Common Anemia Drugs May Increase Death Risk – Issue 06

Dear Health-Conscious Friend,

Welcome back to The Monday Edition of Health News Weekly™!

In case you haven’t heard about the Food and Drug Administration’s “black box” medication warnings, read on to find out which drugs are getting them…

…plus, you’ll find out how “diet” snacks can actually cause you to pack on extra pounds—and how they might not be as healthy as you think.

In honor of National Headache Awareness Week, we’ll share some easy, natural ways to relieve your headaches. You’re sure to find some tips you can use and share with your friends!

Let’s not waste another minute…

Warning: Common Anemia Drugs May Increase
Death Risk in Cancer and Kidney Patients

Tonia Beverly, Contributing Editor

Federal regulators have issued new warnings asking doctors to increase discretion in prescribing common anemia drugs such as Procrit®, Aranesp® and Epogen®. According to a March 2007 U.S. Food and Drug Administration press release, the drug labels must now carry a ‘black box’ warning—the most serious drug warning label—to recommend using the lowest dose of medication needed to lessen the risk of blood clots.

The new labels must also warn of the increased risk for death or other serious medical complications if patients use higher than FDA-recommended doses.

Procrit®, Aranesp® and Epogen® belong to a class of drugs called erythopoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs). This includes genetically engineered forms of the natural human protein called erythropoietin, or EPO.

Your kidneys produce EPO naturally to increase production of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all your tissues and organs. If you’re anemic, you don’t have enough red blood cells to provide the proper amounts of life-giving oxygen to your body. This is because your kidneys don’t produce enough EPO to help bone marrow make red blood cells.

ESAs are approved to treat anemia in patients with chronic kidney failure or for cancer patients with anemia caused by chemotherapy treatments. Also, Epogen® and Procrit® are prescribed for patients undergoing major surgery—to reduce the need for blood transfusions.

New study findings describe an increased risk of death… blood clots… strokes… and heart attacks in patients with chronic kidney failure—most notably when they took ESAs at higher than recommended doses.

The agency warned that even when the anemia drugs were used at FDA-recommended doses, cancer patients who were not on chemotherapy experienced increased risk of death.

Dr. Steven Galson, director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said the agency will continue to evaluate ESA drug safety. Dr. Galson said “further revisions to the labeling may occur” after FDA advisers discuss the drugs at the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee meeting in May.

Are Low-Fat Snacks Making You F-A-T?

Roz Roscoe, Staff Writer

You’ve likely heard that too much fat in your diet can increase your risk of heart disease—not to mention how it packs the pounds on your figure.

To try and win the battle of the bulge, many folks turn to low-fat packaged meals and snacks to try and melt away the pounds. Taking in less fat is sure to help your body burn its extra fat, right?

Well… yes and no! Many of the foods sporting a low-fat label can be packed with extra sugars. Excess sugar in your diet means extra calories. When your body doesn’t burn all the calories you take in each day, the rest turn into—you guessed it—more FAT.

Another problem with low-fat foods involves the way you think about them. A recent study sponsored by Cornell University found that people eat up to 50 percent more calories when they eat low-fat versions of snack foods than when they eat the regular versions.

The study, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, showed people often underestimated the amount of calories in low-fat snacks—which often causes them to eat more than the recommended serving size. In fact, study participants ate an average of 90 more calories when a snack had a low-fat label.

Regarding the low-fat foods used in the study, Cornell University Professor of Marketing and of Applied Economics, Dr. Brian Wansink says “the fat-free version was not much lower in calories than the regular version.” And that’s true for many of the low-fat snacks on your grocery store shelves.

Dr. Wansink recommends labeling low-fat foods with larger, more realistic serving sizes. He thinks that more accurate calorie counts might prevent people from overeating. People should also recognize the hidden danger in replacing excess fats with extra sugar…

The Sour Truth About Sugar!

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 60 million Americans suffer with serious blood sugar imbalances.

The worst part is—if you do have this problem, you probably don’t know you’re in danger!

Insulin—your metabolism’s “master hormone”—delivers sugar to your cells for energy. It also controls your blood sugar levels… burns fat… helps break down carbohydrates… and delivers energy to your cells. If your body doesn’t produce the right levels of insulin—you can’t get the sugar out of your blood properly.

Excess sugar in your body can cause health problems such as extreme thirst… fatigue… energy loss… frequent urination… and weight gain. In time, the extra sugar circulating in your bloodstream can even damage your heart, kidneys, eyes, brain and every cell in your body!

Even if you don’t have full blown diabetes—don’t think you’re immune. The American Diabetes Association says over 41 million people are “pre-diabetics”. This is an increasingly common condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal—but not yet at more chronic levels associated with diabetes.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services research shows pre-diabetics are likely to develop more chronic blood sugar abnormalities within 10 years. Don’t worry—modest changes in your diet and exercise plan can help reduce your risk of developing more serious health concerns.

Natural Solutions for Balanced Blood Sugar

A simple way to help control blood sugar levels is by choosing foods with low glycemic numbers. The Glycemic Index (GI) measures the amount of sugar in food. Foods with low glycemic numbers—such as whole grain bread, vegetables and fruits—help normalize your blood sugar. They can also help stabilize your metabolism so you burn body fat and keep your appetite in check.

Foods with very high GIs send your blood sugar and insulin levels through the roof! The extra insulin eventually causes your blood sugar to drop quickly—and leaves you feeling dizzy, shaky, tired, and hungry for MORE sugar.

Regular exercise can help you control your weight and normalize blood sugar levels. As your muscles contract during exercise, they use sugar for energy. This can help rid your body of excess sugar—before it can damage your health.

In addition to boosting your exercise program and eating low GI foods, Mother Nature provides another natural blood sugar balancer. Doctors and scientists now know that the fragrant spice cinnamon has properties that help to stabilize your blood sugar.

So sprinkle cinnamon in your morning oatmeal… or swirl some cinnamon into your hot apple cider. You can also take natural supplements that include cinnamon in the sugar-balancing formula.

If you’re concerned about your weight—don’t fall into the trap of overeating low-fat foods. Foods with moderate amounts of fat and sugar, combined with regular exercise, are the best way to keep your body fine-tuned and running smoothly.

Fast Fact

Sore throat?

Just mix 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup of honey and take 1 tablespoon six times a day. The vinegar kills the bacteria.

Health E-Hints

Quick Help for an Aching Head!

Stress… odors… foods… smoking… these are just a few things that can trigger headaches and make you feel lousy. If you’d rather not rely on painkillers for relief, WebMD offers these home-spun remedies to ease the throbbing pain:

  • Use an ice pack on the painful area of your head
  • Take a warm bath or shower to help you relax
  • Have a back or neck rub—or even a full-body massage!
  • Use your thumbs to apply gentle but steady rotating pressure to the painful area; maintain the pressure for about 10-15 seconds then release
  • Rest in a low-lit room to relieve back, neck and shoulder tension.