Avian Influenza, Preventive Measures

There are many measures one can take to prevent developing the H5N1 avian influenza or any infection for that matter. The best way to protect yourself from developing an infection from the bird flu virus is an annual vaccination. Individuals at an increased risk of developing the flu or serious complications from the flu are especially encouraged to be vaccinated yearly.

There are also other measures that can help to prevent infection from the bird flu virus. These measures are considered to be a practice of good health etiquette which includes:

  • Wash your hands: Sadly, the act of washing your hands cannot be stressed enough. This means washing your hands often and thoroughly. You should also scrub thoroughly around the nail beds. If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, then use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with infected individuals: You should avoid close or direct contact with sick people. Infected or contagious people tend to infect others. If you are sick, avoid contact with others for their protection.
  • Stay home when you are ill: If you are sick, take the time to recover from your illness. If you go to work or school, you risk spreading your illness to others. This also means waiting to run your errands.
  • Cover up: If you are going to sneeze or cough, cover up. When we cough and sneeze, we send the infection flying to another host. You can prevent others from becoming sick by using a handkerchief or tissue to cover up with. After the cough or sneeze, throw the tissue.
  • Avoid touching your face: The nose, mouth, and eyes are great portals of entry for germs. Many individuals infect themselves after touching a contaminated object and then their eyes, mouth, or nose. For health reasons, avoid this behavior.

The above tips are just a few things you can do each and every day to keep from infection. Maintaining a high level of good health etiquette can help you stay infection free come influenza season.


1. Questions & Answers: Preventing the Flu

Am I At Risk For Avian Influenza?

A virus, such as the bird flu, usually infects a specific species which in this case is birds. However, the H5N1 bird flu virus has been confirmed to have caused over 200 cases of human infection. Currently the avian influenza virus is almost exclusively a bird infecting disease, not yet capable of infecting humans through human to human contact. Individuals who have become infected by the avian influenza virus have had direct contact with infected poultry.There is much concern that the H5N1 avian influenza A virus will mutate into a form that is infectious to humans, spreading easily from person to person. However, this has yet to occur.

Am I at risk for developing an infection from the avian influenza virus?

Currently, most cases of H5N1 avian influenza infections involving humans have been attributed entirely to individuals who have been in close or direct contact with sick poultry. Individuals who are not in close contact with domestic or wild birds are not at risk at this time.

Many cases of human avian influenza infection occurred in rural or periurban areas in which farmers keep small backyard flocks of poultry. These birds often roam freely indoors and outdoors, sometimes entering areas where children play or sleep. Butchering, de-feathering, slaughtering, and preparing poultry are considered to be the most likely occurrence of exposure.

What risk does this pose?

Infected birds will excrete large quantities of the influenza virus in secretions such as saliva, nasal mucous, and feces. This creates an abundant opportunity for exposure to the influenza virus through infected secretions, contaminated materials, or an environment that is contaminated. Children should be educated not to touch sick or dead birds. Infected or dead birds should also be reported immediately to the proper health officials.

Can I become infected with the avian influenza virus by preparing or eating poultry?

Currently no evidence exists that properly cooked poultry or eggs will cause infection by the bird flu virus. Poultry and poultry products are properly and thoroughly cooked using temperatures of 70°C in all parts of the food to kill the virus. Proper cooked poultry should show no evidence of pink parts or undercooked areas, while eggs should not be runny including the yolk.

No evidence exists of individuals becoming infected by the bird flu virus through safely handled poultry. Individuals who properly handle poultry or eggs will not become infected by the bird flu virus. Poultry and eggs contaminated by the bird flu virus would be free of infection through proper cooking of poultry and eggs.

Studies have shown the methods for cooking poultry and eggs that are endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration will destroy the bird flu virus as well. Here are a few tips for handling poultry products.

  1. You should always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling raw poultry products.
  2. Cutting boards and other utensils should be cleaned using soap and hot water. This prevents the poultry from contaminating other foods when the utensil is used again.
  3. Poultry should be cooked to a temperature of at least 165°F. A food thermometer can help you determine this.
  4. Eggs should be cooked until the whites and yolks are firm.

The government controls imported food products and domestic products. In 2004, the government issued a ban on the importation of poultry from any of the countries that have been affected by the H5N1 avian influenza virus as well as other avian influenza viruses. At this time, the ban remains.

Is it safe to keep a small flock of chickens?

At this time, there is no need to dispose of or destroy your flock because of the avian influenza or bird flu virus. Any potential infections in poultry or poultry products by infectious diseases such as the bird flu virus are carefully monitored by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Are there any precautions that should be taken to decrease the risk of infection of the bird flu virus in wild birds?

To date, there have been no reports of infection in wild birds or domestic birds by the H5N1 bird flu virus. In the future, that may change considerably. At this time, I suggest not touching any wildlife if possible. If contact is made, immediately wash your hands. Any diseased or dead wildlife should be reported immediately by contacting your state, tribal, or federal natural resource agency.

I am a hunter. What precautions should I take to prevent infection with the H5N1 bird flu virus?

The National Wildlife Health Center recommends hunters follow these precautions:

  • Wear disposable gloves when handling or cleaning game
  • Do not handle sick game
  • Do not eat sick game
  • Do not smoke when handling game
  • Do not eat when handling game
  • Do not drink when handling game
  • Thoroughly cook all game


1. Avian Influenza (Bird Flu); CDC

2. Avian Influenza: am I at risk; WHO


Two antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, have been chosen as the drugs of choice to treat the H5N1 avian influenza virus in humans. Many governments including the U.S. government are currently stockpiling the drug Tamiflu in case of a bird flu pandemic.

In 1999, the FDA approved Tamiflu for the treatment of influenza A and B viruses. The Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche manufactures the drug Tamiflu. Tamiflu is also referred to by the generic name oseltamivir.

Tamiflu belongs to a class of antiviral medications referred to as neuraminidase inhibitors. All influenza viruses contain neuraminidase proteins on the surface of the viral cell.

How does Tamiflu work?

An enzyme referred to as neuraminidase can break the bonds that hold new influenza virus particles to the outside of an infected cell. If the bonds become broken, the free influenza virus may infect other cells and spread the infection. Neuraminidase inhibitors block the enzyme neuraminidase. This will prevent new influenza virus particles from being released, thus limiting the spread of infection.

Tamiflu is available only by a doctor’s prescription. Tamiflu comes in two forms: capsules and oral suspension. If you have difficulty swallowing pills, the oral suspension form may be a better alternative for you.

Tamiflu can be safely used in adults and children older than 1 year. Children under the age of 1 should not take Tamiflu, unless otherwise directed by a physician.

Tamiflu has not been tested in pregnant women. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, tell your doctor before taking this medication. Tamiflu may possibly be passed into breast milk, but this is not known for sure. If you are breastfeeding or wish to breast feed, please tell your doctor.

Your doctor should be informed of the medications you are currently taking, which include vitamins, over the counter, and prescription medications. If you are taking the medication Probenecid or Benemid please tell your doctor. This medication can interact with the drug Tamiflu.

Certain medical conditions may affect the use of Tamiflu. If you have any of the following medical conditions, please inform your doctor. These medical conditions include:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Lung disease
  • Viral illnesses not caused by influenza A or B
  • Serious medical problems in need of admission to a hospital

How do you take Tamiflu for the treatment of the H5N1 bird flu?

For the best results, Tamiflu should be taken within 2 days of symptom onset. Tamiflu capsules may be taken on an empty stomach or with food. If you wish to lessen the chance of an upset stomach, take Tamiflu with food. Tamiflu should be taken for 5 days. Always finish the course of treatment with the medication, even if you begin to feel better before then.

How do you take Tamiflu for the prevention of the H5N1 bird flu after exposure?

Individuals who have been exposed to the H5N1 bird flu should begin taking Tamiflu within 2 days of exposure to the virus. Tamiflu may be taken with food or on an empty stomach. Tamiflu should be taken for at least 10 days.

If you prefer to take Tamiflu in oral suspension, make sure to use the specially marked measuring device. This device should come with the medication, which will help you to accurately measure the dose. If the device is not present or is damaged, contact your pharmacist.

What is the proper dose of Tamiflu?

What your doctor prescribes for you may be a different dose from these averages. Your prescription is based on your current circumstance. You should always follow your doctor’s orders on the label of your prescription. These are average doses of Tamiflu for the treatment of the flu.

  • Teenagers and Adults: The dosage is 75 milligrams twice a day, for 5 days.
  • Children 1 year of age or older: Children doses are based on the child’s body weight. Usually the dosage is between 30 and 75 milligrams taken twice a day for 5 days.
  • Children up to the age of 1 year old: This dose must be determined by your doctor.

These are average doses for the prevention of the flu.

  • Teenagers and Adults: The dosage is 75 milligrams taken twice a day for 10 days.
  • Children 1 year of age or older: Children doses are based on the child’s body weight but usually are between 30 and 75 milligrams. The medication is taken twice a day for 10 days.
  • Children up to the age of 1 year old: This dose must be determined by your doctor.

You should try not to miss a dose of Tamiflu. If you do miss a dose, take the dose ASAP unless the dose is within two hours of the next dose. If you have missed several doses, notify your doctor. This may affect your recovery.

Tamiflu should be kept out of the reach of children. You should store Tamiflu at room temperature away from heat or moisture. Tamiflu in oral suspension may be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Do not freeze Tamiflu in oral suspension.

What are the side effects of Tamiflu?

Every medicine on the market has potential to cause undesired side effects. Tamiflu does have a lower incidence of side effects but common side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Bronchitis
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness

What is anaphylaxis?

Occasionally a medication can cause an anaphylaxis reaction. Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, and potentially life threatening allergic reaction that can be caused by food, medication, insect stings, or latex. Common symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include:

  • Tingling sensation
  • Itching
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sensation of warmth
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat
  • Vomiting
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Drop in Blood Pressure
  • Loss of consciousness

Symptoms may begin as quickly as minutes after exposure to the allergen or progress over hours. If you develop any symptoms of anaphylaxis while taking Tamiflu, discontinue the medication and seek immediate medical attention.

Do not keep outdated medication. You should always follow your doctor’s orders for taking your prescription medications. If your symptoms do no improve after taking Tamiflu for the full course of treatment, notify your doctor.


1. Flu Drugs

2. Mayo Clinic; Oseltamivir

The Spanish Flu of 1918

No avian influenza virus has caused a similar pandemic when compared to the catastrophic events of the 1918 Spanish Flu. Many experts compare any possible influenza pandemic against the historical severity of the Spanish Flu.

The Spanish Flu was an avian influenza virus that mutated into a highly infectious form causing a pandemic that occurred in 1918-1919. The Spanish Flu has been referred to as “La Grippe” or “La Pesadilla”. The Spanish Flu ravaged the world in 1918 causing mayhem and death everywhere.

