- Created on 07 November 2013
(CNN) -- The e-mail ended with a question that belied the author's pain: "It's a small world, isn't it?"
Michael Schofield read the message from Elizabeth Baptiste again. Baptiste worked at AT&T, just like him. She had three sons, like him. And her youngest, Michael, was the donor who had changed his life.
"It sent shivers down my body, you know, because you don't expect..."
Schofield's voice, with its lingering Liverpool accent, trails off.
Schofield, 53, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982. People who have Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, a hormone the body needs to convert sugar and starches into energy. Their white blood cells attack and destroy the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.
Like most Type 1 diabetics, Schofield learned to control his diabetes with insulin injections and constant monitoring. But he still experienced hypoglycemic attacks when his blood sugar levels got too low. It was like being in a fog -- one he couldn't escape until someone helped him. If it went on too long, he would lose consciousness.
As he got older, Schofield's body adapted to the extreme lows; so when his blood sugar levels dropped below normal, he didn't experience the typical symptoms. In other words, he didn't know he was in danger until he passed out.
"Over time, your body just starts to break down," he says. "They say (diabetes) is a slow killer, and it is."
Tiny cells offer hope
Pancreas transplants for patients such as Schofield are not typically an option because they are difficult to perform, said Dr. Michael Rickels, associate professor of medicine at University of Pennsylvania. But an experimental procedure using the pancreas' islet cells is being tested at medical centers around the country. If it's approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it could make a difference for patients who are no longer able to successfully manage their diabetes.
- Created on 07 November 2013
(CNN) -- ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas has gone public with her decision to enter rehab for alcohol dependence, hoping it will give others "the courage to seek help."
"Like so many people, I am dealing with addiction," Vargas said in a statement to CNN Wednesday. "I realized I was becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol. I am in treatment and am so thankful for the love and support of my family, friends and colleagues at ABC News."
She did not disclose when she entered the rehab facility or where it is. The last message on her Twitter account was posted on October 18.
"Like so many others, I will deal with this challenge a day at a time," Vargas said. "If coming forward today gives one other person the courage to seek help, I'm grateful."
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- Created on 07 November 2013
In this Jan. 18, 2012, file photo, Alexes Garcia makes cinnamon rolls for student's lunch in the kitchen at Kepner Middle School in Denver. The rolls are made using apple sauce instead of trans fats. (AP Photo / Ed Andrieski, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Heart-clogging trans fats have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is finishing the job.
The FDA announced Thursday it will require the food industry to gradually phase out artificial trans fats, saying they are a threat to people's health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.
Hamburg said that while the amount of trans fats in the country's diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, they "remain an area of significant public health concern." The trans fats have long been criticized by nutritionists, and New York City and other local governments have banned them.
The agency isn't yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but it will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take. Different foods may have different timelines, depending how easy it is to find a substitute.
"We want to do it in a way that doesn't unduly disrupt markets," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. Still, he says, the food "industry has demonstrated that it is, by and large, feasible to do."
Though they have been removed from many items, the fats are still found in processed foods, including in some microwave popcorns and frozen pizzas, refrigerated doughs, cookies, biscuits and ready-to-use frostings. They are also sometimes used by restaurants that use the fats for frying. Many larger chains have phased them out, but smaller restaurants may still get food containing trans fats from suppliers.
Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease. Trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants, often to improve the texture, shelf life or flavor of foods. Diners shouldn't be able to detect a taste difference if trans fats are replaced by other fats.
To phase them out, the FDA said it had made a preliminary determination that trans fats no longer fall in the agency's "generally recognized as safe" category, which is reserved for thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. Once trans fats are off the list, anyone who wants to use them would have to petition the agency for a regulation allowing it, and that would likely not be approved.
The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils. The FDA is not targeting small amounts of trans fats that occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, because they would be too difficult to remove and aren't considered a major public health threat on their own.
Scientists say there are no health benefits to trans fats and say they can raise levels of so-called "bad" cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease - the leading cause of death in the United States.
Many companies have already phased out trans fats, prompted by new nutrition labels introduced by FDA in 2006 that list trans fats and an by an increasing number of local laws that have banned them. In 2011, Wal Mart pledged to remove all artificial trans fats from the foods the company sells by 2016.
As a result of the local and federal efforts and many companies' willingness to remove them, consumers have slowly eaten fewer of the fats. According to the FDA, trans fat intake among American consumers declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to around one gram per day in 2012.
Dr. Leon Bruner, chief scientist at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in a statement his group estimates that food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amount of trans fats in food products by 73 percent.
The group, which represents the country's largest food companies, did not speculate on a reasonable timeline or speak to how difficult the move may be for some manufacturers. Bruner said in a statement that "consumers can be confident that their food is safe, and we look forward to working with the FDA to better understand their concerns and how our industry can better serve consumers."
FDA officials say they have been working on trans fat issues for around 15 years - the first goal was to label them - and have been collecting data to justify a possible phase-out since just after President Barack Obama came into office in 2009.
The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago. The group's director, Michael Jacobson, says the move is "one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take."
He says the agency should try to move quickly as it determines a timeline.
"Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do," Jacobson said.
- Created on 06 November 2013
From Mother Nature Network's Melissa Breyer:
Whether you are a diligent brusher of the teeth right after eating, or if you're like the rest of us and feel a tinge of shame for not doing so, you may be interested in knowing this: at least one study has shown that the practice is not in the best interest of your pearly whites.
While some professional opinions vary, a number of top teeth docs agree with the findings. The basic problem is that the sugar in foods is metabolized by the bacteria or plaque on enamel, producing acids that lead to gum disease and cavities.
Common sense suggests that brushing the food particles away as quickly as possible would reduce the problems; but such is not the case.
Dentist Jeffrey M. Cole, former president of the Academy of General Dentistry, a dental advocacy group, told the Wall Street Journal, "What we found is that much of the cariogenic substances, those things that cause cavities, are not only sugar-containing, but they are very acidic themselves."
The perfect pH for the mouth is seven, and when you consume something acidic, the pH drops. Even a diet soda can have a pH as low as 2.5 — similar to vinegar — and it can take a while for the mouth to return to a normal level. Acid weakens the surface of the tooth, which can invite decay.
So when it comes to brushing your teeth when the mouth is in an acidic state, it actually exacerbates the problem.
"When you want to make etched glass, you apply an acid or an abrasive and scratch it – that is what happens if you drink a sports drink or a soda, or even wine, and brush right after," says Cole. But if you give your mouth some time – around a half an hour – your saliva will have worked to neutralize the acids.
There are some things that can be done to help instead of immediate brushing. Both rinsing your mouth with water or using an antibacterial mouthwash, Cole suggests, can help balance the pH and prevent plaque from creating more acids.
Chewing sugarless gum is also recommended as some studies have shown that the sweetener, xylitol, has benefits for the teeth. But perhaps the more satisfying option? Eat cheese. Oddly enough, chewing cheese reduces the pH of bacterial plaque. Cole explains that chewy things encourage salivation and proteins in your saliva will buffer acids; as well, naturally occurring chemicals in cheese "encourage the tooth to remineralize."
So the next time your colleague at the office heads to the bathroom to brush his teeth after lunch, you can now smugly assuage your guilt by breaking out a hunk of cheese instead.