Category Archives: Health

The most powerful earthquake in Japan

In the aftermath of Japan’s devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and terrifying tsunami, people everywhere are wondering how they can support the numerous relief efforts under way. Many international relief groups are working to relieve suffering in the increasingly dire situation.

The Japanese government has so far confirmed that more than 3,500 people have died and more than 17,000 remain missing. These numbers are likely to rise once emergency service teams are able to reach all of the affected disaster areas. Nearly 530,000 Japanese have been evacuated from their homes so far, and shortages of food, water, and medical supplies are widespread.

Here’s an important way you can contribute to relief efforts: Donate to AmeriCares, a non-profit relief organization that saves lives and restores health in response to natural disasters, conflict, and chronic poverty. Everyday Health is partnering with AmeriCares to support its efforts on the front lines in Japan. For more than 25 years, AmeriCares has been delivering humanitarian aid, medical supplies, medicines, and other relief directly to disaster areas. One of those disasters AmeriCares responded to was the 1995 Kobe earthquake that struck Japan, leaving massive destruction and more than 300,000 homeless.

Related: Seven Questions About the Japan Radiation Scare

How AmeriCares Is Helping Japan

AmeriCares is coordinating closely with the Japanese government and local hospitals and relief workers to help ensure that hospitals have the resources they need to treat the injured patients and to provide for the needs of displaced families who lost their homes and are in shelters. Relief workers on the ground in Tokyo and Sendai are working with shelters and hospitals to determine the medications and medical supplies needed to relieve shortages. Such supplies are crucial and potentially lifesaving. Many survivors have ongoing health needs — from pregnancy to diabetes — that require regular medical attention and treatment. Twenty percent of the Japanese population is elderly; many have chronic conditions that require daily medications, says Ella Gudwin, AmeriCare’s Vice President Emergency Response and Strategic Program Development.

Cancer Risk That You Should Know Before

Does the World Health Organization’s statement that cell phones may cause cancer have you thinking twice about making that phone call?

Of course it’s alarming to think that something that’s become such a can’t-live-without can be linked to brain cancer, but there’s a lot even the most cell phone-addicted people can do to minimize health risks.

Any potential links to cancer stem from the low levels of radiation cell phones emit. Lower your exposure to the radiation, and you’ll reduce the potential links to cancer or other health problems:

  1. Use a headset. Sounds obvious, but headsets emit much less radiation than cell phones do, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they keep your cell phone away from your head. The farther away you are from a source of radiation, the less damage it can do.
  2. Text when you can. Your constantly texting teens are onto something: Cell phones use less energy (and emit less radiation) when you text than when you talk, says the EWG. Texting also keeps the radiation source farther away from your brain.
  3. Use cell phones for FYI-only calls. Don’t use your cell phone for that long overdue, hour-long catch-up with your sister. Keep calls as short as possible — Do you need me to get the dry cleaning, honey? — and switch to a landline if they’re veering off into chitchat territory.
  4. Watch the bars. Can you hear me now? If you’re struggling to maintain a connection, ditch the call and wait until you have better service. When your phone has fewer signal bars, it has to work harder (and, therefore, emit more radiation) to connect.
  5. Keep the phone away from your ear when you can. EMF-Health.com recommends waiting for the call to connect before you bring the phone to your ear, which minimizes radiation exposure. And when you talk, tilt the phone away from your ear and bring it in close when you’re listening. That’s because the radiation levels are “significantly less when a cell phone is receiving signals than when it is transmitting,” Lin Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University in Houston, told The New York Times.
  6. Don’t make calls in elevators or cars. You already it’s dangerous to talk and drive; EMF-Health.com says that cell phones use more power to establish a connection in enclosed metal spaces like cars and elevators.
  7. Make sure your kids use the landline. It seems like even toddlers are using cell phones today, but experts say kids are the most vulnerable to potential radiation dangers. The EWG says children’s brains absorb twice as much cell phone radiation as adults. According to The New York Times, health authorities in Britain, France, Germany, and Russia all have warnings against letting children use cell phones.
  8. Buy a low-radiation phone. Some cell phones emit more radiation than others; if you’re in the market for a new phone, EMF-Health.com recommends that you consider the phone’s SAR (specific absorption rate), a way of measuring the radiation absorbed by the body. It’s usually listed in the phone’s instruction manual. You can also look at the EWG’s report of cell phone SARs here — from the LG Quantum’s 0.35 W/kg on the low end to the Motorala Bravo’s 1.59 W/kg on the high end.