The Spanish Flu pandemic was caused by the H1N1 avian influenza A virus that was especially deadly and severe at the time. In 1918, the H1N1 influenza A virus was new to the population. The longer a strain of influenza circulates the population the more resistance to the strain the population will have.

The probable source of the Spanish Flu is not clearly known. This particular influenza virus became known as the Spanish Flu because of the great press attention in Spain. The press in Spain was not censored during the war because Spain was not involved in the war.

However, Fort Riley military base in Kansas had many complaints of illness, mainly fever in the spring of 1918. The Spanish Flu claimed 48 lives from Fort Riley that spring.

How severe was this pandemic?

More human life was lost during this pandemic than those individuals who were killed in World War I. More individuals died in a single year of the Spanish Flu compared to four years of the Bubonic Plague (Black Death of 1347-1351). The Spanish Flu was estimated to have killed between 20-50 million individuals in which 675,000 were Americans, making this the most devastating influenza pandemic in world history.

What historical event catapulted the Spanish Flu?

In the fall of 1918, Americans were fighting World War I in Europe. America had joined the Allies in the fight against the Germans. At this time, what seemed to be an average influenza season erupted, or was it?

Many historians believe the war in Europe helped spread the Spanish Flu. Soldiers shipped to Europe brought with them the deadly flu virus. Military camps, ships, and trenches helped to spread the Spanish Flu virus. The Spanish Flu found a way into British trenches in France in the spring of 1918 spreading very quickly to German trenches.

This avian influenza virus had infected one-fifth the world’s population in two years. The Spanish Flu was depicted as an especially virulent virus in which many individuals died hours after the onset of the first symptoms. The estimates of death vary considerably because many individuals were buried before being named or counted.

What effect did the Spanish Flu have on the American society?

The Spanish Flu caused a breakdown in the social structure of communities alike. Many communities panicked, enacting a variety of ordinances. Individuals who ignored the community laws were forced to pay steep fines. A few of the laws include:

  • Public gatherings of any sort were outlawed
  • Handshakes were illegal
  • Funerals could only last 15 minutes
  • Restrictions were placed on travel
  • Stores could not hold sales
  • Railroads would not accept passengers without a signed certificate
  • Face mask made of thin gauze were mandatory in certain areas

Many doctors and nurses were serving overseas, not able to help the home front fight off the deadly virus. Medical facilities were strained with the lack of medical help. Many businesses, schools, farms, and factories were unable to stay open with the lack of customers and workers.

Bodies pilled up in which mass graves were dug by steam shovel. Coffins were in short supply so many bodies were buried without coffins.

Children in 1918 would skip rope to this rhyme (Crawford)

“I had a little bird,
It’s name was Enza,
I opened the window,
And in-flu-enza.”

Paranoia, nationalism, and suspicion were rampant in the absence of a treatment or cure. Many individuals blamed the flu on the German U-boats, believing the Germans came up the coast infecting America with the flu.

Many individuals became desperate with no cure in sight, reaching for worthless remedies. Individuals would hang camphor soaked balls around their neck or they would eat lumps of kerosene flavored sugar. Individuals would also tie red ribbons around the right arm in hopes this would save them.

What did the Spanish Flu teach the American public?

Every event in history has a lesson learned. The Spanish Flu caused public health departments to implement restrictive measures. The American government learned to rely on scientists because science had a far greater importance than previously thought.

Scientists had now developed a new theory on germs and antiseptic surgery, learned to design vaccines, and how to reduce disease mortality as well as battle wounds. The public had a relatively calm response to the change in scientific ideas.


  1. Pandemics and Pandemic Scares in the 20th Century
  2. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
  3. ABC News: Spanish Flu of 1918
  4. Wikipedia, Spanish Flu

What Is Influenza A

There are three Influenza viruses that infect humans which include influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C. However, the influenza A virus is more commonly seen. The influenza A virus has been attributed to cause serious epidemics and pandemics.

The influenza A virus infects a wide array of species including pigs, horses, birds, humans, and other animals. Although there are many similarities between these influenza A viruses, they are by no means the same. Each influenza A virus is genetically tailored to infect that species.

Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus. Many refer to influenza as the “flu”. The influenza virus may cause mild or severe illness which can lead to death.

The influenza virus In the U.S. is estimated annually to:

  • Infect 5-20% of the population
  • Account for 200,000 hospitalizations
  • Account for 36,000 deaths

What is Influenza?

Influenza is a respiratory tract infection involving the upper airways and lungs. Influenza is highly contagious, transmitted by saliva and airborne droplets expelled by coughing, and sneezing. The incubation period is very short, ranging from one to three days.

Common symptoms of influenza include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Dry cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Malaise
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing
  • Sweating
  • Irritated eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Other symptoms that are more common in children than adults include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Many individuals may experience complications from the flu. Complications that can occur include:

  • Dehydration
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

Children may experience the above complications along with the following:

  • Sinus problems
  • Ear infections

The influenza virus is spread from human to human when infected droplets are expelled by sneezing or coughing. Individuals may also become infected by touching a contaminated surface or object then their nose or mouth. Healthy adults may infect others one day prior to the development of symptoms up to five days after the onset of symptoms.

The best way to protect against the influenza virus is to get an annual influenza vaccination. Individuals who wish to reduce their chance of becoming infected should get vaccinated. However, certain individuals at a higher risk of influenza infection are strongly encouraged and include:

  • Individuals 50 years or older
  • Children 6-23 months of age
  • Women pregnant during the flu season
  • Individuals with chronic conditions of the heart or lungs
  • Individuals with diabetes
  • Individuals with a weakened immune system
  • Health care workers and caregivers

Certain diseases can weaken the body’s immune system which includes:

  • HIV patients
  • Cancer patients
  • Organ transplant patients
  • Patients receiving chemotherapy
  • Patients receiving radiation therapy
  • Patients receiving steroid therapy

Certain individuals may not be ideal candidates for the influenza vaccination. Individuals who should not be vaccinated include:

  • Individuals with an allergy to chicken eggs
  • Children under the age of 6 months
  • Individuals currently ill exhibiting a fever
  • Individuals who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccine
  • Individuals who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome 6 weeks after vaccination

Influenza vaccines are developed each year based off the predominant strains in the Southern Hemisphere. Protection provided by the vaccine depends on effectiveness of the strain used to make the vaccine. Vaccinations typically begin in October.


  1. CDC
  2. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

What is the Bird Flu

The bird flu or avian influenza is a virus that infects birds. This infectious disease is caused by various strains of the type A influenza virus. Contrary to belief, many wild birds carry the avian influenza viruses without apparent harm while domestic poultry such as turkeys and chicken develop disease when infected with the bird flu.

The avian influenza can present in two distinct forms which include:

  1. Mild and Quite Common Form: This form presents with mild symptoms such as ruffled feathers, mild respiratory involvement, and reduced egg production. Outbreaks caused by this form are unlikely to be noticed unless regular bird flu testing is done.
  2. Lethal and Very Rare Form: This form is very rare and highly infectious making this form difficult to miss. This form was first identified in Italy in 1878 which presented with a sudden onset of disease, extreme contagion, and a mortality rate of 90-100% within 48 hours. This form of bird flu not only infects the respiratory system but quickly invades multiple organs and tissues resulting in massive internal hemorrhaging.

The avian influenza virus is excreted in the nasal secretions, saliva, and feces of an infected bird. Susceptible birds become infected with the bird flu virus when direct contact is made with: an infected bird, contaminated surfaces such as cages or dirt, or contaminated materials such as feed or water. Viruses that are highly pathogenic may survive in the environment for long periods of time. This is especially the case when temperatures are low. The H5N1 virus is highly pathogenic, able to survive within contaminated feces for 35 days at temperatures as low as 4°C while able to survive for six days in temperatures as high as 37°C.

For disease that is highly infectious, control measures must be followed. All infected or exposed birds are rapidly culled. Following the cull, the carcasses are then disposed of properly. The farm will then be quarantined while rigorous disinfection takes place. The farm must then implement strict sanitary measures to prevent further infection. Another important control measure is the restrictions that are placed on the movement of live poultry within and between countries.

Are these precautions effective at controlling an outbreak of the bird flu?

These precautions would be very effective when dealing with large commercial farms. Why? Large commercial farms usually house the birds indoors under strict, controlled sanitary conditions. However, small backyard farms in rural areas prove more difficult for the implementation of these precautions.

What other problems does this pose?

Outbreaks in small backyard flocks may be associated with an increased risk of human exposure to the avian influenza as well as infection. Birds in this setting are more apt to roam freely while scavenging for food, possibly interacting with infected wild fowl at the water hole. During adverse weather conditions, these birds may also be brought into the household, maybe even sharing the same area where children sleep or play.

Poverty is also a concern. Families that cannot spare the wasted income or food consume infected birds when signs of illness present. Slaughtering, de-feathering, butchering, and the preparation of the bird may increase the risk of exposure and infection to the avian influenza virus. Farmers may not recognize death as a sign of the bird flu. The farmer may then see no reason to alert the proper health authorities. Finally, the lack of compensation for destroyed birds may further discourage the reports of outbreak.


  1. Center for Disease Control
  2. World Health Organization


Mesothelioma: Risk Factors

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the mesothelial tissue. Certain risk factors can increase an individual’s chance of acquiring a disease such as mesothelioma. What risk factors increase the chance of acquiring mesothelioma?

Asbestos exposure remains the number one risk factor for the development of mesothelioma. The association of asbestos and mesothelioma has caused the use of asbestos to almost be discontinued. Since then, cases of mesothelioma have stopped increasing. What exactly is asbestos?

Asbestos refers to a family of fibrous silicate minerals once used in products such as:

  1. door gaskets
  2. insulation
  3. soundproofing material
  4. floor tiles
  5. roofing
  6. fireproof gloves
  7. patching compounds
  8. brake pads
  9. ironing board covers

However, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in dust and rocks in around the world.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that up to 733,000 public buildings and schools may still contain asbestos insulation. The removal of asbestos remains a risk factor for developing mesothelioma. Individuals that are exposed to a higher level of asbestos are more likely to develop mesothelioma.

Certain occupations which may be at an increased risk include:

  1. Insulation manufacturers
  2. Railroad workers
  3. Miners
  4. Factory workers
  5. Ship builders
  6. Gas mask manufacturers
  7. Construction workers

Family members exposed to individuals who have been exposed to asbestos are also at an increased risk. This occurs when the individual brings the asbestos fibers home on one’s clothing. Asbestos can be found in 2 main forms:

  1. Amphiboles: Thin, rod-like fibers which include amosite, crocidolite, anthrophylite, tremolite, and actinolyte. The amphiboles are considered to be very carcinogenic (cancer causing).
  2. Serpentine: Curly and pliable fibers which includes chrysotile. Chrysotile is the most widely used form of asbestos.

