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“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.

Conference exclusively opened to BNI 103,000 members across 37 countries only.

Visit http://www.bni-raffles.sg for more information on BNI, http://www.goodimagetea on the products.

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.

Is it true Singaporeans never weigh themselves?

From the recent global survey of 9,000 people across 13 countries (UK, USA, UAE, France, Czech Republic, Romania, Canada, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia) by a global market research firm, Synovate, Singaporeans are the least weight-obsessed people in the world as compared to the American and the French :-

  • 37% of Singaporeans saying that they never weigh themselves
  • 29% said their weight never change
  • 60% eat whatever they want, whenever they wantbathroom-scale.jpg

15% of Hong Kong people weigh themselves once or more every week and 60% only weigh when they remember.

Americans and French are most weight-obsessed, 15% of French people and 12% of Americans weigh themselves every single day and 50% of them will weigh at least once a week or more.

French attributed this to the fact that “French people take care of their image as a matter of course. Being thin is part of our culture and a point of pride. We are known for it. On top of this, there is increasing awareness of the devastation that obesity can cause to one’s health.

So, is it true that Singaporeans never weigh themselves?

Most homes do not have a weighing scale even though the price is so affordable now and they comes with digital meter (more accurate), all kinds of colors and design. Are we too busy to weigh or we are like the 29% who really believed that our weight never change or there a no necessity to weigh since we believed we are healthy or weight change doesn’t matter.

Some feedbacks are that they are afraid to see their weight fluctuate, especially when it has increased. Some felt weighing scale is quite a silly gadget to buy, a waste of money. Some Chinese old folks joked that Chinese don’t weigh themselves except to animals for sale (butcher’s family!?).

Going by the sprouting of health fitness and slimming centers, etc. around the island, weighing scales are everywhere. Moreover, all medical clinics will have it too. Those who are consuming weight-loss medicine, traditional herbal weight reduction beverages, etc should be weighing prior and after the dosage period to assess its effectiveness. So, most people would have themselves weighed.

I really wonder for those 29% who said that their weight never change, are they those who frequent the fitness center or exercise regularly themselves or resort to weight control medicine or supplements? In addition, for those 37% who do not weigh, do they eat whatever they want and whenever they want?

What killed MC King?

The entertainment industry and local public were shocked to learn from the TV and radio on 4th January afternoon that MC King, the chubby and lovable actor/comedian has died suddenly from breathing difficulties. The day after, news of him hit the front cover with many pages coverage in the 2 popular evening Chinese papers, Lianhe Wanbao and Shin Min Daily News.

.Comedy icon MC King

So well remembered as the character in the TV Channel 8 series Friends Next Door, who was perennially on medical leave (MC), his awarded stage name MC King overshadowed his actual name, Lan Qin Xi (蓝顉嘻), aka Jimmy Nah.

It was reported that this healthy-looking 40-year-old actor/part-time radio deejay/events host does not smoke; does not drink alcohol; no high blood pressure or high cholesterol; did not have other medical history and was given a clean bill of health in a recently medical checkup.

So, what killed him ?

His fengshui master had analysed his destiny and cautioned him about his heart. In 2005, he was advised by the fengshui master that for the well-being of his acting career, he was to drop to below 84kgs from 94kgs or to increase to 102kgs.

An actor/comedian had commented that he once seen him gasping for air after laughing hysterically and joked with him that it can become fatal.

Other acting colleagues and radio DJ friends have reported that he had not been looking well and displaying an obvious sign of fatigue. He was known to be very stressed up with acting commitments, worried over payment for his house and car as well as worried if his contract with MediaCorp (broadcasting company) will be renewed next month.

He was said to be consuming weight-loss medicine as he was weighing over 80kgs. In 2005, following his fengshui master’s advice, he invented his own “carbo avoidance” slimming method. His daily dietary routine according to Shin Min was :-

Breakfast : just plain water with 1 apple

Lunch : eat anything but non-starchy food

Dinner : eat less and still avoiding any food containing starch.

After work, he will walk up the 16 storeys to his house and he swam 200 meters at least once a week. That routine reportedly helped him lose 10kg in a short 2 months.

However, he was seen eating without any reservation at a recent party which raised the suspicion that he might have switched to using weigh-loss medicine.

