Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fossil gets cutting-edge examination in NASA hangar

Leonardo's 18-month stay in Houston isn't just a vacation — the mummy dinosaur already has endured a battery of high-tech tests that couldn't be completed in the confines of his Malta home.

Considered the world's best-preserved dinosaur, the 77 million-year-old duckbill was quickly covered with either an acidic or waxy layer of sediment after its death, which sealed out bugs and bacteria. Consequently, along with the fossilized bones that often remain, Leonardo also has preserved skin, muscles and organs.

Of course, scientists can't just cut open the stone tissues. To perform this kind of autopsy, they used powerful X-rays and special film capable of creating three-dimensional images of Leonardo's insides.

"We've applied science to Leonardo that has never been used in paleontology before," said Joe Iacuzzo, project manager. "The digital format gives us a lot of new ways to examine it and come to conclusions that no one has been able to do before."
Leonardo spent a week in a NASA base outside of Houston, where some of the nation's top scientists in various fields worked around the clock at times to collect and analyze data.

In June 2006, Non-Destructive Testing Group shipped in more than 600 pounds of X-ray equipment to Malta. The tests there helped guide the scientists in Houston. The paleontologists working on Leonardo will only hint at what they've learned so far, waiting until the special exhibition opens at the Houston museum on Sept. 19 to announce the details of the results.

"I don't know what we'll come up with," said Bynum-area paleontologist David Trexler, who, along with his mother, Marion Brandvold, discovered Montana's famed Egg Mountain. "We tried to get as much data collected in the limited time we had. We didn't have much time to analyze the data, but there were some pretty promising results."

While studying the first dinosaur heart ever discovered might be interesting to the public, other body parts are far more fascinating to the paleontologists.

Previously, scientists used impressions and bone structure to help determine dinosaurs' muscle mass. With Leonardo, the muscles remain as fossilized rock.

Using this information, the team preparing the Houston exhibit has illustrated how the duckbill's entire body would rock from side to side as Leonardo lumbered through the grass.

Delicate wrinkles span his neck and his pinkie is uniquely detached from his other fingers. Long arms could reach the ground, but were too fragile to support his massive weight. Scientists can see the keratin forming Leonardo's beak, which like cartilage, is usually dissolved in time.

"We're just beginning to explore all kinds of possibilities," said Robert Bakker, paleontologist and the curator of paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Leonardo's stomach was filled with fossilized pollen from 33 different types of plants, enabling paleontologists to re-create his world.

And then there's the mysterious "Loops of Mango."

Named after Steve Mango, the Kodak scientist that helped capture Leonardo's picture, the "Loops of Mango" describe a string that looks like sausages stretching through his chest.

Bakker said the latest tests revealed a wound on Leonardo's left side. He hopes that ways of analyzing cattle wounds to determine whether mountain lions or wolves killed the animal or ate it after it died can be used to see if Leonardo's injuries were a post or pre-mortem munch.

"We don't know why this brand of dinosaurs — the duckbill — so dominated every continent for so many years," Bakker said. "There might be a heart, but who cares?"

Permits were required to build and operate an X-ray machine powerful enough to examine Leonardo in a new way. Tubes transmitting radioactive material had to be cooled with water, because the standard air-cooled tubes used by NASA would have exploded.

Despite the power of the machine, Leonardo's fragile remains will be completely unharmed because the rays only damage living tissue.

Even though the testing was done inside a lead-lined airplane hangar, the scientists and observers had to evacuate the facility and huddle under a stairway in an adjacent building while the radioactive material flashed images onto carefully placed sheets of film.

A special gantry was built, at a cost of $12,000, to hold the X-ray tube as it rotated around the fossil.

"We're working on a million dollars in time and labor," Bakker said.

But a fossil such as Leonardo has the rare potential to unveil answers to so many questions about the creatures that ruled the earth millions of years ago, that private companies and top scientists are jumping at the opportunity to get involved.

National funding for the testing and museum exhibit was provided by Carestream Health, ConAm, Eastman Kodak, Ford Motor Company, NDT Group, Randa Trucking and Sealed Air.

Robert Morton, who is a leader in a new branch of paleontology, studied the elements within the fossil.

