fat


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.

Advertisements

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

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

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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.

You grow fat because of ……

This morning, a nice lady called our hotline to understand more about our Good Image Tea which she saw on one of the online portals. 

She had wanted to reduce further her weight and she candidly lamented that “life is unfair” as her siblings are not obese except her and she sighed with laughter that “this world is cruel too, people around you including family members and neighbors can laughed at you when you are obese”.  Her weight gain she believed was due to genetics, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and slow metabolism. 

Within the survey of Synovate which showed Singaporeans as the least weight-obsessed community, 11% of the 19,000 respondents from 13 countries said that genetics is the main cause of their obesity. Of this figure, the highest number who blame on genetics were the Brazilians (20%) are followed by people from the UAE (19%) and Saudis (18%).

fat-brazilians.jpg

Other statistics were:-

* 40% of the respondents attribute food as the culprit
* 20% chose ‘unhealthy food choices’
* 20% chose ‘unhealthy food habits like eating at irregular hours’.
* 18% say it is ‘lack of exercise’
* 13% blame the individual (‘no self-discipline’)
 

Currently, obesity has reached epidemic proportions in developed nations as well as many developing countries. ‘No self-discipline’ is what respondents in the UK (21%) & USA (20%) believed is the leading factor in obesity. USA and UK tops the number of overweight and obese populations.

Interestingly, unlike other matters in which citizens will like to blame their government for, however when come to obesity, very few people blame it on their government. 

Other research showed the Americans blame obesity on the influence from family members and friends.

Obesity Epidemic – Can America learn from Singapore TAF programme?

It is sad to read headline news recently like this one in the Philadelphia Inquirer Americans getting ever fatter. In most states, a new report says, 1 in 5 is obese. But little is being done about it“.

This came right after Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released the report “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2007”.

Notwithstanding some experts think the estimates in the report are conservative because people are underreporting their weight in surveys, 85% of the Americans surveyed believed obesity has become a public health epidemic. Yet it seems that most Americans aren’t doing much about it and they are not only getting fatter, but they are actually getting fatter faster.

The unfortunate young generation

Washington Post reported that “A new report gives District (Washington DC) children a dubious distinction: Nearly one in four of those ages 10 to 17 is overweight, making them the heaviest kids in the country.

In the Los Angeles Times, Jim Marks, a senior vice president of a healthcare philanthropy group was reported that he was so discouraged that “These children could be the first generation to live sicker and die younger than their parents“.

Obesity costs America US$117 billion a year in preventable healthcare expenditures and Mark said that it “is pushing the healthcare system to the breaking point“.

How can it so high and still growing when corrective measures at the local and state levels have been implemented? Example, nine of the states with the highest percentages of overweight kids track the MBI (body mass index) of students, improve the nutrition of school lunches or limit the sale of high-calorie foods in school vending machines or snack bars.

However, it seems that the desired effect is doubtful. Weeks ago, I watched a documentary on Singapore TV station, Channelnews Asia in which one of the experts commented that although American schools provide healthy meals, kids are flocking to the vendor machines filled with irresistible unhealthy snacks and beverages. It also showed that young teenagers are getting diabetes and are experiencing heart diseases.

Should America learn from Singapore ?

Although being criticized from time to time even by foreign media, Singapore’s TAF (Trim and Fit) programme which was launched in 1992 by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and refined through the years have reduced the percentage of overweight students (primary schools to pre-university levels) from 14% to 9.8% in 2002.

No system is perfect but the result has been impressive. Many children have emerged from the TAF Programme fitter and more aware of the importance of keeping a healthy lifestyle; and the number of students passing the Singapore government’s National Award for Physical Fitness (NAPFA) test went up from 58% in 1992 to 82% in 2002.

MoE works with the Health Promotion Board (School Tuckshop Programme), school canteen operators and parents closely to make the “TAF programme a more meaningful part of school life, with due emphasis on the physical, nutritional and psychological aspects. It will work with schools to introduce activities and programmes that are inclusive, fun-filled and interesting for all students, so that they take pride and ownership in their own health and physical well-being.”

5 + 4 about Good Cholesterol.

Cholesterol, the fat-like substance is the word that most people especially the middle-age group and above hate to hear.

It is a constant advice that we should all cut down or avoid red meats, seafood and products from animal fats because they are high in cholesterol or are high saturated fatty acids which will raise the triglycerides (a form of fat made in the body) and cholesterol levels in the body. However, for most people, without the wonderful delicious pork, beef, mutton, liver, skin of poultry, ham, bacon; drunken prawns, chilly/pepper “Sri Lanka” crabs, “hum/tua tao/lala” (clam), “sotong” (squid, cuttlefish), lobsters; butter, lard, egg yolk, etc., life will be meaningless.

That is just negative which we remembers. The flipped side is that our body needs cholesterol for functions such as making hormones. Besides being found in those products above, it is also produced in our body.

There are good and bad cholesterols. They can’t dissolve in the blood and have to be transported through the bloodstream in different carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) deliver cholesterol to the body, while high-density lipoproteins (HDL or “good” cholesterol) take cholesterol out of the bloodstream to the liver which will then passes them out of the body.

We are told the higher your HDL cholesterol, the better it is. Now, I learned that biological reality is more complex as genes direct the body’s production of HDL and that many of us might not be lucky enough to inherit genes that result in a lot of HDL. Luckily, genes are only part of the story because lifestyle factors and, to a smaller extent, medications can strongly influence HDL levels.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) and the American Diabetes Association advise people to aim for HDL levels of at least 40 mg/dL. An even more protective goal, according to the NCEP, is 60 mg/dL or higher.

Why is having high HDL cholesterol is important?

