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Finally, some really cool health news

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lately, health news has been a bummer.

Calcium, which we all counted on to strengthen our aging bones, has recently been found out to have "no broad benefit." Not only that, but it isn't a fighter in the war against colorectal cancer (as previously thought), and it can even increase the likelihood of kidney stones.

And wouldn't you think the low-fat diet would be critic-proof? Not according to that large-scale Women's Health Initiative, which found no benefit to postmenopausal women when it came to protecting them from breast cancer and heart disease.

And the latest, of course, is that report claiming glucosamine was no better than a placebo in helping with arthritic pain.

We need some encouraging news. Here are a couple of reports, culled from my recent research clippings, that I consider cheering.

A nutritional champ wins another round.

I've reported on the extensive benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in many fish (salmon being the most famous example) and high-quality fish oil supplements. The latest on this nutritional gem continues to brighten our day.

In fact, if your bloodstream isn't swimming in these omega-3s, you may be getting a bad rep around your house for having a bad attitude. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that low levels of these fatty acids in the bloodstreams of their subjects resulted in a negative outlook on life, more impulsive behavior, and moderate symptoms of depression.

Earlier research has linked omega-3 deficiencies to a whole slew of heavyweights, such as heart disease, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, bipolar illness, ADHD and substance abuse.

Now you can add grumpiness to that list.

And you thought your dog was only good at fetching.

I always thought dogs were completely promiscuous when it came to their snouts. My two French bulldogs don't seem to discriminate terribly when it comes to gardenias in the garden or morning breath. Anything odiferous sets their cute little tails to wagging.

Yet we all know that canines can be trained to detect drugs and explosives, even counterfeit currency. But did you know our greatest animal fans can actually sniff out cancer in humans?

A California not-for-profit called the Pine Street Foundation pursued some anecdotal stories about dogs being able sniff out lung and breast cancer in the breath.

In their study, which appears in this month's issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies, five ordinary dogs were trained to detect differences between breath samples of cancer patients and those who were cancer free.

After only three weeks of training, these dogs were able to detect both early and late stage breast and lung cancers with up to 97 percent accuracy!

Obviously, standard and available medical tests are needed to more accurately verify a cancer diagnosis, but many researchers are excited about the possibilities and pursuing more studies with other forms of cancer. If confirmed as a viable early cancer detector, our best friends can be used to not only catch cancers when they are in the early stages, but also as a screening device for people who don't necessarily have easy access to high-tech tests.

So if you are bummed out because you think you may have to dump all of those expensive glucosamine supplements you invested in... then take heart. Eat a nice salmon dinner and scratch your dog behind the ears.

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh, a Cape Girardeau native, is a clinical psychologist who lives and works in Santa Barbara, Calif. Contact him at mseabaugh@semissourian.com.


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