Iacuzzo said that by using the powerful X-ray and CT scans, scientists are able to keep much of the rock jacketing Leonardo, protecting him from potential damage.

"Who knows what technology will be available in 10 years?" he asked. "We can't open him up to see what's inside. We want the science to be impeccable. We want the science to be irrefutable."










Bone Structure


Loops of Mango



Friday, March 28, 2008

Recommendation By International Experts: Infant Formula Should Contain DHA Omega-3 And AA Omega-6

New recommendations published by international experts in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine state that infant formula should include DHA omega-3 and AA omega-6 to guarantee correct eye and brain development.

These recommendations fro DHA and AA intake have been developed by a panel of child health experts from 11 countries with endorsement from organizations such as The World Association of Perinatal Medicine, Child Health Foundation and the Early Nutrition Foundation.

The expert team emphasizes that breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding, as DHA and AA are available in breast milk. However, when the mother is unable or chooses not to breastfeed, infant formula should include DHA at the recommended levels of between 0.2% and 0.5% of fatty acids and the amount of AA should be at least equal to the DHA level. The experts also note that the addition of at least 0.2% DHA plus AA is necessary to achieve functional developmental benefits.

"Over the past decade, many research studies have highlighted the importance of DHA omega-3 and AA omega-6 in infant development -said Cristina Campoy, of the Department of Paediatrics of the University of Granada (CIBM)-. It is therefore vital that pregnant and nursing mothers consume adequate amounts of DHA in their own diet, and, if using an infant formula, should provide their infants with a formula containing DHA and AA at recommended levels".

DHA omega-3 and AA omega-6

Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, or 'good' fat, found throughout the body. It is a major structural fat in the brain and retina of the eye accounting for up to 97 percent of the omega-3 fats in the brain and up to 93 percent of the omega-3 fats in the retina. It is also a key component of the heart.

Studies have shown that DHA omega-3 is important for infant brain, eye and nervous system development and has been shown to support long-term heart health. It is important throughout pregnancy, but particularly in the third trimester when significant brain growth occurs.

Arachidonic acid, AA, is a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid, another 'good' fat. It is the principal omega-6 in the brain, representing about 48 percent of the omega-6 fats. Like DHA, AA omega-6 is important for proper brain development in infants. It is also a precursor to a group of hormone-like substances called eicosanoids that play a role in immunity, blood clotting and other vital functions in the body.

Infants whose mothers supplement with DHA during pregnancy and nursing or who are fed formula milk supplemented with DHA and AA have significantly enhanced levels of these nutrients available to them. Major infant brain growth occurs during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of life. During these times, infants have the greatest need for DHA omega-3 and AA omega-6.

DHA and AA in the diet

The main dietary source of DHA is oily fish. AA is found in foods such as meat, eggs and milk. While most women typically consume enough AA in their diets, those who consume a typical Western diet are at risk for low stores of DHA. This may be because oily fish is not a staple of the typical Western diet. Additionally, expert bodies have advised pregnant and nursing women to limit their fish consumption due to the potentially high levels of toxins such as mercury.

The amount of essential fatty acids provided to infants through maternal intake during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding and through supplemented formula milks is important. Babies cannot make these essential fats themselves, which is why it is vital that they are made available via the mother's diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding or through supplemented infant formula.

About the recommendations

The Recommendations and Guidelines for Perinatal Medicine were developed by a team of 19 experts from 11 countries who reviewed the current research and recommendations on DHA and AA and evaluated the body of research exploring how DHA & AA affect infant brain and eye development. The expert team, which included experts from Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the UK concluded that both DHA and AA should be added to infant formula in order to provide formula-fed infants these important nutrients at a comparable rate to their breastfed counterparts. The guidelines also recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding women should include enough DHA in their diets to support the brain and eye development of their babies. The Recommendations and Guidelines for Perinatal Medicine were supported by the The World Association of Perinatal Medicine (, the Early Nutrition Academy (, and the Child Health Foundation (

Summary of the recommendations

* The authors emphasize the importance of a balanced diet for breastfeeding women, including a regular supply of DHA