Take note for beer drinkers

Beer drinkers, take note: Your favorite pint may be healthier than you realize. When it comes to good-for-you happy hour beverages, we tend to think mainly of red wine and its heart-friendly antioxidants. Recent research, however, reveals that beer may also help what ales you, from reducing the risk of osteoporosis to beating brain fog.

But before you go on a beer binge, remember that moderation is key to reap its health perks. That means no more than two 12-ounce beers a day for men and one for women. “If you overdo it, alcohol can take a toll on your health, contributing to liver damage, certain cancers, heart problems, and more,” says Andrea Giancoli, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. People with certain health conditions — including gout, high triglycerides, or breast cancer, for example — should avoid drinking beer or other alcohol because it can exacerbate those health problems, according to Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for Everyday Health and The Today Show.

Too much alcohol can also cause weight gain. After multiple rounds, calories can add up quickly (a 12-ounce regular beer can pack up to 150 calories, while a light beer has around 100).

But for most of us, here are five healthy reasons to toast your next beer:

Beer Boost No. 1: A Stronger Skeleton

Make no bones about it: Beer in moderation may protect bone health thanks to its high silicon content. Participants who sipped one or two beers a day had greater bone mineral density than those who drank more or fewer beers, found a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Silicon helps stimulate bone-building cells, and the estrogenic effect of alcohol also has a protective quality for bones,” says study author Katherine Tucker, PhD, professor of nutritional epidemiology at Northeastern University in Boston. Which brew boasts the most silicon? Try an India Pale Ale. A 2010 University of California Davis study found that IPAs had the highest levels of the mineral.

Beer Boost No. 2: A More Powerful Ticker

A beer a day may keep heart disease away. “Alcohol raises levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol,” says Arthur Klatsky, MD, senior consultant in cardiology at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. “It also has anti-clotting effects, which keeps blood vessels clear and healthy.” In fact, Israeli researchers found that people who drank one beer daily had lower levels of fibrinogen, a protein that helps promote blood clotting, than those who abstained from drinking. (Blood clots can cause heart attack and stroke.) Study participants drank Maccabee beer, but researchers believe that any type of beer could have similar heart-healthy effects.

Beer Boost No. 3: Healthier Kidneys

Finnish researchers found that men who drank beer had a 40 percent lower risk of kidney stones compared to those who drank other types of alcohol. The benefit may be due to beer’s high water content. Dehydration can increase the risk of kidney stones, which are little deposits of salt and minerals such as calcium that can form in your kidneys. Beer’s hops (a kind of flower that gives beer its bitter flavor and acts as a preservative) may also help prevent kidney stones by slowing the release of calcium from bones.

Beer Boost No. 4: Better Brain Power

While excessive alcohol intake can cause irreparable brain damage, moderate daily consumption actually safeguards a sharp mind, research shows. One classic New England Journal of Medicine study, which analyzed the drinking habits of about 11,000 women over more than 15 years, found that those who had up to one drink a day had a 20 percent lower risk of brain function decline (as measured by memory and other cognition tests) than nondrinkers. Alcohol intake may protect blood vessels in the brain and also lower stroke risk, say researchers.

