Fun Physical Activity Extends Life up to 4.5 years

NIH study finds leisure-time physical activity extends life expectancy as much as 4.5 years

Leisure-time physical activity is associated with longer life expectancy, even at relatively low levels of activity and regardless of body weight, according to a study by a team of researchers led by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study, which found that people who engaged in leisure-time physical activity had life expectancy gains of as much as 4.5 years, appeared Nov. 6, 2012, in PLoS Medicine External Web Site Policy.

Couple on bike ride
A man adjusts a woman’s helmet strap as they prepare for a bicycle ride.

In order to determine the number of years of life gained from leisure-time physical activity in adulthood, which translates directly to an increase in life expectancy, researchers examined data on more than 650,000 adults. These people, mostly age 40 and older, took part in one of six population-based studies that were designed to evaluate various aspects of cancer risk.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of NIH, recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 engage in regular aerobic physical activity External Web Site Policy for 2.5 hours at moderate intensity — or 1.25 hours at vigorous intensity — each week. Moderate activities are those during which a person could talk but not sing. Vigorous activities are those during which a person could say only a few words without stopping for breath.

After accounting for other factors that could affect life expectancy, the researchers found that life expectancy was 3.4 years longer for people who reported they got the recommend level of physical activity. People who reported leisure-time physical activity at twice the recommended level gained 4.2 years of life. In general, more physical activity corresponded to longer life expectancy.

Bar chart of life expectancy lossese
This bar graph displays years of life loss at various body weights and levels of activity (met guidelines, 50 of guidelines, and inactive). For normal weight, the years lost by activity level were 0, 2.4 and 4.7. For overweight, 0. 1.8 and 3.9. For Obese Level 1 (BMI under 35), 1.6, 3.2, and 5. For Obese Level 2 (BMI over 35), 4.5, 6.2, 7.2.

The researchers even saw benefit at low levels of activity. For example, people who said they got half of the recommended amount of physical activity still added 1.8 years to their life.

“Our findings highlight the important contribution that leisure-time physical activity in adulthood can make to longevity,” said study author Steven Moore, Ph.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and lead author of the study. “Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our study — normal weight, overweight, or obese.”

The researchers found that the association between physical activity and life expectancy was similar between men and women, and blacks gained more years of life expectancy than whites. The relationship between life expectancy and physical activity was stronger among those with a history of cancer or heart disease than among people with no history of cancer or heart disease.

The researchers also examined how life expectancy changed with the combination of both activity and obesity. Obesity was associated with a shorter life expectancy, but physical activity helped to mitigate some of the harm. People who were obese and inactive had a life expectancy that was between five to seven years shorter (depending on their level of obesity) than people who were normal weight and moderately active.

Bar chart of life expectancy gains
This bar graph displays the years of life gained when participants met various percentages of HHS guidelines for physical activity. 50% = 1.8 years. 100% = 3.4 years. 200% = 4.2 years. 300% = 4.5 years.

Physical activity has been shown to help maintain a healthy body weight, maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, promote psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of certain diseases,including some cancers.

“We must not underestimate how important physical activity is for health – even modest amounts can add years to our life,” said I-Min Lee, M.D., Sc.D. External Web Site Policy, professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass., and senior author on the study.

This work was supported by NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics under intramural project number ZIACP010196 and by NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences under grants CA105069 and CA047988. Additional support was received from two other parts of the NIH, the National Institute on Aging (AG18033), and the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute (HL043851 and HL080467).

NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at or call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health ®

Reference: Moore SC, et al. Leisure Time Physical Activity of Moderate to Vigorous Intensity and Mortality: A Large Pooled Cohort Analysis. PLoS Medicine. November 6, 2012. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335.

What Does Your Benefits Consultant or Broker Really Do For You?

In these changing times in healthcare and employee benefits, with a slow economy and high unemployment, it is more important that ever to reassess your operations.  One of those is the area of health consultants, or benefit consultants.  As with travel agents, who used to get discounts and plan your trips for you, consultants and brokers are losing in the new changes in healthcare.  Airlines stopped giving discounts to travel agents and paying for free travel.  They could not give you a better a deal than Travleocity, Priceline, Expedia, or a host of other sites.  That is why very few travel agents survived.

In the new employee benefits arena, increasingly brokers are challenged to provide savings you could not get in your own market.  Some try to complicate matters or keep their clients in the dark about what they do.  Brokers can get anywhere from 1% to 20% or more depending on the size of the contract, the type of employee benefit, and the incentives they have to place business with certain insurers.  “Free brokers” still get paid, but they get paid by the insurers.  That being the case, do you really think they are working for you?  Or for those who pay them?  As the market consolidates and National Healthcare Reform is implemented, many brokers and consultants will go away, unless they have some new value added.

That is why I am so impressed with the new model of purchasing cooperatives.  They work exclusively for their members, not the insurers.  They are able to negotiate huge group discounts with insurance carriers, and hire their own consultants that work for them and are not allowed to take any compensation or incentives from carriers.  The Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) is one such purchasing group, and perhaps one of the best in the country, saving their members million in premiums and overhead costs per year.

The VSMG does not hide its practices behind a veil of secrecy like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.  On the contrary, they hold quarterly benefits meetings, board meetings, do presentations at each member site, hold an annual information conference, report regularly and openly on their audited financials, investments and expenditures, and even have an annual study session to explain to each member organization exactly what they are doing.  Here is a Power Point from one such recent meeting.  Does your broker or consultant do this for you?  In this case VSMG, run by Tom Boone, hires Aon/Hewitt as their consultant for the trust, Aon/Hewitt being the largest benefits consultant in the world.

