Two Blogs Become One

ID-100296022Dear Friends,

For the past 3 years we kept two separate blogs and social media platforms to share the news coming from our Center for Drug Information and Natural Products.

We have made a decision to merge the posts from our Drug Information and Natural Products divisions to provide you with more comprehensive news and updates.

To continue getting our posts, please follow us on Thank you and warmest wishes to you from snow-covered Boston!

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Low Vitamin D in Childhood Linked to Later Heart Risks

sunshine_145918109A long-term Finnish study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has reported that vitamin D deficiency in childhood may be linked to hardening of the arteries later in life. In 1980 the researchers enrolled 2,148 children aged 3 to 18 who underwent periodic physical exams measuring serum vitamin D levels and other cardiovascular markers until they were 45 years old. During this time, doctors used ultrasound to examine their arteries (including the carotid artery in the neck) for thickening as a marker of increased cardiovascular risk. After adjusting for age, sex and other cardiovascular risk factors, the results showed children in the lowest one-quarter for vitamin D levels were nearly twice as likely to have thickening of the carotid artery as those in the other three quarters. This evidence suggests Vitamin D is important for good artery health. What are your typical sources of Vitamin D? How often do you recommend your patients to get their Vitamin D levels checked?

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Seriously, stop using your smartphone in bed

ID-10072070Insomnia is becoming increasingly prevalent in this age of technology. Multiple studies have shown this, with the latest survey done with 9,846 teenagers aged 16 to 19 in Norway. The teens recorded their sleep patterns as well as their technology usage throughout the day, with a focus on the hour before bedtime. Researchers found what they call a “dose-response relationship” — the more you dose yourself with devices, the higher your risk of sleeplessness. A multiple number of reasons can be attributed to this. First, the blue light that comes from all LED screens, which has been found to interfere with production of the sleep hormone melatonin in the brain. Second, the hunched-over posture that tends to come with screen usage can lead to headaches and muscular pain. It is also possible that the electromagnetic radiation coming from cell phones can keep us from getting a good nights sleep. Researchers say the ideal activity to partake in before going to bed is reading a slow-paced book to help the mind and body relax and drift off to sleep. What are your tips for diminishing the use of devices before bed? What do you typically recommend to teenagers?

For more information, please click here.

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More College Freshmen Report Having Felt Depressed

ID-10065994An increasing number of freshmen are feeling depressed and overwhelmed, according to an annual survey. “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014,” surveyed over 150,000 students and found that 9.5% of respondents had frequently “felt depressed” during the past year, a significant rise over the 6.1% reported 5 years ago. Those who “felt overwhelmed” by schoolwork and other commitments rose to 34.6 percent from 27.1 percent.“It’s a public health issue,” said Dr. Anthony L. Rostain, a psychiatrist and co-chairman of a University of Pennsylvania task force on students’ emotional health. “We’re expecting more of students: There’s a sense of having to compete in a global economy, and they think they have to be on top of their game all the time. It’s no wonder they feel overwhelmed.” The survey also reported that students are spending less time watching television and surprisingly, a decline in drinking and smoking cigarettes among college freshman. How do you speak to young people about stress? What are your favorite strategies in dealing with stress?

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Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici]/

New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers

ID-10033583According to the New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, four major retailers are accused of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements. Authorities conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — finding 4 out of 5 of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The products contained cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, potentially dangerous to those with allergies. “Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal,” said the state attorney general. The FDA has now threatened to take legal action if the companies do not resolve the problem. In response, Walgreens has agreed to remove the products nationwide, not just in New York. GNC is also willing to
cooperate with the attorney general “in all appropriate ways,” but stands behind the quality and purity of its store brand supplements. Target could not be reached for further comment. How often do you discuss the quality concerns with your patients?  What are you typically looking for in a product in terms of quality? What are some of your favorite trusted companies?

For more information, please click here.