Beer Boost No. 5: Lower Cancer Risk

Beer’s health benefits aren’t limited to those who drink it: Marinating steak in your favorite brew could eliminate up to 88 percent of the carcinogens that form as a result of pan-frying meat, according to a Portuguese study. Cooking meat at high temperatures creates cancer-causing compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Researchers think that the sugars in beer help prevent HCA formation.

Talk Help Ease Chronic Fatigue

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who participated in programs aimed at helping them overcome their symptoms — a combination of exercise and counseling — improved more than those whose treatment was intended to help them adapt to the limitations of the disease, a large randomized trial found.

Mean fatigue scores among patients treated with graded exercise therapy — a tailored program that gradually increases exercise capacity — were 3.2 points lower than scores in patients who received specialist medical care alone, according to Dr. Peter D. White, of Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues.

Furthermore, fatigue scores were lower by 3.4 points among patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a therapist works with the patient to understand the disease, alleviate fears about activity, and help overcome obstacles to functioning.

In contrast, among patients who were treated with a program known as adaptive pacing therapy, which emphasizes energy limitations and avoidance of excess activity, scores differed by only 0.7 points the researchers reported online in The Lancet.

In a press briefing describing the study findings, co-investigator Dr. Trudie Chalder, of King’s College London, said, “We monitored safety very carefully, because we wanted to be sure we weren’t causing harm to any patients.”

“The number of serious adverse events was miniscule,” she added.

Another co-investigator, Dr. Michael Sharpe, of the University of Edinburgh, commented that a difficulty in the management of chronic fatigue syndrome has been ambiguity — about the causes and whether these treatments recommended by NICE actually are effective.

“The evidence up to now has suggested benefit, but this study gives pretty clear-cut evidence of safety and efficacy. So I hope that addresses the ambiguity,” Sharpe said during the press briefing.

4 Ways to Save Energy With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

However, the investigators conceded that the beneficial effects of these treatments were only moderate, with less than one-third of participants being within normal ranges for fatigue and functioning, and only about 40 percent reporting that their overall health was much better or very much better.

“Our finding that studied treatments were only moderately effective also suggests research into more effective treatments is needed,” they wrote.

In addition, they stated that their finding of efficacy for cognitive behavioral therapy “does not imply that the condition is psychological in nature.”

The importance of cognitive behavioral therapy was further emphasized by Dr. Benjamin H. Natelson, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“This approach of encouragement of activity and discouragement of negative thinking should be a tool in every physician’s armamentarium,” he said.

“We know that cognitive behavioral therapy and gentle physical conditioning help people cope with any chronic disease — even congestive heart failure and multiple sclerosis,” Natelson said in an interview with MedPage Today.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by persisting or relapsing fatigue for at least six months that cannot be explained by any other physical or psychiatric disorder.

The fatigue is debilitating, and often is accompanied by joint and muscle pain, headaches, and tenderness of the lymph nodes.

In an editorial published with the study, Dr. Gijs Bleijenberg, and Dr. Hans Knoop, of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, explained the differences in these types of treatment for chronic fatigue.

Facebook Effect For Your Health

Is it us, or are news headlines about Facebook’s impact on our health popping up more and more these days? Considering that 51 percent of Americans over age 12 now have profiles on the social networking site compared to 8 percent just three years ago, according to new data from Edison Research, it’s no wonder there are entire scientific journals devoted to the psychology of social networking, and piles of studies analyzing such sites’ effects on our moods, body image, friendships, and marriages.

Negative conditions such as “Facebook depression” or Facebook-fueled divorces bear the brunt of the media blitz, but much of the body of research actually points to positive perks from Facebook use. Here, a deeper look at how all those “likes,” “pokes,” and status updates are really affecting you and your family’s well-being, and how you can outsmart some of the potentially negative side effects.