QEB 03272012 revised

How would you like this type of in depth reporting a dozen or more times every year?  If so, contact Sheri Gilbert at 623-594-4370.

8 healthy ways to boost energy

8 healthy ways to boost energy

By Tiffany Barrett, Special to CNN
updated 12:50 PM EST, Mon November 26, 2012
Your food and beverage choices can have a big effect on your energy levels throughout the day, an expert says.
Your food and beverage choices can have a big effect on your energy levels throughout the day, an expert says.

  • Energy drinks can contain excess sugar and high caffeine
  • Staying hydrated is important in avoiding fatigue, expert says
  • Eating breakfast and consuming protein can also help energy levels

Editor’s note: Tiffany Barrett is a registered dietician at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute.

(CNN) — As our energy levels decrease because of our overstressed lifestyles, many people look for a quick fix to combat fatigue.

Energy drinks mask the symptoms of fatigue and dehydrate the body. The majority of energy drinks contain excess sugar, high levels of caffeine and other stimulants.

Recently, the 5-hour Energy shot and Monster Energy drink have come under fire.

The Food and Drug Administration said this month that 13 deaths have been reported after consumption of 5-hour Energy. Last month, the parents of a 14-year-old girl filed suit, alleging that she died after drinking two Monster Energy drinks in a 24-hour period. Anais Fournier’s underlying heart condition was complicated by caffeine toxicity, according to the death certificate.

FDA checking reports about 5-hour ENERGY

Relying on caffeine and energy drinks makes us feel worse in the long run by causing our system to crash.

Continued fatigue decreases the immune system, making us more susceptible to depression and illness.

So what to do? Exercise, sleep and reducing stress are important in fighting fatigue. But our eating habits also directly affect energy levels. And nutrition can affect energy levels throughout the day.

Here are some tips on healthy ways to boost your energy:

Drink water

The body needs water — multiple glasses a day.

Being hydrated is an easy and inexpensive way to increase energy levels. You don’t need vitamin water or sports drinks; they only add extra unneeded calories. Keep a fresh water source with you at all times and drink throughout the day. Add lemons, limes or oranges for taste variety.

Eat breakfast

This is the meal that sets the stage for the entire day. Studies show that breakfast helps keep you alert, starts your metabolism for the day and keeps you satisfied until lunch.

But a healthy breakfast is the key. Good options include whole-grain cereals, breads, fruit and lean protein instead of doughnuts, pastries and white breads. A hard-boiled egg sliced into a whole wheat pita, oatmeal with fruit, and whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter are all healthy choices.

Don’t forget protein

Not consuming enough protein during the day can be a primary reason for fatigue. Protein-based foods provide the body with fuel to repair and build tissues. Protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in the body, providing a longer-lasting energy source. You can find protein in poultry, fish, lean red meat, nuts, milk, yogurt, eggs, yogurt, cheese and tofu.

Keep your carbs smart

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel. Pick whole grains like cereal, brown rice and whole wheat bread, and avoid sweets, which cause energy to plummet. Many processed carbohydrates contain little to no fiber. Always read the nutrition label.

Snacks are important

If you let yourself get too hungry between meals, your blood sugar falls, and you get lethargic. Keep your blood sugar and energy level steady during the day by consuming snacks. Choosing the right snacks prevent peaks and valleys in energy.

Combine complex carbs with a protein and/or fat for lasting energy. The protein and fat slow the breakdown of sugar into the blood, preventing fatigue. Snacks also can prevent overeating at mealtimes. A few examples of smart snack choices are yogurt with fruit, mixed nuts, veggies with hummus, pears with almond butter, whey protein shake or blueberries with a cheese stick. Plan ahead!

Omega-3 fatty acids

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, combat depression and improve mood and memory. Try to focus on omega-3 fats from food rather than supplements. Excellent sources include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax seeds, leafy greens and hemp seeds.


Almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts are rich in magnesium, a mineral important in converting carbohydrates into energy. Other good sources of magnesium include whole grains and dark green vegetables.

Don’t skimp on calories

Skimping on calories decreases your metabolism and causes you to feel lethargic. Keep your energy levels high and increase metabolism by meeting your caloric needs each day. Whole foods are preferred over supplements to obtain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals instead of one or two single nutrients. Consume a variety of foods for overall health but also to keep your energy levels high.

reposted from Valley Schools Daily News Clippings, provided by John Hartsell of Hardsale Communications.

Top 10 Natural Cancer Killers

Top 10 Natural Cancer Killers

Top 10 Natural Cancer Killers

Some foods and spices contain compounds and properties that put them in the category of cancer fighting foods. That means you have an opportunity to fight cancer –prostate cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, and more–every time you have a meal, snack, or beverage if you include some of these natural cancer killers in your daily diet. Research into the anticancer abilities of various foods and spices has revealed some have more potential to prevent or reduce the risk of certain cancers than others. With that in mind, here is our list of the top 10 cancer fighting foods.

1. Beans

Natural Cancer Killer - Beans

Beans are one of the best sources of plant protein and provide an excellent amount of fiber, but they are also an important part of a nutritious diet because they have cancer fighting potential as well. A group of researchers at Colorado State University reported on the anticancer abilities of beans. They noted that unlike vegetables, in which the more colorful ones typically contain more phytonutrients and disease fighting power, they found that white kidney beans have greater impact on cancer cells than navy beans, and that more colorful beans have milder effects. In other research, the dietary habits of more than 490,000 people were followed and compared with their impact on risk of head and neck cancers, which include cancer of the mouth, throat, and larynx. Foods that were found to be especially protective against these cancers included beans, carrots, and tomatoes, among others. A Loma Linda University also reported that people who ate beans at least three times a week had a 33% reduced risk of colon polyps (which often lead to colon cancer). A cancer prevention diet should include a variety of beans, which can be enjoyed in soups, salads, casseroles, and even on their own.

