Monthly Archives: June 2012

Taking calcium may be harmful.

More and more evidence is gathering that taking extra calcium in the form of tablets/pills may be harmful. This interesting article today confirms it.
There’s no evidence suggesting that a calcium-rich diet causes heart problems. Rachel James

People taking calcium supplements to mitigate their risk of developing bone disease (osteoporosis) may be doing more harm to their health than good. That’s because a growing body of research shows the supplements confer little benefit and increase the risk of developing heart disease.

Calcium supplements have also traditionally been thought to reduce the risk of heart attacks because they produce small beneficial changes in both blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. We set out to test this idea in a trial we had originally designed to check the effect of calcium supplements on fractures and bone density.

To our surprise, what we discovered was that heart attacks were actually more common in the (randomly selected) women who received calcium supplements than those who had randomly been given inactive tablets.

When we published this study in the British Medical Journal in 2008, it caused widespread surprise among doctors working in the area, as well as the general public. So to test whether this was the true effect of calcium supplements, we decided to do a meta-analysis of studies about taking them.

First, we contacted all the researchers who had carried out large trials of calcium supplements in the past to see whether they’d kept records of the medical problems that occurred in the course of the trials.

Data were available from 93% of trial subjects (almost 12,000 people) and these confirmed our finding that women who received calcium tablets in the studies had a 20% to 30% increase in heart attack risk.

We subsequently added to this database the results from other trials in which the intervention was calcium and vitamin D, rather than calcium alone. This showed the same effect – a 25% increase in the risk of heart attacks and a 15% increase in the risk of stroke.

These results were based on almost 29,000 people participating in research and so were much more reliable than the results we had published previously.

From these analyses, we were able to determine that the number of heart attacks and strokes apparently caused by calcium supplements was greater than the number of fractures that they appeared to prevent. Naturally, we concluded that the use of calcium tablets was likely to be doing more harm than good and should be discontinued.

It’s very important to note that none of our analyses included the effect of calcium-rich foods, and there’s really no evidence suggesting that a calcium-rich diet causes heart problems.

Matt Reinbold

The reason for the difference between tablet supplements and food remains uncertain, but it may be related to the increase in blood calcium level that’s seen for several hours following the large dose of calcium in tablet form. In contrast, calcium in food is absorbed more slowly and has very little impact on blood calcium levels.

Elevations of blood calcium levels have previously been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, possibly through producing calcium deposits in the walls of blood vessels and accelerated arterial disease.

A number of other researchers have now looked into these questions. This month, researchers from Germany reported that individuals taking calcium supplements appear to almost double the risk of heart attacks compared with people not taking supplements. And again, those who have high dietary calcium intakes tend toward lower risk of heart disease.

The German study didn’t randomly assign participants into groups taking calcium or placebo tablets, but simply reported events in individuals who had made the decision to take supplements independently. This is a less reliable way of determining the effects of an intervention than a randomised trial. Nonetheless, this observational study provides supportive evidence for the results of our trial analyses.

Last year, researchers in Sydney studied the effects of calcium supplements in a very elderly group of individuals living in hostels. One-third of the 600 people in the group died during follow up. Death rates increased by 47% in those randomised to calcium and death from heart disease was increased by 76%.

So the weight of evidence that calcium supplements are bad for the heart has steadily increased. What, then, should people do in the face of these findings?

Calcium supplements are mainly used to reduce the risk of fractures from osteoporosis (a bone disease that leads to increased likelihood of fracture). But there are other important measures that will also contribute to osteoporosis prevention, such as regular exercise, not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular sunlight exposure to maintain vitamin D levels, and removal of falls hazards in the home (such as loose rugs, power cords, and slippery floors).

A steady supply of calcium is important for bone health, but research clearly shows this should be derived from a balanced diet that includes several servings of dairy products, or other calcium sources, such as dark green vegetables or tofu.

Women in their 60s and men in their 70s should have their risk of osteoporotic fractures formally assessed. This usually involves bone density measurement.

