Anne Underwood

Stories by Anne Underwood

  • Health: Popeye's New Peril?

    If you like juicy, ripe peaches--and who doesn't?--the nonprofit Environmental Working Group in Washington has some bad news for you. This succulent fruit tops the list of foods most contaminated with pesticide residues. Last week the EWG released a report ranking pesticide levels in the 46 most common fruits and vegetables. The tally is based on more than 100,000 USDA and FDA studies conducted between 1992 and 2001, covering 192 different pesticides. Among the "dirty dozen" at the top of the list are delicate fruits like strawberries and cherries, but also less obvious suspects like potatoes and spinach, which is routinely touted as one of the most healthful foods. So what are we supposed to eat?Pesticide makers say there's no cause for alarm; their chemicals go through more than 120 government-mandated safety tests before being approved. And nutritionists insist that the benefits of eating produce far outweigh the risks. If you're still concerned, then buy organic versions of the...
  • Will He Measure Up?

    Height matters. No child wants to enter adolescence as the brunt of jokes, the last pick on sports teams, the teenager who shops in the kids' department for clothes. Parents worry that their short children won't get dates and will be left out as adults in the social race for the top. Studies show tall men get paid more. Since 1900, the taller candidate has won nearly every presidential election--and one of the exceptions, George W. Bush, lost the popular vote.Modern medicine has heard their pleas. This summer the Food and Drug Administration approved Eli Lilly's Humatrope--a recombinant version of the body's own naturally occurring growth hormone--for use in children with "idiopathic short stature," meaning shortness for no known medical reason. Until then, it had been sanctioned only for short kids with deficient hormone levels and other medical problems. Although the new approval limits use to the smallest 1 percent of children, the decision drew fire. Ethicists charged that drug...
  • DON'T CALL US CHEAP

    While they can't boast prestige, local community colleges are an alternative to four-year schools. And they offer cost and teaching benefits.
  • In The News: Health Nuts

    For years, fat-phobic eaters have carefully avoided nuts. They may have done themselves a disservice. Last week the FDA ruled that packagers of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts may state on their labels that "scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day... may reduce the risk of heart disease" if part of a healthy overall diet. It was the first "qualified" health claim approved by the FDA under a new program that will give consumers more labeling information about the potential health impact of their food.To many, it was welcome news. After all, who doesn't like nuts (except maybe the ones living next door)? Each nut has its own virtues. Walnuts are an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 oils, which are woefully scarce in the average American diet. Almonds are high in vitamin E. But given the calories, don't go nuts. The recommended portion is equal to a third of a cup, or a large handful.
  • In The News: Hormone Quandary

    Just one year ago, doctors thought that hormone-replacement therapy could help aging women stop hot flashes while warding off heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer's and osteoporosis. Then the bad news began rolling in: women who took Prempro (combined estrogen and progestin) for five years actually increased their chances of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. And last week the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study revealed that among 4,532 women older than 65, four years of Prempro doubled the risk of dementia. Sure, hormone therapy treats debilitating menopausal symptoms, but is it worth the risks? This much seems clear:Women beyond menopause who are taking estrogen and progestin solely to ward off Alzheimer's or heart disease should stop. To keep hot flashes from recurring, try tapering off the drugs.Women with mild menopausal symptoms should consider other coping strategies: wear layered clothing, avoid caffeine and spicy foods, eat more soy or try herbal remedies like black...
  • Struggle In Vein?

