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Natural Foods Merchandiser


The Second Coming of St. John's Wort
A government-funded study may give St. John's wort a chance to redeem itself as an effective antidepressant. The botanical was slammed in nationwide publications in April 2001 when a Journal of the American Medical Association study found it was ineffective in treating moderate to severe depression. The four-year study is testing St. John's wort as a treatment for mild depression—the form of the depression it is typically used for in the alternative medical community. The $4 million, double-blind study, funded in part by The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, will compare the herb's treatment efficacy with that of the pharmaceutical antidepressant citalopram. The study includes 300 men and women aged 18 to 85 and is being conducted in health care facilities in Los Angeles, Boston and Pittsburgh.

Supps Claims Cleared
The U. S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved qualified health claims for the supplements phospholipid phosphatidylserine, for elderly cognitive dysfunction; and selenium, to reduce the risk of certain cancers. But industry insiders are complaining that the FDA's qualifying language diminishes the claims' impact. The claim for PS reads: "Very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that PS may reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly. FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim." Yet despite the agency's tepid support, it is support nonetheless, so retailers should expect to see more products containing these two nutrients available soon.

Antibiotic Overload
Antibiotic overuse and resistance is starting to get the government's attention. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires warning labels on antibiotics advising doctors to use them only when a bacterial infection is present. The label is an attempt to reduce the inappropriate prescription of antibiotics for common ailments such as ear infections and chronic coughs. Virtually all human bacteria that can be treated with antibiotics have developed some resistance, according to the FDA. Every time antibiotics are used, a few germs may survive by mutating and these genes can multiply quickly, creating drug-resistant strains that can be spread to others, the FDA states.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 5/p. 32

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