2. Broccoli and other vegetables

Natural Cancer Killer - Broccoli

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and kale, among others, contain several compounds shown to fight cancer. One is the chemical indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a phytonutrient that is a precursor to diindolylmethane (DIM), another indole and phytonutrient. Together, I3C and DIM promote metabolism of estrogen, a cancer-promoting hormone, into a safer version. Cruciferous vegetables, and especially broccoli sprouts, are also a source of the phytochemical sulforaphane, which has been shown to promote the production of enzymes that fight cancer-causing agents. Two more cancer-fighting compounds, lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in cruciferous vegetables as well. Lutein, for example, has demonstrated activity against prostate cancer and colon cancer. Be sure to include broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables as a regular part of a cancer prevention diet.

3. Carrots

Natural Cancer Killer Carrots

Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that has been associated with a reduced risk of various cancers, including prostate, mouth, throat, colon, stomach, and bladder. A study in Urology, for example, named carrots and cruciferous vegetables as agents associated with a reduced risk of bladder cancer. A National Cancer Institute study also named carrots as helping reduce the risk of mouth and throat cancers. In addition to beta-carotene, carrots also have a cancer fighting substance called falcarinol. A study of falcarinol and intestinal cancer cells showed that falcarinol inhibited proliferation of the cells. Some research (the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention trial) has indicated beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer, but the study involved beta-carotene supplementation, not eating carrots, and the higher risk was seen in smokers. To get the most benefit from this anticancer food, enjoy raw carrots because they retain more of their nutritional value than cooked carrots, although raw or cooked, carrots are an important part of any cancer prevention diet.

4. Cayenne Peppers and Capsaicin

Natural Cancer Killer - Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers provide capsaicin, a substance that has demonstrated its cancer fighting abilities in several areas. In one laboratory study from 2007, for example, capsaicin slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells and prompted apoptosis (cell suicide), while a subsequent study found similar results regarding apoptosis and prostate cancer cells. Lung cancer is common among men, and investigators at Marshall University in West Virginia recently reported that “capsaicin could be useful in the therapy of human SCLC [small cell lung cancer].” Capsaicin also appears to have a role in fighting stomach cancer, as a recent study found. When capsaicin was added to conventional medical treatment (the anticancer drug, cisplatin), the capsaicin prompted apoptosis of cisplatin-resistant stomach cancer cells.

5. Garlic

Natural Cancer Killer - Garlic

Garlic does more than keep vampires away—the popular herb also contains allium compounds that enhance the activity of immune system cells designed to fight cancer. These compounds, called dialyl sultides, may block carcinogens from getting into cells and also slow the development of tumors. People who regularly eat raw or cooked garlic may enjoy about half the risk of stomach cancer and two-thirds the risk of colorectal cancer when compared with people who eat little or no garlic, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A number of subsequent studies in both the laboratory and in animals have also indicated that garlic components have cancer-fighting properties. In a new study (February 2012) from China, researchers found evidence that a compound derived from garlic called S-allylcysteine showed some anticancer effects against human prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. Garlic is a versatile herb that can easily be incorporated into a cancer fighting diet.

6. Mushrooms

Natural Cancer Killer - Mushrooms

A number of different mushrooms, including shiitake, reishi, coriolus versicolor, and maitake, have demonstrated cancer-fighting properties. The anticancer abilities are attributed to polysaccharides, including beta glucan, which enhance the immune system and strengthen it against cancer. Mushrooms also contain complex protein/sugar molecules called lectin, which have an ability to prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Another compound in mushrooms is ergosterol peroxide, which can inhibit the growth or prostate cancer cells and prompt apoptosis, according to a study reported in Chemico Biological Interactions. In a recent Korean study, scientists noted that the yamabushitake mushroom demonstrated potential against human leukemia. Use of a shiitake extract in cancer patients produced promising results. The researchers found that patients with gastrointestinal cancer or breast cancer who took the mushroom extract along with chemotherapy experienced better quality of life and improved immune function.

7. Raspberries

Natural Cancer Killer - Raspberries

Raspberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and phytonutrients called anthocyanins, which may protect against cancer. In a study published in Cancer Research, rats given a diet containing 5% to 10% black raspberries had a 43% to 62% decrease in the number of esophageal tumors. In subsequent studies, black raspberry extracts inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells and also demonstrated activity against esophageal cancer in rats. In a recent Ohio State University study, black raspberry powder was given to patients who had colorectal cancer. The investigators found evidence that black raspberries had a positive impact on biomarkers of colorectal cancer, enough for them to conclude that additional studies of black raspberries “for the prevention of colorectal cancer in humans now appear warranted.” Raspberries may be an important part of a cancer prevention diet.

8. Resveratrol

Natural Cancer Killer - Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a phytonutrient and potent antioxidant that is usually associated with grapes and red wine, but it also is the source of an important health benefit: it helps fight cancer. For example, a study conducted by investigators at the US Department of Agriculture found that resveratrol slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells, while scientists at New York Medical College discovered that two different analogues of resveratrol have an impact on different states of prostate cancer cells. Studies with resveratrol have also provided positive results concerning colon cancer. A new study from Italy reported evidence that resveratrol and its anti-inflammatory properties may prove helpful in fighting this deadly form of cancer, and Japanese researchers have also offered new research findings showing that resveratrol prompted apoptosis in human colon cancer cells.