    Do your legs look like a road map, crisscrossed with varicose and spider veins? For those of you who shun surgery, there's a new product on the market that could help. Nu Visage Complete Leg and Vein Therapy actually contains two treatments--a topical cream and a dietary supplement--that work together to strengthen blood vessels. The key ingredient in both: potent antioxidants called OPCs. The compounds have been extensively studied in France, where OPC pills are a popular treatment for varicose veins. But don't expect any miracles. The pricey package ($60 for a month's supply) will only reduce the ugly-vein problem, not cure it. You can find Nu Visage in some upscale boutiques or order online at nuvisage.com. Just in time for summer.
  • Fibromyalgia: Not All In Your Head

    For years, Lynne Matallana couldn't wear jewelry. The pressure of a necklace or watch against her skin burned "like a blowtorch." Lying in bed under cotton sheets was agonizing. Friendly handshakes sent pain shooting up her arm. Matallana, 48, of Orange, Calif., went to 37 doctors over the course of one year before she received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia--a condition involving pain throughout the body, heightened sensitivity to touch, and fatigue. And she thinks of herself as one of the lucky ones. "Patients used to go for decades without diagnosis or treatment," says Matallana, who went on to found the National Fibromyalgia Association in 1997.Until recently, doctors didn't believe fibromyalgia pain was real. They thought it was "all in the heads" of sufferers, who happened to be mainly women. When Dr. Muhammad Yunus of the University of Illinois began studying it in 1977, colleagues warned him, "You'll ruin your career. These women are just crazy." But the fact that doctors...
  • Want To Improve Your Luck?

    It's lucky Tracy Hart has a sense of humor, because nothing else seems to have gone her way. "People say that bad luck comes in threes," says Hart, 34, a former supermarket clerk in rural England. "For me, it's always come in 18s or 21s." ...
  • Treasure Hunt

    For archeologists, the plundering of the National Museum of Iraq two weeks ago was a cultural catastrophe. Although museum officials had boxed up and stored much of the collection before the war, apparently saving some of it, 150,000 or so items were still believed lost. Last week Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that possession of stolen treasures would be treated as a crime, and the FBI and Interpol announced that they were sending agents to track down looted artifacts. Scholars quickly joined with UNESCO to begin compiling a database of missing items.Will these measures help--or merely close the door after the cuneiform is gone? "More damage was done in 48 hours than we could repair in 48 years," says Gary Vikan of Baltimore's Walters Art Museum. Experience has shown that smugglers can spirit artifacts overland across Iraq's porous borders and ship them to dealers in Zurich, London and New York. As a rule, identifiable works of art do not surface openly for a long time-...
  • Shining A Light On Pain

    The marine's voice had an edge of urgency. As he explained to physical therapist Ben Freeman of Castle Rock, Colorado, in January, his unit was about to ship out to war. But his upper back was so sore that he was hardly in fighting trim. He had tried all the usual remedies--chiropractic, massage, electric stimulation. But he had never seen anything like the eight-inch black plastic disk Freeman had on his shelf. The device, from a company called Light-Force-Therapy, bristled with 192 red and infrared light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Freeman placed the device directly on his back for 15 minutes and then physically manipulated his neck and shoulders for another 15. The Marine came back four days later for more. In just two half-hour sessions, he noticed more improvement than he had in three years of other therapies.Light can heal. The ancient Greeks knew that. They put sick patients in the sun to aid the curative process. But modern technology has dramatically increased the possibilities...
  • Health, Shining A Light On Pain

    The marine's voice had an edge of urgency. As he explained to physical therapist Ben Freeman of Castle Rock, Colo., in January, his unit was about to ship out to war. But his upper back was so sore that he was hardly in fighting trim. He had tried all the usual remedies--chiropractic, massage, electric stimulation. But he had never seen anything like the eight-inch black plastic disk Freeman had on his shelf. The device, from a company called Light-Force-Therapy, bristled with 192 red and infrared light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Freeman placed the device directly on his back for 15 minutes and then physically manipulated his neck and shoulders for another 15. The Marine came back four days later for more. In just two half-hour sessions, he noticed more improvement than he had in three years of other therapies.Light can heal. The ancient Greeks knew that. They put sick patients in the sun to aid the curative process. But modern technology has dramatically increased the possibilities,...
  • In The News: Take One Each Day

