Saturday, July 31, 2010

The 10 Riskiest Foods in America

  • U.S. consumers have been bombarded with reports of contaminated food in recent years, from salmonella in peanut butter and spinach to E. coli in cookie dough and ground beef. Individually, the outbreaks are alarming, but collectively, they represent what the consumers' group Center for Science in the Public Interest calls "a perfect storm of unsafe food." A new CSPI report finds that the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration accounted for nearly 40 percent of all foodborne outbreaks in the U.S. between 1990 and 2006, spawning nearly 50,000 illnesses with symptoms ranging from stomach cramps and diarrhea to kidney failure and death.

    Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers tracked more than 1,500 separate, definable outbreaks involving not only high-risk foods like meat and dairy, but staples of a healthy diet, such as fruits and vegetables. These outbreaks are only the tip of the iceberg of foodborne illness. For every case of salmonella poisoning reported, for instance, the CDC estimates that another 38 cases go unreported.
  • Leafy greens

    Image: salad
    Getty Images file
    Can salad really be bad for you? Although considered a healthy food, nutritious greens can also be coated in disease-causing germs. The Center for Science in the Public Interest identified 363 separate outbreaks linked to leafy greens, making them the No. 1 entry on the top 10 list of riskiest FDA-regulated foods. Salads and other food items containing leafy greens — iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, baby leaf lettuce, escarole, endive, spring mix, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula or chard — accounted for 24 percent of the outbreaks, which sickened at least 13,568 people. Another pathogen appearing frequently in leafy greens is norovirus, which was linked to 64 percent of the outbreaks in leafy greens. Salmonella was responsible for another 10 percent. Contamination may be present from production and processing or through improper handling, such as inadequate handwashing.
  • Eggs

    Image: eggs
    Eggs, a popular high-protein breakfast food, have been linked to 352 outbreaks. The majority of illnesses from eggs are associated with salmonella, which sickened 11,163 people from 1990 to 2006. Salmonella lives in the intestinal tracts of animals and birds and is transmitted to humans when animal feces contaminate a food item of animal origin (such as eggs). Regulations implemented in the 1970s have reduced salmonellosis infections. However, salmonella enteritidis, the most prevalent type of salmonella in eggs today, infects the ovaries of otherwise healthy hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed. New regulations issued in July 2009 require the adoption of controls aimed at minimizing salmonella enteriditis in egg production. While proper cooking should destroy most pathogens, serving eggs raw – or "runny" – or leaving egg dishes at improper holding temperatures (such as on a breakfast buffet) can allow the salmonella to multiply.
  • Tuna

    Image: tuna
    Katsumi Kasahara / AP file
    Many consumers are familiar with warnings about tuna and methylmercury, but the fish has also been implicated in 268 outbreaks and 2,341 reported cases of foodborne illness. Tuna has been linked to scombroid, the illness caused by scombrotoxin. Fresh fish decay quickly after being caught and, if stored improperly, begin to release natural toxins that are dangerous for humans. Adequate refrigeration and handling can slow this spoilage, but the toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking. Symptoms of scombroid poisoning can include skin flushing, headaches, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, palpitations and loss of vision. In addition to scombrotoxin, norovirus and salmonella can also be related to tuna consumption. More than 65 percent of outbreaks linked to tuna occurred in restaurants.
  • Oysters

    Image: Oysters
    Ross Land / Getty Images file
    Contaminated oysters can ruin more than just a gourmet dinner. Oysters have been linked to 132 outbreaks, with 3,409 reported cases of illness. Not surprisingly, the majority of outbreaks from oysters occurred in restaurants. Illnesses from oysters occur primarily from two sources: norovirus and vibrio. Although norovirus in other foods is usually associated with improper handling, oysters actually can be harvested from waters contaminated with norovirus. When served raw or undercooked, those oysters can cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and small or large intestines. Vibrio, a type of bacterium in the same family as cholera, can cause a severe illness, particularly in those with a compromised immune system, characterized by fever and chills, septic shock and blistering skin lesions and can even be fatal.
  • Potatoes

    Image: potatoes
    Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file
    Potatoes, often in the form of potato salad, were linked to 108 outbreaks, with 3,659 consumers reported to have been sickened by spuds since 1990. Salmonella is the most common pathogen, associated with nearly 30 percent of outbreaks, followed by E. coli at 6 percent. The presence of salmonella and E. coli in potato dishes could indicate cross-contamination from raw or cooked ingredients or possibly from raw meat or poultry during handling and preparation. Shigella and listeria also appear in outbreaks associated with potatoes. More than 40 percent of potato outbreaks were linked to foods prepared in restaurants and food establishments (including grocery stores and delis).
  • Cheese

    Image: brie
    Cate Gillon / Getty Images file
    Cheese has been linked to 83 outbreaks involving 2,761 reported cases of illness since 1990, with salmonella the most common hazard. Cheese can become contaminated with pathogens during production or processing. Most cheeses are now made with pasteurized milk, lowering the risk of contamination. In August, California officials warned consumers about eating Latin American-style cheeses such as queso fresco or queso Oaxaca, which may be made by unlicensed manufacturers using unpasteurized milk that could contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women should be particularly cautious about consumption of soft cheeses such as feta, brie, camembert, blue-veined and Mexican-style cheese, which can carry listeria. Listeriosis infection can lead to miscarriage. For the elderly, listeria can cause severe illnesses, with high rates of hospitalization and death.
  • Ice cream

    Image: Ice cream cone
    David Paul Morris / Getty Images
    Whether served in a cone or in a cup, America's favorite frozen treat occasionally can carry a load of dangerous bacteria. Ice cream has been linked to 74 outbreaks involving 2,594 reported cases of illness from pathogens such as salmonella and staphylcoccus since 1990. Soft ice cream can be particularly hazardous to pregnant women. Listeria can survive on metal surfaces — such as the interior of soft ice cream machines — and may contaminate batch after batch of products.
  • Tomatoes

    Image: Tomatoes
    Robert F. Bukaty / AP
    Although tomatoes were wrongly implicated in a sweeping 2008 outbreak later linked to fresh jalapeno and Serrano peppers, they have caused at least 31 identified outbreaks and sickened 3,292 since 1990. The most common hazard associated with tomatoes is salmonella, which accounted for more than half of the reported outbreaks. Salmonella can enter tomato plants through the roots or flowers and can enter the tomato fruit through small cracks in the skin, the stem scar or the plant itself. Restaurants were responsible for 70 percent of all illnesses associated with tomatoes.
  • Sprouts

    Image: Sprouts
    Shariff Che'lah / Featurepics stock
    Sprouts are a popular way to add crunch to salads and in Asian dishes. As the popularity of sprouts increases, however, so too does the potential for foodborne illnesses. Sprouts have been implicated in 31 outbreaks involving 2,022 reported cases of illness since 1990. The CDC and the FDA recommended in 1999 that people at high risk for complications from salmonella and E. coli — such as the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems — not eat raw sprouts. The most likely source of sprout contamination is the seeds that are used to grow the sprouts. Seeds may become contaminated in the field or during storage, and the warm and humid conditions required to grow sprouts are ideal for the rapid growth of bacteria.
  • Berries

    Image: strawberries
    Julian Finney / Getty Images file
    Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and other berry products have caused 25 outbreaks and sickened 3,397 since 1990. In 1997, more than 2.6 million pounds of contaminated strawberries were recalled after thousands of students across several states reported illnesses from eating frozen strawberries in their school lunches. Hepatitis A was the culprit, and contamination may have occurred through an infected farm worker, according to the CSPI report. That same year, raspberries imported from Guatemala and Chile were implicated in a cyclospora outbreak across five states. The resulting infection is a parasitic illness of the intestines, which can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration and stomach cramps and requires treatment with antibiotics.
    — Center for Science in the Public Interest 
    Point of View:

You have to be 'Soy' careful

Recently l had occasion to study with an Ayurvedic Indian doctor. In Ayurveda, diet is the keystone of one’s mental and physical health destiny. I prepared him classic Indiana kitcheri and added edamame to the dish. As he quietly ate, he turned his head towards me, looking into my eyes and said, “Soy is slow suicide,” while gesturing at the green orb with his fork. Truth seekers since the ‘50s have been warning us regarding our excessive intake of soy isoflavones.