9. Tomatoes

Natural Cancer Killer - Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene, a phytonutrient and antioxidant that is especially concentrated in tomatoes that are cooked or processed, as in tomato sauce or tomato juice. Numerous studies have explored the relationship between tomatoes and lycopene and the fight against cancer, and one of the largest ones involved nearly 48,000 men. In that study, the researchers found that men who consumed the most tomatoes and tomato products had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer and a 53% reduced risk of getting aggressive prostate cancer. In a follow-up to this study published 7 years later, the investigators confirmed that “frequent consumption of tomato products is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.” A recent review in Current Medicinal Chemistry reports on the impact of lycopene on cancer in general, and how its potent antioxidant properties help it prevent cell damage and inhibit cell growth. In addition, some case-control studies have shown that greater consumption of tomatoes and lycopene is associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer. All of these findings suggest tomatoes are an important part of a cancer fighting diet.

10. Turmeric

Natural Cancer Killer - Tumeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is considered an anticancer food and spice because it possesses a variety of important cancer fighting properties. In the January 2012 issue of Frontiers of Bioscience, for example, the authors remarked that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, “appears to involve a blend of anti-carcinogenic, pro-apoptotic, anti-angiogenic, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory and antioxidant activities.” In other words, curcumin seems to fight cancer from multiple fronts. Some of those fronts have been demonstrated in studies like one published in 2010, in which the investigators evaluated the benefits of turmeric and found that it inhibited the growth of both human and animal prostate cancer cell lines. A number of studies show that curcumin may prove to a powerful anticancer food against colon cancer, and there are also data suggesting that curcumin used along with chemotherapy is “a superior strategy for treatment of gastrointestinal cancer,” according to a 2009 report in Nutrition and Cancer. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, unless you have inflammatory bowel disease, the best way to reap the benefits of turmeric is by adding it to your diet.

Paradise Valley Unified School District Saves nearly $650,000 per year in Employee Benefits Fixed Costs!

Paradise Valley Unified School District Saves nearly $650,000 per year in Employee Benefits Fixed Costs!

At a presentation on November 1, 2012 at the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) made by the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG), it was shown that PVUSD is saving nearly $650,000 per year in employee benefit fixed costs alone through its membership in a group purchasing trust.  By group purchasing, fixed costs are reduced dramatically.  PVUSD is also self-insured, which means it only pays for the actual cost of paid medical claims, it does not pay any carrier or organization any extra profits, add-ons, or “wiggle room” pricing on its claims.  This saves them even more money, as the medical claims are about 90% of the expenditures, while the fixed costs are only 10%.  Kudos to the administration and Governing Board of PVUSD for their outstanding decision to save dollars on benefits in order to keep precious resources for teachers, staff and dollars in the classroom!

Here is an attachment of the power point presentation:

PVUSD presentation 11-1-12 – FINAL

The PVUSD Governing Board Members:

Governing Board Members
Sue Skidmore Dr. Sue M. Skidmore, Governing Board president 
Sue Skidmore earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Mount Union College and a Master’s degree from Youngstown State University.  She also holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Arizona State University.  Dr. Skidmore has been a public school teacher, high school principal, and school district superintendent and has taught at the university level.  Additionally, she is the founder of a Web-based company that specializes in enhancing grammatical and writing skills and has co-authored three English reference books.  She has been actively involved in the district’s United Parent Council, serving two years as its co-president.  Dr. Skidmore is in her third term on the Governing Board and has served three years as Board president.  She has two daughters who are graduates of PV schools.  Her term expires in December 2012.

Julia Bacon Mrs. Julie BaconGoverning Board member 
Julie Bacon earned a bachelor’s degree from Shippensburg University (Shippensburg PA) and a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond VA) in social work.  She and her husband have a steadfast commitment to education in raising their two children, one who graduated from, and one currently attending, a Paradise Valley Unified School District school.  Mrs. Bacon served as president of the United Parent Council and has actively volunteered in the district for more than a decade in many different leadership capacities.  She is currently a member of the district’s Community Legislative Network.  As the daughter of two public school teachers and first generation college graduates, education is a top priority in her family. Her term will run through December

Nancy Case Mrs. Nancy Case, Governing Board member 
Nancy Case received a Bachelor of Science degree in Retailing from Brigham Young University in 1978. She and her husband, Art Case, are the parents of seven children, ages 6 to 26. All of their children have either graduated from or are currently attending Paradise Valley schools. Mrs. Case has enjoyed volunteering in her children’s schools. She has also tutored many students and taught reading classes in her home. She loves to teach. Her term will run through December 2012.

Anne Greenberg Mrs. Anne Greenberg, Governing Board member 
Anne Greenberg earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University.  She is co-owner and executive vice president of Health & Medical Multimedia, as well as the editor of two publications for the American College of Cardiology. The webmaster for the United Parent Council, Mrs. Greenberg is a member of the district’s Community Legislative Network and has served on numerous district and school committees. She also is a member of the state board of the Arizona Academic Decathlon Association and of the Legislative Committee and Arizona Relations Network for the Arizona School Boards Association, which honored Mrs. Greenberg with an All-Arizona School Board award in 2011. Mrs. Greenberg and her husband, Rick McGuire, have two sons, one who graduated from and one who currently attends Paradise Valley schools. Her term will run through December 2012.

Mark Lane Mr. Mark Lane, Governing Board member 
Mark Lane owns a photography business, and studied business administration and accounting at Phoenix College, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. He and his wife, Debbie, have a daughter who attends a Paradise Valley school and two daughters who graduated from NAU and ASU. Lane is a Shadow Mountain High School alumnus and has been an active volunteer in the district and community through school council, United Parent Council and Little League. His term will run through December 2014.

Governing Board Secretary
Terri Calascibetta
Superintendent’s Office
602-449-2292 Fax

 e-mail Governing Board



What’s Really in My Pet’s Food?

What’s Really in My Pet’s Food?