Health Benefits of Facebook

Research shows that Facebook can:

  1. Fuel self-esteem. In a Cornell University study, students felt better about themselves after they updated their Facebook profiles; a control group of students who didn’t log onto the site didn’t experience such a mood lift. The very act of posting something about yourself — regardless of what you write — can boost your self-confidence because you control the image you present to your network of friends, according to researchers.Similarly, according to a Michigan State University study, students with low self-esteem and happiness levels who used Facebook more frequently felt more connected to friends and campus life than those who logged on less often.
  2. Strengthen friendship bonds. In a small study of heavy Facebook-using young British adults between ages 21 and 29, Lancaster University researchers found that the site helped cement positive interactions among friends. Both private messages and wall posts allowed Facebook users to confide in their friends, surf down memory lane, and laugh out loud, promoting happy feelings.
  3. Stamp out shyness and loneliness. In a soon-to-be-published Carnegie Mellon study, researchers who surveyed more than 1,100 avid Facebook-using adults found that receiving messages from friends and consuming info from friends’ news feeds boosted feelings of connectedness, especially in people with self-described “low social skills.” Authors say that for shy people, gleaning information from news feeds and profiles can help start conversations they otherwise might not be comfortable enough to strike up. “People who are uncomfortable chatting face to face gain more through their use of the site,” says study co-author Moira Burke, a PhD candidate in the university’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute.Similar benefits hold true for tweens and teens: Australian researchers who studied more than 600 students between age 10 and 16 found that communicating online helped improve communication skills for lonely adolescents, giving them an outlet to talk more comfortably about personal topics.

Health Risks of Facebook

Research also shows that Facebook can:

  1. Cause depression. A recently published American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) paper made a major splash when it described Facebook depression — a condition said to result when tweens and teens spend too much time on social media, leading them to turn to “substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or aggressive or self-destructive behaviors.”However, the phenomenon is more anecdotal than based on solid science, and some experts suggest that it’s more of a correlation — that people who are depressed may simply be more likely to use Facebook. “People who are already feeling down or depressed might go online to talk to their friends, and try and be cheered up,” wrote John M. Grohol, PsyD, founder and editor-in-chief of PsychCentral.com on his blog. “This in no way suggests that by using more and more of Facebook, a person is going to get more depressed.”In one of the papers cited by the AAP report, researchers found that the more time first-time Internet users spent online, the more likely they were to experience loneliness and depression but a follow-up study showed such effects disappeared a year later, according to Dr. Grohol. “It may simply be something related to greater familiarity with the Internet,” he wrote. In another paper referenced by the AAP report, the depression-Facebook link only held true among people with “low-quality” friendships; people with good pals did not experience depression with increasing Facebook use.
  2. Trigger eating disorders. The more time adolescent girls spent on the social networking site, the more likely they were to develop eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and extreme dieting, Israeli researchers recently found. Exposure to online fashion and music content, as well as watching TV shows like Gossip Girl, were also associated with an increased risk for eating disorders.But researchers aren’t saying that social networking sites necessarily cause eating disorders; as with Facebook depression, it may be that people prone to eating disorders spend more time online. What’s more, the researchers found that parents can help protect their daughters from harmful effects of media: The children of parents who were aware of what their daughters were viewing online — and talked to them about what they saw and how much time they spent — were less prone to develop eating disorders, according to study authors.
  3. Split up marriages. Facebook was referenced in 20 percent of divorce petitions processed in 2009 by Divorce-Online, a British law firm. Time magazine reported that feuding spouses use their Facebook pages to air dirty laundry, while their lawyers use posts as evidence in divorce proceedings. Sexual health expert Ian Kerner, PhD, recently blogged on CNN that he’s seen many relationships destroyed by “Facebook bombs” — people reconnecting with high school sweethearts or other blasts from the past that can lead to emotional, if not actual, cheating.

Long and Be Positive For Your Health

Patients with coronary heart disease who have positive expectations about recovery, expressing beliefs such as “I can still live a long and healthy life,” had greater long-term survival, researchers reported.

