In This Issue:

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the June 2006 True North Tune-Up. We continue to emphasize “up-stream” strategies for health in the areas of nutrition, mind-body, and lifestyle. The studies are from peer-reviewed scientific journals; though this month’s third “bullet” reveals they, too, are subject to bias.

To your health,
B. Joseph Semmes, MD
Director of Research, True North
Diplomate, American Board of Internal Medicine

Curcumin, a component of the culinary spice turmeric, may inhibit growth of cancers.
Turmeric is the colorful spice in curries and mustards. Studies with cancer cell lines tell a story of cell signaling and changes in gene expression that point toward a role for curcumin in inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels into tumors (angiogenesis). One of the new blockbuster anti-cancer drugs, Genentech’s avastin, also inhibits angiogenesis by lowering vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), but costs close to $100,000 per year. Intriguing as these cell studies appear, well-designed clinical trials are needed before we can be sure turmeric has a meaningful effect on humans with cancer.

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Comprehensive lifestyle modification improved weight, physical fitness and reduced blood pressure.
The risk of cardiovascular disease increases progressively as the blood pressure increases from 115/75 (that’s systolic BP/diastolic BP). 810 adult volunteers with pre-hypertension or mild hypertension, systolic blood pressure 120-159 and diastolic blood pressure 80-95, were studied for 18 months.  Those who were physically active 3 hours per week, limited alcohol (men to no more than 2 drinks per day and women to no more than one), limited sodium, and followed a DASH diet (high in vegetables, fruits and low fat dairy) were able to lose weight, improve cardiac fitness and lower blood pressure in 6 months.

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Susan Fekety RN, MSN, CNM suggests that the DASH diet may have too high a sugar load from fruits and grains for diabetics or folks with insulin resistance and recommends more of a First Line Therapy approach with phytonutrients (lots of plants)

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Study finds bias in peer review; the process of how the medical studies your doctors read are picked for publication.
The survey, in the April 12 Journal of the AMA, focused on 67,000 research abstracts submitted to the American Heart Association, which in 2002 started stripping the names and institution affiliations when deciding which studies to accept for publication.  Before this “blinding”, 80% of accepted authors were from the U.S. compared to only 41% afterwards.  Further, the share of abstracts accepted from faculty from highly regarded U.S. research universities dropped by 20% after blinding. This is a reminder that it is hard to avoid bias in judging what information is credible. So pick your biases with an open mind and healthy skepticism.

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Antidepressants for children and adolescents are little better than placebos.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been taken by one in eight U.S. adults in the last decade.  Use among youngsters ages 5 to 17 has increased from 2 to 6% of the population since 1994. A recent review in the PLofS Medicine (The Public Library of Science is free on-line) suggests that there is little clinical benefit and the author warns that no one knows the long term effects of these drugs on developing brains.

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Information provided in the True North Tune-Up is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The information and links in this e-publication are intended to provide general education on the topics listed, but you should not use the information or links to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner. True North advises you to always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioner prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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