People found to be at high risk of fractures should consider using one of the medicines proven to safely reduce fracture risk. This is likely to be more effective than relying on the weak anti-osteoporotic effects of calcium supplements, which come at an unacceptably high price – the increased risk of heart disease.

Male menopause

There is an article in today’s Sunday Mail “Male menopause a myth”  It said that men are being exploited by companies selling expensive testosterone treatment for Male Menopause, which does not exist. Try telling this to the many men who have erectile, libido, energy and orgasmic problems purely associated with aging and dropping hormonal levels. If it works for women, why not for men? I have articles on the subject from reputable and good sources repudiating the gist of this article. Healthy debate is always good. Comment below anyone?

Flu and Cold season

I toured New Zealand with Michael Borissenko, my coauthor in “Microbe Apocalypse- Man Vs Microbe” as part of a promotional tour of our book. we addressed many conferences to do with health as part of the tour. Michael is a very interesting person. He was the Chief Scientist at the Institute Of Colostrum Research,  NZ. We spent a fair bit time together traveling around the various venues, and of course swapped notes on our various health interests. One of the things he alerted me to is the tremendous health benefits from Olive Leaf Extract. He had done a lot of research into the benefits of this natural substance, and was very excited about his findings. I have looked into it in more detail, and have recommended it to many patients over the years, with impressive results. As our antibiotics become less efffective, and the “bugs” take over, we will need substances like OLive leaf extract more and more. Here is a short summary taken from Wikipedia about OLE:

Olive leaf

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Olive Tree Leaves: Top side and Under side

Olive leaf is the leaf of the olive tree (Olea europaea). While olive oil is well known for its flavor and health benefits, the leaf has been used medicinally in various times and places. Natural olive leaf and olive leaf extracts (OLE), are now marketed as an anti-aging, immunostimulator and an antibiotic. Clinical evidence has proven the blood pressure lowering effects of carefully extracted olive leaf extracts.[1][2][3][4] Bioassays support its antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effects at a laboratory level. A liquid extract made directly from fresh olive leaves recently gained international attention when it was shown to have an antioxidant capacity almost double green tea extract and 400% higher than vitamin C.

If you have had any experience with using Olive Leaf Extract (good or Bad) join the blog by commenting here.

Plastic poisons

One of my pet hates are zenoestrogens. We are surrounded by millions of chemicals and many of them resemble closely the hormones we produce naturally. the body gets confused of course and we get biological responses that are often harmful to us – like cancer, or brain damage. This is of importance to me as I deal in  hormones problems and imbalances. This is not easy when our everyday home environment can aggravate the problems.Here is an interesting article on the topic.

Poisoned by plastic: Chemicals in water bottles and food packaging have been linked to infertility and birth defects. Scaremongering, or the truth?

By Steve Boggan

PUBLISHED: 00:40 GMT, 11 June 2012 | UPDATED: 06:55 GMT, 11 June 2012

When Juliette Scarfe invites you to potter about the kitchen of her home in South London, you fail to notice anything odd at first – and then it dawns on you. It is a completely plastic-free zone.

‘I won’t have it in my house, I won’t have it in my body and I don’t want it anywhere near anyone I love,’ she says. ‘It’s all around us and it’s poisoning us. The problem is, we’ve all come to take it so much for granted that we just assume it’s safe. Well, it isn’t!’

Juliette is a 33-year-old former lawyer who gave up the profession to launch Bare Skin Beauty, her own brand of organic cosmetics, earlier this year. She is also one of a growing number of people who are turning their backs on plastic bottles, plastic-lined tin cans and anything edible that comes in plastic packaging.

What a load of rubbish: Consumers are gradually turning their backs on plastic because of health concernsWhat a load of rubbish: Consumers are gradually turning their backs on plastic because of health concerns

‘I hate plastic bags, I no longer drink from plastic bottles and I won’t cook with, or store food in, any kind of plastic,’ she says.