Soy-a-holics robotically suck down anything made from soybeans, which is not the boulevard to health, especially when the soy is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). Big Food and Pharma terrorists have trained America to eat Morning Star faux-meat, TVP, Boca Burgers,soy nuts and cheese, edamame,soy milk, Smart Dogs, and concentrated soy protein pills.Warnings appeared in the Washington Post: “You have to be ‘soy’ careful: Tofu and similar foods may be beneficial, but some experts fear that too much could be unsafe.” New York Times health columnist Marian Burros published a comment on isoflavone supplements, which provide 50-100 mg isoflavones per capsule: “Against the backdrop of widespread praise, there is growing suspicion that soy,despite its undisputed benefits,may pose some health hazards.

Not one of the 18 scientists interviewed for this column was willing to say taking isoflavones was risk free.” The easily swayed FDA totally disregarded studies beginning in 1953 demonstrating adverse effects of soy isoflavones.

It’s paradoxical soy protein is aggressively prescribed as treatment for diabetics, considering soy feeding in infancy is linked to diabetes. The American Academy of Pediatrics advised against the use of soy formula due to diabetes risk. Memo: according to our creator, Mom’s milk is eternally best. Unfortunately,some mothers are unable to produce milk for infants;however there are more sensible alternatives to soy. Reviewing feeding histories of 95 diabetic children, twice as many kids with diabetes received soy formula in infancy compared to children in the control group.

(Fort, 1986) Again the FDA put their hands over their ears loudly sing-sang, “La-la-la. I caaaan’t hear you.” In 2006 the American Heart Association chimed in to cast their doubts on the magnitude of soy’s benefit in cholesterol busting. It’s been argued high levels of soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein in Asian diets protect them from breast and prostate cancer in women. Straight up?

Soy is l i n k e d to increased estrogen in males and increased breast cancer in women. The estrogenic effects are caused by the presence of phytoestrogens and estrogen mimicking compounds found in soy. Because of these estrogenic compounds, infants in particular can be harmfully affected from exposure to soy, including
premature development in girls and underdevelopment in boys.

Soy, especially processed versions rather than fermented,promotes hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, and infertility. The Weston Price Foundation ( warns phytic acid, trypsin inhibitors, toxic lysinoalanine and highly cacogenic nitrosamines are all highly present in soy products. Search on-line for the Poisonous Plant Database of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

It’s in black and white: 288 studies since 1953 focused on the toxic properties of soybeans. The FDA possessed this information but chose to ignore it … again. It’s tear-jerking to think of the human suffering that could have been avoided had the FDA listened to their scientific advisors …
Point of View:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Body for Blondes: Is Vitaminwater Really a Healthy Drink?

Over the past few years, an increasing number of worn-out consumers have reached for a bottle of Vitaminwater after a workout. The sports drink has emerged as a serious competitor to Gatorade and other noncarbonated beverages, so much so that Coca-Coca forked over $4.2 billion in cash to buy the brand from Glaceau back in 2007. On its July 21 earnings call, Coke CEO Muhtar Kent was particularly bullish about Vitaminwater, which is now being sold in 15 markets worldwide, including France, China and South Africa.
But do some of these weekend warriors think they're just getting a healthy mix of vitamins and water, as the name of the product implies, when they chug that sweet drink? Probably so. But they're getting more: 33 grams of sugar and 125 calories, for every 20-ounce bottle. Hey, where's the sugar in the name?
Such mixed-message marketing has caused one food-health advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), to lead a class-action suit that claims that Coca-Cola is violating consumer-protection laws with its Vitaminwater brand. According to CSPI nutritionists, Vitaminwater's sugar content more than offsets any advertised health benefits provided by the nutrients in the drink. "They added vitamins to crap," says Stephen Gardner, chief litigator for CSPI. "And it's still crap. Consumers shouldn't have to assume that the front of a label is a lie. You cannot deceive in the big print and tell the truth later."
The group achieved a victory last week, when a federal judge tossed out Coke's motion to dismiss the case. In a strongly worded 55-page opinion, Judge John Gleeson of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn said that the health claims on some Vitaminwater bottles may be in violation of FDA regulations since the drink "achieves its nutritional content solely through fortification that violates FDA policy." The judge thinks Coke could be violating the so-called jellybean rule, which says that a food- or drinkmaker cannot load otherwise unhealthy products with vitamins or other nutrients in order to claim it is healthy. A sugar product is a sugar product: you can't say a jellybean fights heart disease because it contains no cholesterol.

Gleeson also ruled that the claim that the Vitaminwater name misleads consumers is potentially actionable, since that key third ingredient, sugar, is conveniently absent from the title. "The potential for confusion is heightened," Gleeson wrote, "by the presence of other statements in Vitaminwater's labeling, such as the description of the product as a 'vitamin enhanced water beverage' and the phrases 'vitamins + water + all you need' and 'vitamins + water = what's in your hand' which have the potential to reinforce a consumer's mistaken belief that the product is comprised of only vitamins and water."
Coke responded to the judge's ruling in a statement. "Vitaminwater is a great tasting, hydrating beverage with essential vitamins and water — and labels clearly showing ingredients and calorie content," the company said. "The court's opinion was not a decision on the merits, but simply a determination that the case can proceed beyond the initial pleadings stage. We believe plaintiff's claims are without merit and will ultimately be rejected."
If the case goes to a full trial, the judge will ultimately decide whether the Vitaminwater name is legal. But is it ethical? "The inference is that the water contains vitamins," says Terry Childers, a marketing professor at Iowa State. "Vitamins are generally considered healthy so in the semantic network of connections in our brains, it would be natural for the buyer to associate Vitaminwater with healthy. Given the associations and that it contains that much sugar, I think it is misleading to portray it as a healthy drink." 
Marketers, however, get paid to move bottles off the shelf. And this brand managed to merge two words, vitamin and water, which epitomize good health. "From a marketing standpoint, it's brilliant," says Matt Goulding, an editor at Men's Health magazine and co-author of the Eat This, Not That! diet books. "From a corporate-responsibility standpoint, it's not exactly straight shooting."
But isn't the onus on the consumer, who can read about Vitaminwater's sugar supply in the small print, to pick up the bottle and examine what they're gulping? Yes, most people are too busy — or lazy — to read every food label. But should Vitaminwater be liable for that fact of life?

Coke is sure to make this argument as the case progresses. Still, all those exercise fiends might want to get their vitamins the old-fashioned way: a pill and a glass of water. After all, it's sugar-free.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Weight-loss surgery through the belly button or through the mouth

The TOGA System

TOGA Weight Loss 
The TOGA® System is less invasive than other bariatric procedures and does not require any surgical incisions.
The TOGA® System is a promising new treatment for obesity that is designed to be less invasive than other bariatric procedures. The procedure does not require surgical incisions or a medical implant and aims to eliminate many of the problems associated with current bariatric surgeries. The purpose of treatment is to help individuals lose weight by reducing the size of the stomach to give a sense of fullness after a small meal.
The TOGA® System is not yet available for widespread use, but is currently the focus of a multi-center study in the United States for the purpose of gaining FDA approval.