* Pregnant women should aim for a DHA intake of at least 200mg a day (equivalent to two portions of oily sea fish per week)

* If breast milk is not available to the baby, current evidence supports the addition of DHA and AA to infant formula

* The DHA added should make between 0.2% and 0.5% of fatty acids [noting that 0.2% is the minimum level necessary to see functional developmental benefits]

* Infant formula should be supplemented with AA in amounts at least equal to the amount of DHA

* EPA, another omega-3 fatty acid, should be less than the amount of DHA

* Dietary supply of DHA and AA should continue during the second six months of life, but experts do not have enough information to recommend exact amounts


Health | Infant Formula | Brain Development | Dha Omega-3 | Aa Omega-6 | Breastfeeding | Nursing Mothers | Docosahexaenoic Acid | Pregnancy | Heart Health | Nervous System | Infant Brain


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Antioxidant-Rich Dark Chocolate Aids in Diet and Weight Loss

Everywhere you look these days, on radio, television, and in the newspapers, you're hearing about studies that show that healthy-chocolate promotes weight loss. But these aren't the same old name-brand chocolate bars you would find at your local grocery store.

The media is saturated with studies that have shown that some chocolates have positive health effects. But these aren't the name-brand chocolate bars you would find at your local grocery store.

An internationally recognized expert in the field of alternative medicine focusing on diet and nutrition, Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby, has studied the properties and benefits of a chocolate diet.

"Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacao tree, Theobroma Cacao," says Scott-Mumby. He explains that plant flavanoids are commonly known for their antioxidant activity. "A small bar of chocolate can contain as many flavanoids as six apples, as four and a half cups of tea or two glasses of red wine."

He developed The Doctor's Chocolate to utilize the great benefits of chocolate without the unhealthy ingredients that are often included in the common bar. This chocolate promotes weight loss. Eating just one to three pieces can suppress your appetite enough that you will not crave junk food.

Charlotte Palmer started dieting with her husband. She decided that The Doctor's Chocolate was going to be a treat that she could eat that would help her suppress her appetite. After four months she lost 50 pounds and is continuing to follow her diet.

"Eating The Doctor's Chocolate has helped me along because it has kept me from eating other junk food, it has helped suppress my appetite, and it has helped me to remain calm and not so stressed when you're missing out on all the other treats," comments Palmer.

The Doctor's Chocolate is a mere 20 calories per piece, is diabetic safe and because it is not weighed down with all the sugars and milk that processed chocolate is famous for, it actually is metabolized slowly and leaves you feeling satisfied after only a couple of pieces.

This special dark chocolate truffle has no trans fat so you don't have to feel guilty when you eat them. They taste great without the traditional sugar that can often cause problems with blood sugar and weight. Instead of sugar and milk being added, The Doctor's Chocolate is sweetened by a sugar alcohol called Xylotol, recognized by the FDA as a safe non-sugar sweetener. Be careful of any products containing synthetic or chemical sweeteners such as sucralose or aspartame. The Doctor's Chocolate has only natural products, without additives, preservatives or coloring.




Weight Loss


Chocolate Diet

Alternative Medicine

Junk Food


Trans Fat

Blood Sugar

Natural Products

Monday, March 24, 2008

Viagra is celebrated for fixing more than one problem

Happy birthday, Viagra!

The drug that moved discussions about male sexual dysfunction from the shadows to the sunshine hit the market 10 years ago this month. Since then, Viagra has become a household word, a ubiquitous punch line and the leader in a multibillion-dollar global industry.

Thanks to savvy marketing of Viagra and similar drugs to a surging boomer population, erectile dysfunction has replaced impotence as the term of choice for a subject once-considered taboo. And the stigma of male sexual dysfunction has all but disappeared. Now, ED drugs hold the allure of rekindled romance for tough-but-tender guys of a certain age.

Physicians have found an additional benefit to ED drugs in screening men's health. Many men who are reluctant to visit the doctor - even when they're sick - are eager to get the benefits of "the little blue pill." But a visit to the doctor to get a prescription may reveal underlying conditions including high blood pressure, undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol or other disease.

