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Exercise: As Good as Heart Drugs
walkingModerate exercise—walking, jogging, cycling—has major health benefits, according to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine. Twenty-eight older, hypertensive adults were asked to engage in exercise or to receive hydrochlorothiazide for six months. While exercise did not reduce systolic blood pressure as much as did the medication, it improved cases of left ventricular hypertrophy, or heart enlargement, comparable to the thiazide. Unlike the drug, however, exercise was able to increase aerobic fitness and improve insulin resistance.

Rinder MR, Spina RJ, Peterson LR, Koenig CJ, Florence CR, Ehsani AA. Comparison of the effects of exercise and diuretic on left ventricular geometry, mass and insulin resistance in older hypertensive adults. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004;287(2):R360-8. Epub 2004 Apr 29.

Fruits and Vegetables Ward Off Strokes
Western diets rich in red and processed meats, refined grains, and sweets are associated with more strokes, according to the first-ever study to examine overall dietary patterns and stroke risk. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the diets of 71,768 female nurses, aged 38 to 63, for a period of 14 years. After controlling for lifestyle factors, the risk for any type of stroke for those eating the most foods from the “Western” diet pattern was 58 percent greater than those eating the fewest. Risk for ischemic stroke was 56 percent greater. Women eating the most whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and other low-fat foods had the most protection from strokes.

Fung TT, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Roxrode KM, Willett WC, Hu FB. Prospective study of major dietary patterns and stroke risk in women. Stroke. 2004;35:2014-2019.


cyclistExercise, Not Calcium, Counts Most in Bone Building
Exercise during adolescence is significantly associated with increased bone mass density and bone strength, according to research published in the Journal of Pediatrics. As part of the longitudinal Penn State Young Women’s Health Study, 80 young white females, aged 12 to 22, were studied for ten years, with researchers analyzing calcium intake, exercise history, and oral contraceptive use. Daily calcium intake varied from 500 to 1,900 mg, but only exercise was identified as a predominant determinant of bone strength.

Lloyd T, Petit MA, Lin HM, Beck TJ. Lifestyle factors and the development of bone mass and bone strength in young women. J Pediatr. 2004;144:776-782.



Fruit Can Save Your Eyesight
appleMen and women who consumed three or more servings of fruit per day, especially oranges and bananas, had a decreased risk of macular degeneration, according to research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Researchers tracked 77,000 women and 40,000 men for up to 18 and 12 years, respectively, who were at least 50 years old and had no diagnosis of age-related maculopathy. After more than a decade of follow-up, those who ate the most fruits had the lowest risk of macular degeneration.

Cho E, Seddon JM, Rosner B, Willett WC, Hankinson SE. Prospective study of intake of fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and carotenoids and risk of age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122:883-892.


A Virtual Patient May Save Your Life
The ten-year-old technology that created “virtual patient” simulators for new physicians to practice on has netted such good results that medical experts at the American College of Surgeons and other institutions are now working to standardize its use at schools and hospitals nationwide.

Studies show that physicians who train on simulators—which are lifelike mannequins with hearts that beat, lungs that breathe, and veins that respond to injection—make fewer errors and work more quickly than those who practiced on animals or learned by observation. Simulators are widely used for training U.S. military medics and about half of U.S. medical students.

Although they are pricey—from $40,000 to $2 million each—a new study found that simulators pay for themselves in six months because trainees quickly gain efficiency.

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Drug Company Admits Medication Failure—Two Years Later
Forest Laboratories announced that a 2002 study found its antidepressant Lexapro ineffective in children and adolescents—information the company omitted from a 2004 article in The American Journal of Psychiatry which reported that the drug had positive effects. The announcement comes just months after Oxford University researchers discovered that clinicians routinely alter the results of their studies to present the outcomes they desire. Celexa, another Forest antidepressant widely prescribed for pediatric patients, contains the same active ingredient as Lexapro.

The New York Times, June 26, 2004

Most British Doctors Skeptical of Animal Experiments
Ray GreekA new survey shows that an overwhelming majority (82 percent) of British general practitioners are concerned that animal data can be misleading when applied to humans. Eighty-three percent of the survey respondents also said they would support an independent scientific evaluation of the efficacy of animal testing.
The survey was conducted in August 2004 by Europeans for Medical Advancement (EMA), a nonprofit research and educational institute dedicated to modernizing medical research. Notes EMA director Ray Greek, M.D., “An independent, transparent and public evaluation of the scientific value of animal experimentation is long overdue.”


Cover: Count the animals in this picture

Winter 2005
Volume XIV
Number 1

Good Medicine


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