    For years the American Heart Association has recommended an aspirin a day to help prevent a second heart attack. Now, scientists say, it may also help ward off colon cancer, at least in high-risk populations. Two major studies in The New England Journal of Medicine last week showed that a daily aspirin reduced the risk of adenomas--the type of polyps that can turn malignant--in patients who previously had adenomas or colorectal cancer.But what dose is best? There is no clear answer. In the smaller of the studies, a daily full-strength aspirin (325 milligrams) reduced the incidence of new adenomas by about a third after 31 months. In the larger study, 325mg tablets were only marginally better than a placebo. The best results were seen in patients taking 81mg pills.Is aspirin therapy for everyone? No, says internist and epidemiologist John Baron of Dartmouth Medical School, lead author of the larger study. Aspirin can cause internal bleeding, particularly in the stomach, so check with...
  • A Matter Of Perspective

    Matthew Flowers, director of the Flowers East art gallery in London, has seen it many times--the peculiar series of motions that people go through when they catch sight of a Patrick Hughes painting for the first time. "We call it the Patrick Hughes dance," says Flowers. "They stop. They walk backwards." They crane their necks left and right and bob their heads up and down, as if they can't believe what they're seeing. As they move, everything in these paintings seems to move with them. Bookshelves swivel, walls shift, a series of parallel doors opens onto a vista of the Great Wall of China. "When we show Hughes's work at art fairs, people think it's done with mirrors or electric motors," says Flowers. "But there's no trick. The trick is in your own mind."Flowers has seen the "dance" dozens of times a day since Hughes's latest show opened at his gallery on Feb. 14. Entitled "Whopperspective," the exhibition encompasses many of Hughes's finest works, some of which sell for as much as ...
  • Health: Herbal Stress Buster?

    As a Soviet soldier in Afghanistan in 1979, Zakir Ramazanov discovered a tonic that helped him reduce stress, while boosting mental and physical energy. It wasn't alcohol, but tea--made from the golden-yellow roots of a Siberian plant called Rhodiola rosea, which the Siberian soldiers received in their mothers' packages from home. Now a plant physiologist and president of National BioScience Corp. in Chester, N.Y., he is supplying extracts of the same root to U.S. supplement makers and researching its beneficial properties. "Given the frenetic pace of American life," he says, "America needs rhodiola."Although rhodiola is just starting to create a buzz in this country, it has been used for centuries in Russia, Scandinavia and Iceland. Even the Vikings used it to enhance their endurance. But it was the Soviet Union in the 1960s that began seriously researching it--in part to maximize the performance of its Olympic athletes. Now the herb is poised to take off in the United States, with...
  • New Ideas About Halting Diabetes

    When Neal Barnard was growing up in the 1960s, he witnessed the devastation of diabetes firsthand through his father, a physician who specialized in the disease. "I can't tell you how many people I saw going blind, suffering heart attacks and having their legs amputated," he says. Barnard's father had one treatment to offer patients--insulin. Now that Barnard is an M.D. himself, he's trying a different approach. He's putting patients on an aggressive vegetarian diet in the hope of actually reversing type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. "I want to turn the clock back so that patients can go off diabetes medications," he says.That may not be as farfetched as it sounds. The famed diet doctor Dean Ornish has shown that a strict low-fat diet and exercise can reverse heart disease. Why not diabetes? A leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes is obesity. As America's girth has expanded, disease rates have spiraled. Today, 16 million Americans have the disorder, costing the United States $100...
  • Stopping Type 1 Diabetes

    The long-term effects of diabetes can be devastating--nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease. But a radical new treatment may be able to halt the progression of one form of the disease. In a small study in The New England Journal of Medicine this year, Dr. Kevan Herold of Columbia University managed to retard progression of type 1 (juvenile) diabetes in a dozen newly diagnosed patients. What's more, he stopped it for an entire year with just two weeks of treatment.The troublemaker in this form of diabetes is the body's immune system. Instead of attacking viruses and bacteria, it engages in a sort of misguided mission creep, destroying insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, too. This leads to a decline in insulin production and the inability to regulate blood sugar. But the experimental treatment uses a so-called monoclonal antibody to latch on to T cells in the immune system, preventing them from attacking the insulin-producing cells. Most intriguing,...
  • In The News: Allergy Warning

