Thursday, January 10, 2013

Diet drinks tied to depression

Jan. 8, 2013 — New research suggests that drinking sweetened beverages, especially diet drinks, is associated with an increased risk of depression in adults while drinking coffee was tied to a slightly lower risk. The study was released January 8 and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego, March 16 to 23, 2013.
"Sweetened beverages, coffee and tea are commonly consumed worldwide and have important physical -- and may have important mental -- health consequences," said study author Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, with the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study involved 263,925 people between the ages of 50 and 71 at enrollment. From 1995 to 1996, consumption of drinks such as soda, tea, fruit punch and coffee was evaluated. About 10 years later, researchers asked the participants whether they had been diagnosed with depression since the year 2000. A total of 11,311 depression diagnoses were made.
People who drank more than four cans or cups per day of soda were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who drank no soda. Those who drank four cans of fruit punch per day were about 38 percent more likely to develop depression than those who did not drink sweetened drinks. People who drank four cups of coffee per day were about 10 percent less likely to develop depression than those who drank no coffee. The risk appeared to be greater for people who drank diet than regular soda, diet than regular fruit punches and for diet than regular iced tea.
"Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk," said Chen. "More research is needed to confirm these findings, and people with depression should continue to take depression medications prescribed by their doctors."
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Fwd: Rub-on pain relievers offer gentler arthritis relief, from the Jan. 2013 Harvard Men's Health Watch

Rub-on pain relievers offer kinder, gentler relief from arthritis pain, from the January 2013 Harvard Men's Health Watch

BOSTON—When joint pain cries out for relief but ibuprofen and other over-the-counter medicines upset the stomach, it may be worth trying a gentler alternative: anti-inflammatory pain relievers applied to the skin, not taken as a pill, reports the January 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch.

Pain relievers applied to the skin are called topical analgesics. Prescription versions, which usually deliver nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), come as creams, sprays, gels, or patches. The active ingredient soaks in through the skin to reach the pain. In contrast, oral pain relievers flood the whole body with the medication after being absorbed in the gut. The most widely available prescription topical NSAID in U.S. pharmacies is diclofenac gel.

"Topical pain relievers can be very helpful for the more superficial joints like the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, and hands," says Dr. Rosalyn Nguyen, a clinical instructor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. "In those areas, the medication can penetrate closer to the joint."

The source of pain usually determines if a topical pain reliever is appropriate. For a localized problem with just one joint causing the pain, there's no need for medication to travel throughout the body. A topical analgesic isn't that helpful when pain emanates across an extended area, like the lower back.

Keep in mind that even with a topical analgesic, a small amount of the NSAID gets into the bloodstream. That may be enough to cause trouble for among people who have had ulcers or experienced gastrointestinal bleeding with an oral NSAID.

Not ready to commit to a prescription topical drug? It might be worth trying an over-the-counter product such as Icy Hot or Bengay, which temporarily mask pain with a sensation of coolness or heat. Other topical analgesics contain aspirin-like salicylates that have a mild anti-inflammatory effect. A third type contains capsaicin, the stuff that makes hot peppers so fiery. This substance overwhelms pain-sensing nerve circuits and masks the sensations from the underlying injury.

Read the full-length article: "Get rub-on relief for arthritis joint pain"

Also in the January 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch:

· What to expect from a prostate biopsy

· Harness the mind-body connection for healthier eating

· Fish, not fish oil, prevents stroke

· An update on the next generation of Alzheimer's drugs

The Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


Achieve Weight and Money Goals

Five Steps To Achieve Your 2013 Weight AND Money Goals
By Steve Repak

Congratulations on being one of the 48% of the population who actually made a New Year's resolution. Now for a reality check… less than 10% of you will actually be successful. Don't get discouraged but use that truth to light a fire under your butt and do something about it! Most resolutions that are made are by people who want to be in better physical shape or better fiscal shape. The GREAT news is that five simple steps that can help you accomplish BOTH!

