The search for the viagra alternative is relentless. On the natural approach, besides Tongkat Ali, now the attention is switching to我的美人(wo3de1mei3ren2, “My Belle” in Chinese), pun for Watermelon.

It is now believed that watermelon is richer in citrulline than previously thought. Citrulline is the amino acid which converts to arginine in the body. This boosts nitric oxide which relaxes and dilates blood vessels much like Viagra and other ED(erectile dysfunction) drugs.

Watermelon is one of the most common and favourite fruit in Singapore and around the region and most probably worldwide. It is not uncommon to see people savouring pieces of watermelon during lunch hours at those public eating places. Did these people feel the anti-ED or extra sensation ?

Surely not. According to the report, Dr Bhimu Patil of the Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center at Texas A&M University disclosed that although the flesh has citrulline, most of the citrulline is found in the watermelon rind.

Who will eat that ?

During your next lunch hour, start looking out for those people bitting the watermelon rind or those asking the juice vendor to grind the rind together with the red or yellow juicy flesh. Sweet and no side effect, you know ?

Hang on !

No one including the researcher can tell how many “Belle” one will need to achieve the desired effect.

“Buyers beware” is not a new message but does many care ? When come to purchasing health & wellness products, you better be safe than sorry.

Today’s “Today” newspapers reported that “According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than half the pills sold online are fakes”.

Offline in the streets, fake medicine are rampant too. It was reported that “In Indonesia, about a quarter of all medicine sales are fakes. In the Philippines, it is 30%; in India, 20%; in Cambodia, 13%; and in China, 8%”.

Internet is definitely a convenient and private way of shopping, but when faced with any issue such as fakes or those that are adulterated with dangerous or undeclared substances, who can the user go after? Definitely not WHO!

The Internet is so convenient, so easy but yet it is so dangerous.

It came to light in Singapore that a man and a woman in their early 20s had suffered symptoms of psychosis such as hearing of voices, hallucinations, confusion and thyrotoxic symptoms such as anxiety and increased heart rate after using a product named Relacore, a product they bought over the Internet.

So what is wrong with this anti-‘belly fat and stress control’ dietary supplement?

This product was not declared to have included a Western drug, a potent substance known as Sibutramine. Sibutramine is a prescription drug marketed under trade names such as Meridia in the USA, Leptos in India, Reductil (read Want to slim down? Don’t count on weigh-loss drugs) in Europe and other countries. It is used as an appetite suppressant in the management of obesity. That means that it works by making you feel more ‘full’ with less food (it reduces appetite and enhances satiety).

On Wikipedia, it is documented that frequent encountered side effects from sibutramine are: dry mouth, paradoxically increased appetite, nausea, strange taste in the mouth, anorgasmia and delayed ejaculation, upset stomach, constipation, trouble sleeping, dizziness, drowsiness, menstrual cramps/pain, headache, flushing, or joint/muscle pain.

It can substantially increase blood pressure and pulse in some patients. Therefore all patients treated with sibutramine should have regular monitoring of blood pressure and pulse.

Infrequent but serious ones that require immediate medical attention: cardiac arrhythmias, paresthesia, mental/mood changes (e.g., excitement, restlessness, confusion, depression, rare thoughts of suicide).

Symptoms that require urgent medical attention are seizures, problems urinating, abnormal bruising or bleeding, melena, hematemesis, jaundice, fever and rigors, chest pain, hemiplegia, abnormal vision, dyspnea and edema.

Could what they have consumed a counterfeit version? Health Science Authority (HSA) is investigating now. In HSA’s press release today, it has said that Given the borderless nature of the Internet and the ease with which this product could be bought and sold in different countries around the world, HSA has alerted its international network of enforcement counterparts to be on a lookout for the adulterated product and where appropriate, to act against websites selling this product within their respective jurisdictions.”

This is the second case in the last 6 years concerning slimming product that created adverse reaction. Slim 10 pills in 2002 hit headlines in Singapore after it killed a woman and caused severe liver damage to local actress Andrea De Cruz which would have killed her if not for an emergency liver transplant done with the liver donation from her then-fiance actor Pierre Png (now husband). The China-made diet pills contained fenfluramine, an appetite suppressant that has been banned in the U.S. since 1997 for damaging heart valves and which doctors later confirmed also caused liver failure.

MAKING SIMPLE SALADS
Learn easy and versatile salad recipes that are inexpensive and nutritious. At this workshop, you’ll have a hands-on experience in making an all-in-one salad meal, seaweed salad rolls and herbal salad in tomato cups.

Date: 18 June 2008
Time: 4pm to 5pm
Venue: Bishan Junction 8 Office Tower, #06-05
Fee/Registration: $20. Registration required.
Call 6250 1012.  Open to women 40 and above only.

INTERNATIONAL FALLS AWARENESS DAY
Each year, one in three people above the age of 65 experience a fall. At this event by Tan Tock Seng Hospital, learn more about how to reduce your risk of falling, how to fall-proof your home and the strategies in keeping your loved ones safe from falls.

Date: June 24
Time: 9.30am to 3.30pm
Venue: Tan Tock Seng Hospital Atrium
Fee/Registration: Free.

KIDS AT PLAY ON FRIDAYS
This play-and-learn programme guarantees loads of fun and excitement for the little ones. They can try their hands at different health discovery activities and take part in a treasure hunt.

