Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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More evidence adding nuts is a healthy choice

By Genevra Pittman   NEW YORK   Fri Apr 26, 2013

(Reuters Health) – People can safely add a few nuts to their diet – or replace other foods with the high-unsaturated fat, high-fiber snacks – without gaining weight, a new review of past studies suggests.

Researchers combined data from 31 trials conducted across the globe and found that on average, there was very little difference in changes in weight or waist measurements between people who were put on a normal or nut-supplemented diet.

“Most of the nut-enriched studies don’t show that patients gain a significant amount of weight, in contrast to what one might think,” said Dr. David Bleich, head of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.

Gemma Flores-Mateo from the Institut Universitari d’Investigacio en Atencio Primaria Jordi Gol in Tarragona, Spain and colleagues said previous research has tied nut-containing diets to a lower risk of death, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Bleich, who wasn’t involved in the new report, said his own work has shown measures of insulin resistance – a diabetes predictor – were lower when people added nuts to their diets.

“One would generally think if you’re increasing the ‘fat content’ of the diet, you might in fact make insulin resistance worse,” he told Reuters Health. “It speaks to this issue of the quality of the fats that we consume.”


Nuts may also suppress hunger because of their unsaturated fats, fiber and protein, the researchers noted.

In the trials they looked at, participants were randomly assigned to a normal diet or one that included extra nuts – or, more often, nuts substituted for other food items – and followed for anywhere from two weeks to five years.

At the end of follow-up, people on nut diets had dropped about 1.4 extra pounds and lost close to half an inch off their waists, compared to those in the nut-free groups. However, the differences could have been due to chance.

“Although the magnitude of these effects was modest, the results allay the fear that nut consumption may promote obesity,” Flores-Mateo’s team wrote last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Our findings support the inclusion of nuts in healthy diets for cardiovascular prevention.”

However it’s not simply a matter of “throwing additional nuts into your already poor-quality diet,” Bleich said. He said heart protection comes from looking at a fuller picture of the diet – and adding fruits, vegetables and olive oil, for example, in addition to nuts.

Dr. Adam Gilden Tsai, an obesity researcher from the University of Colorado in Denver, said he wouldn’t recommend people eat nuts on top of their normal diet, but that substituting them for other foods may lead to some benefits, such as on cholesterol levels.

“It’s fine to eat nuts if you can still limit your calories,” Tsai told Reuters Health. But he cautioned that it can be hard for people to eat just one serving.

“Normally what I would say to a patient is, ‘A small handful of nuts can be a very good and filling snack, but you have to be very careful because it’s high in calories.'”

SOURCE: bit.ly/15MepVc American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online April 17, 2013          Reuters 
 


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Pour on the olive oil: Big study finds Mediterranean-style diet cuts heart attack, stroke risk

MARILYNN MARCHIONE / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS    FEBRUARY 25, 2013

Pour on the olive oil, preferably over fish and vegetables: One of the longest and most scientific tests of a Mediterranean diet suggests this style of eating can cut the chance of suffering heart-related problems, especially strokes, in older people at high risk of them.

The study lasted five years and involved about 7,500 people in Spain. Those who ate Mediterranean-style with lots of olive oil or nuts had a 30 per cent lower risk of major cardiovascular problems compared to those who were told to follow a low-fat diet but who in reality, didn’t cut fat very much. Mediterranean meant lots of fruit, fish, chicken, beans, tomato sauce, salads, and wine and little baked goods and pastries.

Mediterranean diets have long been touted as heart-healthy, but that’s based on observational studies that can’t prove the point. The new research is much stronger because people were assigned diets to follow for a long time and carefully monitored. Doctors even did lab tests to verify that the Mediterranean diet folks were consuming more olive oil or nuts as recommended.

Most of these people were taking medicines for high cholesterol and blood pressure, and researchers did not alter those proven treatments, said one study leader, Dr. Ramon Estruch of Hospital Clinic in Barcelona.