At first, scientists believed that HDL was simply a garbage collector that picked up cholesterol from an artery’s walls and delivered it to the liver for disposal. That’s still considered the main role of HDL, but research is starting to suggest that HDL can help protect the heart in many ways:

  • Reverse cholesterol transport. HDL latches onto LDL embedded in an artery wall, lugs it back into the bloodstream, and carries it to the liver. The liver collects cholesterol from the HDL particles, packages it into bile salts and bile acids, and dumps it into the intestines for excretion.
  • Antioxidant activity. LDL cholesterol in the artery wall is bombarded by oxygen free radicals, which turns it into oxidized LDL cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the stuff that’s actually responsible for arterial damage — and research shows that HDL can help protect LDL cholesterol from free radicals.
  • Anti-inflammatory action. HDL helps to quiet the inflammation of an atherosclerotic plaque. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) reflect the inflammation of such a plaque and HDL may neutralize CRP’s tendency to perpetuate the inflammatory cycle.
  • Antithrombotic activity. Plaque rupture triggers the formation of an artery-blocking blood clot. By halting the flow of oxygen-rich blood, the clot kills heart muscle cells (heart attack) or brain cells (stroke). HDL reduces clot formation and accelerates the healing process that dissolves clots.
  • Endothelial function. Blood vessels plagued with atherosclerosis sustain other damage. In particular, the endothelial cells lining the arteries fail to produce normal amounts of nitric oxide, the chemical that allows arteries to dilate (widen) when tissues need more oxygen. HDL helps preserve nitric oxide production and protect endothelial function.

How much does HDL help?

The Framingham Heart Study was responsible for many landmark discoveries about HDL cholesterol, and the Physicians’ Health Study helped confirm that HDL was protective, reporting that various HDL subtypes are all helpful. Data continue to show that the good cholesterol is very good indeed.

  • Heart disease. Low HDL levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, while high levels are protective. According to the Framingham Heart Study, cardiac risk rises sharply as HDL cholesterol levels fall below 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). In general, each 1 mg/dL rise in an HDL cholesterol level can be expected to cut cardiac risk by 2% to 3%.
  • Stroke. Strokes come in many forms, but the most common type, ischemic stroke, shares many risk factors with heart attack. High HDL cholesterol levels reduce the risk of stroke; in several studies, HDL cholesterol is a much better predictor of risk than LDL cholesterol, particularly in people older than 75.
  • Erectile dysfunction. Normal erections depend on many things, including healthy arteries that produce good amounts of nitric oxide. It’s no surprise, then, that the Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that 16% of men with low levels of HDL cholesterol had erectile dysfunction, but none of the men with the highest levels did.
  • Longevity. Several investigations suggest that high HDL levels are linked to longevity, particularly exceptional longevity. Other research links high levels of HDL cholesterol to preserved cognitive function in old age. More research is needed to learn if HDL deserves the credit or if other genetic factors are responsible.

Ways to raise your HDL

  • Exercise. Exercise is an important way to boost HDL levels. On average, sedentary people who start to exercise regularly can expect their HDL levels to rise by 3% to 20%. The benefit can occur with as little as one mile of walking or jogging a day, but the more you do, the better your result. Brisk walking for 40 minutes a day is a good target, but if you need more help, aim higher.
  • Watch your dietary fats. Saturated fat won’t affect your HDL cholesterol, but it will raise your LDL cholesterol. The latest American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines call for limiting saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories. Reduce your intake of trans fats to less than 1% of your total daily calories. Trans fat lowers HDL cholesterol and raises LDL cholesterol, a double whammy to health. But unsaturated fats like virgin olive oil may boost HDL levels, and the omega 3 fats in fish, nuts, and canola oil may promote cardiac health even if they don’t affect your HDL reading.
  • Watch your carbs! Or at least the types of carbs you’re eating. Diets that provide large amounts of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates are clearly linked to low levels of HDL cholesterol. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates in favor of coarsely ground, whole grain, unrefined carbs like whole grain bread, oatmeal, and beans.
  • Alcohol. Moderate drinking will raise HDL levels by about 4 mg/dL, which should cut cardiac risk by about 10%. This translates to one to two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women. For this “prescription,” count 5 ounces of wine, 1½ ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer as one drink.
  • Weight control. Obesity is linked to low HDL levels, but weight loss can help. Exercise and diet are the dynamic duo for weight loss, but shedding excess pounds will boost HDL levels over and above the independent effects of regular exercise and a healthful diet.

WANT TO REDUCE WEIGHT? PLAY SOCCER Sports scientist Peter Krustrup and his colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen University Hospital and Bispebjerg Hospital did a research which showed that playing soccer is healthier, burn more fat and more fun than jogging.

For a period of 12 weeks, a group of soccer players and joggers have been active for one hour 2-3 times a week. The participants have been continuingly subjected to tests: fitness rating, percentage of body fat, total mass of muscles, cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.

After the period, the result :

* Soccer players – lost 3.5 kilos of fat, gained more than 2 kilos of extra muscle mass
* Joggers – lost 2 kilos of fat, no change in total muscle mass.
* Both groups – showed significant improvements in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance

Peter Krustrup said that “Soccer is an all-round form of practise because it both keeps the pulse up and has many high-intensity actions. When you sprint, jump and tackle your opponents, you use all the fibres in your muscles. When you jog at a moderate pace, you only use the slow fibres.”

Although both groups moved at the same average speed, soccer is more fun than jogging because jogging focuses on oneself, which led to the joggers noticing their efforts and the breathlessness and can lead to them feeling sorry for themselves. Soccer players forget it is hard because all contributed to the effort as they focus on the game and don’t notice that their hearts are pounding.

Therefore, to fight obesity and inactivity, soccer seems to be an obvious alternative to jogging and fitness.

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