About TOGA

The company behind the TOGA® System is Satiety, Inc., a medical device company that is developing technologies to provide obese patients with less invasive treatment options.
  • TOGA® System: named for transoral gastroplasty, or translated “stomach surgery through the mouth”
With this system, the procedure is performed endoscopically (through the mouth) and therefore considered “non-surgical” as it does not involve either conventional open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. A set of flexible devices is inserted through the mouth into the stomach in order to staple together sections of the stomach and thus reduce it’s overall food capacity.
The procedure can be performed by bariatric surgeons, general endoscopic surgeons, and gastroenterologists who have been properly trained to use the TOGA® System.

The Method - Stomach Stapling Without Surgery

The TOGA® System is a set of flexible stapling devices that is inserted through the mouth into the stomach. Once the device is in place, suction is used to gather together tissue from both sides of the stomach into the device. The collected tissue is then fastened together with titanium staples. The procedure creates a small stomach pouch, shaped like a narrow sleeve, at the top of the stomach. Once the stomach is stapled and the procedure is complete, the device is removed from the body.

Results - How it Promotes Weight Loss

TOGA Weight Loss 
Surgery The TOGA® System creates a small stomach pouch, shaped like a sleeve, to catch food as it enters the stomach.
The TOGA® System creates a small stomach pouch at the stomach entry, which catches food as it enters the stomach. This slows the movement of food and gives patients a feeling of fullness after eating only a small meal. The overall effect is to help patients feel full faster and eat smaller portions. It is designed to achieve weight loss similar to other restrictive bariatric surgeries.

Benefits of the TOGA System

The TOGA® System is less invasive than other bariatric procedures, because it is performed through the mouth and does not require any surgical incisions. This allows for a quicker recovery and shorter healing time. Also, since it does not use an implant, such as a gastric band, it does not have the associated implant problems.

The TOGA System:

  • is incision-free
  • does not use an implant
  • does not involve intestinal cutting or rerouting
  • is less invasive, requires less recovery time, and should cause less complications than other bariatric procedures
  • is designed to achieve weight loss similar to other restrictive surgeries

The TOGA US Clinical Trial

The TOGA® System is currently in the investigational stage in the United States. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the procedure for the treatment of morbid obesity. The title of the study is: Pivotal Clinical Study - TOGA®: A Randomized, Sham-Controlled Trial to Assess the Safety and Effectiveness of Transoral Gastroplasty in the Treatment of Morbid Obesity.

TOGA Weight Loss Video

The following video is an overview of the TOGA® System.
Play time: 2 min 44 sec  Go to website to see video

The purpose of the US pivotal study is to evaluate:

  • Effectiveness of the TOGA® Procedure (weight loss)
  • Safety of the TOGA® Procedure
  • Effect on obesity related illnesses
  • Effect on quality of life measures
  • Changes in medication use
The FDA clinical trials started in the summer of 2008, but prior to that time the procedure was performed at medical centers in Mexico and Belgium in a pilot study between February 2006 and July 2007. Participants weighed an average of almost 120 pounds over their ideal body weight. At six months post-surgery, patients had lost more than a third of their excess body weight. At 12 months, excess weight loss averaged almost 40 percent.

Patient Criteria

The TOGA® System is a medical treatment for individuals who are morbidly obese. The clinical definition for morbid obesity is patients whose body mass index (BMI), a weight-to-height ratio, is at least 40, or patients with a BMI between 35 and 40 who also have one or more obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, or high blood pressure.
Although clinical trials have started, volunteers are still being accepted to participate in the investigational study. Volunteers must be 18 to 60 years old and at least 100 pounds over their ideal to meet initial patient criteria. Individuals who are interested or want more information about the TOGA® study may call 1-866-678-8399 or visit online at
Update: The study in ongoing, but not recruiting participants at this time.


Obesity is affecting the health, quality of living, and length of life for millions of Americans. Although the current bariatric procedures, such as gastric bypass and gastric banding, are considered effective obesity treatments, many individuals are unwilling to undergo a surgical procedure to lose excess weight. The new TOGA® System looks to be a promising new approach to treating obesity that would appeal to many more individuals than the current bariatric surgeries. For now, we must wait for the results of the study to see if the TOGA® System will indeed prove to be a viable bariatric treatment.

The Spider System 

A medical-device company and a bariatric surgeon team for weight-loss surgery requiring just one incision. By Colin Stewart resource:

A medical-device company in North Carolina and bariatric surgeon Dr. Brian B. Quebbemann of Newport Beach, Calif., have teamed up for weight-loss surgery requiring just one incision.

The operation was the first time a surgeon has used a new Spider surgical tool for an increasingly frequent form of bariatric surgery that cuts the stomach down to 20 percent of its normal capacity, Quebbemann said.

The Spider system allows surgeons to operate through the belly button, using a tool containing working arms that unfold inside the patient.

The operation is called "vertical sleeve gastrectomy," which Quebbemann said is one of the fastest-growing types of bariatric surgery. The procedure is most frequently used to treat severely obese patients, but it is also effective for less obese patients with body-mass index of 30 to 35, he said.

It's an alternative to better-known forms of weight-loss surgery — the gastric bypass, in which food is detoured around the stomach, and the Lap-Band, which creates a small pouch at the top of the stomach.

The name "vertical sleeve" describes the shape of the portion of the stomach that remains after the surgery.

Quebbemann, surgical director at The N.E.W. Program weight-loss center in Newport Beach, said the procedure appeals to patients who worry about how a gastric bypass will affect nutrition. It's also an alternative to Lap-Band surgery for patients who do not want "an artificial device attached to their stomach," he said.

The Spider system, produced by TransEnterix Inc. of Durham, N.C., was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year.

Quebbemann said the Spider device made the operation easier:

"Instead of making several incisions to place my surgical instruments, I simply make one small incision, hidden in the patient's belly button, and insert the Spider. I then expand the internal portion of the device, similar to expanding an umbrella. This allows me to clearly see the anatomy and accurately perform the operation.

"(At the end of the procedure,) I simply close the system, and remove it through the small incision, leaving almost no visible scar."

The company said the device has previously been used for Lap-Band placement, colon surgery and for kidney and gallbladder removals.

The vertical-sleeve operation was performed at the Advanced Surgical Partners Surgery Center in Costa Mesa.

A vertical-sleeve procedure is not a "quick fix" for obesity, warns the Medline Plus online information service, sponsored by the National Institutes for Health.

"It will greatly change your lifestyle. You must diet and exercise after this surgery. You may have complications from the surgery and poor weight loss if you don't," Medline says.

This procedure cannot be reversed. Medline says risks include:

Injury to stomach, intestines, or other organs during surgery.

Leaking from the line where parts of the stomach have been stapled together.

Scarring in the abdomen, which could lead to an obstruction in the bowels.

Inflamed stomach lining, heartburn, or stomach ulcers.

Poor nutrition, "although much less than with gastric bypass surgery."

Vomiting from eating more than the stomach pouch can hold.

"The final weight loss may not as large as with gastric bypass. However, this may be enough for many patients. Because vertical sleeve gastrectomy is a newer procedure, there is less data about the long-term benefits and risks," Medline says.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Diet: Ice Cube Diet

Some of you may take your drinks on the rocks. How about your diet? There's a novel new approach to weight loss. And it's all about ice.

It's called the Ice Cube Diet. But can it really help you lose weight? Alicia Puma says yes.

Puma drops a Hoodia-filled ice cube in her glass of water or she eats an ice cube straight. The cubes come in the mail already frozen and packed in dry ice.

"You take once ice cube daily," Puma said. "It tastes great, like a margarita. It gives you a wonderful burst of energy."

But Puma is now speaking for the company that manufactures the Ice Cube Diet. She says she lost 25 pounds on the plan and was hired to become a spokeswoman.

Hoodia come from a desert plant native to Africa. It is said to reduce appetite.

"Would I try it? The answer is 'no,'" said dietician Roberta Anding.