How does asbestos cause mesothelioma?

Inhaled asbestos fibers can lodge at the ends of the small airways. Asbestos fibers may further penetrate the pleural lining of the lung and chest wall which may damage or injure the mesothelial cells. The formation of mesothelioma takes time, approximately 20-50 years from the first occurrence of exposure.

Asbestos fibers can also cause lung cancer or asbestosis (the formation of scar tissue in the lungs). Peritoneal mesothelioma may also form. This occurs when inhaled asbestos fibers are coughed up and swallowed. Peritoneal mesothelioma will affect the abdomen in this case.

Other risk factors for developing mesothelioma include:

  1. Exposure to Simian Virus 40 (SV40): This virus was originally found in monkeys but research shows a correlation between SV40 and mesothelioma formation. Between 1955 and 1963, monkey cells (containing the Simian Virus) were used to develop the polio vaccine. Once the correlation was discovered, this method was discontinued. Much is unclear of what exact connection SV40 plays in the formation of mesothelioma; more research is needed in this area.
  2. Exposure to Thorium Dioxide: Thorium Dioxide or Thorotrast was once used in x-rays between 1920 and 1950 but was later found to cause cancer. The use of Thorium Dioxide has been discontinued in x-rays. A few research studies have found a correlation between Thorium Dioxide and the formation of mesothelioma.
  3. Exposure to Zeolite: Zeolite is commonly found in the soil of Turkey, Anatoli region. Zeolite is chemically similar to asbestos, in which zeolite is a silicate mineral. This area of Turkey has reported many cases of mesothelioma which may be caused by this mineral.
  4. Tobacco Use: Smoking has not been directly correlated with increasing your risk of mesothelioma development. However, the combination of asbestos exposure and smoking greatly increases your risk of developing lung cancer.

Many risk factors may contribute to the development of mesothelioma but only one definitely stands out; asbestos exposure. Even though, you may be exposed to asbestos sometime throughout your life does not necessarily mean that you will develop mesothelioma. Each disease has different risk factors. Learn more about mesothelioma signs and symptoms.


  1. American Cancer Society
  2. Mayo Clinic

Health Information: MRI and Breast Cancer

Today’s health information topic covers the importance of breast cancer screening

The American Cancer Society has set new guidelines for females who are at high risk of developing breast cancer. A recent study states that women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer should recieve annual MRI’s or Magnetic Resonance Imaging as well as mammograms to detect early signs of breast cancer. These guidelines also apply to those women who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

Individuals who are considered to be at high risk of developing breast cancer would have one of the following:

  • strong family history of two or more close relatives that have developed breast or ovarian cancer before the age of 50.
  • individuals who have been treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • women of age 30 and older, who have an alteration in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.4 million women could fall into the high risk group. MRIs are able to visualize abnormal or increased blood flow to the breast through the use of radio waves and a strong magnetic field. MRIs are more expensive than mammograms. The best part about an MRI is the fact that this test is noninvasive.

This study followed 1,000 women at the University of Washington Medical Center, who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast only. Through the use of MRIs, 121 women had “possible” tumors in the second breast. Breast biopsies proved that 30 of these women had cancer in the second breast as well, yielding a 3% improvement in detection of breast cancer in the second breast.

Now the only question left remaining is, can the American Cancer Society persuade the government to add MRIs as part of a recommended guideline? If this is possible, then ALL health insurance companies would have to cover the cost of the MRI.

Health Information: Tuberculosis

Today’s health information subject, Ethical Dilemmas in Medicine.

Recently a 27 year old man infected with tuberculosis or TB was incarcerated in Arizona after he went into a convenience store without a mask. Doctors had advised him to wear a mask when outside of his home, so as not to infect others. This man did not follow doctors orders and was incarcerated for endangering the public. For some Americans, this sparks a debate regarding one’s civil liberties while raising an ethical dilemma to others.

This man has the disease known as tuberculosis or TB, but not just any type of TB. This man has a type of tuberculosis known as XDR-TB. This type of tuberculosis is drug resistant, meaning almost untreatable. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a bacterium that can infect any part of the human anatomy, but normally infects the lungs causing a respiratory infection named tuberculosis.

Why does this story raise such an ethical dilemma? Drug resistant diseases (tuberculosis and staphylococcus) are difficult or almost impossible to treat. If one extremely infectious individual goes out into public and knowingly infects others, what is not to stop a pandemic from occurring? Would you like to be infected with an untreatable disease?

Wellness Tips: Understanding Grief

Learn more about the physical, emotional and psychological symptoms of grief and how to understand them.

Today I want to talk a little bit about how to understand grief. Each of us will have milestones or accomplishments in our lives such as marriage or the birth of a child. Although these are more joyous occasions, the loss of a loved one is a milestone that each of us will face at sometime in our lives.

In order to understand grief, we must define grief. Grief is a natural emotion that may cause sadness or sorrow, and confusion after the loss of something or someone. One might experience grief following the loss of a job, loss of one’s health, a move away from home, divorce, and the loss of a loved one.

Signs and symptoms one might experience during grieving can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Signs and symptoms of grief may or may not include:

  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • muscle weakness
  • trouble breathing
  • forgetful or absent minded
  • nightmares or strange dreams
  • may experience anger and guilt
  • may withdraw socially

    The above feelings and behaviors are just a few signs and symptoms of grief that are perfectly normal to experience. However, it is important to understand that each of us will deal with grief differently. Normally the grieving period can be anywhere from a few months to several years. When dealing with grief, you must accept the loss and learn to live with this loss. If you do not face the grief, this emotion can build up and become psychologically unhealthy.

    Grief is normal and a part of life. Even though the loss of a loved one does not “feel” right, death is a part of the circle of life.

    Weight Loss Tips: Get Your Rest?

    Studies Show Weight Gain Linked to Sleep Deprivation

    If we look back in time through the last fifty years, we would see that the American population has gotten heavier. Right? The 60’s showed that 1 out of 4 Americans were overweight while 1 out of 9 were obese. Presently 2 out of 3 adults are overweight while 1 out of 3 is considered obese. Shocking right! Well, what would you say if I told you researchers found a link between chronic sleep deprivation and weight gain. You better believe it.

    Not only has the American public gotten heavier in the last fifty years but we have also cut sleep time by nearly 2 hours. Two studies show that chronic sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain. These studies show that there is a connection to the amount of sleep and levels of hormones that regulate one’s appetite. Thus indicating that those who are sleep deprived are also getting fat.

    Sleep habits of over 1,000 volunteers were followed for 17 years. Researchers found that these individuals only slept on average, 5 hours a night. We are recommended to achieve 8 hours of sleep a night. These individuals had a higher BMI than those who slept 8 hours a night. Researchers also found high levels of the hormone, ghrelin.

    Ghrelin, a hormone produced by the stomach, signals the brain during hunger. The sleep deprived also had lower levels of the hormone leptin. Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, is responsible for signaling satiation or fullness to the brain.

    These studies prove that sleep is as important for weight loss as diet and exercise. So make sure that you are getting enough sleep each night.

    By Kristy Haugen

    • Sleep The Fat Off has some interesting weight loss tips for everyone and is the source of information for today’s weight loss tip.

    What is mesothelioma?

    By: Kristy Haugen

    Most Americans are probably not quite sure what mesothelioma is. Many though, can probably associate the word mesothelioma with an attorney or possible litigation. As I flip through the channels on my television set, I too, notice that mesothelioma is frequently mentioned by law firms. However, the focus of this article is to educate the public on what mesothelioma is.

    Mesothelioma can either be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) in nature. Mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, hence mesothelioma. What is the mesothelium?

    The mesothelium is a type of tissue lined with special cells referred to as mesothelial cells. The mesothelial cells typically line the abdominal cavity, heart cavity, chest cavity, and the outer surface of most internal organs. Each cavity has a specific name for the mesothelial covered cavity which is:

    • Peritoneum: abdominal cavity
    • Pleura: chest cavity
    • Pericardium: heart cavity

    The mesothelium has a specific purpose in the body. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that allows easy movement of the organs. The pleural mesothelium for example, allows the lungs to move easily with each breath that is taken. Without this, breathing would be a difficult and possibly painful process.

    Many refer to malignant mesothelioma as simply, mesothelioma. There are three main types of malignant mesothelioma ranked from less likely to more commonly seen:

    1. Sarcomatoid
    2. Mixed/Biphasic
    3. Epithelioid

    Malignant mesothelioma more commonly begins in the chest cavity (pleural mesothelioma). Approximately 10-20% of the cases of malignant mesothelioma will begin in the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma). Malignant mesothelioma rarely begins in the cavity surrounding the heart (pericardial mesothelioma).

    Malignant Mesothelioma Statistics

    Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer estimated to affect 2,000-3,000 newly diagnosed cases annually in the U.S. The United States reported an increased rate of mesothelioma from 1970 to 1990, which has currently stabilized and possibly decreased. However, European countries continue to see an increase in the rate of mesothelioma.

    Mesothelioma is commonly seen in the ages 65 years and older but increases with age. Mesothelioma is 5 times more likely to affect men than women. Mesothelioma is more common in the Caucasian nationality than African American.

    Mesothelioma is a very serious cancer. Symptoms commonly do not appear early which causes mesothelioma to be diagnosed at an advanced stage. For this reason, mesothelioma has a low survival rate that is about 1-2 years. However, cancer research is slowly changing this statistic. Learn more about what risk factors predispose you to mesothelioma.

    1. American Cancer Society

    Tuberculosis, a Cause for Concern?

    By: Kristy Haugen
    Many believe that tuberculosis (TB) is a disease of the past. However, tuberculosis is still the leading killer of young adults worldwide. This makes tuberculosis hardly a disease of the past. In fact, tuberculosis has emerged once again as a serious public health dilemma in the U.S.

    Despite advances in treatments available, tuberculosis (TB) still remains a global pandemic. One third the human population is currently infected with tuberculosis. What is tuberculosis?

    The disease tuberculosis is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis can affect any part of the body but usually infects the lungs. Tuberculosis is spread through airborne droplets occurring when an infected individual sneezes, talks, or coughs. However, prolonged exposure to the infected individual must occur before you may become infected. The body may harbor the bacteria while the immune system prevents sickness. For this reason, there are two forms of TB: latent tuberculosis and active tuberculosis.

    With latent tuberculosis, the immune system is able to prevent the bacteria from growing. The tuberculosis bacteria remain alive within the body but are inactive at this time. However, the bacteria can become active later in life. Those with latent tuberculosis have no symptoms, do not feel sick, are not contagious, and may develop TB later in life if they do not receive treatment.

    Active tuberculosis simply means that the tuberculosis bacteria are growing within the body causing an active infection. Signs and symptoms of active tuberculosis include fatigue, slight fever, chills, night sweats, loss of appetite, unintended weight loss, a cough that lasts three or more weeks producing discolored or bloody sputum, and pain with coughing or breathing. Active tuberculosis is highly contagious.