Beauty consultants and doctors Shin Min interviewed had cautioned consumers about using weigh-loss medicines such as those which contain ingredients such as ephedrine. Ephedrine or ma huang (麻黄)is a traditional Chinese medicine that treats symptoms of upper respiratory infections, headaches, fevers, colds, and hay fever. Because of its appetite suppressing capability, it is used as weight-loss medicine. However, some of the recorded side effects are nervousness, dizziness, tremors, rapid heart rate, headaches, jitters, palpitations, insomnia, increase blood pressure. When taken at higher levels, drastic increases in blood pressure, as well as irregular, faster or slower than normal heartbeat can occur.

It was reported that weight-loss medicine are not suitable for those with heart, liver, kidney or thyroid gland problems; pregnant women as well as those under 18 years or over 65 years old.

As for MC King, we’ll have to wait for the Coroner’s report (expected in 1-2 months time) to know the cause of his death. However, whatever it might be, heart attack, stress or both, judging by the 50 Mediacorp artistes, broadcasting colleagues as well as nearly one thousand people who wept at his funeral and sent him off to the crematorium today (7th January), he is definitely missed badly by them who had enjoyed his entertaining and cheerful bubbly face.

Will you blame your friends if you become obese ?

James Fowler from Harvard University and Nicholas Christakis from the University of California, San Diego seem to suggest so. They co-authored the report which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently, basing on a 32-year (between 1971 and 2003) closely study of a network of 12,067 friends and relatives. 

They concluded in their study that obesity is a socially contagious phenomenon because “areas of the brain that correspond to actions such as eating food may be stimulated if these actions are observed by others“. Thus, weight gain in one person apparently influenced weight gain in others:- 

  1. a person’s chances of becoming obese increase by 57 percent if that person has a friend who is obese.
  2. Same-sex friends and siblings had more influence on the subject’s weight gain than those of the opposite sex.
  3. If a spouse became obese, the likelihood that the other spouse would become obese increased by 37 percent.

Is that why more than one third of the US population is overweight while 60 million US adults are obese? 

Well, one of the reasons – blame it on your friends !

9 ways to protect your heart from diabetes

Diabetes and heart disease often go hand in hand. Here’s how you can uncouple them.

Diabetes and heart disease were once thought to be entirely unrelated disorders. New thinking suggests that they may actually spring from the same underlying cause — chronic, systemwide inflammation — or at least be influenced by it. This intertwining is a bad thing, since developing diabetes usually means developing heart disease as well. It also has a silver lining: Protecting yourself against one of these chronic conditions works against the other, too.

More than one million Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year. Traditionally, up to 80% of people with diabetes develop some form of cardiovascular disease, from heart attack and stroke to peripheral artery disease and heart failure.

The connection between the two diseases isn’t ironclad. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have joined forces to fight both heart disease and diabetes. Their latest effort focuses on helping people with diabetes whose hearts seem healthy keep them that way.

As you scan the tips below, remember that almost every recommendation is good for diabetes as well as heart disease.

1. Know your risk

Goal: Knowledge is power. Calculate your risk of heart disease, or ask your doctor to do it.
Getting there: The Framingham calculator is a general heart disease–risk estimator. Specific ones for people with diabetes have been developed by two diabetes groups.

2. Exercise

Goal: Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (like walking) or 90 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Getting there: If you do just one thing on this list, choose exercise. It is a key to controlling blood sugar, strengthens the heart and lungs, improves blood pressure, corrects out-of-whack cholesterol, and has other beneficial effects.

3. Control your weight

Goal: If your weight is in the healthy range, work to keep it there. If you are overweight, try to lose 5% to 7% of your weight over the next 12 months. (That’s about a pound a month for someone weighing 200 pounds.)
Getting there: Cutting out just one 12-ounce can of sugared soda a day (150 calories) is enough to help you lose a pound a month. You can easily double that by burning more calories with exercise.

4. Improve your diet

Goals:

  • Cut back on unhealthy fats: Lower saturated fat to under 7% of calories (about 17 grams), and keep trans fat intake as close to zero as possible.
  • Add more unsaturated fats from fish, grains, and vegetable oils.
  • Include at least 30 grams of fiber a day.
  • Watch the salt — reduce your intake to under 2,500 milligrams a day.
  • Choose whole grains and other slowly digested carbohydrates.

