July 1, 2015

My Pills and Me: Less Is More

Cleaning out my medicine cabinet

One of my big concerns these days is the overuse of pills -- supplements and prescribed meds -- by patients and doctors. "Less is more" is a favorite mantra whenever I write about medications.

Today we hear a rising chorus from healthcare reformers sounding the "less is more" theme for both medications and also medical treatments. Today, let's discuss the former; soon, we'll discuss the latter.

Dietary Supplements
Until a few years ago, my mantra was "the more, the better" when it came to pills.

The photo above was taken over two years ago when I tossed out my impressive stash of dietary supplements. 

I could no longer ignore the consensus of medical advice from my research and health newsletters. They agree that we get health benefits from all sorts of vitamins and minerals. But they also agree we're better off getting nutritional requirements from food, not pills. A supplement is useful only for people whose diets lack a specific nutrient.

Google "vitamins food or supplements" and you'll see the consensus -- food. For example, ConsumerLab.com poses the question: "Is it better to get vitamins from foods or supplements?"

June 30, 2015

"We Can't Let This Moment of Amazing Grace Just Fade Away"

That was my thought when I finished reading the piece reprinted below. Written by Michael Cohen, it's from Saturday's issue of The Guardian. I hope you will read it and share it with others.

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Ten days that turned America into a better place

Some day, people are going to write books about what happened over the last 10 days in the United States. It began with a depressing reminder of what is, perhaps, the worst of America. A disturbed young man, armed with an easily obtainable and high-calibre handgun, shot down nine people in cold blood. It was a shocking act, but largely because Americans have become so inured to the daily carnage of gun violence that the only types of incidents that stand out are those that are uniquely horrific.

June 29, 2015

Curcumin's Growing Reputation as an Effective Treatment for Many Conditions

Over three years ago, in an April 2012 post, I described my decision to start taking curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric. Since then, I've written about 20 posts on the subject.

Coconut Oil and Curcumin: Fad and Fact
Many earlier posts grew out of my frustration at seeing all the hoopla about coconut oil as a "cure" for Alzheimer's -- and then Parkinson's disease (PD) -- when no studies existed to support those claims. Curcumin, the subject of thousands of studies, was ignored.

What a difference a few years make.

The coconut-oil-for-Alzheimer's bandwagon has run out of steam. Dr. Mary Newport, the band leader, clearly abandoned her promotions of this "miracle" last year (http://bit.ly/1v8lxsY). The first real study on coconut oil and Alzheimer's is finally underway, and we may see a report later this year.

Recent Reports on Curcumin
A review of the turmeric/curcumin research appeared this May in the journal Molecules. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette picked up that story, and it spread from there. The information below comes from that report.

Multiple studies show that turmeric -- particularly its active ingredient curcumin -- can help prevent or treat many ailments, including:
  • many cancers
  • inflammatory conditions
  • autoimmune problems
  • neurological ailments including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes and diabetes neuropathy
Interest in turmeric and curcumin began decades ago when researchers started asking why India posts some of the lowest rates of colorectal, prostate and lung cancers in the world (those rates in America are up to 13 times higher). They noted that Indian peasants have one of the world's lowest rates of Alzheimer's. Why?

June 28, 2015

That Was The Week That Was!

Not too many of you remember the 1961-62 British comedy show on TV that had that title. But it popped into my mind as I thought about the events of this past week which almost restored my faith in our democracy.

I need time to mull over all of this. But I wanted to do something today to recognize and honor what has happened. Usually I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook but I did yesterday. What a day -- so many of my friends superimposing the rainbow flag on their profile pictures: seems like everybody has something positive and loving to say.

I decided the best thing I could do today was just copy some of what I found on Facebook. Here goes:

And it wasn't just the White House

June 26, 2015

"American Exceptionalism" in Healthcare: Exceptionally High Costs and Exceptionally Poor Results

"American exceptionalism" is the theory that the U.S.A. is inherently different from other nations. From our origins in the American Revolution, this concept grew as we developed a uniquely American ideology.

But today the term has been corrupted by conservatives and super patriots to mean that we are far superior to other nations, and that our quality of life is by far the best on Earth. The tragic shooting in Charleston last week prompted David Niose of the American Humanist Association to write an article -- "Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America" -- in which he notes that quality-of-life ratings place America far from the top.

Rankings of U.S. on Health Care Issues
Here's a headline in the July, 2015 issue of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter: "The U.S. spends more on health care per capita than just about any other country but ranks poorly in terms of many healthcare outcomes, especially compared to other developed countries. "

Using the latest statistics from the Social Progress Index (compiled by the nonprofit Social Progress Initiative), the newsletter reports that out of 133 countries, America ranks:
  • 30th in life expectancy
  • 37th in a mortality rate from infectious diseases
  • 38th in childhood mortality rate
  • 35th in terms of women surviving childbirth.
We have higher homicide rates than 40 countries, higher traffic fatality rates than 37, and higher suicide rates than 81.