July 2009

How to Stay on Top of Your Meds' Safety Recalls

Did you know that about two-thirds of Americans are on some sort of medication? 32 million take at least three prescription drugs daily, and 1 in 6 patients who take prescription medications also take herbal medications. I think most of us know that the first issue here is overmedication. I remember as a very depressed teen being given a prescription on my first visit to the school-recommended shrink! Come on—looking back I can tell you right now all I needed was a little more sleep, a little less responsibility and definitely fewer school activities. I know there are plenty of other “over-achievers” who could have used the same.

Easter Island Compound to Extend Human Life?

The Easter Island megaliths are some of the world’s coolest, long-standing human creations. You’ve probably seen the famous row of 15 moai, or stone statues; but did you know that the island actually has 887 monolithic stone statues total? And with estimates of their development ranging from 400 to 1500 CE, they’ve certainly passed the test of time today.

It turns out that the soil surrounding these South Pacific Statues can help living creatures pass that test, too. In a new study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, as part of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Interventions Testing Program, “rapamycin,” or the Easter Island compound, was tested on middle aged laboratory mice—at about age 60 in human years. It turns out that the compound increased their life spans by 28 to 38%.

Nutritional Advice: Says Who? And Why? And What Happens If You Don't?

Ever since I read Michael Pollan's "In Defense Of Food," I've been keeping an eye out for cases where nutritional science is just not measuring up.  I had a chance to trot one of these out last weekend, when a friend mentioned her guilt at not being able to consistently drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

I cheerfully informed her that it's no problem, since the 8/8 rule is completely bogus.  No one is completely sure where it came from, but most historians' best guess is that it was invented whole cloth by the author of a military survival manual.  Pressed with having to come up with a recommendation for water intake, he invented the 8/8 rule off the top of his head.  And it has persisted both in the American consciousness and in the field of nutrition science ever since.

Chantix Gets A Black Box Warning

Today the FDA announced that it would be requiring the makers of Chantix, a smoking cessation drug, to put a black box warning on its packaging.  The black box warning is the strongest step the FDA can take, short of pulling a drug from the market.

This New York Times article focuses primarily on the risk of depression and suicide.  The FDA has received 98 reports of suicide and 188 reports of suicide attempts among Chantix users.  However, I vividly recall reading this New York Magazine article first person account of Chantix's other psychological side effects, including terrifying nightmares and psychotic episodes.