Anding says she's concerned that two pharmaceutical companies backed away from Hoodia.

"Pfizer actually tried to develop this into a drug and stopped its clinical trials without any real explanation," she said. "And Unilever, which makes Slim-Fast, was going to make a dink with Hoodia and they also discontinued development."

"The difference from those other companies is that they processed it (Hoodia) into pill form," explained Puma. "And when you do that, you destroy the structure of the plant."

One study showed women did lose weight on the program. But Anding says more studies on Hoodia's safety and effectiveness is needed.

The ice cube diet is relatively inexpensive - averaging about $1.50 a day.


The Ice Cube Diet might sound like something out of a mock SNL commercial, but we swear: It’s real. The plan is based around “natural Hoodia satiety cubes” made by Desert Labs, which are meant to naturally curb hunger. Hoodia is a medicinal desert plant that’s also a natural appetite suppressant, and is usually dried, ground, and put into capsules, but the Ice Cube Diet actually uses fresh, raw hoodia that’s been frozen within 24 hours of harvesting.

The diet is simple: Take a hoodia cube once a day when you feel like having a snack, and watch your cravings disappear. They claim that the cubes have stronger cumulative effects, so the real appetite control might kick in after about 4-6 days of use. The diet also comes with an informational packet that includes Portion Control for Weight Loss Tips from the Mayo Clinic, but otherwise the company doesn’t suggest restrictions on intake of any particular foods.

Frozen cubes of fresh, raw hoodia that control your appetite sound pretty fantastic, so we decided to test them out in the Blisstree office. Here’s what our testers had to say:

How did it taste?
Tester 1: “I quite enjoyed the taste. It tasted like a sweet plant, but it definitely did taste somewhat artificial.”
Tester 2: “It tasted weird, but kind of good. Like a fake kind of sugar; sort of sweet and tart.”

Did you enjoy eating the ice cubes, or did it feel like a chore?
Tester 1: “I really enjoyed it and it was kind of addictive! The cubes numbed my mouth a bit which was oddly nice, and it tasted good so I really liked it. I found myself definitely craving more than the recommended 1/day.”
Tester 2: “It was really easy. It’s just a strange thing to have to remember – I don’t usually eat ice cubes for the sake of eating ice cubes.”

Did you notice any big differences in appetite or energy?
Tester 1: “Energy: Definitely. Appetite: Not really. I barely noticed a difference.”
Tester 2: “I felt like it gave me energy and suppressed my appetite for a few (2-3) hours after eating it. But after that time period, I didn’t feel much of a change.”

If you’ve taken other appetite suppressants, how did this one compare?

Tester 1: “I find that in comparison to hoodia pills or green tea, this just didn’t cut it in terms of weight loss. I didn’t notice my appetite being supressed at all. However, they tasted way better and I enjoyed eating them.”
Tester 2: “I’ve never taken appetite suppressants before.”

If you’ve taken other hoodia supplements before, how did this one compare?
Tester 1: “I didn’t feel the same appetite changes from these.”
Tester 2: “I’ve never taken hoodia supplements before. As a matter of fact, this experiment was my first introduction to the idea of hoodia.”

What’s the verdict, would you keep using it?
Tester 1: “They were yummy, but I wouldn’t spend the money. If they were free? Yep.”
Tester 2: “My butt says: ‘Keep using it for a while longer, just to see what happens.’ My gut says: ‘This has to be a scam.’”

So is it a scam? If it actually works well enough to help you skip a snack, the price is probably justified: A 40-day supply costs $64.95. That’s about $1.62/day, which is probably less than you’d spend on an energy bar or bag of chips to snack on in the afternoon. Our verdict? It’s natural, tasty, and easy to use (as long as you’ve got a freezer at work), so we say go for it. Just don’t overuse it, or justify eating badly the rest of the day because you’re skipping a snack.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Weight Loss Pills: Qnexa lorcaserin and Contrave

An independent panel of FDA advisors on Thursday voted narrowly to recommend against approval of a proposed new weight-loss drug, Qnexa. The drug agency, which is expected to make an up or down decision on the drug by October, is not bound by the advisory panel's 7-9 recommendation against approval. But the panel's views generally weigh heavily in the agency's final decision.

In the race among pharmaceutical companies to win market approval for a new generation of obesity drugs, Qnexa is the most recent to make it to the crucial FDA advisory panel stage. It's the first of a trio of new candidate drugs to do so. (The others, lorcaserin and Contrave, are to come before an FDA advisory panel in September and December, respectively.)

Qnexa, developed by the biotechnology firm Vivus of Mountain View, Calif., combines phentermine, a stimulant that has been used in the past for weight loss, and topiramate, a medication that has been approved to treat seizure disorders and migraines.

Other candidate weight-loss drugs — most recently rimonabant — have failed to make it over the hurdle the FDA set in 2007 to guide its consideration of future weight-loss drug candidates.

The FDA is walking a tightrope in its deliberations on weight-loss drugs. With two-thirds of American adults overweight or obese and a resulting public health disaster looming, the agency urgently needs to approve a medication that can help Americans lose weight and keep it off. At the same time, the agency is acutely aware that any weight-loss product it approves will probably be broadly marketed and taken by a potentially vast population of patients already beset by obesity-related conditions. Given those circumstances, any hint of a drug-related safety problem could quickly mushroom.

The FDA's staff report on Qnexa, posted this week to the FDA's website, reflected the delicate balance the agency is striking. Looking at Qnexa's performance in two clinical trials sponsored by Vivus, the FDA's staff found a somewhat effective weight-loss drug with a worrying array of side effects.

Qnexa's performance as a weight-loss drug just got over the bar the FDA has set for effectiveness in weight-loss drugs. The staff report declared Qnexa "efficacious for weight loss." But it noted that the different rates at which subjects on a placebo drug and those on Qnexa lost 5% of their body weight "were of nominal statistical significance." Among those on the mid-dose and highest doses of Qnexa, 62% and 69%, respectively, lost 5% of their body weight.

And the drug's safety record during clinical trials — particularly at high doses, at which it's most effective — will clearly raise questions about how it would affect a broad population of overweight and obese patients, if it's approved for broad use.

Twice as many subjects taking the highest dose of Qnexa withdrew from clinical trials, citing side effects, than those taking the placebo. At high doses, subjects reported such side effects as palpitations, anxiety, thoughts of suicide and difficulty in concentrating at far higher rates than those taking a placebo. Four heart attacks were reported among the roughly 2,280 subjects being treated with Qnexa, but none was reported among those taking the placebo.

Finally, the FDA's staff expressed concern over the safety of Qnexa for women who might become pregnant, given that one of the drug's components has been shown to cause birth defects. In the clinical trials the staff reviewed, women on birth control taking Qnexa appeared more likely than similar women taking placebo to get pregnant. That finding prompted the FDA's staff to wonder whether Qnexa might render some prescription birth-control methods less effective.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

What is the Number 1 killer of women?

Janet Bond Brill, a registered dietitian and author of Cholesterol Down (Three Rivers Press), shares 10 tips to reduce the bad stuff.

Cholesterol and Heart Disease
In the annual physical, your doctor checks your cholesterol levels. But what is it? And what do the numbers say about your health?

Cholesterol is a type of lipid or fat. In our bodies, it travels through our blood stream in particles called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are bad because they can lead to a buildup of plaque in arteries.

A mass of plaque can narrow your arteries and restrict blood flow – much like trying to sip juice through a clogged straw. Eventually, the plaque ruptures and a blood clot forms, cutting off the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain.

Hello, heart attack and stroke!

High-density lipoproteins (HDL), on the other hand, are good because they pick up the LDL clogging your arteries and take it to the liver, where it’s processed and eventually excreted.

A total blood cholesterol level of 200 and above is cause for concern, according to the American Heart Association.

