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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.

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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

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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.

First it was about Taoist’s enlightenment, meditation and self-defense in the 13th century, then it was seen as an exercise for the old and those who got nothing else to do. Now, it might be the easy exercise that one can practice to effectively curb diabetes and thus saving and prolonging one’s life.

Tai Chi, better known as Tai Ji Quan (太极拳) was founded by Master Zhang San Feng (张三丰), one of my most admired heros in Chinese history. Since then,  it has more than 100 possible movements and positions and is now enjoyed by people all over the world.  Many Community Clubs (CC) in Singapore have regular Taiji or Qigong classes and there are also many free video online. Unlike many exercises, this dance-like exercise can be done by people of all ages as it is slow (some movements are fast paced), gentle, graceful self-paced kind of exercise and does not required any equipment. It can be done at any permissible open space with clean air.

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It is easy yet not that easy as it combines movements with meditation to align the body and the mind. Those who had been practicing it can attest to its benefits of reducing stress; increase agility, flexibility, energy, stamina as well as improve muscular strength. Overall, it is a great feeling and makes one sleeps well.

 The British Journal of Sports Medicine has just reported that studies by researchers in Taiwan and Australia indicated that Tai Chi exercises can help people control type-2 diabetes, the disease suffered by some 250millions people worldwide and which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, high blood pressure and heart disease.

 Of the group of 30 diabetics involved in the Taiwanese study, at the end of the 12 weeks (3hours per week) program in which they learned 37 Tai Chi movements, their blood sugar level had dropped. The levels of glycated haemoglobin  (excess sugar carried by red blood cells) fell significantly. Thus, the researchers suggested that Tai Chi may prompt a fall in blood glucose levels, or improve blood glucose metabolism, which in turn sparks a drop in the inflammatory response

 In Australia, 11 diabetic patients were put to a 12 week sessions of Tai Chi and Qigong 气功(Chinese Yoga) for 60 to 90 minutes three times a week. The result was they have less craving for food, slept better, experienced less pain but more energy, lost weight averaging 3kg, waist line reduced by almost 3cm but most importantly, their insulin resistance improved, blood sugar level dropped and blood pressure dropped significantly.

 It was explained that “the relaxation element of Tai Chi may help to reduce stress levels, preventing the release of adrenalin which can lead to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels”.

 Long live the tradition of Tai Chi which promotes maintaining optimum functioning of the body’s self-regulating systems to restore the body to its natural state of health through the cultivation of inner strength and calming the mind.

Desire : Reduce weight, prevent high blood, reduce cholesterol, relieve pain

Remedy : Kissing 3 times a day, 20 seconds each

A Russian newspaper quoted a scientific research saying that kissing can stablize heart artery behavior, prevent high blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and in the long run can result in weight loss. No details given.

The research also reported that during kissing, the massive saliva released in the mouth which is high in calcium and phosphorus can protect against tooth decay as well as reduce the probability of gum inflammation. I wonder who is cleaning who ?

On the other hand, kissing is good for facial beauty as passionate kissing exercises 30 muscles on the face, promotes blood circulation, thus resulting in smoother skin. Is that how those skin beauty equipments were simulating ?

Kissing relieve pain as the saliva contains pain relieving properties and the more passionate the kissing, the more saliva will be released. The researcher joked that if ever pain is unbearable, try kissing instead of pain killer medicine. Are the manufacturers of Panadol, Tylenol, Aspirin, etc. laughing away ?

For those who buy in this research, please share the result. For those who are not taking the chance on kissing or weight loss pills, try tea.

Every day, over 5 Singaporeans suffered heart attack (2,000 per year). 50% of them died when proper medical help cannot arrive on time. Shocking ?

This is case of MC King, although the actual cause of his death resulting in “breathing difficulties” is awaiting the coroner’s report. Few days ago, a Chinese evening daily reported that a healthy fat Indian working in Singapore suffered breathing difficulties as he was riding on his motorcycle back to Johor Baru (Malaysian city across from Singapore) and died soon of heart failure. Heath Ledger, the Academy Award-nominated Australian actor is now suspected of dying from heart attack instead of drug overdose.

No one will die from cancer instantly, but when the heart stops pumping, that can the end of it! So what is the point of just having the best brain?

Heart disease is now the NUMBER 2 killer in Singapore, closing in cancer. In the USA & Europe, heart disease has already dethroned cancer as the #1 killer.

According to the “State of Health 2001” report, it showed that heart disease accounts for 26.3% death; that is 1in 4 persons. In the USA, it is only 1 in 5. Scary huh ?

If anyone has one or more of these major risk factors (identified by the World Heart Federation) which is associated with coronary heart disease and stroke such as smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, he/she is likely to add to this statistics.

According to the same report, 27.3% of Singaporeans are hypertensive; 58% are physically inactive during their leisure; and 24% are overweight, of whom about 6% are obese.

That is 7 years ago, based on the modern increasingly “unhealthy” living and the deteriorating mother earth, what will be the statistics now ?

How to add 14 more years to your life ?

While many in Singapore might be disillusioned about healthy living after seeing the sudden death last week (4th January) of Jimmy Nah, the healthy-looking 40-year-old comedian/actor who does not smoke or drink alcohol and have a clean bill of health, BBC this morning reported that a study shown “Taking exercise, drinking moderately, eating sufficient fruit and vegetables and not smoking can add as much as 14 years to your life”.

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The study between 1993 and 2006 by the UK’s Public Library of Science Medicine which involved 20,000 people aged between 45 and 79, suggested that regardless of how overweight or poor they were, they found those who failed on all criteria were four times more likely to have died than those who succeeded.

Participants were known during this period to be free from cancer or any heart problems.

The participants were awarded a point for :

1. not currently smoking
2. consuming between one and 14 units of alcohol per week (the equivalent of between half a glass and seven glasses of wine)
3. eating five servings of fruit and vegetables each day and not being inactive.

They found that the risk of

A 60-year-old person + score ZERO = a 74-year-old + FULL FOUR points

The conclusion was that many people through some simple changes can increase their lifespan as well as reduce their risk of dying from heart and circulatory disease as shown from the research participants.

Yesterday (9th September 2007), I read about the Singapore Health Promotion Board big ad in Sunday Times entitled “Bad fats come in many disguises”. It showed 4 of Singaporean’s favourite cravings that are unfortunately high in saturated and trans fat – poultry with skin (chicken drumstick), food with coconut milk (nasi lemak), pastries (looks like apple pie) and deep fried food (French fries).

It stated that “A diet high in saturated and trans fats increases the risk of heart disease and stroke …. So, the next time you eat, choose a meal with less of these fats. Your body will thank you for it.”

It also displayed a simple chart showing the main sources of the 2 fats and their adverse effects.

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It even came out with a “Spot the Fat and Win!” promotion where every week, a winner who SMS the code “6GR824” to 76868 will walk away with S$100 shopping voucher.

Surprisingly, contrary to what was advertised, although the promotion was started on 26th August and ending 26th September, I cannot find this information or the “other terms and conditions” on their otherwise very informative http://www.hpb.gov.sg. The latest on their homepage was

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Coming to the bad fats, other than eating fishes and vegetables, it looks like one got to do alot of detox to purge the bad fats and toxins from the body if one wants to indulge in those mouth-watering delicacies.

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