But as a first step to prevent heart problems, “we think diet is better than a drug” because it has few if any side effects, Estruch said. “Diet works.”

Results were published online Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine and were discussed at a nutrition conference in Loma Linda, Calif.

People in the study were not given rigid menus or calorie goals because weight loss was not the aim. That could be why they found the “diets” easy to stick with — only about 7 per cent dropped out within two years. There were twice as many dropouts in the low-fat group than among those eating Mediterranean-style.

Researchers also provided the nuts and olive oil, so it didn’t cost participants anything to use these relatively pricey ingredients. The type of oil may have mattered — they used extra-virgin olive oil, which is minimally processed and richer than regular or light olive oil in the chemicals and nutrients that earlier studies have suggested are beneficial.

The study involved people ages 55 to 80, just over half of them women. All were free of heart disease at the start but were at high risk for it because of health problems — half had diabetes and most were overweight and had high cholesterol and blood pressure.

They were assigned to one of three groups: Two followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil (4 tablespoons a day) or with walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds (a fistful a day). The third group was urged to eat a low-fat diet heavy on bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, fruits, vegetables and fish and light on baked goods, nuts, oils and red meat.


Independent monitors stopped the study after nearly five years when they saw fewer problems in the two groups on Mediterranean diets.

Doctors tracked a composite of heart attacks, strokes or heart-related deaths. There were 96 of these in the Mediterranean-olive oil group, 83 in the Mediterranean-nut group and 109 in the low-fat group.

Looked at individually, stroke was the only problem where type of diet made a big difference. Diet had no effect on death rates overall.

The Mediterranean diet proved better even though its followers ate about 200 calories more per day than the low-fat group did. The study leaders now are analyzing how each of the diets affected weight gain or loss and body mass index.

The Spanish government’s health research agency initiated and paid for the study, and foods were supplied by olive oil and nut producers in Spain and the California Walnut Commission. Many of the authors have extensive financial ties to food, wine and other industry groups but said the sponsors had no role in designing the study or analyzing and reporting its results.

Rachel Johnson, a University of Vermont professor who heads the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee, said the study is very strong because of the lab tests to verify oil and nut consumption and because researchers tracked actual heart attacks, strokes and deaths — not just changes in risk factors such as high cholesterol.

“At the end of the day, what we care about is whether or not disease develops,” she said. “It’s an important study.”

Rena Wing, a weight-loss expert at Brown University, noted that researchers provided the oil and nuts, and said “it’s not clear if people could get the same results from self-designed Mediterranean diets” — or if Americans would stick to them more than Europeans who are used to such foods.

Dr. George Bray of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., said he would give the study “a positive — even glowing — comment” and called it “the best and certainly one of the largest prospective dietary trials ever done.”

“The data are sufficiently strong to convince me to move my dietary pattern closer to the Mediterranean Diet that they outline,” he added.

Another independent expert also praised the study as evidence diet can lower heart risks.

“The risk reduction is close to that achieved with statins,” cholesterol-lowering drugs, said Dr. Robert Eckel, a diet and heart disease expert at the University of Colorado.

“But this study was not carried out or intended to compare diet to statins or blood pressure medicines,” he warned. “I don’t think people should think now they can quit taking their medicines.”

source:

 


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How To Tell If Vitamins Are Synthetic

Apr 20, 2011    By Cheryl Myers

You can make wiser choices when purchasing vitamins by learning to identify synthetic dietary supplements from natural vitamin products. Manufacturers of dietary supplements sometimes use synthetic materials for increasing the vitamin’s potency and stability. According to the Organic Consumers Association, some of these materials come from coal tar derivatives, the same toxins that cause throat cancer in tobacco smokers. Before shopping for vitamin supplements, know what to look for in a vitamin product that may cause harm to your health.

Step 1
Search for words listed in the ingredients that begin with “dl.” When a word contains “dl” in the prefix, it is an indication that the vitamin is synthetic. As an example, “dl-alpha tocopherol acetate” and “dl-alpha tocopherol” are synthetic forms of vitamin E.