Date: Fri
Time: 9am to 5pm
Venue: HealthZone, Level 2, Health Promotion Board, 3 Second Hospital Avenue
Fee/Registration: $2

*** extracted from TODAY newspapers 17 June 2008.

Its advertisements were pretty attractive in English and Chinese. Its target market is practically the whole world of people (yes, it has Halal certification to cater to the world’s Muslim community) with “Symptoms of Cell Deterioration” – nocturia, lethargy, urinal disability, arthritis, incompetence, fatigue, skin aging, obesity, cold-averse). Its news coverage is all over the Internet. It had been sold through the Internet and possibly through multi-level-marketing (MLM).

Some of its online promotions have even stated that a certified laboratory in Singapore has tested that it is not adulterated withAphrodisiac Western Medicines or Illegal Drug Ingredients” and that it was “categorized as food and no MAL number is required” (MAL number is a approval number issued by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia). As listed on some promotional pages, it is stated that its main ingredient is the “Ginseng of The Desert” (Cynomorium Songaricum ) which “Helps invigorates the kidney and supplements essence for kidney YANG and insufficiency of blood manifested as impotence, nourishes the intestine and relaxes the bowels“. Other ingredients include “Ginseng Extract, Hydrolysed Protein, Enzyme, Pomegranate, Polyphenol, Malt“.

Why then would post-market analysis by the Health Science Authority (HSA) of Singapore proved otherwise for Mentalk, “The World First Energizing Candy” ? HSA’s press release on their website stated they found the presence of “Aminotadalafil, which is chemically similar to tadalafil,” It “can cause serious adverse reactions such as heart attacks and strokes in susceptible individuals. Heart patients who are on nitrate drugs may suffer severe hypotension which may be fatal.

What is more worrying as HSA put it was that As the product is marketed as a food-like item, there is potential danger to the wider population if the candy is unwittingly eaten by consumers, including teenagers and young children. . One of its advertisement stated “One world, One Candy”.

As of this writing, follow-up actions by HSA and relevant authorities are underway.

Is it a case of trying to cheat passed the health authorities by submitting a truly safe sample for the lab test and then launching the adulterated version ? If so, it really took guts to have so many ads and one of them to state that “Mentalk does not contain any steroid, western or illegal drug ingredients”.

Or is this a case of product that fell short of its effectiveness after launching and thus with the pressure to maintain the growth plan after pouring some much into the marketing of it, a decision was made to “refine” the product resulting in the adding of extra undeclared ingredients into the formula? If so, it is really foolish to do it in countries like Singapore where our HSA and AVA (Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority) are very proactive in conducting post-market survey and analysis of products, especially those that are too good to be true. HSA has been doing public education and awareness campaign.

Oh, I am surprised that Mentalk had included the actual Singapore ALS Laboratory report in their advertisement. Didn’t the report has the same statement “This report cannot be used for advertising purposes.” printed at the top of each of their test reports just like those from laboratories of HSA and SGH (Singapore General Hospital), etc.

Well, Members of the public are strongly advised not to buy or eat ‘Mentalk’ candy. If they have already purchased the candy, they should throw it away immediately. If they feel unwell after eating this candy, they are urged to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

For more update on this candy issue, visit http://www.hsa.gov.sg

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Can 4 Red Bull really kill a man ?

2 years ago, a Bolivian man working in Oxfordshire, UK died of heart attack after consuming 4 cans of the ‘It gives you wings’ energy drink, Red Bull

.

Last week, Oxfordshire coroner recorded a verdict of “death by unascertained natural causes” which he compared the death to sudden adult death syndrome which is linked to cardiac illness.

What killed Alfredo Duran since the coroner stated that he was healthy and Red Bull has such a long sale record as far back as 1982 and had since sold 3.5 billion drinks in 140 countries in 2007?

Overdose of caffeine and an enlarged heart are probably the resultant cause.

As he had to work up to five night shifts a week, 40-year-old Alfredo, a father-of-two was known to consume at least 4 cans of the Red Bull each night. The amount of caffeine found in him although not fatal by itself, could have triggered a card­iac arrest for someone who has already an enlarged heart. According to the pathologist, this will not have any effect in people with a normal heart.

Looking at a chart from the American Beverages Association, taking a can of Red Bull is pretty close to a cup of instant coffee (hmm, Sprite & 7-Up no caffeine).

Although caffeine is not addictive, a consumer may go for additional can of energy drink to stay awake once he starts to lose that peppy feeling.

However, it is also known that when people take too much caffeine, side effects like nervousness, insomnia and elevated blood pressure will be experienced. That being the case, one can imagine how it will be like downing 4 cans of the Red Bull. In fact, some countries banned it because of fears of causing high blood pressure.

Still, Red Bull said that “clin­ical tests and toxicological evaluations by independent experts had concluded it was safe to drink for adults” . Just don’t drink more than 2 cans, they said. Understandably, they are in a market which according to market research firm ACNielsen clocked $4.7 billion in 2007 up from $3.5 billion in 2006 and expecting to grow to $10 billion by 2010.

Yes, many consumers will swear by it as several studies have indicated that energy drinks may help boost cognitive performance, verbal reasoning and attention levels. However, other experts are saying that there is nothing unique in them that sustain the alertness. Rather, it is the work of the high sugar and caffeine in them which one can easily get from other sources like coffee and candy bars.

For me, no coffee during my “night-shift” writing this blog. I will just head for the aromatic kopitiam’s coffee-O in the morning.