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Five Herbal Diabetes Remedies Could Be Dangerous

February 21, 2000|THOMAS H. MAUGH II

Consumers should immediately stop using five herbal products for diabetes because they contain prescription drugs that could be dangerous when used in conjunction with other diabetes therapies, according to state health director Diana Bonta.

The products are Diabetes Hypoglucose Capsules, Pearl Hypoglycemic Capsules, Tongyi Tang Diabetes Angel Pearl Hypoglycemic Capsules, Tongyi Tang Diabetes Angel Hypoglycemic Capsules and Zhen Qi Capsules.

The capsules claim to contain only natural Chinese herbal ingredients, but the California Department of Health Services found that they contain the prescription drugs phenformin and glyburide, normally used to treat diabetes. The investigation began after a diabetic in Northern California suffered several debilitating episodes of low blood sugar after consuming one of the products. The effects of the normal ingredients in herbal diabetes products are unknown.

Overweight Moms Who Nurse Can Diet Safely

Overweight mothers who breast-feed their infants can lose weight through a sensible diet and exercise program without endangering their infants' health, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

Some nutritionists have worried that new mothers who diet might have reduced nutrient content in their breast milk, and that might still be the case for those who are only a few pounds overweight. But those who are in the heaviest 50% of the population apparently have nothing to fear.

Nutritionist Cheryl A. Lovelady and her colleagues studied 40 overweight women who breast fed their infants exclusively. Half were assigned to a diet and exercise program, half were not. The women in the exercise group lost about 10 pounds over 10 weeks. Their infants were not particularly fussy, did not cry a lot--both signs that the milk might not be adequate--and grew at the same rate as those of the non-dieting mothers, the team reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

More Good News on the Benefits of Exercise

Two other new studies demonstrate the benefits of exercise for physical fitness.

Weight training can lower blood pressure, according to new guidelines to be published Tuesday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Assn. Physiologist Barry Franklin of the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., combined the results of 11 small studies on weight training involving 182 people who participated and 138 who didn't. Individuals who performed weight training from two to five times a week lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by an average of 2% and their diastolic pressure (the bottom number) by 4%.

In a separate study, Dr. William Kraus and his colleagues at Duke University found that exercise can lower cholesterol levels, even if the subject does not lose weight. The study, which involved seven mildly obese men and women, was the pilot for a much larger trial to begin soon.

Kraus and his colleagues reported in Tuesday's Clinical Exercise Physiology that the patients, who worked out for an hour four times per week for three months, had an average drop in their LDL, or "bad," cholesterol from 122 to 104 and an increase in their HDL, or "good," cholesterol from 32 to 37. Even though they did not lose weight, the subjects had a 4.3% decrease in body fat, which probably turned into muscle.

Breast Cancer Patients Under 35: Assessing Risk

All women under the age of 35 who develop breast cancer should be considered high-risk patients and given chemotherapy after surgery, according to Danish researchers. Young women who are not given chemotherapy have a much higher risk of death, they report in Saturday's British Medical Journal.

Dr. Niels Kroman from the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre and associates in Copenhagen studied the treatment and outcome of 10,356 women with breast cancer who were younger than 50 at the time of diagnosis. Among women who were not given chemotherapy, those under the age of 35 were twice as likely to die as those between the ages of 45 and 49. But for those who were given chemotherapy, the risk of death was no higher than it was for older women.

Skin Cancer May Be More Prevalent in Pilots

Airline pilots have an unusually high risk of skin cancer compared with the normal population, according to researchers from Iceland.

Dr. Vilhjalmur Rafnsson of the University of Reykjavik and colleagues studied 458 pilots, 265 of whom flew the national airline across European and transatlantic routes.

They reported in Thursday's Occupational and Environmental Medicine that the rate of malignant melanoma among the pilots was 10 times normal, and 15 times normal for those flying international routes covering five or more time zones. Rates of common skin cancer were 13 times normal for pilots overall and 25 times normal for those flying longer routes. The researchers attributed the increased risk primarily to increased exposure to radiation from cosmic rays.

Study Looks at Prognoses for Terminal Patients

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