Step 2
Find words that end with “ate” or “ide” in the list of ingredients. These words indicate that the manufacturer used synthetic materials for increasing the vitamin’s potency and stability. Some words to look for include nitrate, acetate, sodium ascorbate, sodium benzoate, chloride, hydrochloride, silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide.


Step 3
Find the synthetic form of the vitamin listed under the ingredient list. Natural vitamins come from natural food sources. If you see the vitamin listed as the vitamin itself, such as “vitamin D,” then it is sure to be the synthetic version, according to Dr. Ben Kim, a Canadian chiropractor and radio show host. Look for food sources such as “citrus” instead of “vitamin C” or “parsley” instead of “vitamin K.”

Step 4
Identify the words “natural” on the vitamin bottle. If the bottle says, “100 percent natural” the vitamin supplement does not contain synthetics. On the other hand, a label that says, “natural,” might have at least some synthetic components. According to Earl Mindell’s “New Vitamin Bible,” only 10 percent of the product must come from natural food sources in order for a company to claim “natural” on the product’s label. If the product label does not say “100 percent animal-based” or “100 percent plant-based,” the supplement is synthetic.

Step 5
Look for the vitamin potency listed on the product’s label. According to the Organic Consumers Association, if the vitamin supplement has a high or otherwise unnatural potency, the product is synthetic. For example, a product that provides 1,000 percent of vitamin C is unusually high. This is ten times the amount you need daily, and an amount that even a healthy diet — consisting of natural, whole-food sources — cannot provide.

References
Organic Consumers Association: The Synthetic Vitamin Milligram Game; Brian Clement; January 2007
Dr. Ben Kim: Synthetic vs. Natural Vitamins
“Earl Mindell’s New Vitamin Bible”; Earl Mindell and Hester Mundis; 2011
Organic Consumers Association: Background Info on Synthetic vs. Natural Vitamins (Q&A); 2007

Article reviewed by Mary Bland


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7 Ways to Curb Junk-Food Cravings

April 9, 2013    By Jenny Sugar, POPSUGAR

Decadent hot-fudge brownie sundaes, greasy chili cheese fries, and ooey-gooey pizza—sometimes it’s hard to resist the temptation of these delicious, high-calorie, sodium- and sugar-laden foods. If your junk-food cravings are taking over and it’s affecting your mood or your weight-loss goals, here are some ways to control your desire for not-so-healthy foods.

Set some limits. Going cold turkey and restricting yourself from every single type of crave-worthy junk food may be asking a bit too much (translation: you’re bound to go crazy from want and overindulge). Start off with small limitations such as no artificial sweeteners or no soda, and then add to your list of no-nos as you feel ready.

Indulge on the good stuff. Allow yourself one small indulgence each day to avoid feeling deprived, which can heighten cravings even more. Forget low-quality, cheapo junk when cravings strike. Choose treats made with real, rich ingredients like a dark-chocolate-covered strawberry or full-fat ice cream—you’re more likely to feel satisfied after a few bites of the good stuff, which means consuming less calories, fat, and sugar.

Find healthier alternatives. If you know yourself well enough that it’s not possible to eat just a little without wanting more and more, whip up some healthier options of your faves, minus the guilt. You’ll feel much better devouring these low-calorie desserts—all delicious and under 150 calories. If pizza is your thrill, try these healthier slices. And instead of french fries or potato chips, these baked tofu squares are a lower-fat way to satisfy your salty cravings.


Use the power of a goal. Got a big trip or wedding coming up? Or maybe having to sport short skirts in a couple months is incentive enough. Use the power of a goal to keep cravings at bay. Every time you want to reach for a bag of chips, think about how delicious a healthier you will feel in that bikini or strapless number.

Change bad habits. Sometimes there are certain events or places that kick cravings into gear, so identify what sets you off so you can avoid it or start a new habit. If you can’t pick up your morning coffee at the local café without grabbing an icing-covered scone as well, make your cup of joe at home. If you always reach for a pint of ice cream when you sit down for some late-night TV, make yourself a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit instead. After some time, these new habits will take over, miraculously diminishing your old ones.