Chow Down
“Lowering your cholesterol reduces your risk of contracting heart disease and dying from a heart attack,” Brill says.

What you eat can affect the amounts of HDL and LDL flowing through your bloodstream, and Brill has a cholesterol-lowering eating plan that’s tasty and effective.

“My diet is about what you can eat – not what you can’t,” she says.

What’s on her list? Try these 8 super-foods. Aim to eat all eight daily and heed the two bonus tips as well:

1. Oatmeal
Oats are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that acts like a sponge to soak up cholesterol.

How to sneak it in: Add cinnamon or dried cranberries to your morning oatmeal for a flavor boost. Oat-bran is a highly concentrated source of beta-glucan and it’s easy to mix into homemade bread, muffin and pancake batter.

Brill’s daily Rx: 3 grams of beta-glucan, found in a half cup of dry oatmeal or oat bran.

2. Almonds
Almonds contain two powerful antioxidants – vitamin E and flavonoids – which prevent the oxidation of LDL, a precursor to plaque buildup.

How to sneak it in: Eat almonds with their skins, which pack a hefty dose of flavonoids. Stir a handful into yogurt or spread two tablespoons of almond butter on whole-wheat bread.

Brill’s daily Rx: One ounce of dry-roasted, unsalted almonds.

3. Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds contain lignan and soluble fiber, which block the production of LDL and increase your body’s ability to get rid of cholesterol.

How to sneak it in: Eat ground flaxseeds rather than whole ones, because your body can better absorb its nutrients. Brill likes to sprinkle them into her morning oatmeal. New studies also show that whole flaxseeds are better than flaxseed oil for lowering cholesterol.

Brill’s daily Rx: 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds.

4. Garlic
Garlic impedes the liver’s ability to make cholesterol.

How to sneak it in: Chop garlic into small pieces to release its flavor. Sauté it with steamed spinach, add it to sauces and soups or purée roasted garlic with cooked potatoes and olive oil for a heart-healthy version of everybody’s favorite: mashed potatoes.

Or try this Creamy Cauliflower Puree:

Preparation Time: 15 minutes Level: Easy
Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 4
This savory side dish is a healthy stand-in for mashed potatoes. Change it up by adding shredded low-fat cheese or chopped fresh herbs.

Creamy Cauliflower Puree

* 8 cups bite-size cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
* 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
* 1/3 cup buttermilk or equivalent buttermilk powder
* 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
* 1 teaspoon butter
* 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
* Freshly ground pepper to taste
* Snipped fresh chives for garnish


1. Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, place florets and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 cup water, cover and microwave on High for 3 to 5 minutes.)
2. Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in a food processor. Add buttermilk, 2 teaspoons oil, butter, salt and pepper; pulse several times, then process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve hot.

Brill’s daily Rx: One clove and one Kyolic One Per Day Cardiovascular aged garlic extract supplement.

5. Phytosterol-Containing Foods
Phytosterols are a fat found in plant foods such as fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. They interfere with cholesterol absorption by blocking it from your intestinal cells.

How to sneak it in: Even a vegetarian diet provides no more than 300-400 mg of plant sterols a day, well below Brill’s recommendation.

So supplement this with foods containing added phytosterols – chocolate bars, margarine, cheese, granola bars and cookies, to name a few – but keep an eye on saturated fat and trans-fat content.

Brill’s daily Rx: 2-3 grams of phytosterols a day spread over two meals.

6. Apples
Apples, particularly the skin and outer flesh, are rich in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help prevent plaque buildup.

How to sneak it in: Chop, slice or dice ’em, but leave the peel on for maximum health benefits.

Brill’s daily Rx: One apple – to keep the doctor away, of course.

7. Beans
Beans contain a special soluble fiber that’s fermented in the colon. Healthy bacteria eat the fiber and bean sugars to form short-chain fatty acids, which travel to the liver and inhibit LDL cholesterol production.

How to sneak it in: Brill loves Adzuki beans, which are used in Japan to make sweet red bean paste.

She also recommends cannelloni beans (try them in Tuscan soups, an Italian bean-based soup) and kidney beans, perfect in Southwestern chili.

Make this Pasta Bean Soup:

Preparation Time: 15 minutes Level: Easy
Cook Time: 35 minutes Serves: 8
Using basic canned goods and a few other staples, you can make this comforting soup in just minutes. The trick to achieving a full-bodied homemade flavor from canned chicken broth is to freshen it up with a handful of herbs, some garlic cloves and crushed red pepper. For a meatier flavor, add a little crumbled cooked Italian turkey sausage to the soup.


* 4 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
* 4 4-inch sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1 tablespoon dried
* 1/8-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
* 1 15-1/2-ounce or 19-ounce can cannellini, (white kidney) beans, rinsed, divided
* 1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
* 1 cup medium pasta shells, or orecchiette
* 2 cups individually quick-frozen spinach, (6 ounces) (see Ingredient note)
* 6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, (optional)
* 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Combine broth, garlic, rosemary and crushed red pepper in a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or soup pot; bring to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes to intensify flavor. Meanwhile, mash 1 cup beans in a small bowl.
2. Scoop garlic cloves and rosemary from the broth with a slotted spoon (or pass the soup through a strainer and return to the pot). Add mashed and whole beans to the broth, along with tomatoes; return to a simmer. Stir in pasta, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is just tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Stir in spinach, cover and cook just until the spinach has thawed, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with a drizzle of oil, if desired, and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Variation: Substitute chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for the cannellini beans; use a food processor to puree them.

Ingredient Note: Individually quick-frozen (IQF) spinach is sold in convenient plastic bags. If you have a 10-ounce box of spinach on hand, use just over half of it and cook according to package directions before adding to the soup in Step 3.

Brill’s daily Rx: 1/2 cup of legumes (beans, peas or lentils).

8. Soy Protein
Soy protein contains phytoestrogens – compounds that increase the number and effectiveness of LDL cholesterol receptors, improving the liver’s ability to get rid of cholesterol in your bloodstream.

How to sneak it in: Order a soy latte at your favorite coffeehouse, throw tofu into a fruit smoothie, use soy flour when baking, or mix a handful of roasted soy nuts with dried fruit for an energy-boosting trail mix.

Brill’s daily Rx: 20–25 grams.

Two More Tips
A healthy diet isn’t your only defense against cholesterol.

“Every step works to lower cholesterol in a specific way,” Brill says. “By combining them all, you get an extremely powerful LDL-lowering approach.”

Here are two of her favorite non-food-related tips:

9. Take Metamucil (Psyllium Husk)
Metamucil contains psyllium husk, a fiber that prevents cholesterol from entering intestinal cells. This fiber soaks up cholesterol so you excrete it rather than absorb it into your body.

It’s “the most powerful LDL-lowering viscous soluble fiber in existence,” Brill says.

How to sneak it in: Adults should consume 10-25 grams of soluble fiber a day, advises the National Cholesterol Education Program, but most get only 3-4 grams.

Brill says you should get half your fiber from a supplement and the rest from food.

Take half your daily dose of Metamucil before breakfast and half after dinner to avoid overloading your body on fiber, which can cause gas, constipation or diarrhea.

Brill’s daily Rx: Work up to 12 capsules a day, for a total of 6 grams of psyllium husk.

Or use the powdered version, which you can mix into water. It varies by product, but most Metamucil powders contain 3.4 grams of psyllium husk per serving.

10. Work Up a Sweat
Brisk exercise speeds blood flow in your arteries, reducing your chances of inflammation and clogging (two precursors to hardening of your arteries).

How to sneak it in: You don’t have to hit the gym to get some exercise. Clip on a pedometer while you run errands and aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Brill’s daily Rx: 30 minutes of exercise.

