Screening, exercise and diet key to colon health

Screening, exercise and diet key to colon healthAs we mark the National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, experts have offered advice on screening and proposed some simple steps that may enhance colon health into old age.

The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy says that colon cancer is one of the most preventable diseases if pre-cancerous conditions are diagnosed and treated in time, and intense awareness campaigns in recent years have had a clear impact.

"The good news is that death rates are declining from colorectal cancer,” says Dr. John L. Petrini, the society’s president, "The bad news is that only about half of those who should be screened are doing so."

Meanwhile, Dr. Kim Turgeon, a gastroenterologist at the University of Michigan Health System, has drawn attention to diverticulosis, a benign condition affecting as many as one in three Americans over the age of 65.

While not dangerous in itself, diverticulosis, if not controlled, may lead to inflammation which in turn increases the risk of developing colon cancer.

According to Dr. Turgeon, lifestyle changes, such as exercise, can go a long way towards preventing or relieving symptoms associated with diverticulosis.

Moreover, people can reduce complications by keeping bowels moving well by drinking lots of fluids and making sure that their diet is rich in fiber.

For those who are unable to achieve proper fiber intake from food, nutritional supplements may be a good option.
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Probiotics an increasingly popular alternative to medications

Probiotics an increasingly popular alternative to medications Doctors have suggested that not all digestive problems are related to food consumption and not all of them need to be treated with medication. Meanwhile, a new study has found that the number of products containing probiotics has grown substantially in the past year.

A study conducted by Datamonitor, a market research firm, has found that more than 200 new food products now contain probiotics, the bacteria that normally live in the digestive tract and help improve digestive health.

Probiotics can also alleviate symptoms association with irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea.

They can be found not just in yogurts but also in other dairy and non-dairy products and even sauerkraut, according to the Des Moines Register.

Meanwhile doctors from Baylor University Medical Center have suggested that not all digestive problems are related to food intake. They can also stem from factors such as stress.

For this type of digestive discomfort, they say, lifestyle chances such as exercise as well as natural remedies may be the best option.

Similarly, for those who are too busy to derive probiotic benefits from their diet, pills containing the nutritional supplement may be a good solution.

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Obama tax hikes may total $2.2 trillion

Obama tax hikes may total more than two trillionThere has been no shortage of critical voices in response to President Obama’s new budget proposal, and one organization claims there may be more than a trillion dollar in hidden taxes.

According to Gassfire.org, an organizing center for activists for traditional and conservative values, the official level of new taxation at $1 trillion may overlook as much as $1.2 trillion due to items such as carbon tax being passed off as "climate revenues."

The organization has estimated that the $645 billion in carbon taxes pushes the total tax increases in President Obama’s budget to at least $1.64 trillion.

Referring to a recent speech by President Obama, Steve Elliott, president of Grassfire.org, said, "The president is right that a ‘day of reckoning’ is coming, but that reckoning will take the form of citizens who are fed up with politicians expanding the tentacles of government deeper and deeper into our lives and our pocketbooks."

On February 26, President Obama unveiled his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2010 which predicts that government spending will reach 24.1 percent of GDP, financed by $5 trillion in new debt and $1.4 trillion in new taxes.
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Concerns over drug companies’ political donations

Concerns over drug companies' political donationsConsumer Watchdog (CS) has revealed that politicians in Washington have received multimillion dollar donations from drug and health insurance companies.

According to CS, a nonpartisan and non-profit organization, the health industry contributed more than $5 million to the top 10 recipients in Congress during the last two election campaigns.

The organization’s breakdown shows that those recipients received $2.2 million from health insurers and $3.3 million from drug manufacturers.

Altogether, health insurers and drug manufacturers have contributed more than $24 million to the current members of the Senate and House of Representatives since 2005.

The top recipient is democratic Senator Max Baucus, a leading proponent of health care reform and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He received $183,750 from health insurance companies and $229,020 from drug companies.

"When the engineer of the health care reform train is getting more fuel from the HMOs and drug companies that any other Democrat on Capitol Hill, you have to wonder who is really driving the train and whether average Americans will be tied to the tracks," says Carmen Balber, Director of Consumer Watchdog’s Washington D.C. office.

She adds, "HMO and drug company money will sour the President’s plan for affordable, accessible health care if these industries’ backers on Capitol Hill allow their financial interests to drive the debate."
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President lifts stem cell research ban

President lifts stem cell research banOn Monday, President Obama signed an executive order reversing the Bush administration’s ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Scientists have hailed the reversal as the dawn of new hope for those suffering from currently incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or spinal cord injuries.

Others, however, have called the move a triumph of politics over science and ethics.

Prior to the signing, Obama talked about the promise such research offers doctors, patients and their families. To allay the fears of his critics, he also underscored the strict ethical guidelines the administration would enforce which will prevent any abuses of the science such as human cloning.

Obama also stressed the promise of new medical technologies as an engine of economic growth.

However, not everyone was convinced. Many Republicans, conservative organizations and church representatives expressed their dismay with the policy reversal.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (Republican – Ohio) said in advance of the signing that focus should be on developing promising stem cell techniques that do not destroy human embryos.

Meanwhile, Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council called the new executive order "deadly."

The new directive supersedes the one signed in 2001 by President George W. Bush that prevented the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond the 60 cell lines that existed at the time.

