Testing It Up » May 2009

Monthly Archives: May 2009

Substance Abuse

Red Bull Cola Found to Have Traces of Cocaine!

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Authorities in a couple of states in Germany – Hesse and North-Rhine Westphalia – have reportedly prohibited retailers from selling Red Bull Cola. A nationwide ban in Germany may also be in the offing for the product, which is also available in the United Kingdom. At this time, Rewe, a German retail giant, has ordered the removal of Red Bull from its shops.

Red Bull ColaThe discovery was made by a food safety institute in North-Rhine Westphalia after an elaborate chemical test on samples of Red Bull Cola. This was revealed by Bernard Kuehnle, Head of the Food Safety Department at the Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection. What the investigation yielded was the presence of de-cocainized coca leaf extract in the drink.

While reports indicate that the levels of cocaine found in the samples were not necessarily life threatening, it is nevertheless deemed illegal. The presence of cocaine meant that the drink will need to be classified as a narcotic as opposed to a food product, and will require a special license to be marketed as such.

A spokesperson for Red Bull has released a statement on behalf of the manufacturer, saying that the de-cocainized coca leaf extract found in the drink is used as a natural flavoring in food worldwide. It is also arguing that Red Bull Cola as well as other food that contain coca leaf extract are considered as safe in the US and in the European Union.

Red Bull products are sold and used in some parts of the world as an energy drink. In Europe, Red Bull is popular as a “clubber’s drink” and is often mixed with vodka, according to reports. The company claims that the drink contains caffeine, vitamins and sugar which “kick-start the body’s metabolism and keeps people alert.”

Health & Wellness

Dealing with Food Intolerance

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Yesterday, we did a feature pointing out the differences between food intolerance and food allergies, as the two are normally mistakenly taken as one or the other. While the symptoms of food intolerance are not as immediate and severe unlike food allergies, the two conditions have one thing in common — they can both be prevented through the diligent avoidance of intake of the foods that cause them. foodsThere are no medications to treat food allergy or food intolerance, and as previously mentioned, the only way to prevent its occurrence is by diligently avoiding these foods. However, due to the common nature of the symptoms – nausea, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea – which are usually unpleasant but not necessarily viewed as harmful, it is often difficult to associate these symptoms with food intolerance. In this case, it may be beneficial to undergo a food intolerance test to identify the food types and ingredients that one is intolerant to, so that these foods can be cut from his or her diet. Once the offending food types are known, these can be removed from a person’s diet. At this point, it is important to be careful about the specific ingredients in the food that one is taking in. Food labels should be scrutinized carefully, and when eating out, be sure to inform the waiter about cases of intolerance so that the establishment will be able to recommend dishes that you can order without getting sick. Nowadays, however, food intolerance no longer necessarily equates to food deprivation, as there are now food intolerance products or “free-from” products. You can now purchase “lactose-free” milk and other such products, which will allow you to indulge your food fancy without worrying too much about intolerance.

Early Disease Detection

Cancer Death Rates in the US Going Down

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Based on the 2009 Cancer Statistics Report released by the American Cancer Society, it looks like Americans are doing something right as far as prevention, detection and treatment of the various forms of cancer is concerned. This includes the various agencies and organizations that develop and perform researches that lead towards innovation in cancer treatment, prevention and detection.

cancerDeath rates due to cancer between 1990 and 2005, a period of 15 years, were reviewed, and the analysis of the data showed a consistent decline in cancer death rates. Cancer death rates in men dropped 19.2% in the 15-year period, while death rates in women dropped by 11.4%. Both these figures are considered encouraging.

The decrease in death rates is being attributed to self-imposed prevention by Americans, such as choosing to quit smoking, especially among women. It is also being attributed to an increased awareness in detection techniques, such as early detection and screening for colorectal cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer. Lastly, cancer treatment has definitely evolved and improved in the last 15 years, saving more lives down the line.

If all these factors continue to improve for the better, then we may, by consequence, see cancer death rates decline even further.

A decline in smoking will especially be beneficial, as it is a risk factor for at least 15 types of cancer. According to the report, patients who develop tobacco-related cancers such as cancers of the lung and the esophagus have the highest risk of developing a second cancer. Most cancer survivors are more likely to develop another type of cancer versus someone who has never had a diagnosis. Survivors of breast cancer constitute almost half of women who end up developing a second cancer.

Despite these promising figures, though, cancer remains to be the leading cause of death among persons under 85, and still cause 25% of deaths in the US.

Home Health Hazards

Things You Use Everyday That Can Make You Sick

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Reading this feature from WebMD caught me by surprise. Who would have thought that simple, everyday things can actually make you sick? Although I found a couple of the things and tips rather unusual, there are a couple that I feel are worth sharing.