Step 1: DO Something
The key word is DO! You are probably thinking that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to come to that conclusion but the truth is that it is impossible to change what is going on in your life without doing something. Do is an ACTION verb so the first steps is to TAKE ACTION. I like to remind people that the hardest step is the first step! Many personal trainers tell their clients that the hardest weight to push when you finally decide to get into shape is the front door to the gym. The same is true with getting out of debt or saving money. It might not be as easy as opening a door but it is as easy as pulling out a Tupperware bowl, filling it with water, putting in your credit cards and then placing it in the freezer. Take action and make a commitment to yourself, and the toughest part will be behind you.

Step 2: Set Your Goals
Your goals need to be ACHIEVABLE, CHALLENGING, and SPECIFIC. If your goals are not achievable because you set them too high you will quickly become discouraged and eventually quit, but if you don't make your goals challenging, you won't see any REAL change. Finally, your goals need to be specific. Don't say your goal is to lose weight or to build up your savings. A better goal would be to lose 1-2 pounds weekly, 5 pounds in a month and by June you want to have lost 30 lbs. Don't say you want to have more money in the bank to be in better fiscal shape. A better goal would be to save at least $25 a week, $100 a month and by June you want to have an additional $600 in savings.

Step 3: Make a Plan and Write It Down
To start your plan, you will want to conduct an initial assessment. You have to KNOW where you are STARTING FROM to get to where YOU WANT TO BE. If your goal is to be able to complete a 5k run in June in less than an hour, how far and how fast can you run now? If your goal is to build your savings to $1,500 by year end, how much do you have in savings and how much are you saving now? Once you have conducted your initial assessment write it down. It might not be pleasant but use that reality as motivation instead of discouragement. Your next step is to develop a strategy to get you from your initial assessment to your ultimate goal. It is the "How" part of what you will have to DO. Put what you are going to DO in WRITING! A key point to always remember is that your plan needs to be flexible because there are going to be times when you might get thrown off track. Don't let getting off track be your excuse to QUIT! Deal with it, make any necessary adjustments, and get back on course. I can't stress this enough… PUT EVERYTHING IN WRITING! There are several studies that show that people who write their plans down have a higher probability of achieving their goals than those that don't.

Step 4: Select an Accountability Partner
Your probability for success will increase by simply selecting someone who will keep you accountable for your decisions. I am not saying you need a personal trainer or you need to hire yourself a financial professional, but simply that you need to have someone that can help you stay on track with your goals. Pick a friend or a family member with a positive attitude who will provide you with encouragement and sometimes a swift kick in the rear end when you really need it. You will also want to maintain a journal where you record your progress. It could be a journal where you write down what you are eating at each meal, how much you are exercising each day, or maybe it is a financial journal in which you are itemizing exactly where and on what you are spending your money. Each week you want to meet with your partner and show them your journal. Knowing that you have to show someone your meal journal might make the difference in choosing between eating an entire pizza or a salad with reduced fat dressing.

Step 5: Fight Your Emotions
Getting into shape, whether it is better physical shape or better fiscal shape, will require you to keep a lid on your emotions and accept the fact that you have to change. Many people associate change with pain. Change doesn't have to be as painful if you can focus on the future prize instead of the present sacrifice. It's mind over matter. To lose weight will require change. Choosing between eating a bowl of ice-cream instead of snacking on some almonds will require a change in your eating habits. The same principle is in action when you make purchases. A $4.00 coffee beverage doesn't sound extravagant, but if you purchase one every day you can rack up a monthly $120 coffee bill. Embrace change and don't allow your emotions to focus on what you have to give up now, but what it is going to take so you accomplish your goals!

As you see there are no secrets or shortcuts. Things will not change for the better until you want them to change and until you DO SOMETHING about it. Set your goals high but keep them realistic and specific. Put your plans in writing and pick someone who can help keep you accountable. Don't allow your emotions to derail you when you get off track but accept change as your only solution to the answer for achieving positive results, and finally make 2013 the year that you finally keep your New Year's Resolution!

Steve Repak, CFP® is the author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money. For more information, please visit

"Eat Your Disease Away"

Doctor Offers Life-Saving Nutrition Advice
for Resolution Makers in 2013

Family Physician and Author of "Eat Your Disease Away" Says Key Diet Changes Can Combat and Prevent Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Migraines and Other Autoimmune Based Disorders

ATLANTA, Ga. -- For many, making the commitment to transition to a healthier diet this year could be a life-saving decision, says Dr. Maiysha Clairborne , author of "Eat Your Disease Away." Photobucket

"Many of the ailments that compromise our quality of life are caused by poor food choices," said Dr. Clairborne, founder of Atlanta-based Mind Body Spirit Wellness Inc. "Most people are unaware that foods that we commonly consume lead to chronic inflammation, which can then lead to other more serious conditions and complications such as heart attacks and strokes."

