Health Buzz: For C. diff, Consider a Fecal Transplant

Why aren't Americans healthier? Plus, foods nutrition experts will never eat


Study: Fecal Transplants Show Promise for Fighting C. diff Infections

Imagine having a life-threatening bacterial infection that causes reoccurring diarrhea, abdominal pain, and colon inflammation. This life is a reality for folks with C. difficile, which has become increasingly frequent and more severe, especially among the elderly. The treatment? Some consider a fecal transplant—a process in which stool from a healthy donor is implanted into the gut of a healthy patient. While this transplant seems a little ghastly, think back to the symptoms, and the relief you may crave no matter what the treatment. The transplant seems to work, too. In a recent study, 13 of 16 patients were cured of their symptoms after one transplant, while two others got better after a second transplant, according to The Boston Globe. The study was published online today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Although the transplant looks promising, Alexander Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, who has done more than 130 of these procedures, told the Boston Globe that he predicts a slightly cleaner treatment in the future. "Personally I believe that in a couple years it's going to be a matter of an oral capsule—none of these methods currently used," he said. "We'll be looking back at that and giggling again."

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  • Why Aren't Americans Healthier?

    Last week, a new catch phrase punctuated media reports: the so-called "U.S. health disadvantage." The term summarizes a report released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, which, as suggested by its title, "U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health," found America lagging far behind the global health curve.

    This is not, of course, a zero-sum game. Health for all is the ideal, if not a moral imperative. But the dismal U.S. ranking raises some soul-searching questions about flagging health in America.

    Why, for example, do American men rank dead last in life expectancy among 17 nations? While their Swedish counterparts lead the longevity pack with an average life span of 79.3 years, American men can look forward to nearly four fewer years. Much of the disparity is due to deaths before the age of 50, according to the report, which underscores another issue—that American youth are especially subject to hardships in health due to high rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and death from traffic accidents and violence, as well as obesity and its consequent diseases. [Read more: Why Aren't Americans Healthier?]

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    • Foods Nutrition Experts Will Never Eat

      As a registered dietitian, many people are interested in what foods I eat, and just as often, what would never land on my plate, writes U.S. News blogger Keri Gans. All foods fit, I say to them, and to my patients. Anything in moderation. But truth be told, there are foods that—barring a deserted-island situation—I wouldn't touch. White bread, Spam, sugary breakfast cereals, soda, cheese doodles, and Doritos: Not for me. I avoid foods that offer very limited, if any, nutritional benefit. While I have a few exceptions, at this point, those kinds of foods don't even taste good to me.

      I asked my registered dietitian (RD) friends, with whom I've enjoyed good food and cocktails, what foods they avoid:

      1. Karen Ansel, MS, RD, CDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and coauthor of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life

      "As for what I wouldn't eat: hot dogs, without a doubt. Even if they're nitrate-free, they're still made up of too many parts and pieces, which is just unnatural."

       2. Patricia Bannan, MS, RD, author of Eat Right When Time is Tight

      "Sugary soda. Not only does it taste overly-sweet, it's such a waste of calories. A 12-ounce can of soda has almost 40 grams of sugar, and research shows excess sugar can lead to excess pounds and a myriad of health issues. If you do love a soda, limit it to once or twice a month, and get used to other options like citrus-infused water or non-sugared iced tea." [Read more: Foods Nutrition Experts Will Never Eat]