Using a sponge — this is something that I actually do mindlessly. A sponge and a wet dish rag are staples in my kitchen, and I use them to mop up everything until the kitchen is “clean” and “spotless”. Apparently, cleanliness using this method is only something that I perceive with my naked eyes. WebMD quotes Phillip Tierno, PhD, the Director of Clinical Microbiology and Diagnostic Immunology at the New York University Langone Medical Center, who said that these two things that I use to keep my kitchen clean are actually the two dirtiest things in it.

spongeWe usually work with raw meat in the kitchen, and these can carry E.coli and salmonella, among other viruses and bacteria. Simply using and reusing the same old sponge and dish rag day in and day out causes you to spread these bacteria and viruses around. What WebMD suggests is to dip the sponge in a solution of bleach and water before using it to wipe down surfaces. Then, make sure to let the sponge and the rag dry off instead of leaving it swimming in a dish with dishwashing liquid. You can also keep bacteria from building up by microwaving the sponge for one to two minutes in a dish with a little water once a week.

Another seeming harmless thing that can become a breeding place for allergies is sleeping with pillows and a mattress. According to the feature, the average person can shed about one and a half million skin cells per hour and perspire up to a quart daily even when doing nothing. So you can imagine how much of these accumulate during the 6 to 8 hours we spend sleeping. Add to that an accumulation of human hair, bacteria, dust, lint and dust mites and you have one invisible allergen fiesta!

WebMD suggests that the mattress, box springs and pillows should be kept covered with allergy-proof coverings. Sheets should also ideally be washed weekly in warm water.

New York Health Screening

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Arizona Poll Reveals Support for Marijuana Legalization

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Last week, the Arizona Daily Star conducted an online poll among its readers, inspired by the launch of an initiative campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Arizona.

A majority of the estimated 600 people who responded to the poll indicated that they were in favor of legalizing not just medical marijuana, but the use of marijuana for recreational purposes as well.

marijuanaA significant 70% of readers who responded also indicated that they believed that the legalization of marijuana will lead to a significant decrease in marijuana-related illegal trafficking and the violence that it brings with it as a consequence.

While there were conflicting arguments raised when readers were asked the question: “What impacts, good or bad, do you foresee if marijuana is legalized or remains illegal?”, some comments indicate the belief that legalization will lead to a decrease in crime and the generation of more funds through marijuana tax revenues that can be used to fund health care and fight the hard drug trade.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

US Soldiers Are First Confirmed Cases of H1N1 Flu in Kuwait

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A report from Reuters early Sunday morning revealed that 18 US soldiers are the first confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in Kuwait. The soldiers were reportedly confirmed as having the virus upon their arrival at the U.S. military base in Kuwait, according to Kuwaiti Health Ministry Undersecretary Dr. Ibrahim al-Abdulhadi.

US soldiersThe day before, Saturday, the state news agency KUNA had revealed that the H1N1 virus had been detected among an unspecified number of US soldiers who were passing through the country. Dr. al-Abdulhadi told KUNA that the soldiers had been completely quarantined in the military base in Arifjan, about 70 kilometers south of the country’s capital city, where they were given the proper medication.

As of roughly 5:30 AM Easter time, it was reported that the 18 soldiers that were infected by H1N1 flu virus have recovered and have left Kuwait, quoting Youssef Mandakar, the Deputy Head of the Public Health Department of Kuwait. The official said further that the soldiers only exhibited “mild symptoms” when they arrived at an Air Force base, but did not indicate when they arrived or from where they were traveling prior to their arrival in the country.

When news surfaced on Saturday, the US Embassy and the military did not reveal any detail surrounding the affected soldiers, other than providing assurance that all infected personnel were receiving treatment and that only two of them were hospitalized.

Deputy Head Mandakar also said that the soldiers did not have any contact with the local population and that they were treated in US military facilities, corroborating the statement given by Dr. al-Abdulhadi. As a result of the quarantine and the soldiers’ eventual departure, Kuwait in essence remains H1N1-free.

The oil-rich country is still not taking any chances, though, as airport officials continue screening passengers who are arriving at its international airport and keeping around 10 million doses of anti-viral drugs in reserve.

Early Disease Detection

Natalie Cole Gets New Kidney, But Loses Sister to Cancer

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For Natalie Cole, receiving a new kidney turned out to be bittersweet.

The 59-year old singer and daughter of the late legendary singer Nat King Cole had been undergoing dialysis three times a week since she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in September last year. An anonymous 22-year old fan reportedly watched Ms. Cole talk about her health concerns in April on Larry King Live, and decided to donate her kidney if they were a match; this was according to OneLegacy CEO Tom Mone, the agency that facilitated the match. Natalie Cole had been in dire need of a transplant.