"More men are visiting the doctor (for ED) and the doctor is able to tell them that it's caused by other problems they need to address," says Dr. John Morley, head of geriatrics at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. ED often is a vascular problem, produced by the condition underlying a heart attack. The blood vessels can be affected the same way."

Learning that ED can be a symptom of undiagnosed disease can be a wakeup call that leads not just to a healthier sex life, but to a healthier lifestyle.

Dr. Arnold Bullock, associate professor of urology at Washington University School of Medicine and a surgeon at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, lauded Viagra for helping men overcome their apprehension about surgery for prostate cancer. A major fear of prostate surgery, one that prevents men from getting regular checkups, is the loss of sexual response, he says. Viagra, and its bedfellows, can help a substantial number of men perform sexually while recovering from the surgery, he says.


Viagra also brought ED therapy out of the Dark Ages.

Doctors once believed ED was a psychological problem, Morley says. In 1985, research was undertaken to prove that but couldn't. Instead, research showed that the same problems that caused hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and other vascular problems also caused ED.

Now, Bullock says, "Maybe in 10 percent of men the condition can be blamed on a mental (instead of a physical) problem."

In the past, Bullock and Morley said, by the time a man summoned the nerve to go see a doctor for ED, he was depressed and demoralized, and his relationship was foundering.

"In the past it would lead to breakup of families," Morley says. A partner "would believe he was having an affair or had lost interest in her. That's depressing."

That created a chicken-egg dilemma, he says, and physicians wrongly diagnosed the mental problem as causing the physical problem.

Once researchers knew the real cause of ED, major drug companies raced to come up with the cure. Pfizer Inc. won. Today, Viagra still dominates the market with a 70 percent share.


The family of ED drugs - Viagra, Levitra and Cialis - set off a reaction that includes the production of nitric oxide by from troubled arteries. Nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter - it helps nerves work properly - that causes blood vessels to open up, something vital to erection and other physical responses.

An explanation on says: The open vessels allow blood to flow into a special spongy material in penis. As that material fills, it presses on and closes the vein that normally allows blood to leave. The blood creates the erection.


The experts noted two ways to avoid needing ED drugs.

Until men are about 70, regular exercise, a healthy diet and good genes can prevent many of the conditions that cause ED, experts say. After 70, however, men who want to remain sexually active may need testosterone therapy, but that in itself may not be enough.

Or, the American Urological Association says, forget about it. A quiet but sizeable sector of men of all ages are happy to not pursue sex. Many are in happy marriages with women who feel the same way.

Because they don't complain, experts say, there's no way to count them.

By Harry Jackson Jr.



Men's Health



Sexual Dysfunction

High Blood Pressure


Heart Disease

High Cholesterol

Sex Life

Healthier Lifestyle

Prostate Cancer

Psychological Problem


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spices of life

Spices and herbs add flavor to foods - you already know that. But did you know that some of your favorite seasonings also may contribute to improved health?

For instance, fresh ginger not only helps reduce nausea - it may have anti-inflammatory properties and decrease symptoms of arthritis and bursitis. Historically, peppermint (fresh or dried) has been used as a digestive remedy, but peppermint also contains antioxidants that help fight the breakdown of cells.

There's more:

- Cinnamon may help prevent diabetes - though you may have to ingest a full teaspoon every day for there to be any effect.

- Garlic may help prevent heart disease and also may lower cholesterol, especially if used in place of salt.

- Marjoram is believed to have antibacterial properties.

"Spices and herbs have a long history of multiple uses, and today, the phytochemical antioxidant properties of spices and herbs are being studied," says Mildred Mattfeldt-Beman, department chair and a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at St. Louis University.


Before ringing endorsements will be forthcoming, many more studies are in order, Mattfeldt-Beman notes, and that those studies must be consistent. For instance, one study looked at the properties of whole garlic and one used garlic oil. "The information we do have begs for more studies - but already there is some evidence that spices and herbs may make us healthier."

Seeds, buds, berries, bark, the root or the fruit of tropical plants and trees are considered spices. Herbs, which may be used fresh or dried, are the leaves of low-growing shrubs. Bulbous plants, such as garlic, are used to flavor foods and are said to have medicinal properties. Hot peppers also have been used historically both as spices and for medicinal purposes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that herbs and spices may offer more antioxidant activity for each ounce than many fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants, in case you have forgotten why we all have upped our intake of blueberries, may help prevent or repair cell damage that could lead to heart disease, some cancers, Alzheimer's disease and other health problems. Spices and herbs store antioxidants in plant substances called phytonutrients.

Health benefits currently under investigation include:

- Cinnamon in insulin response

- Cayenne pepper in clearing sinuses and perhaps for anticancer activity

- Turmeric for protection against some cancers and Alzheimer's

- Rosemary as an anti-inflammatory

- Ginger to treat nausea or perhaps protect against colon cancer

- Garlic for heart health and as a cancer-fighter

For more information on research into the health benefits of spices and herbs, see

"Turmeric is another spice that is being studied," Mattfeldt-Beman says. "Countries that have high intakes of curry have a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease. That could be attributed to the air or water - but it could be the curry."


Almost every culture uses garlic in the kitchen, and more than a few keep a supply in the medicine cabinet, as well. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has conducted research on garlic. Here are some of the agency's conclusions:

- Some evidence indicates that taking garlic can slightly lower blood cholesterol levels.

- Preliminary research suggests that taking garlic may slow the development of atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries.

- Evidence is mixed on whether taking garlic can slightly lower blood pressure.

- Some studies suggest that consuming garlic as a regular part of the diet may lower the risk of certain cancers.

The agency notes that garlic appears to be safe for most adults, but also issues several caveats. For instance, side effects (especially from raw garlic) can include breath and body odor, heartburn, upset stomach and allergic reactions. Garlic also acts as a blood thinner similar to aspirin, which may cause a problem during or after surgery.

That's one reason why it's a good idea to speak with your doctor if you are taking herbal supplements of any sort, because some plant products may interfere with prescribed medication. And no spices or herbs - or even garlic - are meant to take the place of prescription medications.

Current research on spices and herbs seeks to document claims of medicinal benefits made by cultures much older than ours. "Originally, pharmacy was the study of herbs," Mattfeldt-Beman notes. "Germany and much of Europe have kept herb training, but it was eliminated from the curriculum in the United States, where we switched the focus to chemistry. Today, interest in herbs and spices is coming back."


That interest primarily is market driven - who among us is not concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs? "Some people say herbs are cheaper, more natural," Mattfeldt-Beman says. "Just remember that Socrates died drinking hemlock."

In other words, excessive dosages can be harmful. Also, herbs may be tainted with metals or pesticides, or cured using unsanitary methods.

Roberta L. Duyff, a registered dietitian in St. Louis, echoes Mattfeldt-Beman's concerns.

"We don't have definitive data regarding the medicinal properties of spices and herbs," she says. "We may learn some things from the early data we do have, but we need to be careful because we don't know whether these medicinal properties work for everyone or at what levels."

Duyff is the author of "American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide" (Wiley, 688 pages, $50) and "365 Days of Healthy Eating from the American Dietetic Association" (Wiley, 272 pages, $14.95).


Herbs to be relished

The website of the Department of Integrative Medicine at the University of Michigan lists some seasonings believed to be beneficial. Those listed include:

Fresh ginger root

Ginger is said to have anti-inflammatory properties, to help reduce nausea and motion sickness and to decrease symptoms of arthritis and bursitis.

Fresh or dried peppermint
The leaves from the peppermint plant have been used as a digestive remedy for relief of heartburn, indigestion and nausea and may soothe the lower intestinal tract by decreasing spasms and gas formation. Peppermint also contains antioxidants that stimulate the production of bile and saliva.

Cayenne pepper
This pungent spice is used to stimulate digestion, ease toothache pain, improve circulation, reduce blood clotting and decrease cholesterol. Cayenne also is said to help prevent arteriosclerosis and heart disease. On the site, Dr. Monica Myklebust and Jenna Wunder, a registered dietitian, also state that "whole foods are the best sources of vitamins, minerals and other plant compounds that help you stay healthy and fight disease," and they recommend whole foods over supplements. They also caution that "some spices and herbs may interact with medications," so they advise readers to notify their doctors about any use of spices and herbs while on medication.