Monday, August 15, 2011

hCg Diet Makes a Comeback

Among the hundreds of drastic and unproven weight loss plans, the controversial hCG diet may take the cake.

Discredited by researchers in the 1970s, the near-starvation diet restricts followers to 500 calories a day for six weeks. At the same time, dieters regularly inject themselves with human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, a hormone taken from pregnant women's urine. Proponents say the hCG curbs hunger pangs, makes it easier to stay on a very low-calorie diet — and even releases stored body fat from trouble spots like the belly, hips and thighs.

Followers of the hCG diet acknowledge that the severe calorie restriction feels like a "forced death march." Both supporters and critics agree that evidence is scant to show the hCG works any better than a placebo. Meanwhile, safety data are lacking on long-term use of hCG for weight loss.

"Starving yourself is never a good idea," said Pieter Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who criticized the hCG diet this year on "The Dr. Oz Show." "Injecting yourself with ineffective hormones is an even worse idea."

Yet, the long-discredited diet is making a comeback, and the renewed interest has spawned a cottage industry for products that haven't been tested for quality, safety or efficacy, including drops and sprays.

What's also different this time around is that though the hCG diet still exists largely in the realm of alternative medicine practitioners and Internet hucksters, it's also making inroads in integrative clinics headed by medical doctors, where it's offered as part of a "medically supervised" weight loss plan. At least one physicians group is offering hCG training to doctors. And wellness centers and medical spas also tout the hCG diet as the long-awaited magic bullet.

Dr. Mehmet Oz fueled interest in the diet — and appalled some medical colleagues — by featuring anecdotal success stories on his TV show. Whenever scientific studies show something doesn't work, "yet you have real human beings saying they tried it and it works, I get curious," explained Oz, who called the diet "portion-control shock therapy."

There's no question that men and women do lose weight on the diet — as would anyone who eats 500 calories a day. The pounds melt off quickly, and the instant gratification can be intensely motivating to the patients, who have often exhausted most other options. And because so few obesity treatments are successful, some proponents say the anecdotal evidence shouldn't be dismissed.

"If it was as simple as reducing calories and increasing exercise, we'd all be thin," said Nikol Margiotta, who directs the Longevity HCG Diet at the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern, which is not part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Margiotta is a naprapath, a health care practitioner who treats connective tissue disorders using nutrition and hands-on therapy.

On the hCG diet, "there's a focus, a single-minded drive that comes over you," said Margiotta, who went on the diet herself and said she lost 22 pounds in five weeks. "The problem is that you get addicted to the weight loss."

Still, the bulk of research has found no evidence that taking hCG brings about weight loss or fat redistribution, reduces hunger or improves mood. Since the 1970s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required labels to state that the hormone "is not an effective adjunctive therapy" for weight loss.

If dieters lose weight on the regimen, the effect is from the ultralow-calorie diet, most studies have concluded, and the hCG is a placebo.

"Unfortunately that placebo comes with other potential harms," said Dr. Melinda Ring, director of the Northwestern Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness. "In human and animal studies, hCG injections have been associated with many problems, including excessive stimulation of the ovaries, elevated leptin, insulin and cortisol."

One common side effect of the hCG diet is hair loss; calorie restriction starves the body of essential nutrients, though the diet's proponents believe the body gets the calories it needs from existing fat. HCG can also increase the risk of blood clots, headaches, irritability and fatigue.

In men, hCG stimulates testosterone production, which is why hCG is considered a performance-enhancing substance for athletes. But for a woman of childbearing age, hCG taken by injection, nasal spray or orally could generate antibodies that put future pregnancies in danger, said Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite, an endocrinologist and preventive medicine expert at Rush University Medical Center who specializes in weight gain.

Taking hCG, she said, "may immunize yourself to your own pregnancy," said Kazlauskaite. "You could still get pregnant, but you could potentially have an antibody to the hormone that is needed to maintain the pregnancy," she said. "The longer you use hCG, the higher the chance you could get the antibody."

Source:August 14, 2011|By Julie Deardorff, Tribune reporter

Latest in Running Shoes

Running shoes used to be all about cushioning, period. But with the recent emphasis on form and injury prevention, trail running, ultra-running and barefoot running, shoe choices have exploded. The alternatives seem endless: minimal shoes, maximum shoes, super-cushioned shoes, no-cushion shoes. Here's a sampler of some standout designs for different categories of runners.

Hoka One One Bondi B: Designed to reduce the cumulative damage of ultra-running, One Ones offer a lineup rarely, if ever, seen in a running shoe: an oversized, 2-inch-thick pile of cushioning, a relatively flat rise from heel and forefoot (40 millimeters, one-third that of normal running shoes), lightweight (10.5 ounces in size 9) and no medial posts, high-density foams or other stability devices.

Likes: It's like running on a cloud — extremely comfortable and shock-absorbing. Although I normally run barefooted or in minimalist shoes, I found that these were conducive to a soft forefoot landing and fairly stable (probably due to the extra-wide bottoms). The plush cushioning is particularly effective in reducing impact on long descents, which are staples of ultra-running races.

