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Latest Posts

Dietary Changes To Improve Your Health: Does It Work For Cancer?

The new book is out about Steve Jobs. You may have already heard that he regretted delaying surgery for months for a type of pancreatic cancer and explored alternatives, including dietary changes. He told his biographer he later came to the conclusion that it was the wrong personal health decision.

If you check out social media conversations about health, the value of dietary changes is always a hot topic. Can becoming a vegetarian, for example, arrest the development of cancer or prevent its recurrence?

This week I will participate in a webinar on social media and breast cancer. One other panelists helps run a patient advocacy group. The other is a respected nurse who helps run the breast center at Johns Hopkins. In a preliminary discussion they each noted that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Coffee And Prostate Cancer: The Quality Of News Reports Varies Significantly

We simply don’t know why more news organizations can’t do an adequate job of explaining the limitations of observational studies – most notably, that they can’t prove cause and effect.

Yes, they can show strong associations. But they can’t prove cause and effect.

NBC Nightly News, as one example recently, inadequately explained the latest suggestion that coffee consumption can lower the risk of prostate cancer. In the anchor lead, Brian Williams framed this as another case of flip-flopping science, lightheartedly talking about what they say about “all those medical studies…if you don’t like the findings, wait for the next study.”

The story seemed puzzled at how the same “lab” 30 years ago reported that coffee was linked to an increase in pancreatic cancer. NBC said the researchers later said they got it wrong. This time – with the prostate cancer link – they say they got it right. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

The Energy Drink

By Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh for Science-Based Medicine

My stimulant of choice is coffee. I started drinking it in first-year university, and never looked back. A tiny four-cup coffee maker became my reliable companion right through graduate school.

But since I stopped needing to drink a pot at a time, an entirely new category of products has appeared — the energy drink. Targeting students, athletes, and others seeking a mental or physical boost, energy drinks are now an enormous industry: From the first U.S. product sale in 1997, the market size was $4.8 billion by 2008, and continues to grow. (1)

My precious coffee effectively has a single therapeutic ingredient, caffeine. Its pharmacology is well documented, and the physiologic effects are understood. The safety data isn’t too shabby either: it’s probably not harmful and possibly is even beneficial. (I’m talking about oral consumption — no coffee enemas. Please.) In comparison, energy drinks are a bewildering category of products with an array of ingredients including caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and other “natural” substances and assorted “nutraceuticals,” usually in a sugar-laden vehicle (though sugar-free versions exist). Given many products contain chemicals with pharmacologic effects, understanding the risks, signs of adverse events, and potential implications on drug therapy, are important.

So are energy drinks just candied caffeine delivery systems? Or are these syrupy supplements skirting drug regulations?

The Message

The ads are seductive. Who doesn’t want more energy? Who doesn’t want their mind and body “vitalized?” And don’t we have time-starved lifestyles? Initially envisioned for athletes, energy drinks are now marketed mainly towards teens and young adults, where uptake has been dramatic. Cross-promotion with extreme sporting events, and creating names like “Full Throttle,” “Rockstar,” and even  “Cocaine” burnish the “extreme” image. The market is now segmented further with products targeted at women, vegetarians, diabetics, celiacs, and more. However you identify yourself, there’s probably an energy drink developed with you in mind. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Nurses And Doctors Need Coffee The Most

The Coffee Tower by wrumsby via FlickrNurses and doctors depend on coffee to perform their jobs the most of any profession, reports a survey.

Nurses ranked first and doctors second when asked if they needed coffee to get through their day. The rest of the coffee-fueled careers were a mixed bag of white collar and blue collar positions. Among other findings:

– 48 percent of those in the Northeast said they were less productive without coffee, compared to 34 percent of Midwesterners.
– 40 percent of those aged 18 to 24 said they can’t concentrate as well without coffee.
– 37 percent said they drink two or more cups a day.

NOTE: The study was funded by CareerBuilder and Dunkin’ Donuts.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Pregnant Women And Caffeine

Pregnant woman with coffeeThe American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued a statement that moderate caffeine consumption (<200mg/day — about a cup of coffee) does not increase a woman’s risk for miscarriage or preterm birth. The review of recent studies was published in Obstetrics and Gynecology and should reassure women about drinking coffee when pregnant.

Caffeine does cross the placenta, but there was no difference found between the moms who drank caffeine while pregnant and those who did not.

If you wonder how much caffeine is in certain drinks or foods, click here.

One fact the study did not mention is that many women have a natural aversion to coffee when they are pregnant. Maybe nature knows best.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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