By: Sarah Grace McCandless
pet food

Here’s something to chew on: According to research conducted by Euromonitor and the American Pet Products Association, worldwide sales of dog and cat food have climbed to $52 billion dollars, with nearly $18 billion attributed to the U.S. market alone. It’s a staggering number, but one that makes sense when you consider the fact that, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), there are approximately 77.5 million pups and 93.6 million cats owned as pets in American households.

Those numbers make for a lot of mouths to feed. There are many types of food available — including wet and dry types, as well as newer trends like raw food diets — and also a growing number of manufacturers to choose from — including companies owned by celebrities such as talk show hosts Rachael Ray and Ellen DeGeneres and actor Dick Van Patten. The options can seem endless — and even overwhelming. So how can you tell which kinds are best for your pet?

What’s in a name?

Whether you opt for kibble or canned, one of the first steps to take in assessing the contents of your pet’s diet is to simply review the name of the product you’re purchasing and the terms used to describe it. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides special labeling requirements for pet food produced by U.S. manufacturers. While they do not actually regulate the actual production of pet food, their guidelines are updated annually and at the very least provide a good place to start. Here are some of the most common rules about terminology in labeling:

  • “100 percent” or “all”— Neither of these can be used if the pet food contains more than one ingredient, outside of the water needed for processing or trace amounts of condiments and preservatives.
  • “Dinner”— Food labeled as such must include an ingredient that constitutes at least 25 percent of the overall weight of the product.
  • “With”— This term can be used as long as there’s at least 3 percent of the ingredient it’s referring to included in the overall mix.
  • “Flavor”— As long as the food includes an ingredient that gives the overall product a distinct characteristic, this word is fair play. However, something labeled as “chicken flavor,” for example, might just include extract from poultry parts or artificial flavor, and not necessarily any actual chicken meat at all.


Understanding Ingredients

Both dogs and cats tend to do best on diets built primarily on protein, though the presence of healthy carbohydrates plays an important role for pooches as well. Vitamins, minerals, and even limited amounts of fats are also part of the balance for both, but figuring out how to correspond each of these key elements with the ingredients on a label can be tricky.

AAFCO guidelines require ingredients to be listed in descending order according to the weight of each item added to the mix, so that’s a good place to start in terms of determining the quality of the food. Keep in mind though, even when an item such as chicken, cattle, lamb or turkey is listed as the primary ingredient, this can include skeletal muscle, nerves, blood vessels and other parts found within the clean flesh of slaughtered animals. This is where some of the previously mentioned terms such as “100 percent” can be really helpful in terms of clarifying the contents.

What you don’t want to see is the pairing of the term “by-product” with any meat or poultry terms, as this refers to cleaned parts such as internal organs, and there’s still much debate about exactly what elements go into by-product production. According to the Animal Protection Institute (API), certain pet food companies were accused in the past of including carcasses and road kill in their by-products mix, and some industry insiders reportedly admitted to it. Though today pet companies universally deny such practices, there are no regulations or laws preventing them from doing so.

One ingredient most experts seem to agree on as something to avoid is anything that acts as filler, such as oats, flour, wheat, corn and peanut hulls — all of which have little to no nutritional value. Note: Some manufacturers will break out these types of ingredients into a number of different terms to make it seem like there’s less present in the mix, so read carefully. Preservatives — such as BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole, a fat preservative) and Ethoxyquin (a chemical preservative used to prevent spoilage in dog food)— also show up in the pet food manufacturing process, and you should try to steer clear of these as well.

Bottom Line: Best Bets?

In terms of whether wet or dry is better, there’s no general consensus. Trying to directly compare labels between the two is a difficult equation to master as well, since doing so requires a mathematical conversion to dry matter basis. Some argue that wet food is better because it tends to contain more protein and fewer carbohydrates compared to dry food. Others avoid wet food because of the strong smell often associated with it (which is usually a result of the presence of fats, preservatives or other chemicals within the contents), and maintain that dry food is more beneficial because its hard texture can help improve a pet’s dental health.

With all of this in mind, choosing the best type of food for your pet still can be overwhelming, to say the least. Try asking your vet for initial recommendations. Not only does he know your pet’s health history intimately, but he can also determine whether your pet requires a special diet to address issues such as weight management, digestive issues or arthritis. Being armed with this information can help you make the most of your pet’s meals.

More Information


American Pet Products Association.

Animal Protection Institute. “What’s Really in Pet Food.” 05/01/2007.

Consumer Search. “Cat Food: Full Report.” 02/01/2009.

Consumer Search. “Dog Food: Full Report.” 02/01/2009.

Dunn Jr., Dr. TJ. “Basic Nutrition for Dogs.” Dog World Magazine. 09/15/2009.

De La Cruz, Dr. Keith. “Feed Your Dog Right.” Business Mirror. 03/07/2010.

The Humane Society of the United States. “U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics.” 12/30/2009.

Nash, Holly. “Dog Food Standards by the AAFCO.”

Newman, Lisa. “What’s in Your Pet’s Food?” Purely Pets. 06/24/2009.

Phillips-Donaldson, Debbie. “Something to chew on: Petfood still growing.” Petfood Industry. 12/18/2009.

Top 10 Medical Research Areas Last Year


Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs Expected in 2012

By Lisa Collier Cool
Jan 05, 2012

Day in Health

Bionic limbs, a smart mouth guard to monitor athletes for concussions, and genetically modified mosquitoes designed to reduce disease are among the Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2012 selected by a panel of Cleveland Clinic doctors and scientists during its annual Medical Innovation Summit.