    When is a bargain not a bargain? Last week the FDA approved over-the-counter sales of Claritin, the nation's top-selling allergy drug. That could send the price plummeting from more than $60 for a month's prescription to less than $30 for the OTC version. For folks without insurance--or without a prescription-drug plan--that's welcome news. But for people with coverage, the pills will likely cost more than they did when a monthly copay of $10 or $15 covered the Rx. Worse, some insurance providers are threatening to require copays as high as $50 for the remaining prescription antihistamines--Clarinex, Allegra and Zyrtec. The goal, of course, is to encourage more patients to switch to Claritin, putting the financial burden on individuals instead of insurance providers.Still, there is hope for consumers: Claritin's patent will expire on Dec. 19, meaning that cheaper generic versions are on their way. Then perhaps allergy sufferers will truly breathe more easily.
  • In The News: A New Affair Of The Heart

    We all know that it's important to keep cholesterol under control. But the dirty little secret of cardiology is that more than half the people who suffer heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels. So how do you know if you're at risk? A simple test may help, according to a major study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine.Harvard cardiologist Paul Ridker, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women's Hospital, tested nearly 28,000 women for both LDL ("bad") cholesterol and blood levels of a substance called C-reactive protein, or CRP, an indicator of arterial inflammation. After eight years, he tallied up heart attacks and strokes among the women. Adjusting for risk factors like smoking and diabetes, he found that high cholesterol increased the women's heart-attack risk up to 1.5 times--but high CRP (more than 3 milligrams per liter of blood) increased it as much as 2.3 times.That doesn't mean you should forget about...
  • The Real Dirt On Antibacterial Soaps

    Antibacterial soaps are no better than regular soap. Experts have said so for years. But that hasn't stopped millions of Americans from snapping up the supposedly superior germ killers--now 76 percent of the liquid-soap market. Part of the problem was the lack of rigorous studies to back up the experts' claims. But last week at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Elaine Larson, associate dean for research at Columbia University's School of Nursing, came up with the goods. In a randomized, double-blind, controlled study--the type of trial used to test pharmaceuticals--she surveyed 224 New York City homemakers. Half were given ordinary liquid soaps for a full year and the other half received antibacterial soaps. All participants' hands were cultured for germs at the beginning and the end of the study.The results? At the outset, all participants' hands were teeming with 800,000 to 1 million bacteria. "That's normal," says Larson. "People can have up to 10...
  • 9 Apples A Day?

    Just when people were nearing the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, along comes the National Cancer Institute telling us that we really need as many as nine--that's per day, people, not per week. "Five is fine for children," says Lorelei DiSogra, who spearheaded the new campaign. "Women need seven; men, nine." Is she nuts? Actually, no. The USDA's food pyramid has recommended five to nine since 1991. The NCI is just reminding people what the guidelines have said all along.Fortunately, reaching the target is easier than you think. "Servings" are pretty small. While bulky lettuce requires a cup, you get a serving with just half a cup of most chopped fruits and veggies. (And we all know how easy it is to eat half a cup of salsa.) Just six spears of asparagus make a serving, as do eight medium strawberries. For dried fruit, which is dense, a serving is a quarter cup.But don't feel smug about smothering those fries in ketchup. Highly processed foods tend to have a...
  • A Possible Clue To Surviving Hiv