Dislikes: Expensive; questionable durability due to the typical breakdown of foam cushioning and lack of hard rubber on the sole; and inherent imbalance. Though its thick cushioning theoretically cuts injuries by greatly reducing shock, it also reduces road feedback and balance, increasing the potential for long-term joint strain. Also, the huge cushion encourages heel striking.

Price: $169. (866) 732-9144;

The bubble shoe

MIzuno Wave Prophecy: Wild-looking, complex "wave plate" design for heel-strikers that replaces a normal shoe's midsole foam with two molded, varying-density plates arranged in four plastic, see-through, shock-absorbing suspension arches.

Likes: Effective and durable. The wave plates absorb shock as advertised, and the lack of foam to break down portends a long life for the shoe. The wide toe box is very comfortable. The fairly low front end provides decent ground feel when compared with the Hoka One One.

Dislikes: High cost and weight — 13 ounces in size 9. The tall heel (13/8-inches) encourages the high-impact heel strike the design is meant to minimize.

Price: $199. (800) 966-1211;

Barely there sandals

Invisible Shoes Connect: Minimalist, economical running sandal for wannabe barefoot runners that is made of a thin, cupped rubber sole pre-punched with two reinforced ankle holes and an intricately threaded lace. After September, it comes with a free hole puncher.

Likes: An almost-barefoot feel, but with some protection. The 4-mm-thick sole (about 5/32 inch thick, including lugs) of soft, pliable rubber provides barefoot-like balance, letting you feel every contour in the road or trail but without the momentary stabbing pain of a sharp pebble. It's so light — 4.3 ounces in size 9 (compared with about 6.5 ounces for a Vibram Sprint) — that you hardly feel it. The slightly cupped, curved-up toe and heel zones keep feet from catching on the ground; the soles can be custom trimmed with scissors. I ran a 5K in them and appreciated the extra protection (and speed) over the course's rougher sections.

Dislikes: Requires you to measure the length of your foot, punch your own big-toe hole and tie your own laces — a potential challenge for some. Misplacing the do-it-yourself hole punch could mean a waste of money. The company will send you a customized pair for an extra $15.

Price: $24.95; $29.95 for the thicker-soled, 6 mm Contact model. (800) 499-8880;

The original alternative

Nike Free Run +2: A barely changed version of a transition-to-barefooting shoe that was first created in 2004 to mimic the injury-fighting benefits of barefoot running. To encourage a soft forefoot landing and tactile ground feel, it features a low profile (3/8 inch at the ball of the foot and an inch off the ground in the heel) and a soft, flexible foam midsole/sole segmented by deep cuts.

Likes: Better-than-average ground feel and comfort. That's due to the low forefoot positioning; a stunning flexibility that allows the shoe to be rolled up like a pill bug; a reinforced, sock-like upper; and an asymmetrical lacing system that's said to reduce pressure over the top ridge of the foot. Solid rubber sole patches under the big toe and heel keep the sole from wearing out too fast.

Dislikes: For a "barefoot" shoe, it carries a major flaw: a too-tall heel that encourages you to heel strike.

Price: $90. (800) 344-6453;

Source: Los Angeles Times, Ray Wallock. Wallack is the co-author of "Barefoot Running Step by Step."

Friday, August 12, 2011

No Scientific Evidence for AAKG

A Baylor University study has found that a popular nutritional supplement that is marketed to lead to greater muscle strength through increasing blood flow to the muscle does not increase blood flow as claimed on the bottle.

In recent years, various nutritional supplements have been developed containing arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG), which is alleged to increase nitric oxide production thereby resulting in "vasodilation," the widening of blood vessels and increased blood flow to the muscles. The AAKG supplement-enhanced blood flow to working muscles during resistance exercise is alleged to provide increased muscle strength than just exercise alone.

The Baylor researchers studied the effects in 24 men of seven days of AAKG supplementation using the nutritional supplement NO2 PlatinumTM on arterial blood flow in the arms after a single bout of resistance exercise. The results showed that seven days of AAKG supplementation had no significant impact on blood movement or increased brachial artery blood flow in response to a single bout of resistance exercise.

"We did see a slight increase in blood flow but those effects can only be attributed to the resistance exercise and not to the supplement," said study author Dr. Darryn Willoughby, associate professor of exercise, nutritional biochemistry and molecular physiology at Baylor. "The data appear to refute the alleged supposition and manufacturer's claims that 'vasodilating supplements' are effective at causing vasodilation, thereby resulting in increased blood flow to active skeletal muscle during resistance exercise. Furthermore, we specifically demonstrated that a single bout of resistance exercise increases vasodilation, arterial blood flow and circulating nitric oxide levels, but that the AAKG supplement provided no additive, preferential response compared to a placebo."

The study appears in the August edition of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

Source: Medical News Today, 8/11/12

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Got Milk?