Instead, you find cotton, jute or hemp shopping bags in her drawers. In the fridge, her food is stored in glass, ceramic or terracotta containers. All her cooking utensils are made from wood and her food processor is made of glass.

‘I had to search for ages recently to find a blender that wasn’t made of plastic,’ she says. ‘It took a while, but eventually I found a glass one.’

And Juliette isn’t some lone fanatic. Look around you and you’ll see cyclists, joggers and pedestrians who would once have been seen clutching plastic bottles of water now holding stainless steel and paper containers instead.

Drink to your health? Research has shown that harmful compounds can leach from plastics into the food and drinks that we consumeDrink to your health? Research has shown that harmful compounds can leach from plastics into the food and drinks that we consume

‘Our sales have doubled year on year for the past three years,’ says Neil Tomlinson, founder of Aquapax, which sells water in durable paper cartons. ‘Slowly, people are learning about what’s in plastic and they’re turning their backs on it.’

So, what exactly are these people learning? And should you follow their example?

During the past five years, public awareness has slowly grown over concerns about compounds in some plastic bottles and food containers.

The compounds on which most concerns have focused are Bisphenol A (known as BPA), which is used in tough polycarbonate products and epoxy resins that line tin cans, and a group of plastic softeners called phthalates.

Research has shown that these compounds can leach from plastics into the food and drinks that we consume – more so if they are heated to high temperatures, raising additional concerns about the kinds of plastics that are used as containers in microwave ovens.

So prevalent is BPA that tests by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention in 2004 found it in 93 per cent of urine samples taken from a group of 2,517 people.

Furthermore, a landmark report on BPA published in 2008 by the U.S. National Toxicology Program concluded that there were concerns over BPA’s effects on the brain, behaviour and prostate gland development in foetuses, infants and children. It also found that because of the ratio of body weight to exposure, ‘the highest estimated daily intake of Bisphenol A in the general population occurs in infants and children’.

This is because if a man of 180lb and an infant weighing 20lb ingested 5mg, the infant would have taken in more of the substance than the man, relative to their size.

One of the biggest concerns about BPA and phthalates is that they act as what scientists call ‘environmental oestrogens’, so-called because they mimic the hormone in our bodies.

What's the alternative? Daniella Hunter's children use stainless steel flasksWhat’s the alternative? Daniella Hunter’s children use stainless steel flasks

Minuscule amounts can make an impact and many studies have found evidence that they affect the development of foetuses in the womb.

Scientists say that environmental oestrogen can act as an ‘endocrine disrupter’, which means it can affect sexual development, leading to breast, prostate and testicular cancer, reduced levels of fertility, and undescended testes. In polluted rivers, it has lead to fish and molluscs actually changing sex from male to female. The problem is that not all studies have found evidence of this at all.

Over the past few decades an estimated £150million has been spent on research into BPA, resulting in the publication of more than 5,000 papers – and scientists are still arguing over whether or not it is harmful.

Harmful phthalates have been banned from certain types of food packagingHarmful phthalates have been banned from certain types of food packaging

Professor Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council’s Centre For Reproductive Health, a world authority on endocrine disruptors, says there are real concerns, but much of the most damning research could not be verified by other scientists.

‘Replicability is the guardian of scientific integrity,’ he says. ‘But some of the most critical experiments simply could not be repeated.

‘The trouble is that some people have been convinced that BPA is the devil’s poison and responsible for all kinds of ills. When anyone says their research does not concur, they are accused of being in the pay of the plastics industry or of using the wrong kind of mice in their experiments.’

Such concerns also extend to phthalates – there are 25 different kinds and several are already banned in children’s toys in the EU and for certain types of food packaging.

Laboratory tests on rats and mice have found that some male offspring of females exposed to phthalates suffered birth defects and sexual development problems. But when larger mammals were tested, the results could not be duplicated.

One fact that has been proven in tests in several developed countries, including Denmark and Israel, is that male fertility rates have fallen by about a half and rates of testicular cancer have soared since the use of plastics became widespread after World War II. Is this a coincidence, or cause and effect?