Among a cohort of almost 3,000 patients undergoing coronary angiography, those with the highest expectations for outcomes actually had the best outcomes, Dr. John C. Barefoot, and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

“Patients differ widely in terms of their psychological reactions to major illnesses such as coronary heart disease,” Barefoot’s group explained online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Related: Should I Have an Angiogram?

To explore the specific potential influence of recovery expectations, rather than overall optimistic personality traits, the investigators enrolled 2,818 patients with clinically significant disease and followed them for about 15 years.

Recovery expectations were assessed on the Expectations for Coping Scale, in which patients agreed or disagreed with statements such as “I doubt that I will ever fully recover from my heart problems” and “My heart condition will have little or no effect on my ability to do work.”

Patients were stratified into quartiles according to their expectation scores.

After adjustment for multiple variables, the mortality rate in the highest quartile — the most optimistic group — was 32 per 100 versus 46 per 100, respectively, “illustrating a substantial magnitude of this effect even after taking multiple covariates into account,” Barefoot and colleagues observed.

“These observations add to a compelling body of evidence that endorsing optimistic expectations for one’s future heart health is associated with clinically important benefits to cardiovascular outcomes,” Dr. Robert Gramling, and Dr. Ronald Epstein, of the University of Rochester in New York, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study.

“The degrees of evidence observed in these studies suggest that optimism is a powerful ‘drug’ that compares favorably with highly effective medical therapies,” they wrote.

Other experts advised caution, however.

“Like all observational studies, unmeasured patient characteristics may have contributed to the better outcomes,” observed Dr. Steven E. Nissen, of the Cleveland Clinic.

“Patients with a ‘positive’ attitude may simply be healthier than patients with a negative attitude. In fact, their ‘attitude’ may reflect their health status,” Nissen wrote to MedPage Today and ABC News in an e-mail.

Two “plausible” hypotheses can help explain the study findings, according to Barefoot and colleagues.

First, patients who are optimistic may use more effective strategies to cope with recovery from illness, by addressing the problem and reducing risk factors.

Second, patients whose outlook is more negative may experience worse stress that in turn could have harmful cardiac effects.

Related: How Optimism Helps in the Long Run

Limitations of the study, according to the investigators, included the possibility of confounders and selection bias.

“These findings argue for expanded efforts to understand the influence of recovery expectations and the potential benefits of attempts to modify them,” Barefoot’s group concluded.

However, the potential efficacy of such efforts is uncertain, according to Dr. James Kirkpatrick, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“Whether a patient’s outlook can be changed (or patients can change their outlook) and improve results, and whether there are other factors which might make these patients do better, is unknown. One of those factors might be that cardiovascular providers give better care to patients with a positive outlook — perhaps spending more time with them or being more conscientious,” wrote Kirkpatrick in an email to MedPage Today and ABC News.

“Future studies will need to take this possible mechanism into account,” wrote Kirkpatrick.

The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging.

One author has a patent pending on an allele as a marker of cardiovascular disease and stress, and is a founder and major stockholder in Williams LifeSkills Inc.

Editorialist Gramling is funded by the National Palliative Care Research Center and the Greenwall Foundation.

Learn from the Happiest Man

What does the happiest man in America look like? According to a collaboration between The New York Times and Gallup, he’s Alvin Wong: a 69-year-old Chinese-American Jewish man, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. Wong runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year.

Why is Wong so jovial? Because he meets the criteria of what makes for happy living, according to data that Gallup has collected from Americans over the last three years on such factors as emotional health, financial status, stress, healthy habits, and more. Gallup uses the data to create an algorithm called the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index, which provides a daily glimpse into how well Americans feel. When the Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America based on their research, Wong fit the bill.

So what can the rest of us learn from Alvin Wong about our own chances for happiness? Here’s a look at a few factors that may contribute to a more blissful life, according to the Gallup Well-Being Index.