    Why do some people with HIV never develop AIDS? Scientists have long known that these lucky "long-term nonprogressors" secrete a protective substance from immune cells called CD8 T cells. But because these cells churn out thousands of proteins, identifying the AIDS fighters among them has proved daunting. Now the mystery may be solved. In the online version of the journal Science last week, Drs. David Ho and Linqi Zhang of New York's Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center identified the elusive defenders as a group of three proteins called alpha-defensins. "This discovery is a major step forward in our understanding of how the body fights HIV," says Zhang.The scientists owe their breakthrough to new technology that allowed them to sift quickly through vast numbers of proteins. They found that CD8 cells from nonprogressors manufactured one set of proteins that those of AIDS patients did not--the alpha-defensins. And further tests showed that the defensins were not just bystanders. The...
  • More Sweat, More Fiber

    Feeling guilty about not getting the half hour of daily exercise the surgeon general recommends? Now you can feel twice as guilty. Last week the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, upped the target to a full hour. But don't panic. A little exercise still goes a long way.The IOM didn't set out to devise an exercise guideline. The panel's assignment was to come up with dietary recommendations for fat, carbohydrates and protein. The exercise suggestion evolved as a way of helping people maintain a healthy body weight in the land of supersized meals. Nearly two dozen studies on metabolism show that people with stable body weights get at least an hour's cumulative exercise a day through workouts and everyday activities like climbing stairs.The group's dietary recommendations were progressive in their own ways. They allowed more leeway than before on fats, carbs and protein, noting that healthy diets can vary widely in the amount of each they include....
  • Nutrition: How To Flunk Lunch

    The school year is barely underway, but parents have received one report card already. Two weeks ago the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine issued its School Lunch Report Card--and the marks weren't good. After analyzing three weeks' worth of elementary-school lunches in 10 of the nation's largest school districts, the PCRM awarded no A's. Three districts flunked. And this is at elementary schools, which don't have fast-food concessions like middle and upper schools. By high school, says Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, "schools are looking like a 7-Eleven with books."The PCRM, which admittedly favors vegetarianism, based its grades largely on the availability of fruits, vegetables and meatless entrees--with 20 out of 100 points for simply meeting federal guidelines for basic nutrition. "If we're going to combat childhood obesity, kids need to learn to eat right," says Brownell. But too many seem to be missing the chance.
  • Health: Bad Crop Of Quorn?

    Could this health food make you sick? Quorn, a meat substitute available since January, has been a hit thanks to its real-meat texture and excellent nutritional profile (high in protein and fiber, low in saturated fat). But last week the Center for Science in the Public Interest asked the FDA to ban it, claiming it's made dozens of Americans ill--like Laura Hubbard, 22, who vomited five times and was taken to the hospital. Should you worry? Probably not. More people get sick from peanuts than from Quorn, which has been sold in Britain for 17 years. Just try to forget that it's made from a moldlike fungus. That'd turn anyone's stomach.
  • Mosquito Season Turns Deadly

    Few things appear more threatening than new diseases, especially ones that are potentially fatal. The West Nile virus, which can cause a deadly encephalitis (or brain swelling), has already killed seven patients this year and infected at least 128 more--and the mosquitoes that transmit the disease are still biting. Equally alarming, the virus is spreading rapidly. Since its first known U.S. appearance in New York in 1999, it has moved as far west as Texas. It's unlikely to stop short of California. "I'd bet my life savings on it," says infectious-disease expert Dr. Lyle Petersen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Does that mean that the West Nile virus is slated to become a major killer? Probably not. It is moving quickly now, in part because every new area represents virgin territory, where neither people nor animals have developed immunity. (Mosquitoes pick up the virus by feeding on the blood of infected birds, such as crows.) But ultimately, Petersen speculates,...
  • Food Fight--Carbs Vs. Fat

    For 20 years dietitian Katherine Tallmadge of Washington, D.C., has been telling her clients how to eat a healthful diet. Don't stint on fruits, vegetables or whole grains. Pick lean sources of protein. Limit your fat intake. People who followed this sensible advice lost weight. But too many others got only part of the message. By the early 1990s, Americans were wolfing down fat-free cookies and jumbo bagels in the name of better health--and growing ever more corpulent. This has fueled a controversial theory: Carbohydrates make you fat. A diet rich in fat will slim you down.The debate over carbs and fats has been simmering for decades, driven in no small part by millionaire diet doctors with book sales at stake. But the latest round of the nutritional slugfest began on July 7, when the cover of The New York Times Magazine pictured a larded slab of beef, a pat of butter on top, alongside the provocative title "What If Fat Doesn't Make You Fat?" For anyone who just wants to drop a few...
  • Health: Got A Bad Gut Feeling?

