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FOOD CONTAMINATION

Vegan Man Scores Lowest-Ever Blood Dioxin Level

A vegan man in Oregon has registered the lowest dioxin level ever measured in human blood, according to an American Chemical Society presentation by Olaf Päpke on March 23. Dioxins are toxic byproducts of industrial processes and combustion. They accumulate in animal fat, including that of humans who eat meat or dairy products. Ovolactovegetarians have blood dioxin levels similar to those of meat-eaters, but vegans—who avoid all animal products—have much lower levels. Because fatty breast tissue accumulates dioxin, a woman gives up to half of her total body load of dioxin to her first breast-fed baby.

Government Spells Mercury F-I-S-H

The Centers for Disease Control are looking for mercury in fish-eaters. CDC researchers will check blood and hair samples from 4,000 participants in the fourth National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES IV). They expect to find the highest levels in those who have eaten the most fish for the longest period of time.

Meanwhile, high mercury levels have turned up in San Francisco Bay fish, especially striped bass, catfish, and leopard shark. PCBs and DDT also continue to be found in Bay-area fish, prompting regulators to continue the 1994 advisory to limit fish meals to no more than two per month, or one per month for pregnant women and young children. On second thought, try the salad bar.

 EPA Side-Steps the Worst Water Pollutants—Fecal Germs

Bacteria and viruses pose a greater water pollution hazard than chemical contaminants, according to a new report from the American Society for Microbiology, yet are largely ignored by the Environmental Protection Agency. Livestock waste and untreated human waste contribute to 900,000 cases of illness and 900 deaths annually. "Cattle can excrete millions of E.coli O157, cryptospo-ridium, giardia and other microbes," the ASM report said. "Chicken wastes carry the pathogenic bacteria salmonella and campylobacter." The EPA's drinking water standards cover more than 70 chemicals, but only 1 microbe—coliform bacteria.

CANCER

Diet Helps Prevent Skin Cancer

Cutting out fatty foods can help prevent skin cancer, just as it can for many other forms of the disease. In a group of 115 non-melanoma skin cancer patients, a 20-percent-fat diet dramatically cut recurrence rates.

Fats in foods end up in cell membranes, including those of skin cells, and influence the formation of free radicals that can lead to cancer.

Drink Up to Prevent Bladder Cancer

Men who drink more water—or any other fluids—have less risk of bladder cancer. A study of 47,909 male health professionals studied for ten years found that doubling fluid intake in the course of a day (from about 1.3 liters to more than 2.5 liters) cuts bladder cancer risk in half. The reason, presumably, is that fluids dilute any carcinogens that may be in the urine.

 Beans Beat Colon Cancer

Scientists have teased out myriad plant compounds that cut cancer risk. The latest are lectins in broad beans, compounds that stop colon cancer cells from multiplying, according to test-tube studies conducted by John Calam and his colleagues at Hammersmith Hospital and the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London.

The Power of Soy

The Third International Symposium on the Role of Soy in Preventing and Treating Chronic Disease will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C., October 31 to November 3, 1999. For information, call 217-359-2344.

Black HS. Influence of dietary factors on actinically-induced skin cancer. Mutat Res 1998;422:185-90.
Michaud DS, Spiegelman D, Clinton SK, et al. Fluid intake and the risk of bladder cancer in men. N Engl J Med 1999;340:1390-7.
Jordinson M, El-Hariry I, Calnan D, Calam J, Pignatelli M. Vicia faba agglutinin, the lectin present in broad beans, stimulates differentiation of undifferentiated colon cancer cells. Gut. 1999;44:709-714.

MEDICAL NEWS

Drug Companies Focus on Human Genes

A consortium of ten drug companies plans to combine efforts to identify human genetic markers to guide them in developing new drugs and diagnostic tests. The companies have committed $45 million to the project and aim to openly share their findings. This program is separate from the human genome mapping project, which will determine the building blocks of human DNA.

Milk Slows Recovery from Bowel Surgery

Milk slows down recovery from bowel surgery, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.

The study, led by Dr. L. Peter Fielding of York Hospital, in York, PA, compared patients given a dairy-free diet to others given a "standard" hospital diet. The dairy-free diet cut the incidence of diarrhea from 32 percent to 5 percent, and shortened the recovery from ten days to seven, cutting hospital costs from $10,337 to $6,751.

About 65,000 people undergo bowel surgery each year. The researchers estimated that if all hospitals instituted the diet change, they would save $250 million annually.

Lactose intolerance (an inability to digest the milk sugar lactose) may not be the only reason people benefit from the diet change. Both the fat and the protein in dairy products can affect digestive function.

 Sunlight Versus Hip Fractures

When women with acute hip fractures are tested, half are found to be low in vitamin D, according to a study of women admitted to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Vitamin D is made by sun exposure to the skin and is important in regulating calcium balance.

 A Vegetarian Menu Beats Dieting

If you're aiming to lose weight, it's a whole lot easier to stick with a vegetarian diet than a calorie-restricted diet, according to the University of Pittsburgh's Cheryl Smith. In a survey of young women who had tried both, the average person was able to stay on a calorie-restricted diet for only four months, while the median duration on a vegetarian diet was two years—and counting.

LeBoff MS, Kohlmeier L, Hurwitz S, Franklin J, Wright J, Glowacki J. Occult vitamin D deficiency in postmenopausal U.S. women with acute hip fracture. JAMA. 1999;281:1505-1511.
Smith CF, Burke LE, Wing RR. Young adults remain on vegetarian diet longer than on weight loss diets. Ann Beh Med. 1999;21(suppl):S090.

AIDS

HIV Infections Reach 47 Million

An estimated 47 million people worldwide now carry HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The figure climbed from 9.8 million in 1990 to 30.3 million in 1997, and it continues upward.

Virus Came from Eating Chimpanzees

The AIDS virus originated in West African chimpanzees, according to Beatrice Hahn and her colleagues at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The chimp version of the AIDS virus, called SIVcpz, is rare in captive chimps but has apparently spread among wild chimps for hundreds of thousands of years. Chimps have no ill effects from the virus, which is nearly identical to HIV. Scientists believe humans first contracted the virus after capturing chimps for food.

Nader Charges Gore with Obstructing Drugs for Africa

Consumer and AIDS advocates have responded angrily to Vice President Al Gore's efforts to block the supply of less expensive AIDS drugs to Africa. As head of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission, Gore has pressed South Africa to change a law that currently allows access to AIDS drugs at a discount. South Africa is desperate for AIDS medicine since 3 million of its 43 million citizens are currently infected with HIV and the country is unable to pay inflated drug prices. Ralph Nader said Gore simply wants to "curry favor with the pharmaceutical industry." A Gore spokesperson said that higher drug prices help AIDS patients by making sure drug companies maintain profit levels to develop new AIDS medications.

Gao F, Bailes E, Robertson DL, et al. Origin of HIV-1 in the chimpanzee Pan troglodytes troglodytes. Nature. 1999;397:436-441.



 

Summer 1999 (Volume VIII, Number 3)

Summer 1999
Volume VIII
Number 3

Good Medicine
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