|Best of health||Dec. 31, 2006|
|Provided by: Sun Media|
|Written by: MARILYN LINTON|
|Stem cell research tops the list of medical stories of 2006|
Cancer has been cured countless times -- in mice -- so it was good to see a recently published report in the British Medical Journal that pointed out that animal studies are of limited use to human health. I thought this was particularly noteworthy because so many people today spend countless bucks on so-called alternative cancer "cures" that claim they work because of success in animal trials.
However, this story will probably get the same lukewarm attention as another recent report -- this one a Consumer Reports investigation -- that shows that most wrinkle creams (the North American antiaging skin product market is worth $1 billion plus annually) simply don't work.
A shot in the arm: Health Canada's approval of the new HPV vaccine is particularly important given that the vaccine will protect women from two strains of HPV or human papillomavirus. These viruses are responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers, so the vaccine is a great step forward: Instead of just screening women, the vaccine is designed to immunize against the virus; an annual Pap smear will pick up the remaining viruses not covered by the vaccine. Experts are recommending the vaccine be given to young girls before they're sexually active.
It's no news that fish is good for you. But this year we've gained an increased awareness of how to choose which fish and why. While a recent high-level study concluded that fish's health benefits far outweigh its contaminant risks, there were further illuminations on the fish scene: Scallops and shrimp are now considered healthy for low-cholesterol diets, many farmed fish are healthier than wild, and we're learning that there's more on the fish menu than salmon and cod: Try sardines, catfish and tilapia, farmed sturgeon, and wild mahi-mahi.
The war on trans fat: Following on the heels of the non-smoking revolution, heart-clogging trans fats are not only now listed on food product labels but various cities, including New York, have proposed to limit trans fats in restaurants. By June 1, the Loews Hotels chain will have cut trans fats from all its locations' mini-bars, restaurant pastries and fried foods.
Too many fat kids: Obesity has been called a crisis. But here's a snapshot to put the issue in perspective: This past year a pediatric expert reported that there are no longer enough child safety seats to accommodate the increasing number of overweight kids. Over the past 30 years, the rates of obesity have doubled for kids aged 2 to 5 and tripled for kids 6 to 11. TV shows are reflecting the trend: Watch the Food Network's marathon showing of Honey, We're Killing the Kids on Jan. 7.
The big D: Skin cancer aside, everyone needs more of the sunshine vitamin.
But this past year, Vitamin D has emerged as a super-hero that protects not only bones, but possibly also against MS and TB, breast and pancreatic cancers, colds, diabetes, and the flu. The vitamin, synthesized through the action of sunlight on the skin, is hard for us to come by in winter, so talk to your doctor about supplements.
Bad bugs: Clostridium difficile raced through Canadian hospitals a few years ago, but it and other antibiotic-resistant superbugs seem to be winning the battle if not the germ warfare as they spread beyond hospitals into the community. Now there's drug-resistant TB and a staph culprit known as MRSA to worry about. Closer to home there was the E. coli contaminated spinach story. More than 200 people were infected with it. Last month it was scallions that caused concern.
Good advice for 2007? Eat your vegetables, but wash them well first. And have a healthy new year.
|MORE COLUMNS BY MARILYN LINTON|