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Past News Items - December 2009

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In the News

How Consumers Choose Alternative Medicine

Consortium Petitions Congress to Fund Omega-3 Review

Study Linking Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 to Cancer, Death Ignites Controversy

Transcendental Meditation Makes Medical News

Released: 12/01/09

How Consumers Choose Alternative Medicine

It’s no secret that the worldwide health market has witnessed an uptick in the consumption of alternative health remedies, but how do consumers choose these alternatives? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research answers that question by reviewing a series of experiments and surveys from the United States, China, and India. What researchers found was surprisingly consistent across cultures. Consumers in each country assumed that Western medicine concerned only the material aspect of the body, utilized cause-effect sequences, and relied on scientific studies and research to discover empirical proof for all phenomena. Conversely, consumers believed that alternative remedies favor a holistic approach and rely upon inductive methods for treatment. Subjects especially preferred non-allopathic solutions when they were uncertain about the cause of an illness because holistic medicine tolerates uncertainty better than Western medicine and offers an underlying cure instead of merely alleviating symptoms as Western medicine does.

A preprint of this article can be found at http://journals.uchicago.edu/jcr.

Consortium Petitions Congress to Fund Omega-3 Review


A study in the April edition of PLos Medicine identified inadequate omega-3 fatty acids as the sixth leading cause of preventable death in the United States, responsible for 72 000 to 96 000 deaths each year. Spurred by continued evidence for the efficacy of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in aiding brain development and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, a consortium of 8 trade, scientific, and consumer groups has launched a campaign to establish a Congressionally-funded Institute of Medicine expert panel responsible for establishing dietary reference intakes (DRI) for omega-3. Standardized DRIs will provide consumers and practitioners with proper dosages of omega-3 fatty acids.

Click here to view and comment on the consortium’s proposal: www.omega3petition.org.

Study Linking Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 to Cancer, Death Ignites Controversy

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) linking an increased risk of cancer and death to treatment with folic acid and vitamin B12 has sparked protest from the natural products industry.

The study explicates 2 homocysteine-lowering trials from Norway (where foods are not fortified with folic acid as they are in the United States) for patients with ischemic heart disease. Researchers found that after 39 months of treatment and 38 months of post-trial observation, 8.4% of the participants who did not receive folic acid plus vitamin B12 vs 10.0% of the participants who received such treatment were diagnosed with cancer, a 21% increased risk. Also, 2.9% of those who did not receive folic acid plus vitamin B12 vs 4.0% who received such treatment died from cancer, a 38% increased risk.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a Washington, DC–based trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers, objected to the study on several counts. First, the study downplayed the fact that 94% of the subjects who developed lung cancer were either current or former smokers. Second, the study’s results are inconsistent with the larger body of data, as this effect has not been observed previously in countries where foods are enriched with folic acid. Finally, the study focused on patients with ischemic heart disease, which made them more vulnerable to disease states than a healthy population.

Transcendental Meditation Makes Medical News

The National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute will fund a $1-million study by the Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management Research Institute in Fairfield, Iowa, and Columbia University Medical Center to determine whether stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation(TM) can help patients with coronary heart disease prevent future heart attacks, strokes, and death. The 12-week trial will be conducted at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and will examine 56 patients who have had a heart attack or bypass surgery, angioplasty, or chronic angina.

Another study published this month in the American Journal of Hypertension poses TM as an effective method to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and anger among at-risk college students. Conducted at American University with 298 university students, the study concluded that in a subgroup of 159 subjects at risk for developing hypertension, significant improvements were observed in blood pressure, psychological distress, and coping. Compared to the control group, students practicing TM showed reductions of 6.3 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 4.0 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure. These reductions are associated with a 52% lower risk for development of hypertension in later years.

Other News and Research:
1. Senate Panel Approves Food Safety Bill

2. Prayer Treatments Covered in Health Care Reform Bills

3. High-impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones

4. Diet Rich in Sulfur Amino Acids May Aid Bowel Healing

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