Posted By: Dr. Joe Schwarcz · 2/2/2014 9:00:00 AM

The two most famous Romanians of all time are probably Count Dracula who cheated death by feasting on the blood of humans and Nicolae Ceaucescu, who lived by sucking the lifeblood of a nation. Ceaucescu always tried to represent himself as youthful and vigorous. As he aged, films of his exploits as a hunter and athlete proliferated. The rumor was that the dictator's aging process had been slowed down by treatments with Gerovital, Romania's famous fountain of youth in an ampule. Gerovital was introduced in the 1950's as a cure for old age by the Romanian gerontologist Ana Aslan, a good friend of Ceaucescu's. Since that time people from around the world have flocked to spas in Romania to receive shots in the butt in an attempt to reverse the aging process. President Kennedy and Nikita Khruschev had little else in common, but apparently both were treated secretly with Gerovital. ...

China Study

Posted By: Dr. Joe Schwarcz · 2/1/2014 9:00:00 AM

Can we learn something from the Chinese when it comes to eating habits? Yes, if we are interested in good health. At least that is the opinion of Professor T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University who authored The China Study, a best seller that claims to road to good health is paved with vegetables and fruits with no animal in sight. A vegan diet, he claims, is the answer to beating the ailments of western civilization, namely heart disease, cancer and diabetes. His opinion is forged by one of the most extensive epidemiological studies ever carried out, a collaborative effort between Cornell and Oxford Universities and the Chinese government back in the 1980s. China seemed to be an ideal place to study the relationship between diet and disease because of genetic uniformity but widespread differences by region in diet and disease patterns. Furthermore, residents tend to spend their lives in ...

Phosphine Can Kill

Posted By: Dr. Joe Schwarcz · 1/24/2014 2:57:00 PM

It is a family tragedy of unimaginable proportions. Two young children in Jerusalem are dead, two others are in critical condition. It seems they were poisoned by phosphine gas! Although the details are still somewhat sketchy, evidence is pointing towards a fumigation process gone terribly astray. Apparently there was a problem with insects or rodents in an apartment and an exterminator was hired. He chose to use aluminum phosphide to generate phosphine gas. When this solid reacts with water it yields garlicky-smelling phosphine gas which kills just about everything that it comes into contact with. That’s why rooms or houses have to be evacuated and totally sealed when phosphine is used. It is a bad idea to fumigate with this gas in a residential setting and using it without adequate warnings can be disastrous as was the case here. Sometimes aluminum phosphide in the form of pellets is combined with ...

Dr. Oz and "raspberry ketone"

Posted By: Dr. Joe Schwarcz · 2/9/2012 8:34:00 PM

Dr. Oz is by all accounts an excellent cardiac surgeon.  And he does offer some sound dietary advice on his popular TV show and recognizes the value of exercise.  But you can’t fill five hours a week of television by telling people to get their butt of the couch and load their plate with whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead of burgers and fries.  So Oz has to fill time with seductive nonsense.  And overweight people are ready to be seduced.  Dr. Oz, or more likely his producers, know this.  They also know that at least 40% of their viewers are overweight and tune in to the show hoping to hear the latest “news” about weight loss.  They hand on Dr. Oz’s every word and are ready to open up their wallets to try any product that seems to impress him.  Unfortunately Oz is easily impressed.  “Raspberry ketone” are a ...

Parabens and Breast Cancer

Posted By: Dr. Joe Schwarcz · 1/19/2012 9:49:00 PM

Sometimes researchers remain stubbornly wedded to their ideas even when their own work begins to unravel the fabric they have woven.  I believe such is the case with Dr. Phillipa Darbre of the University of Reading in England.  Back in 2004 Darbre achieved tabloid fame with her allegation that antiperspirants were implicated in breast cancer because they accosted breast tissue with preservatives known as parabens.  These compounds have estrogenic properties and estrogens have indeed been implicated as significant players in breast cancer. 

Darbre showed the presence of parabens in cancerous tissue taken from breast cancer patients and suggested a cause and effect relationship, buttressing her argument by pointing out that most breast cancers occur in the quadrant of the breast closest the armpit where shaving nicks would allow entry of antiperspirants most readily.  The study was small, only some twenty patients, and she had no controls.  She had no idea ...