Anne Underwood

Stories by Anne Underwood

  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • It's A Dog's Life

    For a guy, Frankie isn't exactly macho. He's used to having his nails done to perfection, his teeth cleaned to a brilliant sparkle. But that's nothing compared with his hair. Ever since he was young, he's had his splendid locks rolled carefully in imported rice papers, like so many curlers--except that the purpose isn't to curl, but to protect his silky tresses from workaday damage. When the papers come off, his hair flows elegantly to the floor. His hairdresser sweeps part of it neatly into a stunning topknot, secured with a gold-beaded red bow. His bodyguard just loves it.I should add that Frankie is not some kinky movie star. He's the prize-winning Yorkshire terrier of novelist Amy Tan. And from the pampered precincts of Tan's Manhattan loft, he will soon emerge to compete at one of the greatest shows on earth--the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, held annually at New York's Madison Square Garden the second week of February. Don't laugh. Westminster is the Olympics...
  • Daughter Of The Revolution ?

    ;They say you can't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes. Andrew Batten has just walked not one but nine miles in the sort of shoes that American soldiers wore during the Revolutionary War--hard-soled, hobnailed, lacking arch supports or padding. Boots like that pinch the feet after blocks, let alone miles. And he's been trudging in them for hours, all the while toting the musket and bayonet of an 18th-century Continental Army soldier. As the bone-chilling cold seeps through his blue wool uniform, Batten asks in mock perplexity, "Do I do this for fun?" ...
  • The Survivor's Story

    Robert Tools Had A Foot In The Grave When He Volunteered To Receive The World's First Fully Implantable Artificial Heart. Now He's Talking About Fishing Again
  • Meeting Robert Tools

    I did not know the patient's name or anything about his life. We were, in fact, complete strangers. Yet from the moment I heard about the groundbreaking surgery in which he became the first recipient of the AbioCor artificial heart, I felt a connection to the anonymous man. ...
  • A Million Amazing Beats

    The patient, a man in his mid- to late 50s, was about as sick as it's possible to be--and that just may have saved his life. He was in end-stage heart failure, his lungs filling with fluid, barely able to eat or walk a few steps. Chronic kidney failure ruled him out for a human-heart transplant; the 2,000 or so that are available each year are reserved for patients with better prognoses. When the patient was admitted to Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., on June 27, cardiac surgeon Laman Gray Jr. estimated the man's chances of dying in the next month at well above 80 percent. "He was one of the sickest patients I've seen," says Gray.Which made him eligible for one of the most audacious experiments in re- cent medical history--the AbioCor, the world's first fully implantable, plastic-and-titanium, battery-powered replacement heart. In a seven-hour operation last Monday, Gray and his colleague Dr. Robert Dowling cut out most of the man's diseased heart and stitched what remained to...
  • Nourishing Your Brain

    It's no secret that the fats in fish and walnuts are good for your heart.  New research suggests they may also ward off depression and mental maladies.
  • What About Hamburger?

    The chances of getting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are very small. So far, U.S. officials believe no one here has contracted the disease from eating beef. But given CJD's deadly nature and the fact that scientists are still unraveling its mysteries, consumers may be uneasy. Here are answers to some common questions: ...
  • Soda Pop That Packs A Punch

    So there's this dude named Mike, and he goes, "Lemonade is good and all, but I bet it tastes better with alcohol." He squeezes a bunch of lemons, adds some sugar and malt liquor. Then he carbonates the stuff and sticks it in a bottle. Mike's totally casual about it, but everybody loves his brew so much that success sort of sneaks up on him "like a windshield sneaks up on a bug." That's what it says on the six-pack. It used to say this stuff is reallygreat--"as in when you die and go to heaven and you go up to God and say, 'Hey there' and He says, 'Hey there' back, this is what you'll smell on His breath."Now, we ask you, who wouldn't suck on that bottle? Mike's Hard Lemonade Co. of San Francisco sold 7 million cases last year, its second on the U.S. market. Now the business is full of fictitious cool guys--Jed, Rick, Del, "Doc" Otis and even One-Eyed Jack--who sell fizzy-lemon malt beverages. Like wine coolers, these "malternatives" go down like soda but pack a beer's worth of...
  • A Hidden Health Hazard

    Deena Karabell had lived in her New York City apartment for 15 years, so when she fell ill in 1983, she never suspected that her apartment itself could be to blame. Over the next 15 years she grew progressively weaker. Finally, in the spring of 1998, she lost 30 pounds and went into anaphylactic shock three times. She literally lay dying in her bedroom when a hired nurse noticed a strong odor of mold in the closet. Suddenly things clicked. Karabell's family moved her out immediately. Today--at a safe distance from the mold--she is almost back to normal. "People are amazed at my recovery," she says.Molds have been an under recognized health problem, but that is changing. Health-care professionals now know that molds can cause allergies, trigger asthma attacks and increase susceptibility to colds and flu. Anyone with a genetic predisposition can become allergic if exposed repeatedly to high enough levels. Last year Dr. David Sherris at the Mayo Clinic performed a study of 210 patients...
  • When 'Knowledge' Does Damage

    Nobody understands the promise and pitfalls of genetic testing better than Nancy Seeger, 56, of Evanston, Ill. She was only 14 years old when her mother died of breast cancer. Within five years, her mother's sister was dead of the same disease. No wonder Seeger secretly hoped that scientists would one day devise a test that could peer into her DNA and tell her whether she would meet the same fate.Then, several years ago, researchers developed such a test--for a gene defect that predisposes a woman to both breast and ovarian cancer. Still, Seeger hesitated before taking the plunge. "You want to know, but you don't want to know," she says. When the results came back, the doctor solemnly handed her the letter from the lab. Through her tears, Seeger managed to pick out the salient words: "mutation," a lifetime risk of breast cancer "as high as 85 percent," "risk for ovarian cancer 50 percent over one's lifetime." The results, said the letter, had been "confirmed independently."Given...