Here’s a look at the amazing therapies and game-changing technologies expected to dramatically reshape healthcare—and save lives—this year:

#10. Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, and West Nile, kill more people than any other disease, and infect more than 700 million people. As a new tactic to fight these diseases, 3 million genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes were released in the Caymans in 2010 to mate with wild female mosquitoes, resulting in an 80 percent population drop.

In the future, scientists hope to create mosquitoes with a new genetic trait that prevents malaria transmission.

#9. A Paradigm Shift in Diabetes Treatment

Twenty-six million Americans have diabetes and 79 million have prediabetes. A new class of drugs awaiting FDA approval called SGLT2 inhibitors works in a totally new way.

Instead of affecting the supply or use of insulin, as most current drugs do, the new drugs lower blood sugar by causing sugar to be excreted in urine. The resulting loss of calories helps diabetics, who tend to be overweight, lose weight.

#8. Harnessing Big Data to Improve Healthcare

Ninety percent of all data in the world was created in the past two years, with a mind-boggling 2.5 quintillion bytes created every day.

Innovative companies are starting to mine the mother lode of medical data to curb medical mistakes, waste and unnecessary treatments, lower healthcare costs, aid drug development, and facilitate tracking patients’ outcomes.

#7. Wearable Robotic Devices

Below-the-knee prostheses used to work like a crutch or cane. Now, thanks to a high-tech quantum leap, they allow America’s 400,000 to 1 million amputees to easily walk without stress, climb stairs and even compete in high-level sports.

The world’s first computerized bionic leg mimics a real leg, using precision robotics previously only available to wounded soldiers.

#6Implant to Treat Complex Brain Aneurysms

Brain aneurysms—ballooning sections of blood vessels—affect up to one in 15 Americans during a lifetime and can lead to a stroke or death. While surgery can treat small brain aneurysms, it doesn’t work for large, complex ones—the most dangerous type.

Now an FDA-approved device can be snaked through blood vessels without brain surgery to choke off blood flow to large or giant aneurysms, with a 70 percent success rate.

#5. Next-Generation Gene Sequencing

It took 13 years and $2.7 billion to sequence the human genome for the first time. Now a $50,000 machine the size of computer printer can read 10 million letters of genetic code in just two hours, putting warp-speed technology that gets at the root cause of many serious diseases within reach of almost every hospital.

In a few years, next-generation gene sequencing machines will be able to map an entire gene in 15 minutes, for $1,000.

Save on healthcare with these 10 money-saving tips.

#4Medical Apps for Mobile Devices

Among the thousands of mobile apps for doctors and patients are software to check blood pressure, monitor blood sugar levels, and track heart rate.

More sophisticated devices can help diagnose such disorders as sleep apnea, detect seizures, and automatically score cognitive testing results. MDs can also monitor high-risk patients remotely.

#3. A Smart Mouth Guard to Check Athletes for Concussions

 Nearly four million sports-related concussions occur each year, and if athletes return to the game too soon, the results can be deadly.

The new Concussion Management system has two components. Before the season, athletes take baseline tests of mental and motor skills. During play, a computerized mouthguard records all hits to the head via Bluetooth technology.

If a traumatic brain injury is detected, the player is retested, then the system provides advice about when it’s safe to return to play.

#2. CT Scans for Early Detection of Lung Cancer

 Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of both men and women, largely because it doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages and doctors have lacked an effective screening test.

A groundbreaking study of more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths in those screened with low-dose spiral CT scans, compared to chest X-rays–the first study to show that early detection can save lives.

#1. A Breakthrough in Blood Pressure Control

 Nearly one in three Americans has high blood pressure, which raises the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Up to 30 percent of these patients don’t respond to standard therapies.

Now there’s finally a way to help these people—without drugs. Catheter-based renal denervation is a new 40-minute procedure that involves zapping nerves in the kidney with low-power radio waves, using a tiny probe snaked through blood vessels.

In the first randomized study, 39 percent of patients who received the procedure achieved their blood pressure target, and 50 percent showed measurable improvement.

The Top 10 Health Care Stories of 2010 – Looking Back

The Top 10 Health Care Stories of 2010

By Melly Alazraki

The health-care reform bill, drug and food recalls, medical breakthroughs, layoffs and lawsuits helped make 2010 an exciting year for health care.
With policy reform, drug recalls, medical breakthroughs and plenty of layoffs, 2010 proved to be an exciting — if not entirely positive — year for health care. The passage of the controversial health insurance reform act far overshadowed all other health care stories, but plenty of other issues also stole their share of the limelight. Here’s a list of the top 10 health care stories of the year:

1. Health Insurance Reform

Without a doubt, the most important event of 2010 was the passage of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23. Thanks to the portions of the new law already in effect, young adults can remain on their parents’ plans; uninsured people with preexisting conditions can get insurance; and seniors were able to receive rebate checks.

By 2014, the landmark law aims to extend coverage to 32 million Americans by requiring individuals to have insurance and by expanding Medicaid and employer-based health coverage. Insurance reforms include ending lifetime limits — and most annual limits — on care, and giving patients access to recommended preventive services without cost-sharing. Overall, the law is expected to save more than $100 billion over the next 10 years and more than $1 trillion in the next 20 years.

But the controversial measure still faces challenges. On Dec. 13, a Virginia judge said the law’s insurance mandate in the bill violated the Constitution. Twenty more states filed a lawsuit together, also arguing that the act is unconstitutional. A judge in Florida has begun hearing the case.

2. Medicine Recalls

In late April, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), the world’s biggest maker of health care products, recalled more than 135 million bottles of over 40 different over-the-counter medicines, and it has been plagued with many other quality-control problems and recalls since then. Those recalls prompted two Senate investigations and congressional action. They also highlight that the industry faces a wider drug-safety problem, as a perusal of the Food and Drug Administration’s drug safety page further underscores. Just this month, Pfizer issued its fourth Lipitor recall of 2010, while Abbott recalled 359 million diabetes test strips.