    After 40 years as a truckdriver, Cecil Albertson is pretty tough. But three years ago he began to dread going to sleep at night. When he lay down, says the 77-year-old Albertson from Blue Springs, Mo., stomach acid would back up into his throat. His doctor told him to take Rolaids, but the problem only got worse. Then a gastroenterologist diagnosed his condition as reflux disease and switched him to a prescription drug called Aciphex. Now he's sleeping soundly.You may not have heard of reflux or some new prescription antacids like Aciphex. But chances are, if you've read a magazine or watched TV lately, you've seen ads for similar drugs, including Prevacid, Protonix and those "purple pills" (as the ads call them), Prilosec and Nexium. Last year these drugs racked up sales of $10.2 billion, second only to cholesterol-lowering statins. Nearly 75 million prescriptions for these medications were dispensed in 2001. Some HMOs now balk at covering the pricey pills--costing as much as $8 a...
  • A Year Later, The Beat Goes On

    When Gom Christerson entered Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., last September, he was willing to do almost anything to save his life from his failing heart. "I'll try anything but that," he told cardiac surgeon Laman Gray Jr., nodding to a model of the shiny new AbioCor artificial heart on Gray's desk. But over the next 10 days the AbioCor turned out to be his only option, and Christerson reconsidered--after he learned that the new heart would allow him to abandon his hated low-sodium, low-fat diet and go back to eating seafood and barbecued ribs. Nine months later, Christerson, 71, is home in Central City, Ky., enjoying the best quality of life that he's had in a long time. He plays cards with his friends, visits the local barbershop to catch up on news and chows down on ribs. And best of all, on May 16 he saw the birth of his first great-grandchild, a girl named Ellen Thomas in his honor.A year ago NEWSWEEK put the AbioCor on its cover. Since then, seven terminally ill men have...
  • The Quest For Artificial Blood

    Edna Fodor was enjoying a lazy summer evening at her son's cottage in Canada when the bonfire she was tending flared suddenly, searing her body from the waist up. Emergency rescue teams choppered her to Hamilton General Hospital in Ontario, where doctors would normally have cut away the burned skin to prevent infections, then grafted healthy skin to replace it. But such surgery involves extensive bleeding--and Fodor is a Jehovah's Witness, a member of a religious group that refuses blood transfusions. "We faced two deadly alternatives," says Dr. Brian Egier, director of the intensive-care unit. "We could either perform the surgery and have her bleed to death or let her die from the infections." Fortunately for Fodor, Egier was able to suggest a third option--so-called bloodless surgery using an experimental blood substitute called Hemolink. Although the product is not yet approved, Egier obtained an exemption for Fodor. Two years later she is happy, healthy and "lucky to be alive,"...
  • Time For Tea

    "Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one," says a Chinese proverb. Research is showing it may just be true. Last week Dr. Kenneth Mukamal of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported that out of 1,900 heart-attack patients, those who drank two or more cups a day reduced their risks of dying over the next 3.8 years by 44 percent. The beneficial teas included black and green, hot and iced, bagged and loose leaf. "Good old Lipton did the trick," he says. But brewing is crucial, says Dr. Iman Hakim of the Arizona Cancer Center. In one cancer study, she found that instant and bottled teas afforded no protection, because they're too dilute and low in antioxidants. The stronger the brew, the better. The stuff is safe and it's almost free, so drink up.