"This time of year, so many men and women are focused on the battle of the bulge," she continued. "While maintaining a healthy weight is essential, it's extremely important that as a society we learn the difference between being weight-conscious and being health-conscious because the latter is the key to living your best life."

About Dr. Maiysha Clairborne

Dr. Maiysha Clairborne is an American board certified family physician and wellness and stress management coach. The founder of Mind Body Spirit Wellness Inc., she has focused on helping clients achieve and maintaining physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being through her various programs for nearly a decade. Dr. Clairborne began her journey at Emory University completing her B.A. in Psychology then went on to complete her medical degree at Morehouse School of Medicine. Finishing her Family Medicine Residency at Florida Hospital in Orlando, FL., she ventured on to complete her post-graduate training in acupuncture with The Academy of Pain Research Acupuncture and the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture. Dr. Clairborne's services include acupuncture, wellness and stress management coaching, clinical nutrition management, and mind body techniques. An internationally traveled speaker and author, Dr. Clairborne offers a variety of Mind Body Wellness programs for people nationwide, and thrives on creating extraordinary breakthroughs for individuals and groups nationwide. Dr. Clairborne is the author of "Eat Your Disease Away" which focuses on positive change through balance and nutrition. She also serves on the board of directors for the Georgia Coalition for Domestic Violence. For more information, visit

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Vitamin D Shows No Major Effect on Pain or Slowing Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis

CHICAGO – In a two year randomized trial, patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis who received vitamin D supplementation did not have a significant difference in knee pain or cartilage volume loss compared to patients who received placebo, according to a study appearing in the January 9 issue of JAMA

“Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a common age-related musculoskeletal disorder that has significant functional impact and has considerable societal costs through work loss, early retirement, and arthroplasty. Despite its impact, there are no medical treatments established to influence the course of the disease,” according to background information in the article. “Some studies have suggested that vitamin D may protect against structural progression.”

Timothy McAlindon, D.M., M.P.H., of Tufts Medical Center, Boston, and colleagues conducted a clinical trial to examine whether vitamin D supplementation is associated with reductions in symptomatic and structural progression of knee OA. The 2-year randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial included 146 participants with symptomatic knee OA (average age, 62 years; 61 percent women), who were enrolled in the study between March 2006 and June 2009. Participants were randomized to receive either placebo or oral cholecalciferol, 2,000 IU/day, with dose escalation to increase serum levels to more than 36 ng/mL. Eighty-five percent of the participants completed the study.

The primary measured outcomes for the study were knee pain severity (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities [WOMAC] pain scale, 0-20: 0, no pain; 20, extreme pain), and cartilage volume loss measured by magnetic resonance imaging. Secondary outcomes included physical function, knee function (WOMAC function scale, 0-68: 0, no difficulty; 68, extreme difficulty), cartilage thickness, bone marrow lesions, and radiographic joint space width.

Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels increased by an average 16.1 ng/mL in the treatment group and by an average 2.1 ng/mL in the placebo group. Knee pain at the beginning of the study was slightly worse in the treatment group (average, 6.9) than in the placebo group (average, 5.8). Knee function at the beginning of the study was significantly worse in the treatment group (average, 22.7) than in the placebo group (average, 18.5). In the subset analyses for the WOMAC pain outcome, the effects were generally similar, and nonsignificant. The researchers found that knee pain decreased in both groups by an average -2.31 in the treatment group and -1.46 in the placebo group, with no significant differences at any time. The percentage of cartilage volume decreased by the same extent in both groups, by about 4 percent. There were no differences in any of the secondary clinical end points.

There were 31 serious adverse events in the vitamin D group and 23 in the placebo group but the number of participants who experienced an event was 16 in each group.

