News Notes

BPH Makes Strange Bed Fellows; How To ID Genetically Modified Produce

By Lara Evans Bracciante

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, February/March 2004.

Botox and Prostate Make Strange Bed Fellows

A minute injection of Botox — the very same substance commonly used to abate frown lines and wrinkles — may ease benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) in older men. BPH, a noncancerous enlarged prostate, affects more than 50 percent of men over 60 and 80 percent of men by age 80. As the prostate enlarges, it impinges on and narrows the urethra, causing difficult and painful urination as well as increased frequency, urgency or a sense of incompleteness. About 50 percent of men with BPH experience these symptoms and surgery can cause serious side effects, including compromised sexual function and incontinence.

Botox (botulinum toxin) — produced from the same food borne bacterium that causes potentially lethal botulism — blocks chemical messages between nerves and muscles, in effect paralyzing the muscles temporarily and smoothing the skin. In a small, controlled study, 15 men with BPH were injected behind the scrotum with botulinum toxin and 15 other BPH subjects, unknowingly serving as the control group, were injected with saline. At the two-month check-up 13 of the 15 Botox subjects reported fewer urination problems, compared with only three of the men in the control group. Scores measuring BPH severity dropped 65 percent in the Botox group versus no change in the control group, and improvements were reported up to one year. Experts are cautiously optimistic, calling for more research and larger studies to verify the results.

Other nonsurgical options for treating BPH herbal remedies, some of which have exhibited results comparable to those produced by pharmaceuticals and with less side effects. These include saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), pygeum (Pygeum africanum) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Lifestyle changes can also have beneficial effects on BPH: Exercise, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, avoid decongestants, don’t drink a large amount of water after dinner, and reduce or eliminate completely tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.

Forbidden Fruit? How To Identify Genetically Modified Produce

Approximately seven out of 10 food items in your grocery store have been genetically modified (GM) by artificially integrating one species’ DNA with another. For example, in some cases, tomato DNA has been spliced with fish genes to increase freezing tolerance in the tomatoes, and other produce has been genetically altered to contain its own pesticide, such as corn engineered to kill off corn-eating bugs. Opponents of this technology note the negative impacts--GM corn pollen kills other species besides pests, such as the monarch butterfly, and there is a lack of studies reviewing the effects of GM corn consumption in humans.

Consumers in Europe and Asia have demanded labeling for such foods, citing the possibility of long-term health and environmental consequences. In the United States, however, labeling for GM foods is not required. But fortunately in the produce section, there is a way to determine the origination of fruit: Take a look at that little, often annoying, sticker with the PLU number:

·Genetically modified fruits have a five-digit PLU that always begins with the number 8.

·Conventionally grown fruit—meaning grown with the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides—consists of only four numbers.

·Organically grown fruits—meaning grown without genetic modification or pesticides—have a five-digit PLU beginning with 9.

Other than PLU-marked fruit, because of the lack of labeling laws, the only way to ensure foods are not genetically modified is to buy organic. Currently, the grassroots Organic Consumers Organization is conducting a campaign to stop the commercial release of GM wheat, which, once released, would likely become ubiquitous, turning up in cereal, bread, pasta, soup and more. For more information on this campaign or other GM issues, visit