Related: Psst, Here Are 10 Secrets of Happy Couples

No. 1: Location, Location, Location — or Maybe Not

Wong’s home state of Hawaii ranks highest in the Well-Being Index with a score of 71 out of 100. Beautiful beaches and abundant sunshine are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face, but Hawaii is by no means the only state with happiness potential. In fact, within four points of the Aloha State are Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, South Dakota, Utah, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Massachusetts — proving that you don’t have to live in a tropical paradise to be happy.

At the bottom of the index, the least happy states include Michigan, Louisiana, Nevada, Delaware, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and, in last place, West Virginia.

Related: 8 Ways to Be Happier

No. 2: Money Makes a Difference — to a Point

While Wong’s reported household income of $120,000 correlated with feeling good about his life, recent research shows that the magic number may actually be less than that — $45,000 less, in fact. The 2010 study from Princeton University showed that there may be diminishing returns on happiness once you’re earning more than $75,000 annually.

Beyond that number, most people didn’t experience an increase in day-to-day well-being, although they did report greater overall satisfaction with life. “It’s really important to recognize that the word ‘happiness’ covers a lot of ground,” study author Angus Deaton told HealthDay in After $75,000, Money Can’t Buy Day-to-Day Happiness. “There is your overall evaluation of how your life is going, while the other has to do more with emotional well-being at the moment. Higher incomes don’t seem to have any effect on well-being after around $75,000, whereas your evaluation of your life keeps going up along with income.”

No. 3: The Power of Believing in a Higher Power

Wong is an observant Jew, and you too may be happier if you are a regular at a church, mosque, temple, or synagogue. Recent findings from Gallup show that Americans who make religion an important part of their daily lives (and attend weekly services) are happier than those who are moderately religious or non-religious. The “very religious” rate higher on the Well-Being Index across all six categories including emotional and physical health and job satisfaction.

Drug Reactions on the Rise

If you’ve ever gotten a rash from taking an antibiotic or gained weight on an antidepressant, you know that taking medicine means balancing the benefit of the drug against the possible risk of unpleasant, and sometimes even dangerous, side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calls these unwanted consequences “adverse events,” and once a drug is on the market, watches closely to see if it needs to reevaluate a drug’s safety. FDA does this in part through their MedWatch program, where health professionals and the general public can report any reactions or problems they suspect may have been caused by a medication. Medwatch reports and those submitted by drug manufacturers are combined into a single database for drug safety evaluation, the Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS).

According to a study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the reporting of serious adverse events through AERS (those that can lead to hospitalization, significant health problems, or even death) has increased dramatically in recent years — a 2.6-fold increase in serious events and a 2.7-fold increase in deaths reported between 1998 and 2005 (the last year for which data was available for the study).

In fact, half of the 2.2 million total reports in the database since its inception in 1969 were received in just the past 10 years, the study found, increasing at a rate of more than 11 percent per year. Slightly more women than men had adverse events (55 percent compared to 45 percent).

Does This Mean Our Medicines Have Become More Dangerous?

Not necessarily, says the study’s lead author, Sheila Weiss Smith, PhD, director of the Center for Drug Safety at the University of Maryland. The spike could be due to several factors:

  • Greater awareness of the reporting system
  • Access to the Internet, making it easier for people to report problems than the old system (in which you had to call, fax, or mail a report to FDA)
  • The fact that people are taking more drugs for longer periods of time (thus increasing the potential for side effects, as well as interactions between drugs)
  • The aging of the U.S. population (older people often experience more problems with drugs)

News reports of FDA action on a drug also tend to increase the number of reports, says Dr. Weiss Smith. Her research found that many reports about problems with the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx came in after it was withdrawn from the market.

On the other hand, some newer drugs also have more inherent risks and side effects. Among the most frequently reported drugs in the study were several recombinant DNA drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Because such drugs, such as Humira or Enbrel, are used for serious illnesses for which few other effective treatments are available, patients need to discuss with their doctors whether the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks (more on this below).

What Is the Adverse Event Reporting System?