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Justice Department releases foreign policy memos

Justice Department releases Bush's foreign policy memos Under pressure from civil liberties groups, a government agency has released documents vital to the understanding of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the war of terrorism.

The Justice Department has released nine secret memos and opinions that authorized some of the Bush administration’s national security policies, including a memo written by a department’s lawyer John Yoo that argued the Fourth Amendment does not apply to military activities inside the United States.

"These memos essentially argue that the president has a blank check to disregard the Constitution during wartime, not only on foreign battlefields, but also inside the United States," commented Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.

He added, "We hope today’s release is a first step, because dozens of other OLC memos, including memos that provided the basis for the Bush administration’s torture and warrantless wiretapping policies, are still being withheld."

According to the ACLU, the full release of requested documents will help bring an end to "a lawless era."

In addition to the ACLU’s request for the memos, a coalition of human rights groups – including ACLU, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch – wrote to President Obama to request access to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

And a number of political and community leaders have called on President Obama to create a commission to investigate the detention, treatment and transfer of detainees during George W. Bush’s administration.

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Value of pension funds continues to fall

Value of pension funds continues to fall A new survey has revealed that the funding status of moderate risk pension portfolios fell by more than six percent in February.

This represented the 14th consecutive month of decline as the value of assets has dropped due to the weakness of the stock market, based on research conducted by the Bank of New York Mellon Asset Management.

"Rapidly falling equity values continue to inflict pain on U.S. pension plans," says Peter Austin, executive director of BNY Mellon Pension Services. "U.S. stocks fell for a second straight month and have dropped 18 percent so far this year."

He added that the international markets have fared even worse.

According to the BNY Mellon Pension Liability Index, over the past year, the funding ratio of the typical pension plan has declined by one percentage point. Since January 2008, the funded ratios for these plans have fallen by 32.3 percentage points.

The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation is a financial services company operating in 34 countries. It has $20.2 trillion in assets under custody and administration, $928 billion in assets under management, services more than $11 trillion in outstanding debt and processes global payments averaging $1.8 trillion per day.
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Massive pharma merger on the horizon

Massive pharma merger on the horizonPharmaceutical company Merck has just announced that it will merge with a major competitor Schering-Plough creating a multinational pharmaceutical giant.

The boards of directors of both companies have unanimously approved the agreement under which they will combine in a stock and cash transaction under the name Merck.

The value of the merger is estimated at $41.1 billion.

"The combined company will benefit from a formidable research and development pipeline, a significantly broader portfolio of medicines and an expanded presence in key international markets, particularly in high-growth emerging markets," says Richard T. Clark, Merck chairman, president and CEO.

He adds, "The efficiencies we gain will allow us to invest in strategic opportunities, while creating meaningful value for shareholders."

According to the Fortune 500 2008 ranking, Merck is the world’s fourth largest pharmaceutical company with total revenue of $ 24.2 billion, while Schering-Plough is ranked ninth at $ 12.6 billion.

The announcement comes on the heels of recent complaints by natural products industry groups about the FDA practice of classifying dietary supplements as drugs if they are an ingredient of newly approved medications.

As such, they can no longer be sold without a prescription, boosting profit opportunities of pharmaceutical companies.

The critics believe that the FDA’s approach favors big pharma interest at the expense of natural supplements producers.
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Criticism grows over FDA supplement regulations

Criticism grows over FDA supplement regulationsIn recent days, critical voices have spoken out against the FDA’s approach to the regulation of dietary supplements which they say overburdens their producers and benefits big pharma.

Commentators have drawn attention to an FDA practice of classifying dietary supplements as drugs if they are an ingredient of newly approved medications, according to Examiner.com.

In January, the agency approved a petition by pharmaceutical company Biostratum to classify Pyridorin as a ‘new drug.’ Since the product contains pyridoxine, a form of vitamin B6, this will effectively prevent natural supplements companies from selling any product that contains it.

In response, food and supplements industry organizations have vowed to challenge the approval as setting a dangerous precedent.

This will mean that "we’re all violating that law each time we eat something with brewer’s yeast, or fish or chicken," because pyridoxine is a naturally occurring compound, says the Examiner.

It also suggests that the price of such supplements is likely to rise once they are only available by prescription, limiting access to them and preventing many consumers from enjoying their beneficial effects.

The FDA has recently met with much criticism from government oversight agencies. A report prepared by the Government Accountability Office and released on March 5 suggested that the FDA does not have the information and resources necessary to adequately regulate dietary supplements.
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Tea may reduce the risk of stroke

Tea may reduce the risk of stroke Scientists have found that both green and black tea may be useful in preventing serious cardiovascular events.

The research conducted at UCLA suggests that drinking at least three cups of tea each day can reduce the risk of stroke by 21 percent. And three more cups reduce it by a further 21 percent.

"That’s why these findings are so exciting," says lead author Lenore Arab, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "If we can find a way to prevent the stroke, or prevent the damage, that is simple and not toxic, that would be a great advance."

She adds that although scientists are not sure which compounds in tea are responsible for this effect, they suspect that either the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) or the amino acid theanine may do that.

This effect was found in tea made from the plant Camellia sinensis, not from herbal teas.

The study results were published in the online edition of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. They were also presented at the American Heart Association’s annual International Stroke Conference in San Diego on February 19.
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