Limit the booze. Alcohol impairs your judgment, making you more apt to say yes to anything edible. Stick to a one-drink-a-day policy to not only curb your junk-food cravings but to also reduce your risk for certain types of cancers.

Get enough z’s. When we’re tired and don’t have time for a nap, we tend to reach for a high-calorie pick-me-up. Get to sleep early enough so you feel so energized that you don’t need a soda or cookie to pep you up.


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Why your garage could pose a health threat

Angela Mulholland, CTV News.ca Saturday, April 13, 2013 

If you have a garage attached to your house, you could be at higher risk of developing leukemia or other forms of cancer.

Health Canada has expressed concern that benzene from car exhaust and other fumes could be entering homes. It’s now working on guidelines to help homeowners prevent the toxic gas from seeping into their homes.

Benzene is a volatile organic compound, or VOC, that’s found naturally in crude oil and thus in gasoline and vehicle exhaust.

There are already low levels of benzene in the air all around us due to air pollution from motor vehicle exhaust. But now Health Canada wants to make our homes safer.

Most Canadians know about the risks of carbon monoxide in their homes, but many aren’t as familiar with the risk of benzene exposure.

Deborah Schoen, the head of Health Canada’s indoor air section, says the agency has conducted studies measuring levels of the gas in homes across Canada. Those studies found that the levels were generally low, whether the houses had attached garages or not.

“On average, benzene levels in houses with attached garages are three times higher than of other houses,” Schoen told CTV News Channel this week from Ottawa.

Most drivers know not to run their vehicles after entering and closing the garage. What they may not know: after a car is turned off, the engine will continue to emit benzene into the air as it sits in the garage.

As well, the paints and solvents that many homeowners store in their garage also emit benzene as they slowly evaporate. Schoen says that for the most part, the risk of long-term health effect is not high.

“The cancer risk is extremely low. But Health Canada and the World Health Organization and the European Commission recommend people reduce their exposure to benzene as much as possible,” she says.

“So for this reason, Health Canada advises people to reduce benzene exposure as much as possible.”


Studies have shown that benzene can definitely cause problems if people are exposed to high levels over long periods of time. Workers in industrial settings exposed to high levels of benzene have been shown to have a much higher risk of leukemia.

Benzene is dangerous because of the damage it can do to the blood. It causes bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, while also damaging the immune system by not creating enough white blood cells.

Thanks to regulations brought in in the 1990s that reduced the amount of benzene in gasoline, Canadians’ exposure to benzene has been dropping in recent decades.

But Schoen says it’s important to keep looking for ways to reduce our exposure to the gas even further, which is why Health Canada is focusing on the indoor air quality of homes with attached garages.

The guidelines are expected to advised homeowner to never idle a vehicle inside a garage, but to let it warm up outside. “People might open the garage door and figure that’s enough,” Schoen said.

But even with the door open, a range of pollutants from vehicle exhaust– not just benzene but carbon monoxide and other pollutants– accumulate when you idle your car in an attached garage.”

The next step should be to seal the walls and ceiling between the garage and home.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. provides a fact sheet on the risks of attached garages and offers these recommendations for minimizing the transfer of garage air to the home.

Make sure the weather stripping around the door to the garage is continuous and in good shape.
Have spray foam insulation installed to seal the wall between the house and garage. Then drywall can be installed over top to further reduce air leakage.

A similar approach can be taken to seal the ceiling space between the garage and any rooms above. This will also help reduce energy costs and keep the floors warmer.

Another approach involves installing an exhaust fan to vent garage air to the outside. The fan would also help depressurize the garage relative to the house, thereby preventing air movement from the garage to the house, even if leaks exist.

source: CTV


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17 Essential Reasons to Eat Organic Food

Michelle Schoffro Cook   April 4, 2013

Organic food was the only option for thousands of years.  Now, with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and genetically-modified foods, organic is still the best option.  Here are 17 reasons to eat organic food:

1.  Genetically-modified foods were unleashed on the environment and the public by corporations like Monsanto without prior testing to determine their safety.  In other words, eating genetically-modified foods (which most people in in large amounts) is participating in a long-term, uncontrolled experiment. Choose organic to avoid participating in this experiment.