The reporting system is designed as a safety net to flag potential drug problems, explains Robert Feroli, Pharm.D, medical safety officer at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center Department of Pharmacy. FDA has to perform a balancing act between getting drugs to the market quickly and learning as much as possible about potential adverse effects. Because drugs are tested on a relatively small number of people, only after a drug is released can you get a full picture of potential problems, based on a large, diverse population. For example, Vioxx was was tested on 5,000 people before it was approved, but many millions more took it after approval, when serious side effects like heart attacks began showing up.

If there is an unusually high number of reports on a drug, FDA will evaluate the claims and may request further studies, require changes to the drug’s labeling information, or rarely, remove the drug from the market, as with Vioxx.

Protect Yourself From Medical Identity Theft

A greater concern to the Wisconsin medical community may be the fate of workers — including physicians — who work at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison.

According to Donna Katen-Bahensky, president and CEO of the hospital, the Wisconsin legislature restructured the hospital 17 years ago, creating two entities, “the UW Hospital and Clinical Authority and the UW Hospital and Clinics Board.”

The bill supported by Governor Scott Walker and Republicans in the state senate would eliminate the UWHC Board and make all hospital and clinic workers employees of the UW Hospital and Clinic Authority, Katen-Bahensky explained in an e-mail sent last Friday to all UW Hospital and Clinics employees.

She said the governor’s bill would also eliminate collective bargaining for those employees.

In a letter sent to the governor, Katen-Bahensky wrote, “we were surprised to see provisions eliminating collective bargaining for UW Hospital and Clinics Authority (UWHCA) employees. As you know, nearly 5,000 of our 7,500 employees bargain collectively and this has existed since we became a public authority 17 years ago.”

Moreover, Katen-Bahensky added, the hospital has “a long history of collective bargaining and strong relationships with our labor unions. Eliminating collective bargaining for UWHCA has no fiscal effect to the state since we receive no General Purpose Revenue.”

Katen-Bahensky concluded with a gentle reminder that communicating with employees “about workplace decisions is a bedrock principle for us.”

The Reason Group Claims Caramel Coloring

The FDA should ban the use of two compounds widely used in food products, including market giants Coke and Pepsi as well as other soft drinks, because they pose a cancer risk, according to a petition filed by a citizen’s group.

But the American Beverage Association denounced the petition, filed Feb. 16, as “nothing more than another attempt to scare consumers” that is not supported by science.

At issue are caramel colorings that contain 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole.

According to the petition, filed by the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, both have been found by the National Toxicology Program to cause cancer in animals.

Kick the Soda Habit With These 10 Tasty Alternatives

And last month, California regulators added one of them — 4-methylimidazole — to the list of chemicals “known to the state to cause cancer.” The state said the safe limit for consumption of the chemical is 16 micrograms a day.

However, a recent study suggested that 12 ounces of cola would contain up to 130 micrograms of the substance, according to the petition.

The coloring substances are made by treating sugars with ammonium alone or ammonium and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures; the two compounds are byproducts of the process.

Feeding studies conducted by the National Toxicology Program showed that high doses of the substances led to lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats.

The government researchers concluded there was “clear evidence” that 4-methylimidazole caused cancer in mice, although studies in rats were less clear, with significant increases in leukemia in females but no increase in tumor activity in males.

They also concluded that 2-methylimidazole caused cancer in female rats and argued there was “some evidence” the substance caused tumors in male and female mice.

“Carcinogenic colorings have no place in the food supply,” according to Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the citizens’ group.

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“The FDA should act quickly to revoke its approval of caramel colorings made with ammonia,” Jacobson said in a statement.

The American Beverage Association, however, noted that the National Toxicology Program does not include 4-methylimidazole among compounds on its list of substances “reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens.”

“No health regulatory agency around the globe, including the Food and Drug Administration, has said that 4-methylimidazole is a human carcinogen,” the association said in a statement.

The beverage association did not mention the other compound, 2-methylimidazole, and a representative was not immediately available for comment.