nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008


AMA, consumer advocates urge FDA to regulate salt in food.

In continuing coverage from yesterday's briefing, ABC World News (11/29, story 8, 2:25, Stephanopoulos) reported that physicians "have been telling us for years to watch how much salt we take in." On Thursday, "America's most prominent doctors' organization asked the government to join the cause."

NBC Nightly News (11/29, lead story, 3:00, Williams) added, "Salt is in just about everything we eat," although the focus is not on "what you choose to put on your food," but on "what is already in it before we get it." Most of us consume "double what we should, and doctors say it's killing us slowly, contributing to the deaths of" thousands "of us every year."

Doc D: That we eat too much salt is undeniable. That salt is essential for giving food taste is also undeniable: if salt were removed from your French fries, they would taste like fried glue, and potato chips would taste like crackling cardboard. In one sense there is no such thing as a salt-free food: there are Na and Cl ions throughout, just bound differently. So, there’s enough “salt” in the food itself to sustain our nutritional requirement. Food companies and restaurants know that salt contributes to your dining pleasure, and they exploit it. The simplest solution for the concerned individual is to not order those salty dishes, minimize the use of canned foods…and throw away your salt shaker—there’s no need for it. If you did this, you could come close to getting under the recommended 2Gm/day limit.

BUT…you knew there would be one…although the risk of high salt intake is hypertension (primarily), and heart disease and stroke (secondarily), we know a lot more about hypertension today than we did forty years ago. Only about 15% of cases of high blood pressure are “salt-sensitive.”

Study suggests evening, night-shift workers may have increased risk of cancer.

The CBS Evening News (11/29, story 9, 0:50, Couric) reported that a study "from the World Health Organization (WHO) says working overnights can increase the risk of cancer." The finding is "based on research showing higher rates of breast and prostate cancer among shift workers."

NBC Nightly News (11/29, story 2, 2:05, Williams) added, "Some nine million American workers, one in ten, work the evening or night shifts in places like hospital wards, factories, and behind the counter in late-night restaurants." Anchor Brian Williams pointed out that working at night is "a way of life, and the only way to make a living, for millions of people in this country."

According to the AP (11/30, Cheng), the night shift joins "UV rays and diesel exhaust fumes" as items that are a "'probable' cause of cancer" on the WHO's list of carcinogens

Doc D: I tell you what, if it’s a cancer risk to be up at night, then those people who watch a lot of late night TV are in trouble. To control this risk, let’s have the government shut down all TV viewing after 7PM……not.

The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on teas, supplements, creams and other products that falsely claim to cure, treat or prevent cancer even though they aren't agency-approved drugs.

The agency has sent 25 warning letters to companies and individuals marketing these products, while FDA officials said the statements made about these products are dangerous because they could prevent a patient from seeking proper treatment for cancer, and could also harm a cancer patient by interacting with other drugs the patient is taking, reported the Associated Press. The letters criticized unproven claims made about these products, including the ability to "destroy the enzyme on DNA responsible for cancer cells," and the power to "neutralize" carcinogens. The ingredients of these unproven treatments include bloodroot, shark cartilage, coral calcium, cesium, ellagic acid, and a variety of mushrooms, among other products, the Associated Press added.

Doc D: Lydia and I went on a nature walk some weeks ago where the guide told the group as gospel truth that berries from escarpment cherry prevent heart attacks, eating liver prevents cancer, and chewing prickly pear cures diabetes. I’m astonished at the nonsense that gets passed around, and how strongly people believe it. Montaigne once said that “no belief is more strongly held than that about which people know the least.”

I’ve never come across a good study that tests saw palmetto, or St. John’s wort, in a controlled fashion. And I don’t expect there to be, until we extract the pharmacologically active substance from the hundreds of other compounds in these products. We DO have a few studies that show the harm some of these “natural” products cause, in one notorious case the harm was urethral cancer.

I don’t condemn all natural and complementary remedies, but just remember that hemlock is natural.

Opinions are entirely my own. Quotations from Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report ( © Kaiser Family Foundation), AMA Morning Rounds (© U S News Custom Briefings), and PND News Briefs – Texas Edition (© Physician’s News Digest)

Doc D

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