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A study shows that an herb extract often used by people trying to lower their cholesterol with a natural product is no more effective than a placebo. The University of Pennsylvania findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Not only was it ineffective, but also the extract, called guggulipid, slightly raised the level of "bad" cholesterol, LDL-C or low density lipoprotein cholesterol. In an eight-week study of more than 100 people, the researchers found LDL-C increased by 4 percent in people who took a standard dose, 1,000 mg, of guggulipid three times a day. It increased by 5 percent in a higher dose group. And in the placebo group, LDL-C levels decreased by five percent. "Our findings do not support the use of guggulipid to control LDL-C in the general population," said Dr. Philippe Szapary, professor of medicine at the university in Philadelphia. "The results do strengthen our belief that dietary supplements need to be studied in a rigorous way, to test both their safety and their efficacy."


Doctors remind people who want to look bronzed for the summer that the sun and tanning beds cause irreversible damage to the skin. Redness of burns and the sought after bronze hue are actually indicators of injury. Some people think lying in tanning beds is safer than sitting in the sun, but the opposite is true, said Dr. Daniel Sauder, of Johns Hopkins University. Although they're quicker, tanning beds emit mostly ultraviolet A rays, which penetrate deep into the skin. They can cause damage to the immune system after a single exposure and could eventually cause skin cancer. The disease will affect one million people in the United States this year, Sauder said. Instead of exposing skin to the sun or tanning lights, the doctor suggests that people who want that summer tan use self-tanning lotion.


A statewide screening program in Oregon for low-income women found they had a higher incidence of breast cancer than women in other screening programs. Researchers suggest that such breast and cervical cancer screenings can allow women who normally do not have access to other health care the opportunity to get screened. Between 1997 and 2001, more than 15,700 women had mammograms and clinical breast exams done through Oregon's program. Doctors found 12.3 cancers per 1,000 women, twice the rate found in other programs. "What this study highlights is the incredible need for screening programs to detect breast cancer," said Dr. John Vetto, professor of surgery at the Oregon Health & Science University. "They virtually save women's lives. This work only accentuates the absolute necessity of quality care for low-income women." The findings are published in the journal The Archives of Surgery.


Researchers have found that excessive gambling could be a side effect, though rare, of certain dopamine agonists taken to treat Parkinson's disease. Out of more than 1,800 Parkinson's patients, nine exhibited pathological gambling habits. "The risk of gambling problems in a Parkinson's patient is very small," said Dr. Mark Stacy, medical director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "However, it may be appropriate for doctors to inform patients of this potential risk, particularly in their patients taking relatively high dosages of a dopamine agonist and with a documented history of depression or anxiety disorder." In the study, all nine patients were taking levodopa, a drug that transforms into dopamine in the brain, and a dopamine agonist, which activates the dopamine receptor in the brain. They had been diagnosed with Parkinson's for at least 11 years before the gambling problems began and none had a previous history of gambling.

(EDITORS: For more information on CHOLESTEROL, contact Ellen O'Brien at 215-349-5659 or For TANNING, Meghan Fox at 410-955-4288. For CANCER, Rachel MacKnight at 503-494-8231 or For PARKINSON'S, Marilee Reu at 651-695-2789 or

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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