2.  More and more research is coming in about the health threat of genetically-modified food.  The results range from intestinal damage, allergies, liver or pancreatic problems, testicular cellular changes, tumors, and even death in the experimental animals. For more information, read the excellent books by Jeffrey M. Smith Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette. I’ll discuss more of the problems linked with GMOs in upcoming blogs. Eating third-party certified organic foods or those that are guaranteed to be grown from organic seed helps protect you from the health consequences of GMOs.

3.  Fruits and vegetables are real food, not pesticide factories. Eighteen percent of all genetically-modified seeds (and therefore foods that grow from them) are engineered to produce their own pesticides.  Research shows that these seeds continue producing pesticides inside your body once you’ve eaten the food grown from them! Foods that are actually pesticide factories…no thanks.

4.  They’re free of neurotoxins—toxins that are damaging to brain and nerve cells. A commonly-used class of pesticides called organophosphates was originally developed as a toxic nerve agent during World War I. When there was no longer a need for them in warfare, industry adapted them to kill pests on foods. Many pesticides are still considered neurotoxins.  Learn more about pesticides in The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan.

5.  They’re supportive of growing children’s brains and bodies.  Children’s growing brains and bodies are far more susceptible to toxins than adults.  Choosing organic helps feed their bodies without the exposure to pesticides and genetically-modified organisms, both of which have a relatively short history of use (and therefore safety).

6.  In study after study, research from independent organizations consistently shows organic food is higher in nutrients than traditional foods.  Research shows that organic produce is higher in vitamin C, antioxidants, and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium. (For more information, check out The Life Force Diet).


7.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides pollute the primary drinking source for half the American population. Organic farming is the best solution to the problem. Buying organic helps reduce pollution in our drinking water.

8.  Organic food is earth-supportive (when big business keeps their hands out of it). Organic food production has been around for thousands of years and is the sustainable choice for the future.  Compare that to modern agricultural practices that are destructive of the environment through widespread use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers and have resulted in drastic environmental damage in many parts of the world.

9.  Organic food choices grown on small-scale organic farms help ensure independent family farmers can create a livelihood. Consider it the domestic version of fair trade.

10. Most organic food simply tastes better than the pesticide-grown counterparts.

11. Organic food is not exposed to gas-ripening like some non-organic fruits and vegetables (like bananas).

12.  Organic farms are safer for farm workers. Research at the Harvard School of Public Health found a 70% increase in Parkinson’s disease among people exposed to pesticides. Choosing organic foods means that more people will be able to work on farms without incurring the higher potential health risk of Parkinson’s or other illnesses.

13.  Organic food supports wildlife habitats. Even with commonly used amounts of pesticides, wildlife is being harmed by exposure to pesticides.

14.  Eating organic may reduce your cancer risk.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30% of insecticides potentially cancer-causing.  It is reasonable to think that the rapidly increasing rates of cancer are at least partly linked to the use of these carcinogenic pesticides.

15.  Choosing organic meat lessens your exposure to antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and drugs that find their way into the animals and ultimately into you.

16.  Organic food is tried and tested. By some estimates genetically-modified food makes up 80% of the average person’s food consumption. Genetic modification of food is still experimental. Avoid being part of this wide scale and uncontrolled experiment.

17.  Organic food supports greater biodiversity.  Diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. Genetically-modified and non-organic food is focused on high yield monoculture and is destroying biodiversity.

Adapted from  The Life Force Diet by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.
source: care2.com
 


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It’s Not Just the Fat: There’s Another Way Red Meat May Harm the Heart

By Alexandra Sifferlin   April 08, 2013

Eating Red, Processed Meat Raises Your Risk of Early Death

Saturated fat? Cholesterol? Sure, red meat has plenty of those, but it also contains a compound that toys with gut bacteria and can lead to clogged arteries.

