Health Buzz: Fake Cancer Cures and Other Health News

Diabetes and depression, exercise and eating less, and a look at the quality of medicine

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FDA Warns Against Fake Cancer Cures

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday warned 23 companies in the United States and two foreign individuals to stop selling products that claim to cure or prevent cancer. The agency also advised consumers not to buy these products, which include tonics, salves, creams, teas, and tablets and are sold under various names online. Ingredients contained in the products include shark cartilage, coral calcium, and mushroom varieties such as Agaricus blazei, shiitake, maitake, and reishi. There is no evidence that these products work, and they may cause harm to patients' health, according to the FDA.

The FDA provides a list of 125 fake cancer cures that consumers should avoid. Last year, Nancy Shute offered suggestions for how to tell if your drugs are safe.

A Link Between Diabetes and Depression?

New research, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that people with type 2 diabetes appear to be at increased risk for developing depression, and those with depression are also at risk for developing diabetes. But it's not clear which comes first: depression or diabetes. "There have been studies that show people with diabetes are twice as likely to have symptoms of depression as those who don't, and it could either be because depression itself leads to the development of type 2 diabetes or it could be that having diabetes leads to the development of depression," study lead author Sherita Hill Golden, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told HealthDay.

Michelle Andrews recently explained a new approach to managing diabetes. And earlier this year, U.S. News reported on depression among African-Americans.

Exercise May Help You Eat Less--or Not

Most, but not all, studies show that exercise suppresses appetite, Katherine Hobson reports. But outside of a scientist's lab, some people say they're not any less hungry after working out; in fact, many report that they actually gain weight when they start an exercise routine because they are eating more than before. A small study presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Francisco may point to why: The hunger-damping effects of exercise may not apply to obese women. The study looked at 20 women, half of them lean and half obese, nd through a series of experiments found that obese women reported no appetite suppression during exercise, while lean women did. The probable suspect is leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone described by Sarah Baldauf in an article about the biology of fat. The thought is that obesity throws off the ability of leptin to regulate appetite.

Earlier, Hobson explained how to properly calculate calories. Also, keep up on the latest in diet and exercise news with Hobson's On Fitness blog.

New Book Looks at State of Quality in Medicine

It has been 14 years since Betsy Lehman, then the Boston Globe's chief medical columnist, died of a massive chemotherapy overdose at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Avery Comarow reports. Her case seized headlines, but oft-cited statistics from the Institute of Medicine suggest that from 44,000 to 98,000 hospital patients die every year the way she did, because of safety lapses and incompetent care. This means a toll since the publication of the IOM report in 1999 of perhaps 400,000 to 900,000 people—or from roughly the population of Oakland, Calif., to that of Detroit.

The Best Practice: How the New Quality Movement Is Transforming Medicine, to be published next month, is in part an account of the shock wave that the 1999 IOM report sent through hospital boardrooms and clinics and in part a recitation of remedies that enlightened healthcare organizations are putting in place. Comarow regularly reports on healthcare issues in his On Quality blog.

—January W. Payne