Weight Loss Pills: The Good The Bad and The Alli

The Good (or the promising)

Arena Pharmaceuticals has reached a deal with Japan’s Eisai Inc. possibly worth more than $1 billion to fund commercialization of a new weight loss drug that could be on the market by early next year. The drug, lorcaserin, has not yet been given a brand name but is one of a new wave of experimental obesity drugs that show promise.

Lorcaserin interacts with a receptor in the brain that is involved in appetite suppression, according to the San Diego-based pharmaceutical manufacturer. The company reports that in a late stage weight loss study of lorcaserin that included 6,000 patients, 47 percent of patients taking the drug lost at least five percent of their body weight, compared to only 23 percent in the group taking a placebo. A five percent weight loss is said to bring significant health benefits, according to many medical experts.

Finding a safe weight loss pill that will help people shed pounds has proven difficult, with many past drugs failing because of limited effectiveness or unpleasant side effects. The makers of lorcaserin say that the drug’s safety and tolerability are much better than other weight loss drugs.

Eisai reportedly will pay $50 million upfront for rights to sell lorcaserin in the U.S. Arena could also get as much as $160 million in payments for reaching development targets and getting the weight loss drug approved by regulators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is already reviewing lorcaserin and is expected to reach a decision by late October.

The Bad

Weight loss pill QUE SHE is not an herbal weight loss pill! QUE SHE is available in retail herbal stores, and mostly people are buying these herbal weight loss products online. Though the company claims it as an herbal product, FDA has still found out traces of chemical compound which was banned by FDA ages ago.

Weight loss pills like QUE SHE are escaping FDA’s filter with an ‘herbal’ tag, but this time FDA was spot on finding the ‘not so herbal’ weight loss drug that’s playing with lives of people.

QUE SHE weight loss pill consists of chemical compound that drastically increases the heart risk. QUE SHE could even be fatal for people who are suffering from diseases like asthma.

FDA has asked people to immediately stop using this herbal weight loss product. If you are using it for quite a sometime, you better go to a doctor immediately.

Weight loss pills, especially herbal weight loss products can be tricky. If you are on a mission to lose weight, you better consult a doctor before using this sort of weight loss products.

The Alli

A new warning label for the diet and weight loss pills known as ‘Alli’ and ‘Xenical’ has been ordered by the United States Food and Drug Administration, (FDA), because in some cases, these pills can cause severe liver damage.

The pills, which are sold all over the United States, will have a warning label placed on the packaging about the risk. The weight loss pill ‘Alli’ is produced by ‘GlaxoSmithKline’, and is sold over the counter. ‘Xenical’, on the other hand, is sold as a prescription, and is manufactured by ‘Roche’.

The pills came under the scrutiny of the FDA when 13 different instances of liver damage were identified to be linked to the use of these drugs. The direct cause between the pills and the liver damage has yet to be identified. Aside from the new warning labels, the FDA is also urging doctors to watch patients which are using these drugs for signs of liver injury, which would include itching, yellow eyes and skin, and loss of appetite.

In statements released by the drug companies, Glaxo stated they are “committed to ensuring that consumers and physicians understand the safety profile” of Alli. They point out that over 10 million people have used this drug across the world, since it came out. Roche stated that the “safety profile of Xenical is based on more than 10 years of clinical experience and more than 36 million patients worldwide have received Xenical.” Both of these drugs were first approved by the FDA in 1999 for Xenical, and 2007 for Alli.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Finally a Weight Loss Diet that Is Easy to Follow

Liquid diets. All fruit diets. All vegetable diets. All meat diets. What do all of these things have in common? All of these diets, and others, have a few things in common. For one thing, they do not provide all of the nutrients we all need to be healthy. They are bland and boring. They can be hard to follow. And they really don't work all that well. If you are looking for a miracle diet that will help you lose weight, look no further than a healthy, well-balanced diet that is loaded with fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and other healthy, delicious foods.

Many of these fad diets are really unrealistic with the things that they expect from those who follow them. A lot of these diets can actually have the opposite effect with dieters gaining instead of losing weight because they leave you feeling hungry, which, sooner or later, is going to lead you to snacking and even binging. When you follow a healthy diet that is rich in protein, you will actually feel full all day long without overeating. This is because protein-rich foods are filling and don't leave you feeling the need to snack shortly after your meals.

Delicious Healthy Foods that are Just as Tasty as Junk Food

Eating a healthy diet certainly doesn't have to be boring, and it is easy to create many of your favorite treats so they are actually healthy. For example, if you love fried chicken, why not try making oven-fried chicken? You have the delicious taste of the crunchy skin, the benefits of the poultry, but, none of the fat and calories that come from the grease chicken is usually fried in. If you love French fries, you can still enjoy eating them regularly. Instead of buying frozen fries, or cooking them in oil, cut up some potatoes, which are excellent for you to begin with, and bake them as they are. Often, these are even crunchier than regular fries, but, they are a much healthier version.

If you are the least bit creative, and enjoy delicious food, you can have a diet that is not only healthy, but fun and delicious too. There are many snack foods that you can make at home with half the calories and fat, and you also get the benefits of not eating so many processed foods. So start eating healthily, and soon you will start looking and feeling great.

Article written by Ryan Williams of Extreme Home Workout, your top source for the Insanity Workout online.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan Now Available (PCIP)

The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday unveiled a new program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan to provide insurance for people who are uninsurable due to such conditions. The department estimates that the program could cover 350,000 of the four million people uninsured due to pre-existing conditions through 2013. The new health care law does not prohibit the health insurance industry from discriminating against the sick until the beginning of 2014, but as of Thursday, U.S. citizens who have been uninsured for six months because of pre-existing conditions will be eligible to apply for the PCIP immediately. And coverage could start as soon as August in the 21 states where the federal government is administering the program itself, according to the HHS.

Twenty-nine state governments and the District of Columbia will run the plan themselves. The health care reform legislation signed into law on March 23 gave HHS 90 days to start its “temporary high-risk pool.” The department missed the deadline last week and little information was available to potentially eligible people about how to apply. But Thursday’s rollout, timed to coincide with the beginning of state fiscal years, includes a new website — — where the uninsured with pre-existing conditions can find information on how to apply for the new program.
“Health coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions has historically been unobtainable or failed to cover the very conditions for which they need medical care,” said Jay Angoff, director of HHS’s Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, in a statement.

“The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is designed to address these challenges by offering comprehensive coverage at a reasonable cost. We modeled the program on the highly successful Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP, so states would have maximum flexibility to meet the needs of their citizens.” Angoff and OCIIO’s Richard Popper emphasized on a conference call that the program would serve as a temporary bridge for the uninsured through 2014, when “exchanges” are supposed to offer a range of affordable plans from which consumers can choose. There are roughly four million people currently uninsured because of pre-existing conditions, but the program will probably reach at least 200,000 people “at any one time,” Popper said.
 “In terms of total individuals served, it will be well more than 200,000 because some people use high-risk pools for temporary coverage until they move on to something else and get a job,” he said. “We’ll probably be looking at covering a total of 350,000 individuals, who will go through the plan over the course of the the next three and a half years.”
 The average monthly premium for participants in the new program will vary by state and will range within states from $140 to $900, said Popper. The PCIP is designed to be more affordable than the existing high-risk pools currently operated in 35 states, which reach 200,000 people, often excluding coverage of certain conditions. Congress allocated $5 billion for the new program, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would allow it to cover 200,000 people. The CBO estimated that without the $5 billion cap, the temporary program would reach 700,000 people at a cost of $15 billion. A reporter asked if HHS would limit enrollment in the program to stay under the $5 billion cap, which the health care law gives the health secretary the authority to do. “We don’t see that happening any time soon,” said Popper. Read more: Uninsured , Preexisting Conditions , Health Care Reform , Health Insurance , Politics News

Information on state and HHS run programs is available, a website run by HHS.
The PCIP will cover a broad range of health benefits, including:
  • Primary and specialty care
  • Hospital care
  • Prescription drugs
Enrollment dates:
  • On July 1, the national PCIP became open to applicants in states where HHS is operating the program.
  • All state-operated PCIP can enroll July 1 through the end of the summer.
Information on how to apply for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is available at
An informational pamphlet on the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan can be found in the online brochure.