When it comes to explaining exactly why steaks and hamburgers and other red meats can be so harmful to the heart, the saturated fat that the body breaks down and sequesters in blood vessel walls where they can form dangerous plaques is an easy and obvious culprit. But the high rates of heart disease in the developed world suggest that these fats may not be working alone, say a group of researchers from the Cleveland Clinic who study how microbes and bacteria in our gut influence heart disease.

Our gut is full of bacteria — good strains that don’t cause disease — and recent studies show that these microbes can have a significant impact on our health, affecting our propensity for obesity, asthma, inflammatory diseases and even cancer. Not surprisingly, what we eat can influence which populations of bacteria are more common at any given time, so the researchers of the new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, focused on how these gut microbes responded to a diet that included meat. Specifically, they looked at a compound called carnitine, which is abundant in meats like beef, lamb, duck and pork, but is also a popular dietary supplement in energy drinks.

In previous work on mice, the scientists found that gut bacteria can transform choline, a vitamin-B-group nutrient, from the diet into a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) that transports cholesterol to arteries where it forms potentially heart-stopping plaques. Carnitine, it turns out, is structurally similar to choline, so the researchers set out to document whether carnitine is metabolized by human gut bacteria in a similar way to gum up heart vessels and cause atherosclerosis.


To better understand the relationship between carnitine and TMAO, the researchers conducted a series of experiments with meat eaters and a vegan willing to consume meat for the sake of the study. In the first phase, they documented the boost in TMAO produced after the meat-eating volunteers ate an 8-oz. steak and downed a capsule that would attach to and label the carnitine for easy detection. Consuming high amounts of carnitine from the steak was only associated with a higher level of TMAO in the blood of the five meat eaters, however, and not in the vegan who hadn’t consumed meat in at least a year. That suggests that eating meat can promote larger numbers of bacteria that break down carnitine into TMAO, thus generating more heart-harming cholesterol and establishing a cycle of damage to the heart.

This was confirmed when the researchers then looked at the levels of TMAO and carnitine in the blood of 2,595 patients undergoing heart-disease evaluations who were either omnivores, vegans or vegetarians. Meat eaters tended to harbor higher levels of carnitine and had a higher risk of heart disease, stroke or heart attack compared with the vegans or vegetarians. The bacteria in the gut, then, are heavily influenced by long-term-diet patterns, adding another layer to the understanding of how food can affect our risk for developing certain diseases. “A diet high in carnitine actually shifts our gut microbe composition to those that like carnitine, making meat eaters even more susceptible to forming TMAO and its artery-clogging effects. Meanwhile, vegans and vegetarians have a significantly reduced capacity to synthesize TMAO from carnitine, which may explain the cardiovascular health benefits of these diets,” said study leader Dr. Stanley Hazen, of the Cleveland Clinic, in a statement.

In fact, when the meat eaters were given antibiotics for a week to cull some of the intestinal bacteria, levels of TMAO dropped significantly. That finding hints that it may be possible to control some of the heart-harming effects of red meat by suppressing certain populations of bacteria in the gut, although more studies need to be done to confirm exactly which bacterial populations are responsible for breaking down carnitine, and how direct the association between carnitine and TMAO is.

And then there are questions about carnitine supplements. Some energy drinks contain the compound, which is often added to rev up metabolism and increase energy, but if it also promotes the growth of bacteria that contribute to atherosclerosis, then people consuming energy drinks may not be aware that these products may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

The findings certainly set the stage for more detailed studies on how red meat may contribute to heart disease, but in the meantime, it’s probably not necessary to entirely cut out red meat from your diet. Hazen’s own strategy should serve as a model: once a meat eater who enjoyed about 12 oz. several times a week, he told the New York Times that he now limits himself to eating 4 to 6 oz. once every two weeks. Moderation, it seems, is the best approach until more information becomes available.

source: Time