Government regulators have threatened to crack down on a popular sports drink they say is mislabeled as "milk," a move welcomed by the dairy industry, which has long objected to the name soy milk and others like it.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the unusual step of sending a formal warning letter to the makers of Muscle Milk, a fortified drink that athletes consume after intense workouts.

The FDA says the name "Muscle Milk" is misleading, even though the product's label says it "contains no milk."

An allergen statement on the package says "this product contains ingredients derived from milk," including whey.

But the disclaimer is in smaller type and is less prominently displayed than the words "Muscle Milk."

The June 29 warning letter gave CytoSport Inc., the makers of Muscle Milk, 15 days to address numerous mislabeling issues with specific corrective actions. Otherwise, the company could face product seizures or legal action.

CytoSport did not return a Journal Sentinel call. But on its website the company says it is "proactively and openly addressing the FDA's labeling concerns."

"Concerns like this have been raised before when the dairy lobby complained that other industries or products like Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Coconut Milk and Rice Milk are using the name 'milk' in connection with a product other than fluid dairy milk, all of which appeal to lactose intolerant consumers just as Muscle Milk does," CytoSport wrote.

The FDA would not answer questions about its Muscle Milk investigation, but a formal warning letter is considered a serious matter.

No barnyard connections

At the heart of the dairy industry, Wisconsin has a stake in the fight over the name "milk."

The industry believes that products shouldn't be called "milk" unless they come from a dairy cow.

"Something that calls itself Muscle Milk and in very fine print says it contains no milk, is playing very fast and loose with the rules. That is the basic concern," Galen said.

"We are seeing all these iterations of traditional dairy products that have no connection with a barnyard at all. That's why we have really renewed our push to get the FDA to do something," he added.

It annoys dairy producers to see something like soy milk sold alongside cow's milk in the grocery store.

Even "hemp milk," made from hemp plants, has a carton similar to regular milk.

"We have told the FDA that if something is going to be sold in the grocer's dairy case, it needs to be properly labeled," Galen said. "A lot of people don't have time to ponder the ingredient labels."

Sales of soy-based foods have exploded in recent years to become a $1 billion industry, according to the Soyfoods Association of North America.

Consumers aren't mistakenly buying soy milk or other dairy food substitutes, if they really wanted cow's milk, said Nancy Chapman, Soyfoods Association executive director.

"The most important thing to recognize is the American public is not confused with the fact that soy milk does not have dairy in it," she said. "Soy milk has been around for a very long time. People select it very specifically as an alternative to dairy products."

Turning the tables

CytoSport has never claimed that Muscle Milk is cow's milk, but the company says it modeled the sports drink after human mother's milk. That's because it contains similar "fast burning fats," according to the company.

While defending the name Muscle Milk, Cyto-Sport has attacked others with similar names.

In 2009 it filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against "Defense Nutrition," a California firm whose line of health supplements included a product called "Warrior Milk."

CytoSport has filed lawsuits when "competitors have looked for opportunities to unfairly benefit from Muscle Milk's recognition," the company said in a statement.

It bullied Defense Nutrition, said company owner Ori Hofmekler, author of nutrition books including "The Warrior Diet."

"They sued me, saying I had no right to use the name 'milk' because they were recognized for it, and that our product resembled theirs," Hofmekler said.

"I never agreed with this, but at a certain point we agreed to settle because we couldn't afford to fight them," he added.

Warrior Milk is now called Warrior Whey because it contains whey, a milk product.

Now that the FDA is pursuing CytoSport for its Muscle Milk label, Hofmekler said, "the bully is getting what he deserves."

Source:JS Online Journal 7/31/2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Subway Debuts Enriched Bread

Subway, the world's biggest food chain by the number of outlets, has just announced plans to start adding vitamin D and calcium to the bread it uses in its sandwiches, according to Nation's Restaurant News. One sandwich-worth of bread will now contain 30% one's daily value of vitamin D and 20% one's daily value of calcium, roughly the same as a glass of milk. The change affects all Subways' breads except English muffins and flatbreads.

More vitamins, overall, are probably a good thing. They certainly aren't a bad thing. And Subway has a track record of being relatively healthy, for a fast food chain. (Which is, of course, sort of like saying that The Idiot is relatively short, for a Dostoevsky novel.) But before we herald Subway as a beacon of healthfulness, we should take a moment to remember Michael Pollan's injunction against foods with health claims, and his warnings about the inefficiency of fortifying food. In Defense Of Food makes the persuasive argument that many nutrients are only beneficial to health when they work as part of a naturally occuring food complex. Vitamin D and calcium may not be as good for people without the other chemicals they accompany in milk.

Moreover, it's not even clear that Vitamin D is in short supply. Center for Disease Control data indicate that eight percent of Americans are vitamin-D-deficient, with 80-90% of Americans' vitamin D intake coming from sun exposure. So next time you're worried about not having enough D in your bloodstream, consider taking a long walk in the sun rather than ordering a $5 footlong.

Source: Huffpost 8/2/11