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Too much jogging ‘as bad as no exercise at all’

ID-100133983A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says that too much jogging may be just as bad as not jogging at all. Over a 12 year period, scientists studied more than 1,000 healthy joggers and non-joggers. They found that those who ran at a steady pace for less than 2 1/2 hours a week were least likely to die in this time. Meanwhile, those who ran more than 4 hours a week or did no exercise had the highest death rates. Researchers suggest that “long-term strenuous endurance exercise may induce pathological structural remodeling of the heart and arteries.” Guidelines recommend moderate-intensity exercising for at least 150 minutes a week and for those who are just starting, even a brisk walk is a good place to begin. What types of exercise do you recommend? What about for people that are new to working out?

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Are Vitamin Drinks a Bad Idea?

ID-10020546The vitamins and minerals are in the news again, with all this being related to their addition to sports drinks, water and juices. Scientists suggests that consumers might be ingesting higher than necessary (and sometimes potentially harmful) amounts. When consumed in excess, water-soluble vitamins like B and C are in the urine, but fat soluble-vitamins including A, D, E and K, accumulate in tissues, posing potential risks. Some people (for example, pregnant or lactating women) will require additional vitamins and minerals, but for the majority of the population, these nutrients should be primarily acquired through daily diet. This discussion extends to antioxidants and the lack of information on the long-term supplementation effects. Scientists state that it is impossible to consume too much from foods but the exposure through supplementation may be too great. How do you counsel your patients about healthy diet and vitamin/mineral/antioxidant rich foods? For those who require supplementation, what are your typical recommendations?

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Curcumin may help lower inflammation in metabolic syndrome

ID-100149024Turmeric as well as one of its main ingredients, curcumin, are well-known for their anti-inflammatory activity. A new study from the journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluates curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome. In this randomized controlled clinical trial 117 participants, who had already been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, were split in half to either receive one gram of curcumin or placebo for 8 weeks. The researchers measured levels of three inflammation blood markers at the beginning and end of the study. They found the participants who took curcumin had improved blood levels of all three inflammatory biomarkers as well as reduced fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, a measure of long term blood sugar levels. “The findings of our studies, along with clinical findings reported by other groups, indicate the usefulness of daily use of curcumin supplement for the prevention and treatment of several diseases,” the study’s senior author states. Curcumin has strong antioxidant and antiinflammaotry properties which give the compound its therapeutic effects. The authors advise that even at high doses curcumin is a very safe natural supplement, but should be avoided in pregnant and lactating women. How do you incorporate curcumin and turmeric into your diet?

For additional information click here

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Ask Well: The Best Time of Day to Exercise to Lose Weight

ID-100110814Researchers in Belgium have found that exercising in the very early hours of the morning can help the body to burn more fat and potentially keep off weight gain, compared to exercising at other times. In the study, researchers had young, healthy men to gorge themselves for 6 weeks with a diet consisting of 30% more calories and 50% more fat than what they had been eating prior. The first group of the volunteers remained sedentary while eating. The second began a strenuous, midmorning exercise routine after they had had breakfast while the third group followed the same workout regimen, but before they had eaten anything. After the 6 weeks, the first group predictably had gained the most weight, at 6 pounds, and had begun to develop insulin resistance. The second group gained 3 pounds and also developed insulin problems. But the third group of men gained almost no weight and retained healthy insulin levels. Their bodies were also burning more fat throughout the day than were the other men. It is important to note though that the early-morning exercise prevented weight gain, which is not the same thing as inducing weight loss. But the results are encouraging to anyone who is looking to have a healthier lifestyle. Does this study motivate you to work out early in the morning? What about in this weather?


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Ramping up e-cigarette voltage produces more formaldehyde: study

ID-100265931Smoking e-cigarettes at a higher voltage can can people to have more exposure to formaldehyde, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from Portland State University took flavored nicotine liquid made by Halo Cigs and tested it in a personal vaporizer from Innokin. The vaporizer allows consumers to adjust the voltage from 3.3V to 5.0V. The higher the voltage the greater the nicotine kick, but also the greater the amount of formaldehyde. Inhaled as a gas, formaldehyde has been linked to an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia. Researchers concluded that the life-time risk of developing formaldehyde-related cancer was roughly 1 in 200 for high-voltage e-cigarettes versus 1 in 1,000 for cigarettes – at least five times higher. They found no increased risk for people smoking at a low voltage. What are you thoughts on smoking cigarettes vs. e-cigarettes? How often do you counsel patients about e-cigarettes?

For more information, please click here.

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