Sunday, August 29, 2010

Antidepressant Medications and Osteoporosis

An article in the Archives of Medicine (Vol. 167 No. 2. Jan. 22, 2007) found that daily use of the most common antidepressants--SSRI's such as Prozac®, Zoloft®, Welbutron®-- were found result in a 2005 increase risk of bone fractures. This study examined a group of patients who were 50 years of age and older and they were studied for five years. This is the age group most commonly at risk for osteoporosis.

Why would the use of antidepressants result in an increased risk of osteoporosis? In this study, daily SSRI use was found to be associated with a significantly increased risk of falling (2,100% increased) and a lowered bone mineral density of the hip and the spine. All of these effects were dose dependant, meaning the longer you took the medications, the more problems you may have with them.

It is well known that SSRI’s can cause an increased risk of falls, which do increase the risk of fractures. Although the exact mechanism associated with a decreased bone mineral density in those that took SSRI’s is not clearly defined, this is one more study showing the adverse effects of taking a drug that poisons a crucial enzyme in the body.

As I wrote in Drugs That Don’t Work and Natuaral Therapies That Do, 2nd Edition, the long- term use of a medication that poisons a crucial enzyme or blocks an important receptor is a recipe for future health problems. SSRI’s should be the last choice in treating depression. There are many safer and more effective strategies to managing depression than relying solely on SSRI’s, such as diet and exercise. In fact, there are many studies showing exercise has a better anti-depressant effect compared to SSRI drugs.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why You Need to Avoid Fructose

A recent study (Cancer Research) reported that pancreatic tumor cells were found to use fructose to divide and grow. The researchers from UCLA found that tumor cells fed both glucose and fructose used the two sugars in different ways. Fructose was found to result in rapid growth of pancreatic cells. “These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation,” Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center and colleagues wrote.
The human body absorbs glucose and fructose using different pathways. It would make sense that there would be differing responses from cancer cells to glucose and fructose.
We eat much too much fructose. Estimates are that Americans eat approximately 50gm/day. Many chronic diseases can be linked to the overconsumption of fructose such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Many (if not most) sweetened foods and beverages are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. It is found in most bakery products, soft drinks, yogurts, as well as other foods.
What can you do? Look at your food labels and, most importantly, think about what you are eating. Eat whole foods without added sugars. Do not drink soda (sugar-free soda is really no better). Drink water instead.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shingles Vaccine? Think Again!

I frequently get asked by my patients, “Should I take the shingles vaccine?” Shingles is a consequence of the chicken pox virus which becomes reactivated and causes a rash. Associated with the rash can be a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia. A vaccine that avoids the onset of postherpetic neuralgia would be a worthy item.
Zostovex is a vaccine that contains live, attenuated chicken pox virus (varicella-zoster). It is the same vaccine given to children to prevent chicken pox, only it is approximately 14 times stronger in the adult version. It has been approved by the FDA for the prevention of shingles in adults 60 years of age or older. The advisory council on immunization practices has recommended Zostovex as a prevention of postherpetic neuralgia.

As previously mentioned, a vaccine to prevent postherpetic neuralgia sounds good. Is it effective? An article in The American Academy of Family Practice (6.15.07. Vol. 75, No. 12) summarized the research on this vaccine. The article reports a 50% decline in shingles and a 66% decline in postherpetic neuralgia with the use of Zostovex. The authors conclude that Zostovex “… is an effective vaccine that should be offered to patients who are 60 years and older.” But, further review of the data provides a much different picture.

For the prevention of shingles, 3.3% of unvaccinated persons developed shingles compared to 1.6% of vaccinated people. The ‘50%’ claim that the article touted is the less-than-accurate ‘relative risk’ level (calculated by the following formula--1.6/3.3). The more accurate ‘absolute risk’ shows a 1.7% decline (3.3-1.6). (

For the prevention of postherpetic neuralgia, the manufacture of the vaccine, Merck, touts a 39% decline with the use of the vaccine. Further analysis of the data might lead you to a different conclusion. Approximately 0.4% of unvaccinated persons versus 0.14% of vaccinated people developed postherpetic neuralgia. The 39% decline is the less-than-accurate ‘relative risk’ (0.14/ 0.4). IF we looked at the more accurate absolute risk, we come up with a decline of 0.26% of postherpetic neuralgia in those that were vaccinated. The vaccine costs approximately $200.00.

So, for $200.00, we get a 0.26% decline in developing postherpetic neuralgia. I don’t think a 0.26% decline is anything worth spending nearly $200.00. What can you do? Keep your immune system strong to prevent shingles in the first place. Eat a good diet free of refined foods. In my practice, I have found Vitamin C IV’s very helpful for those that develop shingles/postherpetic neuralgia. Also, NAET (, an acupressure treatment, has been very helpful for treating shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. Lastly, Vitamin B12 shots have also been very effective at eradicating postherpetic neuralgia.