Archive for April, 2010

Would banning logos on cigarette packs reduce smoking rates?

Australia is considering legislation to remove all brand logos from cigarette packs, instead replacing the colorful designs with a graphic warning about the dangers of smoking. The brand name would appear in small print at the bottom of the cigarette pack. The Australian government is also raising the cigarette tax by 25 percent.

A mock-up of a cigarette package with the banding removed and graphic health warnings displayed. AP Photo/Dept. of Health and Ageing

A mock-up of a cigarette package with the banding removed and graphic health warnings displayed. AP Photo/Dept. of Health and Ageing

Health advocates support the move as another way to devalue individual brands of cigarettes and the act of smoking entirely, as well as making cigarettes less attractive to young people, who may choose a certain brand because it has a “hip” factor attached to it.

The tobacco industry has vowed to fight the legislation in court if it passes under a provision in Australia’s constitution regarding intellectual property rights. Those opposed to the legislation want to see evidence that plain packaging will deter people from …

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People’s Pharmacy: Can tonic water cause hearing loss?

Q: I drink tonic water all the time. (Really it is half tonic water and half regular water to help with the cramps I get in my legs.) A friend told me the other day that tonic water has been linked to hearing loss. Is that true?

A: Tonic water contains quinine, which is why it seems to help with leg cramps.

Quinine also has been known to cause hearing loss and ringing in the ears.

The dose you are getting is extremely low, however, so it is not clear that this would be a danger. Tonic water can contain no more than 83 milligrams of quinine per liter in the United States.

Because you are diluting your tonic water, you aren’t getting very much quinine.

Concerns about quinine toxicity (irregular heart rhythms, blood disorders and severe allergy) led the Food and Drug Administration to forbid its use for preventing leg cramps. When doctors prescribed quinine for this purpose, the dose was 200 to 300 mg a night.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an …

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Ask Dr. H: Eggs safe to eat weeks after expiration?

Q: How long is it safe to keep eggs in the refrigerator before they need to be discarded? — P.W., Jackson, Mich.



A: According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eggs in the shell will maintain freshness for three to five weeks beyond the carton’s stamped expiration date, provided that you keep them refrigerated at a temperature of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

A hard-boiled egg should be used within a week. It’s a good idea to use a refrigerator thermometer to accurately set the temperature. The last date of sale stamped on a carton from a USDA-inspected egg facility cannot exceed 30 days after the pack date.

Every carton of eggs has a stamped “Julian date,” a three digit number corresponding to the day of the year the eggs were packaged. For example, June 27 is the 178th day of the year.

Another point about freshness: Placing an egg in a glass of water will identify the freshest eggs. An egg that …

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Do you support the salt police?

Recently, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended the FDA set maximum sodium levels for a variety of foods. The IOM says people need just 1,500 mg a day for good health, less if they’re over 50. Yet the average adult American consumes more than 3,400 mg daily.


While some may balk at more government intervention into their daily lives, proponents say the intentions of any government regulations would be to improve the health of citizens. The American Medical Association has said 150,000 lives a year could be saved by cutting sodium levels in half in processed and restaurant food. Take a look at some of the nutritional changes America’s favorite foods are undergoing to make them healthier.

Some corporations have already jumped on board to lower the sodium levels in their food products. ConAgra Foods Inc. says consumers will see a 20 percent reduction of sodium in its food lines by 2015. The IOM would rather see mandatory reductions in sodium levels, because they feel that …

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People’s Pharmacy: Can vitamin B-6 be dangerous?

Q: Last October, I started having neurological symptoms. My hands were falling asleep every night with pins and needles. The symptoms got worse, and I developed pain in my neck, upper back and arms. Sometimes my feet would fall asleep as well.

I saw my family doctor, a neurologist, an orthopedist and a physiatrist. I had my blood tested for B-12 deficiency, diabetes and thyroid problems. I had an MRI that showed some disk deterioration and arthritis in my neck.

Despite physical therapy and muscle relaxants, my symptoms fluctuated. No one thought to suggest vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) toxicity. I was taking a multivitamin with 150 percent of the RDA for this vitamin.

Finally, I Googled my symptoms and thought perhaps I might have too much B-6 in my system. A blood test showed I had twice the upper limit of normal.

I stopped taking the supplement, and within four weeks my symptoms were 95 percent improved! Apparently, some people do not process this vitamin the way others do, …

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Healthy Eating: Some fats linked to health benefits

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Eat more of something? That’s good news.

Nutrition advice usually begins with a long list of high fat foods you should be eating less of, like bacon cheeseburgers and fried chicken. But that’s not the case with healthful fats such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and some plant foods such as flax seed, canola oil and walnuts.

Research links consumption of omega-3s with an impressive 36 percent reduction in risk from dying of heart disease as well as other health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, enhanced immune function and improved arthritis symptoms.

The versatile disease-fighting power of omega-3s is connected to their anti-inflammatory affect on the body. The three major kinds of kinds of omega-3 fatty acids are known by their chemical abbreviations: DHA, EPA and ALA. DHA and EPA, found in fish, are most closely associated with health benefits. ALA is the form predominantly found in plant sources.

Salmon is a great source of healthy fats. Photo credit:

Salmon is a great source …

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People’s Pharmacy: Have eggs been given a bad rap?

Q: I gave up eating eggs years ago due to high cholesterol. I have been eating only egg substitutes. I recently heard that eating eggs doesn’t really raise cholesterol. If this is true, I would love to go back to eating real eggs again.



A: For decades, dietary dogma has kept many people from eating eggs. Because yolks are rich in cholesterol, some scientists assumed that eating whole eggs would raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk for heart disease.

This assumption was accepted without evidence.

When investigators looked at the data, they found that eating up to one egg daily had little impact on stroke or heart-disease risk (Journal of the American Medical Association, April 21, 1999).

There is even an experiment showing that egg consumption is linked to higher levels of good HDL cholesterol and markers of improved retinal health in the eye (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2009).

People vary in their response to eggs, …

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Are you receiving Medicaid or other government assistance for the first time?

By Craig Schneider, Public Health Reporter

Georgia is seeing a great jump in the number of people receiving food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Much of this is due to the hard economy. In turn, many of the new people on these programs are working-class people applying for assistance for the first time.

Jessica McGowan/AJC Special

Jessica McGowan/AJC Special

Some people believe this is reducing the stigma around the issue of receiving public assistance.

What do you think?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is writing a story on this issue and is looking to speak to metro Atlantans who are receiving such services for the first time. The newspaper is also looking to speak to current and former state eligibility workers who process the applications.

In addition, the newspaper is doing a related story on people who are using Grady Memorial Hospital for the first time, because they have fallen on hard times.

Please contact reporter Craig Schneider at 404-526-5463 or email him at …

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Will government intervention make you eat less junk food?

Part of the health care reform legislation that was recently signed into law includes a requirement for chain restaurants to post calorie counts on the menu boards and drive-throughs at all of their locations. Panera Bread was the first chain to post calorie counts, and while they haven’t seen a huge change in consumer choice, they do see people opting for 1/2 sandwich with soup option instead of ordering a whole sandwich, some of which contain over 1,000 calories.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

New York City was the first city to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts, back in 2008. So far, research suggests that the Big Apple’s battle against obesity has not had a huge impact. In fact, a Health Affairs study found that only half of the customers living in lower class New York City neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and diabetes even noticed the posted calorie counts.

Junk food taxes already exist in some parts of the country, and there are new initiatives to …

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