    What is causing the tuberculosis pandemic? Improved public health programs have helped to create a steady decline of tuberculosis cases in the United States. However, the problem is far from solved. Factors that contribute to the spread of tuberculosis in the U.S. and elsewhere include the increase in number of foreign born nationals, crowded living conditions, increase in drug resistant strains of tuberculosis, lack of access to medical care, and the increase in poverty.

    Poorly ventilated and crowded conditions help to spread TB. This is one reason tuberculosis cases have reached epidemic proportions. Although the incidence of TB cases in the U.S. is declining, the incidence in other parts of the world is increasing. Half of the reported cases in the U.S. (in 2000) occurred in individuals that were born outside of the U.S. Individuals that live in poverty, move or migrate often usually do not finish the tuberculosis treatment. This is leading to drug resistant forms of tuberculosis.

    Drug resistant strains of tuberculosis are a serious problem. Tuberculosis bacteria have developed strains of the bacteria that are resistant to each of the major tuberculosis medications. There are also strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to at least two tuberculosis medications. This multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is posing an even deadlier threat to those affected. Individuals affected with MDR-TB are much more difficult to treat requiring a long term therapy of up to two years. The medications required to treat these strains can cause serious side effects. This is one great reason to complete the entire course of medication as prescribed by your doctor.

    Certain factors increase your risk of contracting tuberculosis. An individual in an immunocompromised state is at risk of developing TB. A number of factors can cause the immune system to be in a weakened state. Some diseases can suppress the immunity such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and silicosis. Certain medications can affect the body’s immune system which includes chemotherapy drugs and corticosteroids. An increased risk of reactivated tuberculosis has been associated with the use of arthritis medications Enbrel and Remicade.

    Individuals within close proximity of those infected with tuberculosis are at an increased risk of developing disease. Individuals in areas of high rates of tuberculosis (Asia, Africa, Latin America, former Soviet Union) have an increased risk of developing tuberculosis. Certain races (Hispanics, American Indians, Asian Americans, African Americans) in the U.S. are at risk of developing tuberculosis. What other factors may increase your risk of developing tuberculosis?

    The older adult is at an increased risk of developing tuberculosis due to a weakened immune system. Individuals who are malnourished, lack adequate medical care, or who suffer from long term drug or alcohol abuse are at increased risk of developing tuberculosis. Health care workers are at increased risk of developing tuberculosis also.

    If you develop any of the signs or symptoms listed above, you should seek medical advice. Individuals with HIV should be tested for tuberculosis, since the leading cause of death in the AIDS patient is tuberculosis. HIV and tuberculosis have a deadly symbiosis, in which TB increases the rate at which the AIDS virus replicates and HIV reactivates inactive TB. Health care workers are usually tested at least yearly for tuberculosis by Mantoux test. Individuals with latent tuberculosis reveal a positive Mantoux even though no symptoms of the disease are evident. Tuberculosis is also tested by chest x-ray and culture tests (urine, sputum).

    Tuberculosis is a preventable disease. There are a few measures one can take to protect their health. First, you should be tested regularly. If you have an immune suppressing disease, live or work in a prison or nursing home, were born in a TB prevalent country, or have other risk factors, then a Mantoux test should be done every six months.

    If you test positive without symptoms, speak with your doctor about treatments to reduce the risk of developing active tuberculosis. The most important step you can do for the public and yourself is to finish the entire course of medication. Treatment that is stopped to early allows the bacteria a chance to mutate to a drug resistant form.

    1. Mayo Clinic – Tuberculosis
    2. Tuberculosis, NIAID Fact Sheet

    Understanding The Immune System

    By: Kristy Haugen
    The immune system functions to protect the body from attack by infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses. The immune system has many complicated intricacies that can occur. Understanding how the immune system functions can help us understand how we protect ourselves from illness.

    Acquired immunity involves production of recognition molecules that distinguish “self” from foreign (“nonself”) material. There are two forms of acquired immunity: cellular immunity and humoral immunity. Cellular immunity refers to the formation of lymphocytes that are sensitized against the invading agent. Humoral immunity involves binding of circulating antibodies to the invading agent.

    Antibodies (immunoglobulins) are specific recognition molecules. An antibody consists of four polypeptide chains. There are two identical light chains and two identical heavy chains. This creates a Y-shaped molecule. Each light chain contains two domains: constant domain and variable domain. Each heavy chain contains two to three constant domains and one variable domain. The variable regions provide specificity which enables antibody to bind to a specific region of another molecule such as antigen. The constant regions provide a mechanism for binding of the antibody to other cells such as macrophages. The constant regions can also bind to elements of complement.

    Antibodies bind to an antigen on an invading organism, marking the foreign material for destruction by either the complement system or by macrophages. The complement system (proteins) destroys infectious organisms by puncturing the cell membrane. Antibodies inactivate invading organism by clumping together (agglutination), precipitation, and neutralization (antibody binds to and covers a toxic site).

    Lymphoid tissues are responsible for acquired immunity. This type of immunity will not develop until after contact is made with the invading agent. Lymphoid tissues are widely distributed throughout the body such as in lymph nodes, the thymus, the bone marrow, and the spleen. Lymphoid cells are white cells or lymphocytes of the blood.

    Two types of lymphocytes exist: T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes. T-lymphocytes form the sensitized cells of the cellular immune system. B-lymphocytes are responsible for the production of antibodies in humoral immunity. T-cells contain a class of recognition molecules called T-cell receptors. T-cell receptors recognize cells that bear both “self” and “nonself” markers.

    B- and T-lymphocytes arise from embryonic stem cells. However, before becoming part of the lymphoid tissues a maturation process is required. T-cells originate from the bone marrow but mature in the thymus gland. B-cells originate in the bone marrow but mature in the spleen, lymph nodes, and other lymphatic organs.

    Q. How does the body respond to a viral infection?

    A. A macrophage will ingest a virally infected cell. This will cause the macrophage to display a specific viral antigen on the cell surface. The specific viral antigen assists in marking the cell. Helper T-cells with the proper T-cell receptors will recognize the processed viral antigen on the macrophage surface. These helper T-cells will then become activated.

    Activated helper T-cells will multiply. These cells stimulate the multiplication of killer T-cells and activated B-cells that can recognize the same processed viral antigen. Activated B-cells will multiply. These cells differentiate into plasma cells that produce antibodies to this viral antigen. A few of the B-cells will become memory cells. This creates a rapid response to any future infections by the same virus.

    Killer T-cells destroy viral host cells (infected cells). Killer T-cells inhibit viral replication. B-cell antibodies will bind to the virus. This prevents the virus from infecting other host cells. Once the infection is contained, suppressor T-cells stop the immune response. In case of future infections with this virus, memory T-cells and B-cells will remain in the blood and lymphatic system. In correspondence, the AIDS virus is damaging to the immune system because of its ability to invade and kill the helper T-cells.

    In order to keep the body’s immune system function, the body needs to be at optimal health. Optimal health requires the necessity of a well-balanced diet and exercise program. Many experts agree in the importance of a vitamin supplement. This is one way to keep the body healthy.

    1. Champe, Pamela C; Harvey, Richard A; and Ferrier, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005.
    2. Parham, Peter. The Immune System. New York, NY. Current Trends and Garland Publishing. 2000.
    3. McKinley, Michael P. and O’Loughlin, Valerie Dean. Human Anatomy. 1st ed. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill. 2005.


    By: Kristy Haugen
    Despite the severity of influenza symptoms, most strains of influenza do not pose any great danger to healthy people in populations in which influenza is endemic. Healthy individuals usually recover from influenza in a couple of weeks. However, education regarding the influenza virus can help us to understand what poses a threat to our health.

    Influenza is a respiratory tract infection involving the upper airways and lungs. Many refer to influenza as the “flu”. Influenza is highly contagious transmitted by saliva and airborne droplets expelled by coughing and sneezing. The incubation is very short ranging from one to three days. Common symptoms of influenza are fever, chills, muscle aches and pains, dry cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, headache, malaise, fatigue, sneezing, sweating, and irritated eyes.

    The influenza virus is an RNA virus that belongs to the orthomyxoviridae family. Three genera of the influenza virus currently exist. Each influenza virus is identified by the antigenic differences in their nucleoprotein and matrix protein.

    The influenza B and C viruses infect only humans. Populations tend to have more resistance to these two viruses. This is because influenza B and C only undergo a type of evolution referred to as antigenic drift. RNA replication in these viruses is frequently error prone and leads to many point mutations. These point mutations lead to very little change in the new viral strain. Influenza B and C viruses cause relatively mild and limited disease epidemics.

    The influenza A virus infects mammals and birds (avian influenza). This virus is more likely to cause a pandemic (world wide epidemic). Influenza A is a recombinant virus, meaning an interchange of gene segments if two different viruses infect the same cell. This type of evolution is referred to antigenic shift. Avian and human strains recombining in pigs in the Far East may permit the virulent human strains to evolve. Common antigenic variants include H1N1, and H3N2.

    Influenza A can be further classified by the surface proteins. Sixteen subtypes of the viral surface protein hemagglutinin (HA or H) currently exist. Nine subtypes of the viral surface protein neuraminidase (NA or N) exist. These surface proteins are essential for the virus’ life cycle.

    The flu season reaches a peak prevalence in winter. The Northern and Southern hemispheres have winter at different times, meaning that there is actually two flu seasons annually. Two different vaccinations are made for the different flu seasons each year. The Northern Hemisphere flu season peaks in January or February. The Southern Hemisphere flu season peaks in October.

    Influenza vaccines are developed each based off the predominant strains in the Southern Hemisphere. The vaccine contains an inactivated (killed) virus. Protection provided by the vaccine depends on effectiveness of the strain used to make the vaccine.

    Vaccinations typically begin in October. Those that are susceptible to illness such as the elderly (65 years and older), young children (under 5 years of age), and immunocompromised patients are encouraged to be vaccinated. Young children are likely to get complications from the flu such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections.

    Anyone who has an allergy to eggs should not be vaccinated. Allergy to the vaccine is due to small amounts of egg protein that remain in the vaccine after purification. This is considered to be a rare side effect. Many complain of injection site soreness up to two days after vaccination. This is temporary and should go away. Typical side effects include fever, malaise, muscle aches occurring 6-12 hours after vaccination.

    There are currently medications used to treat influenza. Amantadine and rimantadine are medications used to treat influenza A only. Neuraminidase inhibitors such as Tamiflu and Relenza block the normal function of the viral surface protein neuraminidase. These medications can be used to treat influenza A and B. Resistance to adamantine derivatives (amantadine, rimantadine) is seen in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea due to availability in over-the-counter remedies.