Is Your Cholesterol High? Tips to Help Lower Your Cholesterol Level

I went to the doctor a couple weeks ago and had my cholesterol checked. The test result showed that I am borderline high.  What does that mean and what can I do about it?  I did some research on and this is what I found out:

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that's found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.

High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) can be inherited, but is often preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol.

Cholesterol is carried through your blood, attached to proteins. This combination of proteins and cholesterol is called a lipoprotein. You may have heard of different types of cholesterol, based on what type of cholesterol the lipoprotein carries. They are:
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or "bad," cholesterol transports cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
  • Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). This type of lipoprotein contains the most triglycerides, a type of fat, attached to the proteins in your blood. VLDL cholesterol makes LDL cholesterol larger in size, causing your blood vessels to narrow. If you're taking cholesterol-lowering medication but have a high VLDL level, you may need additional medication to lower your triglycerides.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or "good," cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
Factors within your control — such as inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet — contribute to high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol. Factors beyond your control may play a role, too. For example, your genetic makeup may keep cells from removing LDL cholesterol from your blood efficiently or cause your liver to produce too much cholesterol.

You're more likely to have high cholesterol that can lead to heart disease if you have any of these risk factors:
  • Smoking. Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL, or "good," cholesterol.
  • Obesity. Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
  • Poor diet. Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will increase your total cholesterol. Eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, also can raise your cholesterol level.
  • Lack of exercise. Exercise helps boost your body's HDL "good" cholesterol while lowering your LDL "bad" cholesterol. Not getting enough exercise puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure. Increased pressure on your artery walls damages your arteries, which can speed the accumulation of fatty deposits.
  • Diabetes. High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
  • Family history of heart disease. If a parent or sibling developed heart disease before age 55, high cholesterol levels place you at a greater than average risk of developing heart disease.
A blood test to check cholesterol levels — called a lipid panel or lipid profile — typically reports:
  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides — a type of fat in the blood
For the most accurate measurements, don't eat or drink anything (other than water) for nine to 12 hours before the blood sample is taken.
Interpreting the numbers
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood in the United States and some other countries. Canada and most European countries measure cholesterol in millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood. Consider these general guidelines when you get your lipid panel (cholesterol test) results back to see if your cholesterol falls in ideal levels.
Total cholesterol
(U.S. and some other countries)
Total cholesterol*
(Canada and most of Europe)
Below 200 mg/dL Below 5.2 mmol/L Best
200-239 mg/dL 5.2-6.2 mmol/L Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above Above 6.2 mmol/L High
LDL cholesterol
(U.S. and some other countries)
LDL cholesterol*
(Canada and most of Europe)
Below 70 mg/dL Below 1.8 mmol/L Best for people at high risk of heart disease
Below 100 mg/dL Below 2.6 mmol/L Best for people at risk for heart disease
100-129 mg/dL 2.6-3.3 mmol/L Near ideal
130-159 mg/dL 3.4-4.1 mmol/L Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL 4.1-4.9 mmol/L High
190 mg/dL and above Above 4.9 mmol/L Very high
HDL cholesterol
(U.S. and some other countries)
HDL cholesterol*
(Canada and most of Europe)
Below 40 mg/dL (men)
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
Below 1 mmol/L (men)
Below 1.3 mmol/L (women)
50-59 mg/dL 1.3-1.5 mmol/L Better
60 mg/dL and above Above 1.5 mmol/L Best
(U.S. and some other countries)
(Canada and most of Europe)
Below 150 mg/dL Below 1.7 mmol/L Best
150-199 mg/dL 1.7-2.2 mmol/L Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL 2.3-5.6 mmol/L High
500 mg/dL and above Above 5.6 mmol/L Very high
*Canadian and European guidelines differ slightly from U.S. guidelines. These conversions are based on U.S. guidelines.
LDL targets differ
Because LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, it's the main focus of cholesterol-lowering treatment. Your target LDL number can vary, depending on your underlying risk of heart disease.
Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 mg/dL (3.4 mmol/L). If you have other risk factors for heart disease, your target LDL may be below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you're at very high risk of heart disease, you may need to aim for an LDL level below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L). In general, the lower your LDL cholesterol level is, the better.
You're considered to be at a high risk of heart disease if you:
  • Have had a previous heart attack or stroke
  • Have artery blockages in your neck (carotid artery disease)
  • Have artery blockages in your arms or legs (peripheral artery disease)
In addition, two or more of the following risk factors might also place you in the high-risk group:
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of early heart disease
  • Age older than 45 if you're a man, or older than 55 if you're a woman
  • Elevated lipoprotein (a), another type of fat (lipid) in your blood
Children and cholesterol testing
Children as young as age 2 can have high cholesterol, but not all children need to be screened for high cholesterol. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a cholesterol test (fasting lipid panel) for children between the ages of 2 and 10 who have a known family history of high cholesterol or premature coronary artery disease. Your child's doctor may recommend retesting if your child's first test shows he or she has normal cholesterol levels.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends testing if the child's family history for high cholesterol is unknown, but the child has risk factors for high cholesterol, such as obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Lifestyle changes such as exercising and eating a healthy diet are the first line of defense against high cholesterol. But, if you've made these important lifestyle changes and your total cholesterol — and particularly your LDL cholesterol — remains high, your doctor may recommend medication.
The specific choice of medication or combination of medications depends on various factors, including your individual risk factors, your age, your current health and possible side effects. Common choices include:
  • Statins. Statins — among the most commonly prescribed medications for lowering cholesterol — block a substance your liver needs to make cholesterol. This causes your liver to remove cholesterol from your blood. Statins may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol from built up deposits on your artery walls, potentially reversing coronary artery disease. Choices include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev, Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor).
  • Bile-acid-binding resins. Your liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids, a substance needed for digestion. The medications cholestyramine (Prevalite, Questran), colesevelam (Welchol) and colestipol (Colestid) lower cholesterol indirectly by binding to bile acids. This prompts your liver to use excess cholesterol to make more bile acids, which reduces the level of cholesterol in your blood.
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors. Your small intestine absorbs the cholesterol from your diet and releases it into your bloodstream. The drug ezetimibe (Zetia) helps reduce blood cholesterol by limiting the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Zetia can be used in combination with any of the statin drugs.
  • Combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin. The combination drug ezetimibe-simvastatin (Vytorin) decreases both absorption of dietary cholesterol in your small intestine and production of cholesterol in your liver. It's unknown whether Vytorin is more effective in reducing heart disease risk than taking simvastatin by itself.
Medications for high triglycerides
If you also have high triglycerides, your doctor may prescribe:
  • Fibrates. The medications fenofibrate (Lofibra, TriCor) and gemfibrozil (Lopid) decrease triglycerides by reducing your liver's production of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol and by speeding up the removal of triglycerides from your blood. VLDL cholesterol contains mostly triglycerides.
  • Niacin. Niacin (Niaspan) decreases triglycerides by limiting your liver's ability to produce LDL and VLDL cholesterol. Prescription and over-the-counter niacin is available, but prescription niacin is preferred as it has the least side effects. Dietary supplements containing niacin that are available over-the-counter are not effective for lowering triglycerides, and may damage your liver.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help lower your cholesterol. You can take over-the-counter supplements, or your doctor may prescribe Lovaza, a prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplement, as a way to lower your triglycerides. Lovaza may be taken with another cholesterol-lowering medication, such as a statin. If you choose to take over-the-counter supplements, get your doctor's OK first. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements could affect other medications you're taking.
Effectiveness varies
Most cholesterol medications are well tolerated, but effectiveness varies from person to person. The common side effects are muscle pains, stomach pain, constipation, nausea and diarrhea. If you decide to take cholesterol medication, your doctor may recommend liver function tests every few months to monitor the medication's effect on your liver.
Children and cholesterol treatment
Diet and exercise are the best initial treatment for children age 2 and older who have high cholesterol or who are obese. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends treatment with prescription drugs, such as statins, for children age 8 and older if a child has a high level of LDL cholesterol. However, this recommendation is controversial. The long-term effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs have not been extensively studied in children. In addition, certain cholesterol medications such as niacin are not recommended for children. Because of the disagreement in the medical community on this topic, talk to your child's doctor about the best way to lower your child's cholesterol.