3. Food Recalls and Food Bill

Food recalls
 also seemed to be on the rise this year, with a large and urgent nationwide eggs recall, as well of a recall of cheese and frozen desserts. One in six Americans gets sick from food-borne illness each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These recalls paved the way for the biggest U.S. food-safety overhaul in more than 70 years, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which Congress passed in December. Under the law, the FDA will gain more power to police domestic and international food companies, including the power to mandate a recall if a company refuses to issue a voluntary one.

4. AIDS Breakthroughs 

2010 saw several big breakthroughs in the fight against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. After an experimental vaccine demonstrated some effectiveness in preventing HIV in a trial in Thailand last year, some studies this year found evidence that antiretrovirals, or HIV treatments, also can prevent infection.

A new study in South Africa showed that a vaginal gel made using Gilead Sciences’s (GILD) AIDS drug, Viread, cut HIV infections by 39% in women. Another study showed that men taking Gilead’s pill Truvada daily reduced their risk of catching HIV by 44%.Sponsored by the U.S. government, the two studies’ conclusion that AIDS treatments also can prevent HIV ranked as the top medical breakthrough by Time magazine and also was voted one of the year’s top 10 breakthroughs by Science magazine.

U.S. government scientists also discovered two potent human antibodies that can stop more than 90% of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells, which could potentially help create a vaccine.

5. Obesity: Awareness and Drugs

Throughout the year, health officials stressed that obesity is a major public-health issue,related to a large number of medical conditions and costing the U.S. as much as $147 billion annually in health care. Despite all this attention, Americans keep getting fatter, which is why three drugmakers were racing to become the first in years to bring new diet drugs to the market. By year-end, only Orexigen Therapeutics’s (OREXContravehad received a thumbs up from an FDA advisory committee. The FDA rejected Arena’s (ARNAlorcaserin and Vivus’s (VVUSQnexa.

6. Pharmaceutical Layoffs Outpace Other Industries

Unemployment has remained a top economic concern this year, and the pharmaceutical industry bore more than its share of the pain. By the end of November, the industry topped all other categories — except for the government — in U.S. layoffs. According toChallenger, Gray & Christmas, the pharmaceutical industry lost 50,168 jobs, slightly more than 10% of the country’s nearly 500,000 layoffs. In addition, the health care-products sector lost 26,612 jobs in the first 11 months of the year. AstraZeneca (AZN) topped the list with 8,550 layoffs, according to FiercePharma, followed by Pfizer,GlaxoSmithKlineRocheBayerAbbott LabsSanofi-Aventis and more.

7. No Megamergers

Unlike 2009, which saw giant takeovers, such as Pfizer (PFE) buying Wyeth, Merck (MRK) buying Schering-Plough and Roche (RHHBY) buying Genentech, the 2010 deals were much smaller. Among the biggest: Novartis (NVSfinally sealed its majority-stake buyout of Alcon (ACL) for $12.9 billion in the largest deal of the year; Astellas bought OSI Universal for $4 billion; Pfizer bought King for $3.6 billion; and J&J acquired Crucellfor $2.4 billion. The biggest deal that never happened? Sanofi-Aventis’s (SNYhostile takeover of Genzyme (GENZ). Sanofi made an unsuccessful bid of $18.5 billion in October, and its courtship will likely continue well into 2011.

8. For Big Pharma, Breaking the Law Remains the Price of Doing Business

Big (and Not-So-Big) Pharma settled one case after another this year, fightinggovernments and patients in the courts. A study by Health Research Group at Public Citizen, which looked at payments made for violations of the False Claims Act, found that pharmaceutical companies have become the biggest defrauders of the federal government, surpassing the defense industry and growing at an “alarming rate.”

The off-label promotion of drugs — when a company markets the medicine for an unapproved use — was the single largest category for financial penalties. Purposely overcharging for drugs under various federal programs was another. According to findings from Taxpayers Against Fraud published in October, Allergan (AGN) topped the list with $600 million in payouts, followed by AstraZeneca with $520 million and Novartis with $422.5 million.

9. The Tougher FDA

Since President Obama appointed Margaret Hamburg as the head of the FDA, the regulatory authority has become stricter in both its approval process and enforcement. The FDA started revamping its medical-device regulations, and a Government Accountability Office report also found that the “agency has become more conservative” in allowing some evidence from certain drug trials. The agency also flexed its muscles when it came to drug marketing and drug safety.

The FDA’s tougher approach has mostly been welcome, especially its decisions to pull Abbott’s (ABTdiet drug Meridia from the market and to restrict access to GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) diabetes drug Avandia. But critics have argued that some of its recent actions could hurt consumers. The FDA’s decision to remove the breast cancer indication from Roche’s drug Avastin, for example, was controversial.

10. Research and the Law

The courts made at least two decisions in 2010 that have far-reaching consequences for scientific and medical research and funding.

The first involves embryonic stem-cell research. After Obama lifted a ban on funding human embryonic stem-cell research in 2009, a court in August blocked the funding. The injunction was lifted in September, but the issue is likely to remain under court review for some time. Nevertheless, Geron (GERNenrolled the first patient in its embryonic-stem-cell drug for spinal injury. The FDA recently approved another trial for Advanced Cell Technology’s (ACTC) stem-cell drug for blindness, and a stem-cell clinical trial for stroke patients began in the U.K. in November.

Another big issue was that of gene patentability. In October, the U.S. Department of Justice reversed its stance on the longstanding practice of patenting genes with its opinion that genes should not be patentable. Gene research has made many breakthroughs this year that could result in important new medical treatments for diseases such as cancer.