    The avian flu naturally infects aquatic birds. However, pandemics occur when the avian adapted virus infects porcine (pigs). This virus will then recombine to form a genetically new virus. The genetically new virus infects humans that are in close contact with the infected porcine. The flu is then transmitted from person to person, beginning an epidemic.

    In 1997 the avian flu (H5N1) originating from chickens in Hong Kong, killed 6 of 18 infected. This strain was not readily transmissible from human to human. However, this strain resurfaced in 2004 in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. This virus remains avian adapted and cannot be transmitted from person to person. A vaccine cannot be made until this virus has recombined into a human adapted form.

    Elderberry extract is a trademarked over-the-counter remedy to shorten the duration of an influenza episode. This will not prevent the illness if taken before hand. Only vaccination can help to prevent influenza infections.

    Influence is on the minds of many and rightfully so. The avian flu will pose a threat to the world’s population if predictions are correct. Maintaining good health is essential during the flu season. One way to do that is take a good vitamin supplement.

    1. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
    2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia-Influenza
    3. Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, California. The Crossing Press. 2004.
    4. Parham, Peter. The Immune System. New York, NY. Current Trends and Garland Publishing. 2000.

    Guide To Buy Vitamins Online

    By: Kristy Haugen
    Many buy vitamins online to supplement the fast paced diet. Vitamins are necessary nutrients the body cannot synthesize. The diet must supply the necessary vitamins but most do not accomplish this task. Using the internet to buy vitamins online has become a popular nutrition resource.

    Vitamins are merely organic compounds that the body uses for essential functions. There are two categories of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble.

    The body requires nine water-soluble vitamins. Many of the water soluble vitamins are precursors for coenzymes for the enzymes of intermediary metabolism. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. What is not used will be excreted in the urine.

    Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for protein and red blood cell formation. Folic acid is essential during pregnancy for healthy development of baby’s brains and nervous system. Deficiencies in folic acid during pregnancy lead to spina bifida and anencephaly. Proper vitamin supplementation before and during pregnancy can prevent this.

    Vitamin B12 also known as cobalamin is an essential water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin B12 is essential for DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 is also part of the red blood cell ring that carries oxygen. Pernicious anemia is a related to a vitamin B12 deficiency. Deficiency of vitamin B12 is rarely a result of the vitamin’s absence in the diet. Many who develop pernicious anemia lack intrinsic factor, which binds to the vitamin for absorption purposes.

    Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid is an essential water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin C is required for the maintenance of normal connective tissue and the formation of collage. This vitamin can be found in skin care products. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron in the diet. Vitamin C is an essential anti-oxidant (free radical damage). Scurvy is a disease associated with vitamin C deficiency.

    Vitamin B6 known as pyridoxine is also a water-soluble vitamin. Pyridoxine is essential for protein digestion and utilization. This vitamin is essential for brain function and hormone production.

    Vitamin B1 known as thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin. Thiamine plays a key role in energy metabolism of most cells (ATP), particularly the nervous system. Beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are diseases caused by a severe thiamine deficiency.

    Niacin (vitamin B3) is an essential water-soluble vitamin. Niacin functions as a precursor to NAD and NADP. Niacin is essential for energy production, brain function, and healthy skin. A deficiency in niacin causes pellagra and type IIb hyperlipoproteinemia. Niacin also helps to lower LDL’s in the blood.

    Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is a water-soluble vitamin that assists in turning fats, sugars, and protein into energy. Riboflavin is needed to repair and maintain healthy skin. Riboflavin also assists in regulating bodily acidity. There are no diseases associated with a riboflavin deficiency. However, riboflavin deficiencies commonly accompany other vitamin deficiencies.

    Biotin is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is needed for healthy childhood development. Biotin helps the body use essential fats. Biotin promotes healthy skin, hair, and nerves. Biotin deficiency does not occur naturally because the vitamin is widely distributed in food.

    Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 is essential for energy production. Vitamin B5 also controls the body’s fat metabolism. This vitamin helps make antistress hormones (steroids) during stressful times. Pantothenic acid is essential for a healthy nervous system. This vitamin helps maintain healthy skin and hair. Deficiency in this vitamin is not well characterized in humans and no RDA (recommended dietary allowance) has been established.

    The body also requires four fat-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed, released, and transported with the fat of the diet. Fat-soluble vitamins are not readily excreted in the urine. Because fat-soluble vitamins travel with fat, significant quantities of these vitamins are stored in adipose tissue (fat) and the liver.

    Vitamin A or retinol is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant that protects the body from free radical damage. Vitamin A also protects against many infections. Vitamin A is essential for vision at night.

    Those deficient in vitamin A suffer night blindness. Many who suffer from psoriasis and acne are effectively treated with retinoic acid or a derivative. It is possible to become toxic with fat-soluble vitamins because of how the body stores these vitamins. Toxicity of vitamin A leads to hypervitaminosis A. Symptoms of this disorder include dry, pruritic skin; cirrhotic, enlarged liver; and increased intracranial pressure. Pregnant women should not take excess of vitamin A due to potential to cause congenital malformations to the fetus.

    Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. This vitamin has hormone like functions. This vitamin helps to maintain strong and healthy bones by retaining calcium. This is why milk is usually fortified with vitamin D for increased calcium absorption. The body also produces vitamin D in the skin when exposed to sufficient sunlight. A vitamin D deficiency causes a net demineralization of bone, results in the disorder rickets (children) and osteomalacia (adults). Other disorders such as renal rickets and hypoparathyroidism are seen with a vitamin D deficiency. Like all fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D can be stored in the body and is slow metabolized. So there is a risk for toxicity. Toxic levels can cause nausea, thirst, stupor, and loss of appetite. Hypercalcemia can result from enhanced calcium absorption which can lead to calcium deposits in many organs, especially the kidneys and arteries.

    Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin needed for proper clotting of the blood. Vitamin K is a byproduct created by the normally harmless bacteria in the intestine (E.coli). A true deficiency is unusual because of adequate amounts produced by the bacteria in the intestine and the diet. However, antibiotics can destroy necessary flora in the intestine which can decrease vitamin K production. Hypoprothrombinemia is seen in a vitamin K deficiency.

    Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. The primary function of vitamin E as an anti-oxidant is to prevent non-enzymatic oxidation of cell components by molecular oxygen and free radicals. Vitamin E also helps to prevent blood clots, thrombosis, and atherosclerosis. Vitamin E is essential for healthy skin, fertility, and improves wound healing. Deficiencies of vitamin E have been seen with abnormal cellular membranes. No toxic effects have been seen with this vitamin.

    All essential vitamins are necessary for good health. Understanding what vitamins are essential and how the essential vitamins benefit health is only half the battle. Today many can buy vitamins online. Buying vitamins online might just be the answer to ingesting all the essential vitamins.

    1. Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, California. The Crossing Press. 2004.
    2. Champe, Pamela C; Harvey, Richard A; and Ferrier, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005.

    Can Vitamin C Supplements Help?

    By: Daniel Weigum
    The cold and flu season usually drags a percentage of the population down at some time during the year. A clinic visit and some prescription drugs is the usual method of dealing with out of control cold and flu symptoms. Is cold and flu prevention possible?

    Vitamin C has gained a reputation of strengthening the immune system. Is this possible? A simple vitamin supplement can offer immunity to some of the most common illnesses afflicting the public today. Studies have indicated vitamin C really can help.

    The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recently conducted a study on the affects of vitamin C on the immune system. Susan Ritter, MD, PhD candidate, and Gailen D. Marshall, Jr., MD, PhD, both from the University of Texas Health Science Center, studied the blood of 12 anonymous patients given a one gram daily vitamin C supplement.

    An increase in NK cells was found in all patients after the 2 week vitamin C supplement trial. The NK cells are important in immunity against viral infections. NK cells (Natural Killer cells) are large, granular lymphocytes carried in the blood. The NK cells function basically as a soldier waiting for a mission. When infection activates an immune system response, NK cell are signaled and initiate an attack destroying pathogens as they are designed. The increase level of Natural Killer cells in vitamin C supplement test subjects suggests an increased immunity to infections.

    Vitamin C supplement subjects also had an increased level of interferon-gamma. Interferon-gamma is used by the cytotoxic T cells to do a couple of important functions. During a viral infection, cytotoxic T cells are formed specifically to attack the virus infecting the body. When the cytotoxic T cell targets an infected tissue cell, interferon-gamma is secreted and used to prevent the infected cell from replicating into another viral pathogen, increases the processing and presentation of viral infections with MHC class I molecules, and activates macrophages in the area of the infection near the cytotoxic T cell.

    The three important steps referred to above can be simplified into isolation, assassination, and finally elimination. The cell replication is stopped when the cytotoxic T cell introduces interferon-gamma. The cell is programmed to die with use of MHC class I molecules. Finally, the dead interferon-gamma coated cell is easily identified as a foreign body and eliminated by the macrophages. Interferon-gamma triggers all three of these events which makes the immune system much more efficient when engaging in battle with a viral infection. The cytotoxic T cell can effectively kill several infected tissue cells from one to the next as well as gain space to maneuver as dead infected cells are eliminated by the macrophages.

    A reduction of the presence of interleukin-4 and interleukin-10 were also found in the vitamin C supplement test subjects. Interleukin is secreted by T cells to initiate naive B cells to differentiate into plasma cells secreting immunoglobulins. This antibody response occurs during infections. Interleukins trigger or inhibit the different types of immunoglobulin formation. Immunoglobulin can be tailored to respond to different types of infections. The reduced levels of interleukin-4 and interleuking-10 give evidence of the decreased need of an antibody response by the immune system. The immune system function efficiency is more effective requiring less need for distinct antibody production.

    Vitamin C supplements have had a profound affect on this group of people as well as survived the old home remedy tests passed down from generations before. Today, the glass of orange juice isn’t the only vitamin C source available. Simple measures such as benefiting the body with vitamin C can keep the body healthy. Instead of reaching for a Kleenex, the offer of a Kleenex to a sick coworker might be a better way to live through the cold and flu season.

    1. Peter Parham, The Immune System, New York, NY, Garland Publishing/Elsevier Science Ltd., 2000.
    2. Vitamin C Can Boost The Immune System
    3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

    Dietary Fats Are Not Created Equal

    By: Kristy Haugen

    The occurrence of chronic disease is significantly influenced by the amounts and types of nutrients we consume. The role of dietary fats and the risk of coronary heart disease are featured.

    Understanding the different types of fats can be difficult for the consumer. Since not all fats are created equal in health, it is important to understand the differences in dietary fats; healthy versus unhealthy.

    Triglycerides (triacylglycerols) are an important class of dietary fats. The triglyceride consists of a molecule of glycerol and three molecules of fatty acids. Biologic properties of triglycerides are determined by the presence or absence of double bonds, the number and location of double bonds, and the configuration (cis, trans) of the unsaturated fatty acid. Fatty acids consist of a hydrocarbon chain (C-H) with a carboxyl group (COOH) at one end. The glycerol molecule contains three hydroxyl groups (OH).