“… additional results from epidemiologic studies that emerged during the course of this study have been mixed demonstrating positive and negative associations. Two studies appeared to show strong associations of bone density with the development of knee OA, but some of those investigators later published concerns about the possibility of such associations arising as a result of contingent confounding. Therefore, together with the results of this clinical trial, the overall data suggest that vitamin D supplementation at a dose sufficient to elevate 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels to more than 36 ng/mL does not have major effects on clinical or structural outcomes in knee OA, at least in a U.S. sample,” the authors conclude.
(JAMA. 2013;309(2):155-162)

Editor’s Note: This study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, NIAMS, and the Office of Dietary Supplements, a grant from the National Center for Research Resources, and a grant from the Houston Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Service. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, etc.

Changing lives of people with rare diseases

Downingtown, PA., (January 7, 2013) – Ron Bartek, co-founder and president of the Friedriech's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), has been selected as one of 30 heroes who have made clinical, research, advocacy and regulatory contributions over the past 30 years.

 In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Orphan Drug Act (ODA), a law passed and designed to facilitate the development and commercialization of drugs to treat rare diseases, the FDA Office of Orphan Products Development (OOPD) has selected Bartek and the others for their work in researching and treating rare diseases. 

Bartek was selected for his remarkable work as a family advocate and founder of an organization to advance patient advocacy, research and awareness of a rare disease, Friedreich's ataxia.  Bartek was honored alongside his colleagues during a recognition event on January 7.

"I am humbled and honored to be selected as one of 30 heroes in the battle against rare diseases," said Bartek. "Working closely with other rare disease organizations and having the support of the FDA have been vital in our collaborative effort.  This recognition is something I would never have achieved without the efforts of the entire team at FARA who tirelessly work to raise awareness and research funds for a cure and of the very supportive Friedreich's ataxia families across the country and around the world."

Since assuming the role of president after co-founding FARA in 1998, Bartek, a former 20-year federal executive branch and legislative branch United States government official, has been a champion of public-private partnership across rare diseases. One of FARA's strategies has, and will always be, partnership and collaboration.

"As a rare disease community, we cannot afford to work in isolation; we have to find common ground and share our learnings to advance treatments faster for FA and other diseases," added Bartek.

FARA has been a champion of public-private partnership as a way to bridge some of the resource gaps and challenges in drug development for rare disease. FARA has been working with colleagues at the FDA, National Institutes of Health (NIH), private industry and other advocacy organizations to find new mechanisms and ways to work together. Several FARA-funded discovery scientists have gone on to bring new treatment candidates through the "Valley of Death" of drug development via creative partnerships and funding from multiple organizations, such as NIH and foundations.  This approach has been instrumental in raising critical funds to support research, and establishing FARA as one of the top rare-disease organizations in the world.

In just 15 years, Friedreich's ataxia has gone from a poorly understood and unrecognized disease to one with a robust scientific community and treatment pipeline, including several drugs that are currently in various stages of clinical trials. In fact, a new clinical trial was launched just last week and FARA is hopeful it will bring us one step closer to a treatment or cure for the rare, progressive and life-shortening neuromuscular disease.

"This recognition is coming at such an important time with one of our most promising trials now getting under way," concluded Bartek. "We are certain 2013 will be FARA's most exciting year yet."

In addition to the recognition event, the FDA/OOPD is also planning to highlight its heroes on the FDA website and on posters that will be displayed throughout Health and Human Services agencies, and will also webcast the January 7 event internally.

About Ron Bartek
Mr. Ronald Bartek is the Co-founder and President of the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA); 4-year member, NIH National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council; and former partner and president of a business and technology development, consulting, and government affairs firm. Mr. Bartek's professional experience also includes twenty years of federal executive branch and legislative branch service in defense, foreign policy and intelligence including six years on the Policy Staff of the House Armed Services Committee; four years at the State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, including a year as a negotiator on the U.S. Delegation to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty talks in Geneva; six years as a CIA analyst of political-military aspects of the East-West balance, including a year as an Intelligence Community representative to the interagency groups charged with U.S. arms control policy; former Director, American Friends of the Czech Republic. Following graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Bartek spent four years as an Army officer, serving as a company commander in Korea and an Infantry and Military Intelligence officer in Vietnam. He has a Master's Degree in Russian Area Studies from Georgetown University.

About FARA
The Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to accelerating research leading to treatments and a cure for Friedreich's ataxia. For more information, visit: