The Magic Of Mushrooms

Holy shiitake! That--in short, unscientific terms--is the reaction of researchers hunting for potential new medicines in mushrooms. Tests in lab dishes indicate that fabulous fungi with names like lion's mane and turkey tail harbor novel antiviral and antibacterial compounds. Even the NIH is interested, funding the screening of mushrooms for agents to fight SARS and West Nile virus. "It's completely irrational that we haven't looked here before," says Dr. Andrew Weil, the nation's leading...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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."Never mind that she's unlucky in love, has gotten stuck in dead-end jobs, reversed her car into a tree during a driving lesson and took out a home loan just before the owner had a massive stroke without signing the deed over to her. Most damaging has always...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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