    Much of the fat in the body is in the form of triglycerides. Many of the foods we eat also contain triglycerides. Elevated triglyceride levels in the blood have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. These triglycerides are not directly from dietary fats but made in the liver from excess sugars that have not been used for energy. The excess sugar source is from foods containing carbohydrates such as refined sugar and white flour.

    Saturated fats are a type of triglyceride. This triglyceride contains primarily fatty acids whose side chains do not contain any double bonds. These fats are characteristically called saturated because all available carbon bonds are occupied by a hydrogen atom. Saturated fats are highly stable and can resist oxidation. The saturated fat molecule is straight in form. Hence, saturated fats form a solid or semisolid at room temperature. Main sources of saturated fats are meat and dairy products, and a few vegetable oils (palm and coconut oils). A diet high in saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

    Monounsaturated fats are another type of triglyceride. The fatty acids contain only one double bond. A few sources of monounsaturated fats are olive, peanut, and rapeseed (canola) oil. This type of fat has the ability to favorably modify lipoprotein levels. A good example of a diet high in monounsaturated fat is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean cultures show that a diet rich in olive oil is correlated with a low incidence of heart disease.

    Polyunsaturated fats are a type of triglyceride in which the fatty acids contain more than one double bond. Double bonds in natural fats are rigid and introduce a kink in the molecule. This kink prevents the fatty acids from packing close together. As a result, unsaturated fats have a lower melting point than saturated fats. Most unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and referred to as oils.

    The effect that the polyunsaturated fat has on heart disease is influenced by the location of the double bond within the molecule. Omega-6 fatty acids (n-6 fatty acids) are a type of polyunsaturated fat. The omega-6 fatty acid, primarily linoleic acid obtained from vegetable oils protects against heart disease. Good sources of omega-6 fats are nuts, avocados, olives, soybeans, along with sesame, cottonseed, and corn oil.

    Omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 fatty acids) are a type of polyunsaturated fat. The omega-3 fatty acid is primarily linolenic acid. These fatty acids are found primarily in plants and in fish oils that contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Omega-6 and omega-3 fats are considered essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease.

    Trans fatty acids are chemically unsaturated fatty acids. However, in the body trans fatty acids behave much like saturated fatty acids. Why is this bad? Trans fatty acids increase serum low density lipoproteins (LDL’s) but not high density lipoproteins (HDL’s). With the shift in LDL levels, Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease.

    Trans fats can be introduced into the diet in ways most are unaware of. During hydrogenation, polyunsaturated oils become exposed to hydrogen at high temperatures. The nature of the polyunsaturated fat becomes transformed into a trans fat. Most margarines and baked goods contain the hydrogenated polyunsaturated oils. Trans fats should be avoided at all costs.

    Dietary fats are not created equal. The common diet conscious individual avoids any and all dietary fat. Some dietary fats are necessary for life. With a more specific dietary fat watch on the mind, the right food choices can be easier for a heart healthy dieter.

    1. Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, California. The Crossing Press. 2004.
    2. Champe, Pamela C; Harvey, Richard A; and Ferrier, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005.
    3. Craine, Leslie E; Hart, David J; and Hart, Harold. Organic Chemistry A Short Course. 10th ed. Boston, Massachusetts. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1999.

    Liquid Vitamins Are Destroyed by Stomach Acid?

    By: Daniel Weigum
    Digestion has recently been accused of destroying liquid vitamins. Destruction of vitamins and minerals is not part of any digestive process. The conversion of vitamins and minerals to usable nutrients is the only intention.

    A controversial subject has been the destruction of liquid vitamins in the presence of stomach acid. Nutraceutical supporters claim the simplified composition of a liquid vitamin leaves the vital nutrients susceptible to damage from strong stomach acid.

    Our digestive system is an amazing nutrient processing machine which is far more sophisticated than just a catch container filled with hydrochloric acid and enzymes. There are a plethora of events that take place during digestion. Some examples of isolated nutrient digestion and absorption can be helpful in determining whether vitamins and minerals are destroyed during digestion.

    A large majority of vitamin supplements contain Ascorbic Acid; more commonly recognized as vitamin C. What happens to ascorbic acid when it comes in contact with digestive acids and enzymes?

    Ascorbic acid resembles a monosaccharide. Its molecular structure is made up of a five member, unsaturated lactone ring with two hydroxyl groups. These molecular components are attached to double bonded carbons. The molecular structure of ascorbic acid is actually easily oxidized during digestion. The oxidation process does not destroy ascorbic acid (vitamin C) but simply changes the molecular structure to dehydroascorbic acid. Both ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid are biologically effective as vitamin C.

    β-carotene is commonly referred to as vitamin A. β-carotene is actual a biological precursor to vitamin A. β-carotene requires oxidation to become vitamin A which is in turn oxidized to form 11-cis-retinal in the liver. 11-cis-retinal is vital to eyesight. 11-cis-retinal is isomerized within the rod cells of the eye when exposed to visible light making vision possible. This vital nutrient requires oxidation to convert to 11-cis-retinal.

    Destruction of vitamins and minerals is not the purpose of digestion. The conversion of vitamins and minerals into usable, absorbable nutrients is the vital purpose of digestion. Most ingested substances require some form of digestion in order for the body to utilize the nutrient.

    Digestion is very complex but a general idea of the process can help describe methods to increase nutrient absorption efficiency. Chewing of ingested material is the first process which doesn’t apply to vitamin supplements. Chewing pill form vitamins is not common and the need for chewing a liquid vitamin is not necessary. Never the less, chewing is the introductory process during digestion often referred to as mechanical digestion. In the mouth, ingested material’s surface area is increased, salivary enzymes are introduced and ingested material is hydrated with saliva. The material is swallowed and contained in the stomach for approximately 2-4 hours. During this period, the stomach introduces acid and enzymes which are regulated by many enzymatic and hormonal signals during digestion. After this process is complete, the digesting material is allowed to enter the duodenum wear digestion is completed and acidic material is neutralized by pancreatic juices and bile secretion. Again, bile and pancreatic juices are regulated by hormonal signaling. This process prevents damage to the intestinal track during the absorption process. If material hasn’t completely digested by this time, absorption efficiency will be greatly decreased and the material will be excreted. The material is allowed to enter the small intestine where the majority of absorption takes place. The remainder of the material moves to the large intestine where water is still being absorbed. The remaining waste enters the colon and is finally excreted.

    This process is time sensitive and requires a proper sequence of events. If ingested material bypasses the mechanical digestion process, chemical digestion has to compensate and is limited to the surface area of the ingested material. In this case, a pill form vitamin must be digested completely into absorbable nutrients without the increase in surface are or hydration-enzyme introduction of saliva. This leads to inefficient absorption rates of up to 30%. Liquid vitamin supplements do not depend on mechanical digestion to be absorbed properly increasing the absorption efficiency to approximately 90%.

    Digestion is not designed for destruction of vitamins and minerals but simply a method the body uses to transform nutrients into usable substances. The fewer steps required to complete this process leads to a more efficient absorption percentage. With the bodies need for vital nutrients, the least that can be done is supplying a more easily digested supply of vitamins and minerals.

    1. McKinley, Michael P. and O’Loughlin, Valerie Dean. Human Anatomy. 1st ed. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill. 2005.
    2. Hurley, Cecile N. and Masterton, William L. Chemistry Principles and Reactions. 3rd ed. Orlando, Florida. Saunders College Publishing. 1997.
    3. Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, California. The Crossing Press. 2004.
    4. Champe, Pamela C; Harvey, Richard A; and Ferrier, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005.
    5. Craine, Leslie E; Hart, David J; and Hart, Harold. Organic Chemistry A Short Course. 10th ed. Boston, Massachusetts. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1999.
    6. Ascorbic Acid

    Is There Good and Bad Cholesterol?

    By: Kristy Haugen
    Most know of cholesterol as a bad thing. However, cholesterol is essential for many functions in the body. Why is cholesterol so necessary?

    Many classify cholesterol as good and bad. This is not true. Cholesterol is simply cholesterol. When thinking of good and bad, many are referring to HDL’s and LDL’s. HDL refers to high density lipoprotein while LDL refers to low density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are merely cholesterol carriers. Lipoproteins are part lipid (fats) and part protein. The reason for this structure is proteins are soluble in water whereas fats are insoluble in water. The protein portion is used to transport the lipids through the blood. Since blood is comprised mostly of water, the lipid portion would not travel without the protein portion.

    HDL’s consist of about half protein and half lipid; whereas LDL’s are about a quarter protein and three quarters lipid. The function of the HDL is to bring cholesterol to the liver for recycling or elimination. Low density lipoproteins transport cholesterol to the rest of the body for building tissues.

    Cholesterol by chemical structure is an alcohol, because of the hydroxyl group (OH). Remember, ethanol (found in alcoholic beverages and gasoline) is also an alcohol but a much smaller alcohol. Cholesterol contains a four ring region that is characteristic of all steroid hormones (estrogen and testosterone). However, combination of the steroid ring structure and the hydroxyl group classify cholesterol as a sterol.

    Cholesterol has many functions. Cholesterol is the precursor to all steroid hormones produced in the body. This includes mineralcorticoids, glucocorticoids, and the sex hormones.

    Cholesterol is found in every cell. Cholesterol regulates the cell membranes fluidity. This prevents the cell from becoming too rigid or too fluid. Cholesterol helps keep the cell membranes intact. Cholesterol helps to build strong bones and muscles, and maintains libido and fertility. Cholesterol assists in regulating the blood sugar. Cholesterol helps to protect against infectious disease and repairs damaged tissue. Cholesterol is required to form vitamin D.

    Cholesterol is a component of lipid rafts, this helps to secure proteins involved in cell signaling. When sleeping at night, our brain synthesizes cholesterol to benefit our mood and increase our memory. Cholesterol supports the nervous system, in which cholesterol is a vital component of the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath allows neurons to conduct impulses with each other. Cholesterol has been found to be the rate limiting factor found in the formation of synapses, this formation is necessary for learning and the formation of memories.

    Cholesterol is used by the liver to synthesize bile acids. The liver makes about two grams of cholesterol daily. However, under stressful conditions the production of cholesterol increases to produce more adrenal and stress hormones. Bile acids are secreted into the small intestine to emulsify fats, aiding in digestion.

    Many studies cannot correlate eating foods containing cholesterol with an increase in blood cholesterol. Eating a diet high in meat and fat does not necessarily indicate heart disease. For example, the Eskimos live on a diet rich in meat and fat. The Eskimos have low cholesterol levels. Many populations that consume a high percentage of animal fats have less heart disease. Why? Animal fats are more resistant to oxidative damage. Many do not realize that cholesterol plaques are often there to protect a damaged artery. Many need to understand that a clogged artery is better than a ruptured one. Although elevated cholesterol levels are associated with heart disease, cholesterol may not be the cause.