Getting there: The foods you eat can help you control blood sugar and protect your arteries. The main strategy is to get more fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and vegetable oils (especially olive oil), and less fast food, salty or fried food, and rapidly digested carbohydrates. There is no one-size-fits-all “diabetes diet.” The American Diabetes Association released a comprehensive set of nutrition recommendations in January 2007. But rather than trying to wade through these, ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist.

5. Lower your blood pressure

Goal: A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 or below. If you have high blood pressure, aim for a systolic pressure of 130 or lower and a diastolic pressure of 80 or lower.
Getting there: Measure your blood pressure often; home monitors are a good investment. If it is above the goal, try exercise, the DASH diet, and, if needed, weight loss, smoking cessation, or medications.

6. Control your cholesterol

Goal: Aim for and LDL under 100 mg/dL, an HDL above 40 mg/dL, and triglycerides under 150 mg/dL.
Getting there: A healthful diet and exercise can do a lot to reverse risky lipid levels. A cholesterol-lowering statin can help protect against heart attack and stroke even when LDL levels are near the recommended goal. Niacin or a fibrate can improve HDL and triglyceride levels.

7. Quit smoking

Goal: If you smoke, try to stop. Avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible.
Getting there: The most effective quitting strategy includes talk therapy plus nicotine replacement therapy along with drugs such as bupropion (generic, Wellbutrin, Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix).

8. Control your blood sugar

Goal: Aim for hemoglobin A1c to be at least under 7% and, ideally, as close to 6% as possible without causing bouts of low blood sugar.
Getting there: Managing carbohydrate intake and switching to whole grains can help ease the blood sugar roller coaster. Exercise is vitally important. Use medications such as metformin, thiazolidinediones, and insulin as needed.

9. Prevent clots

Goal: Take a low-dose aspirin (75–162 milligrams) every day unless your doctor tells you not to.
Getting there: Aspirin prevents platelets from latching onto each other, an early step in clot formation. Preventing clots helps prevent heart attack and stroke.

For more information on controlling diabetes, order the Special Health Report, Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes, at www.health.harvard.edu/HED.

Increase in obesity and diabetes but decrease in deaths from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) 

Epidemiologists at the University of Liverpool and the Heart of Mersey have found that approximately half the recent fall in coronary heart disease deaths in the US is due to positive life style changes and a further half to medical therapies.

The team found that a decrease in smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure and physical inactivity contributed to the fall in deaths from coronary heart disease, yet this decrease could have been substantially more had it not been for the increases in obesity and diabetes cases.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) death rates in the US almost halved between 1980 and 2000. To understand how this fall occurred scientists combined information on medical treatments with national changes in the levels of major risk factors, such as smoking and high cholesterol. The UK has seen similar falls in heart disease, but this fall is mainly attributed to healthier diets rather than medication.

From 1980 to 2000, the US death rates for CHD fell from 543 to 267 per 100,000 population among men and from 263 to 134 per 100,000 population among women. Overall there were 341, 745 fewer CHD deaths in 2000 than in 1980.

The team found that this decrease was attributed to reductions in risk factors such as total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, smoking and physical inactivity. However, they found that this reduction could have been 15% more had it not been for an increase in obesity and diabetes. Approximately half the fall in CHD deaths was also attributed to medical treatments, including medications for heart failure and emergency treatments for heart attacks and angina.

Professor Simon Capewell, from the University of Liverpool’s Division of Public Health and Trustee at CHD prevention charity, Heart of Mersey, said: “Using a sophisticated computer model called IMPACT we were able to combine and analyse data on the uptake and effectiveness of specific cardiac treatments and changes in risk factors among adults aged 25 to 84 years in the US. Data included results from trials, official statistics and national surveys.

We found that CHD death rates halved, and 47% of the fall was attributed to medical treatments and approximately 44% to changes in risk factors. Prevalence of smoking, for example had fallen by 12%. Decreases in physical inactivity however, were offset by increases in body mass index and diabetes.

Robin Ireland, Chief Executive at Heart of Mersey, added: “We have recently seen similar falls in heart disease here in the UK. These changes mainly reflect healthier diets, not tablets. However the increase in obesity and diabetes are a wakeup call. They reflect the increasing consumption of large helpings of junk food. We need legislation to encourage food manufacturers and supermarkets to provide healthier food options.

Source:  News release issued by University of Liverpool.

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