise

Make Water Safe to Drink

The Smart Way to Read Food Labels




Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Double Your Risk of Urinary Retention

In the wake of the highly publicized cardiovascular issues surrounding the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), another health concern regarding the drugs has crept to the forefront.

According to a Dutch study, NSAIDs double the risk of developing acute urinary retention - the abnormal holding of urine within the bladder, often due to bladder muscle failure. The findings link the risk to the use of ibuprofen, naproxen (Aleve) and Celebrex, matching earlier case studies that tied NSAID use to the production of prostaglandin, a hormone essential to muscle function.

Researchers reviewed data on more than 72,000 Dutch men; they then identified 536 cases of urinary retention and compared their use of NSAIDs with more than 5,000 men who didn't have the condition. Data showed:

  • The risk of developing urinary retention doubled among the men using NSAIDS, compared to those who didn't use the drugs.
  • Patients taking the drugs for the first time or using them in higher-than-prescribed doses were at the highest risk of urinary retention.



E-nose sniffs out hospital superbug MRSA

An electronic nose that sniffs out infections was reported in New Scientist, Sept 24th, edition. This e-nose could help hospitals tackle outbreaks of the antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA.

Culture tests routinely used to identify MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) take two or three days to complete. This hampers attempts to manage outbreaks as infected patients remain untreated and at risk of infecting others.

DNA-based tests are being trialled that promise to reduce test times to 2 hours, but now UK-based researchers have come up with a test using an electronic sniffer that could cut the time further, to just 15 minutes. Writing in the journal Sensors and Actuators B (vol. 109, p 355), engineers at the University of Warwick and doctors at the Heart of England Hospital, Birmingham, say the electronic nose can recognize the unique cocktail of volatile organic compounds that S. aureus strains excrete.

E-noses analyze gas samples by passing the gas over an array of electrodes coated with different conducting polymers. Each electrode reacts to particular substances by changing its electrical resistance in a characteristic way. Combining the signals from all the electrodes gives a "smell-print" of the chemicals in the mixture that neural network software built into the e-nose can learn to recognize.

Each e-nose is about the size of a pair of desktop PCs and costs about �60,000. The food industry uses similar machines to root out rotten ingredients.


Brown Rice Sales is on the Rise

Andrew La Vallee of Columbus News Service says that brown rice is catching up with its paler counterpart. More and more people are opting for brown rice instead of white, which has traditionally been the rice of choice in the United States. Some publishers are noticing the increasing interest and responding with recipes and meal suggestions.

"Consumers are finally starting to get that whole grains are good for them," said Molly Johnson, director of retail trade and special promotions for the USA Rice Federation, a trade group. According to Paul Galvani, vice president of marketing for Riviana Foods in Houston, the retail brown rice category has grown more than 20% in the last five years.

What's more, brown-rice sales are expected to continue to rise. According to "The U.S. Market for Whole Grain and High Fiber Foods," a report by Packaged Facts which is the publishing division of www.MarketResearch.com, brown rice is driving U.S. retail growth of whole grain and high-fiber grains and beans.

Since not everyone knows how to prepare brown rice nor how much they should be changing their diets, others are responding with more requests for instructional information. Shereen Jeqtvig -- a certified nutrition specialist who serves as a nutrition guide on the community information website About.com -- said she gets many "beginner questions" like how to adjust cooking times and which white-rice recipes work with brown-rice substitutions. Making sushi, for example, requires stickier grains than are typically found in brown rice, she said.

While white rice loses vitamins, minerals and fiber during milling and polishing, brown rice arrives in stores with only its outer hull removed. It contains four times the insoluble fiber of white rice and packs a punch of niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and vitamin E. It also contains the amino acid lysine and protein.

Brown rice, like other whole grains, has been found to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and rectal cancer. A study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health showed that women who consumed more whole grains weighed less than women who consumed fewer.


Make Water Safe to Drink

Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council says that whether your home's water comes from a municipal supply or a well, there may be something in it that you would be better off without. For example, chlorine by-products are linked with an increased risk of cancer, some bacteria cause diarrhea, vomiting and fever and can he deadly in people with weakened immune systems and high lead levels can cause developmental problems in children.

He suggests testing your water. If your water comes from a municipal supply, you can contact your water utility and request a free copy of its annual "Water Quality Report." This will outline any problems with your water. Urbanites also can check the Natural Resources Defense Council's 'What On Tap' report on water quality in 19 large American cities. Log on to www.nrdc.org/water.