Lifestyle changes are essential to improve your cholesterol level. To bring your numbers down, lose excess weight, eat healthy foods and increase your physical activity. If you smoke, quit.
Lose extra pounds
Excess weight contributes to high cholesterol. Losing even 5 to 10 pounds can help lower total cholesterol levels. Start by taking an honest look at your eating habits and daily routine. Consider your challenges to weight loss — and ways to overcome them. Set long-term, sustainable goals.

Eat heart-healthy foods
What you eat has a direct impact on your cholesterol level. In fact, a diet rich in fiber and other cholesterol-lowering foods may help lower cholesterol as much as statin medication for some people.
  • Choose healthier fats. Saturated fat and trans fat raise your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Get no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. Monounsaturated fat — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — is a healthier option. Almonds and walnuts are other sources of healthy fat.
  • Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats, which are often found in margarines and commercially baked cookies, crackers and snack cakes, are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. Not only do trans fats increase your total LDL ("bad") cholesterol, but they also lower your HDL ("good") cholesterol.
    You may have noticed more food labels now market their products as "trans fat-free." But don't rely only on this label. In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat a serving, it can be marked trans fat-free. It may not seem like much, but if you eat a lot of foods with a small amount of trans fat, it can add up quickly. Instead, read the ingredients list. If a food contains a partially hydrogenated oil, that's a trans fat, and you should look for an alternative.
  • Limit your dietary cholesterol. Aim for no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day — or less than 200 mg if you have heart disease. The most concentrated sources of cholesterol include organ meats, egg yolks and whole milk products. Use lean cuts of meat, egg substitutes and skim milk instead.
  • Select whole grains. Various nutrients found in whole grains promote heart health. Choose whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour and brown rice. Oatmeal and oat bran are other good choices.
  • Stock up on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Snack on seasonal fruits. Experiment with vegetable-based casseroles, soups and stir-fries.
  • Eat heart-healthy fish. Some types of fish — such as cod, tuna and halibut — have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than do meat and poultry. Salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote heart health.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation. Moderate use of alcohol may increase your levels of HDL cholesterol — but the benefits aren't strong enough to recommend alcohol for anyone who doesn't drink already. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. This means no more than one drink a day for women and one to two drinks a day for men.
Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can help improve your cholesterol levels. With your doctor's OK, work up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. To maintain your motivation, keep it fun. Find an exercise buddy or join an exercise group. And, you don't need to get all 30 to 60 minutes in one exercise session. If you can squeeze in three to six 10-minute intervals of exercise, you'll still get some cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Don't smoke
If you smoke, stop. Quitting can improve your HDL cholesterol level. And the benefits don't end there. Just 20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure decreases. Within 24 hours, your risk of a heart attack decreases. Within one year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker's. Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is similar to that of someone who's never smoked.

Few natural products have been proven to reduce cholesterol, but some might be helpful. With your doctor's OK, consider these cholesterol-lowering supplements and products:
  • Artichoke
  • Barley
  • Beta-sitosterol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Promise Activ)
  • Blond psyllium (found in seed husk and products such as Metamucil)
  • Garlic
  • Oat bran (found in oatmeal and whole oats)
  • Sitostanol (found in oral supplements and some margarines, such as Benecol)
You may have also heard of another supplement to reduce cholesterol, red yeast rice. Some brands of red yeast rice contain lovastatin, the active ingredient in the drug Mevacor. This can be unsafe, since there's no way to determine the quantity or quality of the lovastatin in the supplement.

If you choose to take cholesterol-lowering supplements, remember the importance of a healthy lifestyle. If your doctor prescribes medication to reduce your cholesterol, take it as directed. Make sure your doctor knows which supplements you're taking as well.

Cholesterol: Top 5 foods to lower your numbers

Diet can play an important role in lowering your cholesterol. Here are five foods that can lower your cholesterol and protect your heart.

By Mayo Clinic staff Can a bowl of oatmeal help lower your cholesterol? How about a handful of walnuts or even a baked potato topped with some heart-healthy margarine? A few simple tweaks to your diet — like these — may be enough to lower your cholesterol to a healthy level and help you stay off medications.

1. Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which reduces your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in such foods as kidney beans, apples, pears, barley and prunes.
Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fiber. If you add fruit, such as bananas, you'll add about 4 more grams of fiber. To mix it up a little, try steel-cut oatmeal or cold cereal made with oatmeal or oat bran.

2. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids

Eating fatty fish can be heart-healthy because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks, fish oil — or omega-3 fatty acids — reduces the risk of sudden death.
Doctors recommend eating at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in:
  • Mackerel
  • Lake trout
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Albacore tuna
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
You should bake or grill the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats. If you don't like fish, you can also get small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from foods like ground flaxseed or canola oil.
You can take an omega-3 or fish oil supplement to get some of the benefits, but you won't get other nutrients in fish, like selenium. If you decide to take a supplement, just remember to watch your diet and eat lean meat or vegetables in place of fish.

3. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts

Walnuts, almonds and other nuts can reduce blood cholesterol. Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts also help keep blood vessels healthy.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. Just make sure the nuts you eat aren't salted or coated with sugar.
All nuts are high in calories, so a handful will do. To avoid eating too many nuts and gaining weight, replace foods high in saturated fat with nuts. For example, instead of using cheese, meat or croutons in your salad, add a handful of walnuts or almonds.

4. Olive oil

Olive oil contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol but leave your "good" (HDL) cholesterol untouched.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends using about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day in place of other fats in your diet to get its heart-healthy benefits. To add olive oil to your diet, you can saute vegetables in it, add it to a marinade, or mix it with vinegar as a salad dressing. You can also use olive oil as a substitute for butter when basting meat or as a dip for bread. Olive oil is high in calories, so don't eat more than the recommended amount.
The cholesterol-lowering effects of olive oil are even greater if you choose extra-virgin olive oil, meaning the oil is less processed and contains more heart-healthy antioxidants. But keep in mind that "light" olive oils are usually more processed than extra-virgin or virgin olive oils and are lighter in color, not fat or calories.

5. Foods with added plant sterols or stanols

Foods are now available that have been fortified with sterols or stanols — substances found in plants that help block the absorption of cholesterol.
Margarines, orange juice and yogurt drinks with added plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 10 percent. The amount of daily plant sterols needed for results is at least 2 grams — which equals about two 8-ounce (237-milliliter) servings of plant sterol-fortified orange juice a day.
Plant sterols or stanols in fortified foods don't appear to affect levels of triglycerides or of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol.

Other changes to your diet

For any of these foods to provide their benefit, you need to make other changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Cut back on the cholesterol and total fat — especially saturated and trans fats — that you eat. Saturated fats, like those in meat, full-fat dairy products and some oils, raise your total cholesterol. Trans fats, which are sometimes found in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes, are particularly bad for your cholesterol levels. Trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol, and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol.