HEALTH

Google tracks flu trends through requests via search engine

BY Alaric DeArment

SAN FRANCISCO Google has found a way to track the spread of the flu by taking note of users who type phrases related to the flu into its search engine and reporting them through a new service called Google Flu Trends.

This may enable local outbreaks to be detected before health officials detect them, tests of the site have shown.

According to The New York Times, searches for flu-related information on Google increased in mid-Atlantic U.S. states increased two weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an increase in the incidence of flu in those states.

 

 

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NPA challenges findings on vitamins C, E and cardio health

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON In response to new findings to be published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association on whether long-term vitamin E or vitamin C supplementation decreases the risk of major cardiovascular events among men, the Natural Products Association Monday evening challenged the findings.

“On the second page of the study, it references nine pooled studies that when using 700 milligrams per day of vitamin C showed a 25-percent reduction in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease; yet this study only used 500 milligrams per day. Why wasn’t the 700 milligrams per day amount used when that has been correlated with a reduction in occurrence in prior studies?” asked Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at NPA.

“Additionally, while the study did control for multivitamin intake to prevent overlap, intake of vitamin C and E from food was not controlled. With a population of health care professionals at an increased risk for CVD, these subjects most likely know the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and thus rich in vitamins C and E, and may adjust their intake accordingly. This would most certainly confound the study,” he said. “It is essentially a drug study but one without a positive control, which is necessary to ensure the experimental design can produce a positive result even if the intervention was unable to.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition was less critical. “Although the results did not demonstrate an overall benefit, the results also do not discount the earlier epidemiological data showing that people with high intakes of vitamins E and C may have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease,” stated Andrew Shao, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN. “Nutrition research is extremely complex, and doesn’t always provide clear cut answers. This study raises an interesting set of scientific challenges as to why the benefits found in observational studies have not been confirmed in this kind of trial,” he said. “The truth is, we don’t have conclusive scientific evidence in the form of randomized, controlled trials that demonstrate exactly how to prevent cardiovascular disease. We do know there are some well known practical approaches—like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, consuming a diet with a variety of foods, regular exercise, seeing your physician, and responsible use of vitamin supplements.”

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Schwabe positions homeopathic cough-cold remedy Zucol for children’s fall cold-flu season

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Schwabe, through it’s U.S. subsidiary Nature’s Way, is looking to position its homeopathic cough-cold remedy Zucol as this season’s remedy du jour in light of many of the safety and efficacy concerns raised about allopathic pediatric cough-cold medicines.

“Zucol is powerful medicine to fight colds, and this plant-based extract has been studied extensively and found to be safe for children,” stated David Riley, clinical associate professor at the University of New Mexico Medical School and founder of the Integrative Medicine Institute. “In Germany, it is prescribed to adults of all ages and children beginning at two years of age—though we recommend that when used for children younger than six, you consult your family doctor. … “With all of the recent warnings from the FDA about conventional cough and cold medications in children, it seems prudent to use a safe and effective alternative.”

Zucol contains an extract of pelargonium sidoides, which has been the subject of 18 published clinical studies involving more than 2,500 patients, according to the company. These studies concluded that cold sufferers were able to return to their normal routines two days faster than those who simply treated their symptoms with OTC medications.  

Zinc gluconate has also been found to reduce the duration of cough-cold symptoms. However, Nature’s Way maintains as a point of differentiation that Zucol does not irritate membranes, upset the stomach or leave a lingering unpleasant taste in the mouth.

“For hundreds of years African Zulu tribes have used pelargonium sidoides preparations to treat coughs and upper respiratory symptoms, and it is the top-selling active ingredient for upper respiratory tract infections sold in Germany and most of Europe,” David Gumner, vice president of Mass Market for Nature’s Way said. “Extensive clinical research has proven the safety and efficacy of pelargonium, which justifies its use to reduce the need for typical OTC medications that merely mask symptoms of the common cold.”  

In a press release issued Tuesday, Nature’s Way noted the cough-cold remedy would be distributed through Walgreens in January and is currently available in all Rite Aid, Duane Reade, Meijer Stores and regional drug stores and pharmacies across the U.S.

The benefits of pelargonium have been featured in several U.S. medical journals including the American Family Physician and The Journal of Family Practice, the company stated.

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