Acetaminophen Damages the Fetus

Many women take acetaminophen when pregnant, but acetaminophen damages the fetus. It is important to realize that acetaminophen is a common over-the-counter pain reliever. In addition, it is also often combined with codeine as headache pills. Acetaminophen goes under these brand names: Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext and Little Fevers Children’s Fever/Pain Reliever. The international name of acetaminophen is the name “paracetamol”.

An international group of 13 scientists are calling health care professionals to limit the use of acetaminophen in pregnant women. CNN reported about this under this link.

These scientists published an article in the medical journal Nature on the dangers of paracetamol use in pregnancy.  Specifically, they said that acetaminophen can alter fetal development, which includes reproductive, neurodevelopmental and urogenital disorders.

History of acetaminophen

The chemical name for acetaminophen is N-acetyl-p-aminophenol. Acetaminophen is simply a shortened version of that chemical name. It was introduced in the US in 1955 as Tylenol® and in the United Kingdom in 1956 under the brand name Panadol®. In particular, acetaminophen was recommended to control fevers and to help with pain control.

In the 1960’s the Swiss watch industry provided workers who complained of headaches freely with acetaminophen. With this in mind, within a few years studies showed that many of these women who took a lot of this medication developed kidney problems. This led to an increase of the creatinine level in the blood. The kidney damage from acetaminophen was dubbed “phenacetin kidneys”. Outside of the US acetaminophen has the name phenacetin. Many of these patients subsequently had to receive dialysis and later kidney transplants.

Acetaminophen toxicity

The recommended dose of acetaminophen is 650 mg to 1000 mg 4-6 times daily, not to exceed 4 grams/day. The therapeutic window for this drug is very narrow, because 7.5 grams per day to 10 grams per day are already toxic. For children the dose is 15 mg/kg every 6 hours to a maximum of 60 mg/kg per day.

The other known toxicity concerns liver function. This article about Tylenol toxicity explains this in more detail.

Many people do not know about the limit for the over-the-counter acetaminophen and take too much for a fever or a painful condition. Just because a drug is available over the counter does not mean that it is harmless. If you don’t watch for toxic levels, you could end up dead or find yourself waiting for a liver transplant.

New evidence that acetaminophen damages the fetus

91 scientists from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Israel, Scotland, the UK and US have signed a declaration. In it they ask pregnant women not to take acetaminophen “unless its use is medically indicated”. Among the reasons for the declaration is that acetaminophen certainly can cause neural tube defects and cardiovascular disorders in fetuses. Pediatrician Dr. Leonardo Trasande, director of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone Health, did not partake in this research. He has done safety studies on acetaminophen and pointed out the similarity in chemical structure between acetaminophen and phthalates. Like phthalates acetaminophen disrupts the reproductive development in animals and humans.

Evidence for neurodevelopmental disruption

Dr. Shanna Swan, a professor of environmental medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York said: “There’s enough evidence to find increased risk of undescended testicles and a shortening of the anogenital distance, which is a predictive of later decreased sperm count and decreased fertility. We also see impaired ovarian function which has consequences for later fertility, although females have been less studied.”

The conditions that relate to acetaminophen toxicity were attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavior abnormalities and autism spectrum disorders. In addition, language delays, conduct disorders and decreased IQ were due to neurodevelopment disruption from acetaminophen toxicity.

Mechanism of action of acetaminophen and side effects

Acetaminophen has been on the market for over 60 years. But scientists still don’t know exactly how it acts in the body to help control pain and reduce fever. There is a consensus that acetaminophen acts on the central nervous system inhibiting the synthesis of prostaglandins. These biological compounds have a leading role in causing fever, pain and inflammation. But the scientific proof for this consensus is still outstanding.

Side effects

There are a multitude of side effects that can occur with the use of acetaminophen. Common side effects are hives, itching, swelling of the mouth and throat and tingling in the mouth or throat. Other side effects are swelling in the face or hands, breathing difficulties or chest tightness. Acetaminophen can cause a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Severe stomach pain can be another symptom of acetaminophen side effects. As you can see from the above link there are many more known side effects of acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen Damages the Fetus

Acetaminophen Damages the Fetus


Acetaminophen (=paracetamol, phenacetin) is a popular over-the-counter fever and pain remedy. But a narrow therapeutic width can cause serious overdoses where both the liver and the kidneys suffer irreparable damage. When people unknowingly take too much acetaminophen, they enter into the toxic range. This can cause disability and death. Kidney damage from acetaminophen became known as “phenacetin kidneys” already in the 1960’s in female workers of the watch industry in Switzerland. They developed headaches from constantly working with magnifying glasses and had free access to acetaminophen provided by the employer. Later, in North America liver disease developed when patients overdosed with over-the-counter acetaminophen for fever and pain control.