He says that a municipal water report can't tell you for sure if there's too much lead in your water, however, because lead problems often are caused by lead pipes in or leading to specific homes. Clean Water Lead Testing, Inc., a nonprofit testing firm associated with the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina, will mail you a test kit and analyze the results for $17 (828-251-6800, www.leadtcsting.org).

Olson says that if you have a well, hire a certified water-testing lab to conduct a comprehensive test. Expect to be charged $150 to 200 for a test that screens for about 200 common contaminants. A list of certified labs sorted by state is available on the Environmental. Protection Agency's Web site at www.epa.gov/safe water. Click on "local drinking water information" and then select your state. He also tells us that Underwriters Labs and some other national laboratories arc certified in most states (www.uldrinkwell.com). He suggests having your well water checked annually--problems can develop at any time, particularly in wells that are less than 100 feet deep.

In discussing water filters, Olson says that not all water filters are appropriate for every water problem. Before you buy one, make sure it is independently certified to remove the contaminant you are concerned about by contacting NSF International, a nonprofit product certification organization (800-673-6275, www.nsforg/ccnified/dwtu).

Chlorine by-products are an issue. Municipal water-treatment systems frequently leave chlorine by-products in drinking water. Not only can these chemicals give water an unpleasant smell and taste, but studies have found that prolonged exposure increases risk of bladder and rectal cancers. The chemicals also might increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects when ingested by pregnant women.

The best solution is carbon or other filter certified for reduction of trihalomethane. Many types of water filters remove chlorine by-products, but carbon or activated carbon filters are the most cost-effective and easiest to use. A filter that mounts on the faucet or below the kitchen sink can cost as little as $50. Because you arc exposed to a fair amount of chlorine when you shower, you may want a filter for the shower or a whole-house filter, particularly if you or someone in your home is pregnant. A whole-house system costs several hundred dollars, and replacement filter cartridges run about $50.

Microorganisms like bacteria, protozoans and viruses can contaminate drinking water and cause serious illness. Shallow wells are at greatest risk. The best solution is an ultraviolet (UV) light filter or other NSF-certified disinfection device. Unlike most other disinfecting devices, UV kills microorganisms without adding chemicals to your water. For a point-of-entry system that treats the home's entire water supply, expect to spend $500 or more.

For lead install a filter in the kitchen and in bathrooms where children or pregnant women may drink the water (showering is not a problem). The best solution is a carbon or other filter certified by NSF for lead reduction. Olson says to make sure lead removal is specifically mentioned on the filter's packaging--not all carbon filters are designed to remove lead. If you have more than 100 parts per billion of lead in your water, consult a water-filtration professional.

Multiple contaminants may be found in well water. Rather than address them individually, select a filter that can deal with them all. The best solution is a reverse-osmosis filter or other broad-spectrum filter. Reverse osmosis is very effective because it pushes water through a thin membrane with microscopic holes (like a microscopic window screen) that filters out just about everything. Under-sink models typically cost $200 to $400, while point-of-entry systems cost several thousand. Olson says that the reverse-osmosis process wastes a considerable amount of water, increasing the burden you put on your well. Replacement membranes and increased electricity bills can push the annual cost of use to more than $100.



The Smart Way to Read Food Labels

Why does an excess of our calories come from fat, cholesterol and sodium, and not enough are derived from essential nutrients such as the vitamins, minerals and fiber found in vegetables and fruit ? This is because many consumers pay little attention to food labels when shopping.

Here are some phrases to pay attention to:

  • Calories per serving.
    Note the number of servings that a package of food contains. The calorie count listed on the package often corresponds to just one serving of that food.
  • Saturated fats and trans fats.
    Both are known to raise cholesterol levels, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. Trans fats prolong the shelf life of a food and can be found in cereals, chips, crackers and cookies.
    By 2006, food makers will be required to indicate the amount of trans fats on a label, though some already have begun to do so. Ideally, you should eat as little saturated and trans fats as possible.
  • Percent daily value.
    This figure is on the right side of the label and ignored by most of us. This is an easy way to keep track of how much sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol you consume in a day and to stay within the acceptable amounts.
    In general, a daily value of 5% or less of saturated fat, for example, is considered low, while 20% or more is high. (Note: The percentages are based on a daily diet of 2000 calories.)


In Good Health.
Pamela Nathan


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