Breast Cancer UK believes something is clearly wrong. It was at the forefront of a successful campaign to have baby-feeding bottles containing BPA banned in the EU this year. Now it wants the ban extended.

Research: Babies who are fed on demand are more likely to have a higher IQ and perform better at schoolBreast is best: Baby-feeding bottles containing BPA have now been banned in the EU (Posed by models)

‘We think there is enough peer-reviewed evidence against Bisphenol A and other chemicals in plastics for the government to take a precautionary approach and ban them in any plastics that come into contact with food,’ says Clare Dimmer, the charity’s chairwoman.

‘For the government’s National Cancer Plan to be effective, ministers must look beyond lifestyle choices as the cause of soaring cancer rates and consider our routine exposure to chemicals like BPA.’

The problem if you want to avoid BPA and phthalates is that you probably can’t. They are all around us, in compact discs, car parts, carpets, floor tiles, cosmetics – the list is endless. If you see plastic that is soft and pliable, then it is because of phthalates. Have you ever noticed how a re-used water bottle becomes brittle over time? That is because the phthalates have leached out of it – and you have drunk them.

Which is why many people are deciding to simply write plastics out of their lives. Juliette Scarfe says: ‘I know so many women who are having difficulties conceiving and I am convinced it is because of hormones in the plastics around us. My partner and I plan to start a family, so I’m steering clear of them as much as I can.’

Thirty-six-year-old singer/songwriter Daniella Hunter is another turning her back on plastic.

‘It’s a work in progress, but as anything plastic wears out, I’m replacing it with glass, wood or ceramics,’ she says.

Daniella says she began to have doubts about the safety of plastics when her oldest son, 11-year-old Luca, was instructed by his school in Camberley, Surrey, to take a particular polycarbonate water bottle into class each day.

‘It had that horrible plastic smell and when I washed it I thought it stank. Later, when I researched Bisphenol A and phthalates, it really worried me and I threw it out.

‘When my five-year-old Kai started school, I refused to use the school-issue bottle and got him a stainless steel flask. This issue has slipped below most people’s radar because we take plastic for granted, but we should be asking about the health implications.’

So, can we get some clarity from the bodies that exist to give us advice?

In the UK, the guidance from the Food Standards Agency is unequivocal: ‘Very small amounts of BPA can transfer from packaging into food and drinks, but these levels of exposure are not considered to be harmful.

‘Independent experts have worked out how much BPA we can consume without coming to any harm, and the amount people absorb from all food and drink is significantly below this level.

‘Independent studies have shown that even at high levels, BPA is rapidly absorbed, detoxified and eliminated from humans and, therefore, is not a health concern.’

But in the U.S., where most of the research has been done, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is far more cautious, warning: ‘Recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behaviour, and prostate gland of foetuses, infants and children. FDA also recognises substantial uncertainties with respect to the overall interpretation of these studies and their potential implications for human health effects of BPA exposure.’

Of course, the plastics industry says time has proven that its products are safe. The British Plastics Federation says: ‘Bisphenol A and phthalates have been the subject of extensive scientific testing and governmental reviews worldwide.

‘Based on the overwhelming weight of evidence, these assessments have consistently concluded that human exposure levels to both compounds are low and within the safe limits set by government authorities.

This fails to convince the critics. So until scientists can agree on the safety of plastics, what should you do?

If you are concerned, you could avoid plastic mineral water bottles and use glass or stainless steel bottles filled from your tap or purifier. You could microwave meals in ‘microwave safe’ glass or on a plate instead of plastic containers. And if you want to store food in plastic containers, hunt down those that are labelled as BPA-free.

Most of all, you could avoid processed and packaged meals, tinned food and canned drinks. Use fresh produce and fruit juice instead – regardless of whether the dangers of plastic containers are real or imagined, it can only do you go

Read more:

I often get ask…

I often get asked why some doctors are negative about bio-identical hrt, They may even claim there is no evidence it works, and is not registered by the TGA.