    If cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, what are the causes? Many factors may contribute to cardiovascular disease. Heart disease can be associated with deficiencies in a few minerals (copper, zinc, magnesium). Toxicity in calcium can assist in hardening of the artery walls. Increased homocysteine levels are a factor in heart disease. Deficiencies of vitamin C and the amino acid lysine cause decreased collagen synthesis. Also, hypothyroidism is associated with heart disease. Certain types of infections and inflammations are related to heart disease (dental infections). High blood pressure can lead to heart disease. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, caffeine, and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of heart disease. Finally, genetic factors play a part in heart disease. Any oxidative damage from vegetable oils contributes to heart disease. Hydrogenated fats found in margarine and fried foods contribute to heart disease. Hydrogenation produces trans-fatty acids. These are non-naturally occurring fatty acids that contribute to inflammation, one of the causes of heart disease.

    Cholesterol has a bad reputation and many misunderstand. The truth to the importance of cholesterol is simply not widespread enough. Cholesterol’s role in heart disease cannot be linked. When understanding what may cause heart disease, total cholesterol is not as important as the ratio of HDL’s to LDL’s. This organic compound is essential for life as we know it.

    1. McKinley, Michael P. and O’Loughlin, Valerie Dean. Human Anatomy. 1st ed. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill. 2005.
    2. Hurley, Cecile N. and Masterton, William L. Chemistry Principles and Reactions. 3rd ed. Orlando, Florida. Saunders College Publishing. 1997.
    3. Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, California. The Crossing Press. 2004.
    4. Champe, Pamela C; Harvey, Richard A; and Ferrier, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005.
    5. Craine, Leslie E; Hart, David J; and Hart, Harold. Organic Chemistry AShort Course. 10th ed. Boston, Massachusetts. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1999.
    6. The Cholesterol Myths

    Are Liquid Vitamins Enough?

    By: Daniel Weigum
    Many health professionals are strongly recommending antioxidants. Is this all we need to be concerned about? Free radicals are not the only carcinogenic agents.

    In our fast paced world, the population is eating a diet that accommodates the fast paced lifestyle. Fast food is easy and allows the working class to eat a meal in the convenient allotted hour.

    Health professionals and advocates constantly preach the risks of this lifestyle. The repeated calorie and trans fat content warnings are on the minds of many even while these fried foods are consumed. Is the taste and convenience worth the health risk?

    Acrylamide is a carcinogenic substance most are not familiar with. This carcinogenic substance unfortunately is present in the most popular fried foods. Acrylamide is present in foods prepared at high temperatures using methods such as frying, grilling, baking and broiling. A safe level of acrylamide was set by the Food Standards Agency at 10 ppb. French fries and potato chips can have up to 100 times this amount.

    Using cooking oil alternatives isn’t a remedy for high acrylamide levels either. Ironically, frying foods in polyunsaturated oils can add unhealthy trans fats to a diet. The polyunsaturated oils oxidize rapidly during the high temperature frying process becoming the harmful trans fats most are trying to avoid. If frying is the desired cooking method, the use of monounsaturated oils such as olive oil may be a better alternative.

    Although antioxidants are not a combatant for high levels of acrylamide, antioxidants are still very important in the protections against free radical damage. The only real defense we have against acrylamide is to abstain from foods prepared at high temperatures. This is not easy and can become a complete lifestyle change. An alternative is to be much more careful when preparing foods of any kind. Burnt foods do not contain the nutrient content once abundant prior to preparation. Unfortunately, it contains high levels of the carcinogen, acrylamide.

    Health professionals recommend the consumption of more raw foods as well. Raw foods are rich on nutrients and contain low levels of harmful toxins like acrylamide. When raw foods are referred to, some foods that are normally prepared using high temperature processes need to be pasteurized before eating. The digestive system is very effective at killing bacteria and harmful pathogens but can’t combat all harmful bacteria in large quantities such as e-coli.

    A reasonable diet change can limit your acrylamide intake. All delights in an average diet do not have to be discarded. Frying is definitely a cooking method to avoid if possible. If frying is without an alternative, the use of a monounsaturated oil is recommended. Cooking methods such as grilling, steaming, boiling, or baking at lower temperature can greatly reduce the levels of acrylamide in your diet as well as reduce the nutrient loss during the preparation of a meal. A meal needs to be completely prepared to prevent pathogen and bacteria from entering your digestive system. Just keep in mind, burning during preparation is the number one mistake to avoid. Raw food snacks can be added to your diet to take the place of foods high in acrylamide content like potato chips.

    Free radicals and antioxidant protection are important and represent a completely different disease causing battle. Proper preparation of foods is the key to reducing acrylamide in a diet. The next time eating high calorie, fried foods seems like the only options; concerns of Trans fats and calories should not be the only thing in mind. The carcinogen levels can be just as harmful to your health.

    1. Patrick Holford, The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, Berkeley, Ca., The Crossing Press, 2004
    2. Acrylamide Infonet
    3. World Health Organization, Acrylamide

    Why Do Liquid Vitamins Contain Antioxidants?

    By: Kristy Haugen
    Vitamins offer many health benefits. Many only think they need to take a good vitamin supplement because their mother said so. However, vitamin supplements offer antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin A. These antioxidants combat reactive oxygen intermediates (free radicals). In order for us to understand why it is important to take a vitamin supplement rich in antioxidants, we need to understand free radicals.

    Most recall the widely recognized chlorofluorocarbons which were free radicals produced by solar radiation that caused depletion of the ozone layer. This is probably the most familiar free radical that jogs the memory. However, free radicals have been linked to several diseases such as cancer, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis to name a few. But what are free radicals?

    Free radicals are simply atoms or groups of atoms with unpaired electrons in the outer (valence) shell. Why is this so deadly? Most atoms want to attain a stable outer shell. In order to be stable, free radicals must obtain an electron so that the electrons are paired. Because the outer shell contains unpaired electrons, free radicals are extremely reactive.

    In our bodies, free radicals will oxidize the nearest molecule taking the needed electron. The oxidized molecule will then become a free radical, beginning a chain reaction. This chain reaction will continue until resulting in the disruption of a living cell. Free radicals can attack lipids (fats), proteins, carbohydrates, and DNA. However, DNA is a prime target. DNA and free radical interactions usually result in mutations that adversely affect the cell cycle and potentially lead to malignancy. In fact, researchers believe this is how many forms of cancer arise. Why should you take an antioxidant?

    Antioxidants are substances that protect the body from damaging oxidation reactions. The antioxidants can safely interact with free radicals and prevent the damage of vital molecules. Antioxidants are able to neutralize the free radical chain reaction by reacting with the free radical. In order to stop the chain reaction, the antioxidant donates the needed electron. The antioxidants also do not become a free radical by donating the electron, safely ending the chain reaction. The antioxidants are able to do this because they are stable in either form.

    Free radicals can be very harmful for the body. Most focus on the harmful affects of free radicals and sources of damaging free radicals; pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides. However, some free radicals can be useful to our bodies and environment. Free radicals are required in polymerization reactions to create useful plastics. The body uses free radicals in the immune system (neutrophils). The body also uses free radicals for cell signaling processes.

    Regardless of good free radicals, protection against harmful free radicals is extremely important to good health. The most important antioxidants are vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and vitamin E (alpha tocopherol). The body does not produce these essential vitamins, so they must be provided in the diet.

    The invisible war against harmful free radical damage affects the world. The antioxidant remedy can easily be supplemented with a vitamin supplement fortified with antioxidants. Cancer may not be curable but it can be prevented if antioxidants are allowed to intervene.

    1. Hurley, Cecile N. and Masterton, William L. Chemistry Principles and Reactions. 3rd ed. Orlando, Florida. Saunders College Publishing. 1997.
    2. Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, California. The Crossing Press. 2004.
    3. Champe, Pamela C; Harvey, Richard A; and Ferrier, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005
    4. Craine, Leslie E; Hart, David J; and Hart, Harold. Organic Chemistry A Short Course. 10th ed. Boston, Massachusetts. Houghton Mifflin Company. 1999.

    Liquid Vitamins Fortify Phytonutrients, Why?

    By: Daniel Weigum

    Liquid Vitamin manufacturers have fortified their vitamin supplements with phytonutrients and many other vitamin supplement manufactures are doing the same. What is so crucial about the presences of photonutrients in supplements?

    Phytonutrients or phytochemicals have recently been recognized as playing an important part in one’s health. Research has shown that phytonutrients play a crucial role in proper absorption of nutrients. Also, they have been important in cellular function and regeneration. They work on our body systems to promote health and prevent disease. There are many that fit in this category. However, they are not considered essential but more so semi-essential nutrients. These semi-essential nutrients have been attributed as anti-oxidants, immune system boosters, and hormone regulators.

    Phytonutrients are nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and their extracts. Phytonutrients can also be found in liquid vitamin supplements. To begin, an explanation of some classes of the phytonutrients is necessary.

    Bioflavonoids are a class of phytonutrients that bind to toxic metal ions and help to rid the body of them. They also provide anti-infection properties and are anti-carcinogenic as well. Some of the best food choices are rosehips, berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, cherries, papaya, grapes, cantaloupe, plums, tea, buckwheat leaves, red wine, and tomatoes.

    Another class of phytonutrients is the allium compounds. Allium compounds benefit the body by fighting cancer and heart disease. Garlic is in this class of phytonutrients. How do the allium compounds prevent cancer? Garlic is able to block the conversion of nitrites and nitrates (found in many preserved foods). Why is this important? Well, the nitrites and nitrates convert in the body to nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known cancer causing compounds. Also, garlic has been linked to lower cholesterol in the blood. So garlic acts similar to antioxidants. Onions, leeks, shallots, and chives are also considered allium compounds.

    Why is broccoli good for us? Broccoli is good because it is considered a glucosinolate? Glucosinolates are a class of phytonutrients. Glucosinolates have been found to be important cancer fighters. Studies show that foods high in glucosinolates reduce the risk of lung, stomach, colorectal, and breast cancer. Glucosinolates are so good at fighting cancer by detoxifying the liver. Brussel sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables are good sources of glucosinolates.

    Ellagic acid is a class of phytonutrient. High levels of ellagic acid can be found in strawberries, raspberries, and grapes. This compound neutralizes carcinogens before they can damage DNA. Ellagic acid neutralizes a specific carcinogen found in red meat, nitrosamine. Also, ellagic acid is effective against another common carcinogen, aflatoxin. This carcinogen is found to be in low levels in a number of foods, including peanuts.

    Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and phytonutrient found in tomatoes. Lycopene is credited for giving the tomato its red color. Lycopene is also found in watermelon as well as recognized on your ketchup bottle label. Some tomato plants have actually been bioengineered to contain 3 to 4 times the normal levels of lycopene.

    These are only a few of the phytonutrients known to health science. There are many more with many different benefits. The secret of phytonutrients has been discovered by health professionals and awaits many to reap the benefits. Maintaining good health is worth the time it takes to add a tomato to a cheese burger or take a liquid vitamin supplement fortified with phytonutrients.

    1. Holford, Patrick. The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, California. The Crossing Press. 2004.
    2. LYCOPENE – The Ultimate Phytochemical Nutraceutical?
    3. Biochemistry of Lycopene

    Vitamin and Mineral Digestion Taken For Granted

    By: Kristy Haugen
    The body is a complex web of systems. Most are not fully aware of the complexity of the digestive system. However, most know of its opposite, indigestion. Most do not realize how amazing the body can be, especially the digestive tract. When the process of digestion is described as fascinating, passing gas isn’t going to be the major focus (flatulence), but more so the process of how gas is produced.

    The digestive system’s primary role is to convert the food into substances that are capable of being absorbed. The digestive system is comprised of the following structures: the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and the anus. The liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and salivary glands also play a role in digestion but are not considered part of the alimentary canal (primary digestive organs).

    Digestion begins in the mouth when food is ingested. This is a mechanical process. Through mastication, (the biting and chewing action of the teeth) the breakdown of food from larger particles into smaller particles takes place. This process doe not chemically alter the food, but increases the total surface area of the food. This in turn increases the speed and efficiency of enzyme activity. An enzyme is a protein that catalyzes, or speeds up, a chemical reaction. Enzymes are essential to sustain life because most chemical reactions in the body would occur too slowly, or would lead to different products without the assistance of enzymes.

    For more information on enzymes and how enzymes work, read Liquid Vitamins Contain Enzymes Because?.

    Saliva also plays an important part with digestion in the mouth. Saliva is secreted by the salivary glands which lubricates the food to facilitate swallowing. The salivary glands begin to produce saliva in response to food; whether stimulated by smell or taste. Some may experience a mouth watering sensation in response to a big juicy steak. Also, saliva initiates the digestion of carbohydrates. Amylase is the digestive enzyme found in saliva that helps with carbohydrate digestion.

    Once the food has been sufficiently chewed, the tongue rolls it into a ball (bolus) and pushes it into the pharynx (the cavity that leads from the mouth to the esophagus). Swallowing (deglutition) propels the bolus downward into the upper esophagus using a peristaltic contraction (wavelike motion). At this time, the epiglottis blocks the trachea (airway) to prevent food from entering the lungs and interfering with breathing. Peristaltic contractions continue to move the bolus (food) downwards to the lower esophageal sphincter. This is the ring of smooth muscle fibers at the junction of the esophagus and stomach; it is also referred to as the cardiac sphincter. When food approaches, the sphincter relaxes to allow food into the stomach. After the food has passed through the sphincter, the muscle fibers contract to keep the food and digestive juices from re-entering the esophagus. Heartburn results when the cardiac sphincter relaxes and allows the digestive juices to re-enter the esophagus. When this happens too often, the smooth muscle of the esophagus is eroded, which can cause bleeding and persistent heartburn referred to as GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). This can become a serious condition.

    The stomach is a large muscular organ; the walls are lined by a thick gastric mucosa. The stomach is also lined by two types of glands: gastric and pyloric glands. These glands contain mucous cells which secrete mucus that protects the stomach lining from the harsh stomach acid (pH of 2). Chief cells located in the gastric glands secrete pepsinogen, which is a zymogen. A zymogen is an inactive form of an enzyme. The gastric glands also contain parietal cells which secrete hydrochloric acid. This aides in the conversion of pepsinogen to the active enzyme pepsin, and secrete intrinsic factor which helps to absorb vitamin B12. Hydrochloric acid is essential to kill bacteria in the food, and to help breakdown the food into an absorbable form. The pyloric glands contain peptic cells which also secrete the zymogen pepsinogen. Gastrin cells are located in the pyloric glands. These cells secrete the hormone gastrin for hydrochloric acid production in the parietal cells; and stimulate the churning of the stomach to help produce the acidic, semi-fluid, partially digested mixture referred to as chyme. Protein digestion is initiated in the stomach.

    The chyme then empties into the small intestine by way of the pyloric sphincter. The pyloric sphincter is the ring of smooth muscle fibers located at the joining of the stomach and small intestine. The small intestine consists of three regions: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. The bulk of digestion will be done in the duodenum. The jejunum and ileum have a primary function of absorption.

    The small intestine has the perfect anatomy for absorption. The extended length, highly coiled structure, along with surface villi (small finger like projections), and epithelial cells with a brush border microvilli allow for increased surface area for absorption. Nutrients are absorbed across the epithelium villi and are carried to the bloodstream through capillaries (small blood vessels) or lacteals (small lymph vessels that serve as extensions of the lymphatic vessel in the villi). Goblet cells located in the small intestine secrete mucus on the surface epithelium of the villi for protection from the digestive juices.

    The pancreas releases a pancreatic juice in response to the hormone secretin that is secreted by the duodenum. This hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) is secreted in response to the acidity of the chyme in the small intestine. The pancreatic juice that is secreted has an alkaline pH to neutralize the acidity of the chyme. The pancreatic juice contains many enzymes (inactive & active) that digest carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats).

    The liver plays the role of secreting and synthesizing bile. Bile is a non-enzymatic digestive fluid that is used to breakdown (emulsify) fats. The gallbladder simply stores and concentrates the bile. Bile is made up of bile salts, bile pigments, and cholesterol.

    Meals high in fat tend to spend a longer amount of time in the stomach since it takes more time to digest. The hormone enterogastrone is released by the duodenum. This hormone inhibits the peristalsis in the stomach, slowing the release of chyme into the small intestine. This also gives more time for the bile to properly digest the fats.

    The remaining food passes from the small intestine to the large intestine. The large intestine consists of three parts: cecum, colon, and rectum. The large intestine plays a smaller role of digestion, mainly to absorb any electrolytes and water that has not already been absorbed. This process is done in the colon. Many normally harmless bacteria colonize the large intestine, such as E. coli. E. coli is important because this type of bacteria produces vitamin K as a byproduct. This is a good source of vitamin K. Also, the amount of time spent in the large intestine determines the consistency of the stool. If too little time is spent in the colon, diarrhea and dehydration result. If too much time is spent in the colon, constipation will result.

    Lastly, the stool passes into the rectum. The rectum stores the feces (stool), which consist of unabsorbed digestive secretions (enzymes), water, undigested food (cellulose and fiber, etc.). The anus is the opening through which wastes are eliminated. The anus is separated from the rectum by two sphincters that regulate elimination.

    The digestive process is just one extremely complex process that occurs without question. It is often taken for granted. The complexity isn’t easy to understand. The next time you eat a juicy steak, understand the journey the meal is sent on is much farther than the trip to the restaurant.

    1. 1. McKinley, Michael P. and O’Loughlin, Valerie Dean. Human Anatomy. 1st ed. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill. 2005.
    2. Champe PhD, Pamela C; Harvey PhD, Richard A; and Ferrier, PhD, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005.
    3. Research & Education Association, The Best Test Preparation and Review Course For MCAT, Piscataway, New Jersey, 2002
    4. Kaplan, MCAT Comprehensive Review, 5th ed., Kaplan Publishing, New York, New York, 2000

    Liquid Vitamins Contain Enzymes Because?

    By: Kristy Haugen
    The more advanced liquid vitamin supplements today are starting to incorporate enzymes in their ingredients. Why do vitamin supplements need to supplement enzymes? This is a very good question. In order to answer this question, we need to familiarize ourselves with enzymes.

    An enzyme is a protein that catalyzes, or speeds up, a chemical reaction. Enzymes are essential to sustain life. Most chemical reactions in our body would occur too slowly, or would lead to different products without the assistance of enzymes. In fact, it is estimated that digestion of one meal would take 50 years without the help of enzymes. The reason enzymes are able to speed up reactions is because they lower the energy of activation required to begin the reaction. This is the barrier that keeps many reactions from happening.

    Enzymes have a specific pocket (the active site) that contains an amino acid side chain. The amino acid side chain creates a three dimensional surface. The active site of the enzyme binds to the substrate (the molecule being acted upon by the enzyme), forming an enzyme-substrate complex. This complex is converted to enzyme-product; which further breaks down to the enzyme and the product. It is important to understand that enzymes are never changed during the reactions nor are they consumed. Enzymes are simply catalysts in these reactions.

    Enzymes are specific and very selective. They may catalyze only one reaction, or one specific class of closely related reactions. Some enzymes require the incorporation of a non-protein molecule to become catalytically active, referred to as cofactors (metal ions such as zinc, and iron) or organic molecules known as coenzymes, which are derivatives of vitamins (niacin and riboflavin). Lack of a particular vitamin or mineral can impair the action of its corresponding enzyme and lead to disease. This is an important reason to take a good daily vitamin supplement.

    It is important to realize also that enzyme activity can be activated, regulated, and inhibited. This is done to ensure that the rate of the product formation responds to the needs of the cell. This is a way of our body keeping us in check, a natural balance. Inhibition of enzymes is typically seen in medications, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and antibiotics.

    For most enzymes operating in the human body, the optimal temperature is 37 degrees Celsius or 98 degrees Fahrenheit. At higher temperatures, enzymes become denatured, meaning their three dimensional structure is destroyed and the enzyme becomes nonfunctional. If the enzyme only becomes partially denatured, it can sometimes regain its activity upon being cooled.

    For each enzyme, there is also an optimal pH above and below which enzymatic activity declines. Many human enzymes have a maximal activity at pH around 7.2, which is the pH of most body fluids. However, there are exceptions such as, pepsin. This enzyme is most effective in the highly acidic conditions of the stomach, pH 2. The pancreatic enzymes work optimally in the alkaline conditions of the small intestine, pH 8.5.

    Enzymes have a plethora of responsibilities in our bodies; digestion, metabolism of carbohydrates, and much more. Making sure we have all the ingredients to run like a well oiled machine is vital to our health. Advancements in health science recognize the need for enzyme supplementation and have taken the first step. Now you need to take the next, by making sure you feed your body the fuel it needs.

    1. Masterton, William L. and Hurley, Cecile Nespral. Chemistry Principles & Reactions. 3rd ed. Saunders College Publishing, Orlando, Florida. 1997.
    2. McKinley, Michael P. and O’Loughlin, Valerie Dean. Human Anatomy. 1st ed. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill. 2005.
    3. Champe PhD, Pamela C; Harvey PhD, Richard A; and Ferrier, PhD, Denise R. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams &Wilkins. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 2005.