Natalie ColeWhen Natalie Cole received the call about an available kidney donor, though, she was with her elder sister Carole Cole, who was battling lung cancer. Natalie reportedly wanted to postpone the surgery as she wanted to be with Carole, but she was told she needed to be at Cedars-Sinai in two hours. Carole Cole, 64, passed away while Natalie was in the operating room. Natalie Cole’s surgery was a success, but she is now mourning the loss of her elder sister.

Our thoughts go out to Natalie Cole and her family.

Early Disease Detection

Daniel Hauser Refusing Chemo: Not the First Time

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At this time, the search for Daniel Hauser and his mother continues, and opinions have been expressed both for and against their actions and their beliefs in general. The cancer-stricken teen and his mother seem to still be adamant about their refusal to submit to the prescribed treatment and medication for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Daniel HauserThis is not, however, the first time that a teenager has chosen to forego what is perceived by many as the best course of action for treating the disease. A feature on Fox News reveals two other cases where teenagers of Hauser’s age chose to submit themselves to natural, alternative therapies as opposed to chemotherapy and succeeded, not just in earning the right to choose their preferred therapy but in beating the disease.

Virginia resident Starchild Abraham Cherrix was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 2005. The then 15-year old figured in a legal battle with the state to earn the right to forego chemotherapy, choosing to treat his cancer with natural remedies and radiation instead. As in Hauser’s case, a lower court judge initially ruled that Cherrix should undergo chemotherapy. He decided to appeal the verdict, though, and a higher court granted his appeal a year later.

At 18, Cherrix has declared that he is cancer-free. A state law now exists in Virginia that allows parents and teens to refuse medical treatment and opt for alternative therapies; the law is named after Cherrix.

In 1994, Billy Best, who was then 16 years old and a resident of Massachusetts, ran away from home to avoid chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin’s disease. He only returned home after his parents agreed to the use of natural remedies instead of chemotherapy. Just like Cherrix, Best, now 31, also claims that he is cancer-free.

Virginia lawyer Barry Taylor, who represented Cherrix, said, however, that running away may not be the best option for Daniel Hauser at this point. It may be best for the teen and his mother to come home and, if both Daniel and his parents truly believe that alternative therapy is the best option, fight to earn the right to make that decision.

Early Disease Detection

Patrick Swayze Death News: Not True!

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A person’s life is something that merits the utmost respect, and I certainly could not understand how anyone can so carelessly announce that someone has passed away.

Patrick SwayzePatrick Swayze is one of the personalities who is constantly in our thoughts, in the hope that he constantly finds the strength and the courage that he needs to deal with the difficulties of living with pancreatic cancer. This is why it was rather annoying to learn that a radio station out of Jacksonville, Florida, had erroneously and, in my opinion, irresponsibly announced that the actor had passed away. Representatives of Patrick Swayze were quick to dispel the false news.

Is it too much for celebrities such as Patrick Swayze and Farrah Fawcett to ask for a little bit of sensitivity regarding the challenges that they are currently facing? Is it not enough that they are constantly living in uncertainty that they also have to deal with false speculation regarding their condition? Celebrity or not, it all just seems so unfair.

Florida Health Screening

Early Disease Detection

Farrah Fawcett: Her Story

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As the week wound down, the story of a woman was told — this time, in her words, they way she wanted to tell it. This was the real deal, not the small snippets of images and half-truths that the overly curious get from people who hide in corners.

“Farrah’s Story” was a two-hour video diary of the former Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett’s life with anal cancer. Just a few days ago, we shared with you her fight for her privacy, but while she places value on living in peace, the release of the documentary, for me, means that she does recognize the fact that there are people out there who would like to know how she is and to sympathize with her. It also shows that there is a desire in her to share her story, perhaps to shed light into her disease and maybe help others deal with the challenges that they are currently facing or will face.

Farrah FawcettThe entire film is roughly two years in the making, as it covers her bout with anal cancer, showing in all its detail the treatments and procedures that she needed to undergo. There are scenes which will show her writhing in agony, a far cry from the Farrah of the 70s that people rushed to the TV to watch – with her majestic blond locks waving in the wind, fighting crime.

Her friend Alana Stewart and partner Ryan O’Neal helped her with this project, with Stewart, the filmographer, handling the camera for the most part. Interspersed between heart-wrenching scenes of Farrah trying to live life to the fullest in spite of it all are interviews with friends, family members, and even some doctors. It provides both drama and important information – and this is all real life.

Recent updates seem to indicate that Farrah is not at her best. Her son, Redmond, unfortunately serving time for felony drug possession, was given permission to see his ailing mother, albeit dressed in a prison jumpsuit and shackles. It is disheartening, though, that a time like this, a lawsuit has been filed by a producer who worked on the documentary. Could his timing be any more inappropriate and insensitive?

As always, our thoughts and prayers are with Farrah and her family. We thank her, though, for sharing her remarkable story for everyone to learn from.