I have presented many studies from many experts on this website proving that BHRT is safe, has been fully tested and researched, and has the approval of most of the top Menopausal and endocrine societies. How much more does your doctor want? This nonsense about “compounding chemists” is hard to understand. These chemists are your normal chemists who have passed all their exams like any other chemist. They are regulated and checked regularly by the authorities like any other chemist. We trust our chemists when they prepare medicines for us. When I was a child, my doctor would write a script such as ” 1 ml xyz, 2 drops abc, 1 gm cde. Prepare with 5ml glucose solution Make up 100 ml. Take 5 ml daily” Most scripts were compounded then – we did not have the ready made mass produced factory produced products of today. Finally, how difficult is it to weigh and make up 2mg Oestrogen? Not much room for error.

This brings us to a bigger issue – the misinformation and lies about the whole BHRT and natural hormone industry. Much of it is run by people with ties to various pharmaceutical companies, esp those producing synthetic HRT. They often shower doctors with gifts and presents to buy their loyalty. I have seen this same play many times over the years in medicine -vested interests desperate to preserve their influence. This website is devoted to try and help women get a clearer picture of the science behind the various choices they make when using hormones. I can quote many instances where doctors have ignored the evidence to promote their prejudices – the most famous is Dr Semmelweiss. He knew and could prove that washing hands before delivering babies would improve the mortality in childbirth. Doctors did not believe him, with the result thousands of women died in childbirth before cleanliness became accepted practice. Mammography ( look under breastscreening) may become another one of these scandals.

Lowering BP

Watermelon: the new, cool way to lower blood pressure in the obese

Rada Rouse   all articles by this author

WATERMELON has a vasodilatory effect, reducing ankle blood pressure in people with obesity and pre-hypertension, researchers have found.

Of course, one would need to consume the flesh of one or two whole watermelons daily to achieve this kind of benefit.

However there is an alternative. Watermelon is rich in the amino acids L-citrulline and L-arginine, which can be extracted and concentrated in a powdered supplement.

In a cross-over study with three men and 11 postmenopausal women with high BMI, researchers showed that 6g daily of the commercially available extract for six weeks reduced ankle blood pressure, brachial blood pressure and carotid augmentation index.

“This study suggests that watermelon extract improves arterial function independently of the reduction in peripheral [blood pressure],” the authors wrote.

The work extends an earlier study in which they demonstrated the hypotensive effect of the L-citrulline, which is metabolised to L-arginine, the substrate for endothelial nitric oxide.

Who would have thought that the humble watermelon was a functional food?

The Australian melon industry seems to be on to it, featuring the earlier Florida research on its website,

The website also has a handy watermelon app (you tap your smartphone against the melon and it tells you whether the fruit is ripe).

So much more fun than taking a pill or powder.

Am J Hypertension 2012, online 8 March

Medical Interventions.

When I was training in Obstetrics in the sixties, we were taught to give pregnant women a fluid tablet (diuretic) if they become edematous. This happened in most pregnancies.Doctors believed that they knew best – if it did not look normal, we had to fix it. With a pill. The same thing happened with anemia. The blood count drops due to all the extra fluid in pregnancy, so the blood becomes diluted and it appears the women is anemic. So, rather than leaving alone, doctors gave women iron tablets. Now we know that these events are quite normal and natural, and we no longer intervene like we did before. Actually we were doing harm with those treatments. Nature often knows best and should be left alone in many cases. This scenario unfortunately still occurs today – too many unnecessary interventions when doing nothing is often the best approach.

100 year old Menopausal woman

I often gat asked how long to stay on HRT. The answer is provided in the FAQ section of this website. One of my patients still on HRT turned 100 recently. Every time I try to stop it she says” No way!”  She claims it makes her feel young and has kept her going all this time. BTW, she is still very lucid and active. Has a caring daughter who accompanies her to see me.


Anyone who has had a mammogam should appreciate my new page “humour” with a very funny article on mammograms. I am regularly reminded how lucky I am to be a man!