Honorable Mention

Many health care stories made headlines this year, and not all of the important stories made it into this top 10 list. Not on the list but deserving special mention is the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, which aims to provide health care to the first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who continue to struggle with various medical conditions as a result of their heroic efforts to help others in the aftermath.

Strategic Healthcare Planning for Employers

You might ask what “strategic healthcare planning for employers” even means?  Next to salaries, benefits are often one of the highest costs to an employer.  An employer can simply toss the dice and see what the costs add up to, or they can think strategically about their healthcare costs, the same as if they were deciding whether or not to open or close a manufacturing facility, to adopt a product line, or to move their headquarters.  By strategically planning efforts to create a healthier, happier workforce with less stress and better diet, exercise and lifestyles, an employer can see huge returns over time.

If your health benefits cost $20 million per year, then saving just 1% per year due to strategic health planning can cut your costs over a ten year period by $19.4 million.  (This assumes you drop a 10% annual increase to a 9% annual increase average.)  Your costs at the end of ten years at ten percent will be $51.9 million per year at 10$ growth, but shaving just 1% off that can change your ten year budget to just $47.3 million.  The benefits literally accrue more as time goes on.

So how can you do this?  You can’t get your whole workforce to eat right, exercise and be healthy all at once.  It is also illegal to only hire healthy or younger workers.  The way to do it is baby steps.  Early detection of diabetes, prostate cancer and breast cancer drop your expected costs from $150,000 per patient to $10,000 per patient.  Just getting your workforce to go to their doctor once per year and get their screenings on time can save well over 1%.  Incentivize healthy choices like smoking cessation, healthy cooking classes, wellness programs, exercise breaks at work, ergonomic atmospheres, reducing stress, can all have dramatic savings impacts.

Only a few employers are really committed to wellness.  One such local employer is the Paradise Valley Unified School District.  Their employee Insurance Committee will be working with Aon/Hewitt and the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) to accomplish strategic healthcare planning for teachers and other employees of the district.  The VSEBT already offers ready made programs including WellStyles and PREP, which offer either awards or lower premiums in exchange for healthy choices.  These programs were designed and implemented by Sheri Gilbert of VSEBT specifically to address school district needs.

By focusing on individual employers, the strategic wellness plan can be tailored to that organization’s culture, structure, and specific health needs.  In the case of school districts, they have a higher number of women employees and a higher average age and tenure.  This means more emphasis is placed on stress, depression, migraine prevention, and breast cancer early detection.

Each employer should seriously examine its own healthcare costs to see how you can impact the bottom line by encouraging healthier, happier, and less costly employee benefits by offering rewards to your employees for good healthcare choices and regular examinations.


Insulin spray aided memory in Alzheimer’s study

Insulin spray aided memory in Alzheimer’s study

A spritz of insulin in the nose each day helped improve memory skills in people with Alzheimer’s-linked memory problems.

By Julie Steenhuysen, ReutersMon, Sep 12 2011 at 4:05 PM EST
INSULIN: Studies have suggested a link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. And several animal studies suggest insulin given through the nose — which delivers it only to the brain — can improve the performance of diabetic mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease. (Photo: .:[ Melissa ]:./flickr)
CHICAGO – A daily spritz of insulin in the nose helped improve memory skills in people with Alzheimer’s-linked memory problems, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
Patients in a small study — who include people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s and a pre-Alzheimer’s condition known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment, or aMCI — showed improvement in overall cognitive function. Those who got the lower dose also showed improvements in recalling details of a story after a brief delay.
“Our results suggest that the administration of intranasal insulin may have a therapeutic benefit for adults with aMCI or Alzheimer’s disease,” Suzanne Craft of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Neurology.
The study involved 104 patients with mild cognitive decline or mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s experts warn that findings need to be confirmed in larger, longer trials, but they said it was a welcome advance at a time when few treatments have shown any sign of improving memory troubles in these patients.
“Anything that shows benefits even in stabilizing cognitive decline is worth noticing right now. Obviously, like any other study, it has to be replicated and independently confirmed. If that happens, then there will be a lot of interest in moving in this direction,” Dr. Sam Gandy of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centerin New York said in a telephone interview.
Study participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 36 participants got a moderate dose of insulin sprayed daily into their nose, 36 patients got a higher dose daily and 30 participants got a placebo daily for four months.
All treatments were given through a nasal drug delivery device made by Kurve Technology of Bothell, Washington.
The team looked to see if the treatment had any effect on how well study volunteers could remember a story right after they heard it and a after a short lapse in time.
After four months, the group that got the moderate insulin dose — 20 International Units or IU — showed improvements in delayed story recall compared with the placebo group. There is no improvement in the group that got the high dose of insulin — 40 IU — compared with the placebo group.
Both groups that got insulin also showed improvements in general thinking skills on a common assessment test known as ADAS-cog.
“Taken together, these results provide an impetus for future clinical trials,” Craft and colleagues wrote.
Dr. James Galvin of New York University Lang one Medical Center said although the study was small, it provides “some of the most convincing evidence to date that insulin treatment may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.”
He said studies in large groups of people have suggested a link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. And several animal studies suggest insulin given through the nose — which delivers it only to the brain — can improve the performance of diabetic mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s interesting and promising. What it tells us for sure is this needs to be explored further in larger and longer trials,” said Dr. Laurie Ryan, program director for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials at the National Institute on Aging, one of theNational Institutes of Health, which funded the study.
But she remained cautious. “In patients, anything can look good at this stage,” she said in a telephone interview.
More than 5.4 million Americans and 35 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.
Current drugs temporarily treat symptoms, but there are no drugs that stop progression of Alzheimer’s, which is fatal.
(Editing by Philip Barbara)