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Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth

FRIDAY, Jan. 30 -- Eager to relieve joint pain and repair the cushioning between bones, millions of arthritis sufferers reach for glucosamine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Despite its popularity, studies examining the effectiveness of this natural therapy have yielded mixed results. "There is still a lot of uncertainty about glucosamine," said Dr. Steven C. Vlad, a fellow in clinical epidemiology and rheumatology at Boston University School of Medicine. So what is glucosamine, anyway? It's a type of sugar that the body produces and distributes in cartilage and other connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate, often taken in combination with glucosamine, is a complex carbohydrate that helps cartilage retain water, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. These substances are derived from animal tissues, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Glucosamine is extracted from crab, lobster or shrimp shells, and chondroitin sulfate c ...

Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4 -- The melamine-tainted infant formula in China that sickened more than 50,000 kids last fall resulted in more than 10 percent of the youngest ones developing kidney problems, according to just-released Beijing research on the scandal. About 20 percent of melamine-exposed infants in Taiwan and 10 percent of those who drank the formula in Beijing ended up getting kidney stones. And children born prematurely had an even greater risk, concluded the authors of a study released online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine and scheduled to appear in the journal's March 12 print issue. "We've had reports of roughly the number of children affected, but this is the first report that is more systematically looking at the ramifications of the exposure in kids," said Dr. Michael Somers, a pediatric nephrologist with Children's Hospital Boston and a spokesman for the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology. "This is from the hospital in Beijing, which is their eq ...

Genetic Test for Heart Disease Risk in the Works

SUNDAY, Feb. 8 -- Perhaps five years from now, you might actually hear your doctor casually say, "While we're at it, let's do a blood test to see if your genetic makeup puts you at high risk of having a heart attack." So says Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of preventive cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the leader of a group that has identified three new genetic variants associated with an increased risk of heart attack. That finding, which brings the total of such risk-associated variants to nine, is reported in the Feb. 8 online issue of Nature Genetics. The journal highlights a total of five papers from groups around the world looking at the genetics of heart disease. The study led by Kathiresan, done by a group of six organizations called the Myocardial Infarction Genetics Consortium, is the largest of the five. It compared the genomes of about 3,000 people who had suffered heart attacks rel ...