Interruption of fetal development from exposure of the fetus to acetaminophen 

At the present time the focus is on newer findings of researchers. They noticed that exposure of pregnant women to acetaminophen damages the fetus. This results in undescended testicles and a shortening of the anogenital distance which is a predictive of later decreased sperm count and decreased fertility. These are findings for males. Findings in females are less studied at this point in time. Dr. Leonardo Trasande pointed out the similarity in chemical structure between acetaminophen and phthalates. Like phthalates acetaminophen disrupts the reproductive development in animals and humans. Patients should take acetaminophen only under supervision with doses that are safe. The old notion that acetaminophen would be safe in pregnancy is no longer true in light of the new medical findings. Any pregnant woman should discuss with her physician what she can safely take.

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Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life


A 20-year study showed that close diabetes control prolongs life. A study divided 160 people with diabetes into two groups. The one group continued to get standard care. Yet the other group received a multi targeted, aggressive treatment protocol. As a result after 20 years the group with the intensive treatment protocol lived 7.9 years longer than the group with the standard treatment.

Dr. Oluf Pederson was the senior investigator of the physician team that followed the diabetes group. He said that they concentrated on a number of known adverse factors and treated them aggressively. These factors were first of all high blood glucose values and clotting risks, also high blood pressure and high triglycerides and in addition cholesterol values. Behavior modification was the therapeutic method to get people with risk factors to exercise more, adopt a healthy diet and stop smoking. Medication in select cases also played a role.

More details about the study

The intervention of intensive treatment lasted 8 years. After that the patients were still in a follow-up study for 13 years. At the beginning of the study patients were on average 55 years old and were borderline obese.

The investigation team screened for complications of diabetes. This included screening for kidney disease, heart disease and blindness. Dr. Joel Zonszein, the director of the New York Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center said: ”These results are impressive and most patients do not receive the correct treatment, according to national surveys.”

Other studies about diabetes  

Foreign studies

Study from Croatia
  • Another study from Croatia involved 200 patients. It concentrated on patients who did not respond to metformin. Physicians used alternative treatment modalities, and they observed and measured blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C in the following 6 months. The study concluded that those patients who received aggressive treatment of their condition did better than those who did not receive the same vigorous approach.
Study from Japan
  • This Japanese study documented that female patients with type-2 diabetes developed kidney damage earlier than their male counterparts.  Consequently, the investigators pointed out how important it is to treat diabetes aggressively to avoid kidney damage.
Study from Singapore
  • This 2016 study from Singapore analyzed retroactively the impact of diabetes on the long-term survival after coronary bypass grafting (CABG).  5720 consecutive patients had their isolated first CABG surgery between 1982 and 1999. The mean follow-up was 13 years. 34.6% of the patients had diabetes, 51% had high blood pressure and 46.6% had elevated blood lipids. The initial mortality after the CABG surgery was 2.4% in the diabetic group and 1.8% in the non-diabetic group. 20-year survival rates following CABG surgery were 30.9% in diabetics and 49.2% in the non-diabetics, an 18.3% difference. The 20-year freedom from cardiac mortality rates was 56% in diabetics and 68.4% in non-diabetics. Other risk factors that led to cardiac mortality were the following: female gender (1.43-fold risk), diabetes (1.51-fold risk), previous heart attack (1.54-fold risk) and a low left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 35% (2.6-fold risk). The conclusion from this study was that long-term survival in diabetics following CABG surgery was much lower than that of non-diabetic controls. Hence the key to improving long-term survival for diabetics is to treat comorbidities like high blood pressure and elevated lipids aggressively as well as getting blood sugars and hemoglobin A1C values under control.

US studies

  • In this US study 558 youth (age less than 21) between February 2012 to July 2015 received follow-up. Between 40% and 50% of these diabetics needed insulin to improve their diabetes. Unfortunately their diabetes showed poor control, as their high hemoglobin A1C values indicated. Median HbA1C was 6.7%, 8.5%, 9.6%, and 9.7% in those with disease duration less than 1 year, 1-2 years, 2-3 years and less than 4  In other words, the longer the young patients had diabetes, the less seriously they took their treatment. Only 33% treated their high blood pressure and only 11% their elevated blood lipids. Microalbuminuria, an indicator of diabetic kidney disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were present in 5% to 6% of these young diabetic patients. The authors came to the conclusion that there were serious gaps in treating these young diabetics. Further follow-up data of the same group of patients in the coming years will provide further data. In conclusion, the new hemoglobin A1C ranges of 3.8% to 4.9% as the new normal range explains why these youths who do not treat their diabetes properly are at high risk to develop complications from their poorly controlled diabetes.
Heart attacks and erectile dysfunction
  • Heart attacks are more common among patients with uncontrolled diabetes. This US study classified diabetics according to the tightness of their diabetes control. Researchers found examining 606 men and 606 women with diabetes that they could reduce their risk of a heart attack, if they controlled smoking, glycated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1C), systolic blood pressure, and total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. The control of all these risk factors could contribute to the prevention of heart attacks. 35% of men and 45% of women could prevent having a heart attack. A laxer control still would prevent 36% of heart attacks in men and 38% in women. A very aggressive diabetes control could prevent 51% of heart attacks in men and 61% in women. Most noteworthy: close diabetes control prolongs life.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a big problem among diabetic men. This study from Seattle shows the investigation of 136, 306 men with erectile dysfunction. 19, 236 of these men had diabetes prior to their ED problem. Over a two-year observation period diabetic men had much worse ED problems. As a result they needed to receive secondary line treatments  like penile suppositories or injectables. Others needed tertiary treatments like penile prostheses. In those whose diabetes control was good, oral agents as first-line therapies were usually sufficient.
More studies about risks and benefits of lifestyle
  • Middle-aged women with diabetes have a 4- to 5-fold higher risk for developing heart attacks while men do not show such a higher risk. It is probably particularly important for women to control diabetes when they are diagnosed with it to reduce the risk of coming down with a heart attack.
  • In 2011 Taylor from Newcastle University showed in a group of diabetes patients that he could cure diabetes permanently with an extremely low calorie diet. The trial was simple: he took overweight or obese patients with diabetes and put them on a starvation diet of 600-700 calories per day for 8 weeks. Consequently 43% of diabetic patients received a permanent cure of their diabetes. More info: http://nethealthbook.com/news/cure-diabetes-permanently/


Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life

Close Diabetes Control Prolongs Life


The new hemoglobin A1C ranges that are desirable are between 3.8% to 4.9%. When diabetics bring their hemoglobin A1C level into this range, they do not get complications from their previously poorly controlled diabetes. Close diabetes control prolongs life. But as can be seen from a brief review of the literature physicians tend to be lax, patients are lax, and diabetes is often not well controlled. This leads to erectile dysfunction in males, to heart attacks and kidney failure in both sexes. Blindness and painful diabetic neuropathy are also common complications of poorly controlled diabetes. Amputations from clogged arteries are also among the complications. “Close diabetes control prolongs life” is the new mantra that everybody with diabetes needs to follow.

Lifestyle changes control diabetes and prolong life

As stated above Dr. Taylor from Great Britain has shown that a brief 600 to 700 calorie diet can cure 43% of diabetic patients permanently. Quit smoking, bring the glycated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1C) into the normal range, control your systolic blood pressure as well as your total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Do all these things, exercise regularly, and your diabetes will be well controlled. Remember: close diabetes control prolongs life!

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Melamine In Milk Products

The news has been reporting about contaminated baby formula that has its origin in China. The offensive substance is melamine, which is widely used in the manufacturing of plastics and paints. The industrial chemical most definitely has no place in human foods, as the ingested substance leads to kidney stones and kidney damage, which can ultimately be fatal. The number of sick infants has been on the increase, and numerous deaths have now been reported. Initially melamine was found only in baby formula which was produced by the state owned Sanlu Group, but as more products have been scrutinized, the offending substance has been found in 22 out of China’s 109 dairy manufacturers’ brands. While Sanlu seems to be the worst offender in this contamination spree, the list also included the two other largest manufacturers-the Yili Industrial Group that was one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympic Games and the Hong Kong Mengniu Dairy.
While there has been a recall of the products on September 11, this has not been early enough. The Sanlu board of directors was first advised as early as August 2 that there was a problem with contamination of infant formula. It may seem to the consumer in other parts of the world that the contamination scandal is strictly the business of China, but in a global market this vision may be short-sighted. A vast amount of products in the global market have their origin in China.

Melamine In Milk Products

Melamine In Milk Products

The infant formula has been exported to African countries, to Indonesia and to India. Import stores on other continents carry products that are purchased by customers who remember the product from China. The melamine contamination seems not to be confined to infant formula only: there have been product recalls on yogurt drinks and candy, in which melamine laced milk powder has been used. There may be import bans in place to protect consumers, but ultimately the “buyer beware” warning is still as valid as ever. Consumers must read labels carefully to check the origin of a food product. It may be packaged by a local company, but the small print states that it is imported. If in doubt, ask questions about the origin of food.

Reference: BMJ 2008;337:a1738

Last edited December 3, 2012


Pre-eclampsia Is Predictable

Pre-eclampsia is a condition, which can threaten a woman’s health and also the unborn baby. It can occur in the second and third trimester. These latter stages of pregnancy (there are 3 stages) are where the doctor should check for early pre-eclampsia signs. In the past this would go unchecked and develop to the full-blown condition of eclampsia and be a significant cause of maternal mortality rate
and fetal mortality rate. With prenatal visits and check-ups the early signs are easily recognized: the pregnant woman would complain that her rings would not fit her any more. Significant weight increase due to fluid retention where her legs and the area of her shinbone would be puffy, is called edema. The dipstick test would tell more: it would indicate the presence of protein in the urine sample. These changes are a cause of high blood pressure, which is another important clinical sign and can be readily checked. For these reasons it is imperative that regular pre-natal visits take place at the doctor’s office.

Pre-eclampsia occurs, when substances are released from the placenta into the bloodstream of the mother, and they affect the kidneys. If the condition progresses to eclampsia, it can lead to kidney damage and seizures, and the outcome will be fatal.
For a long time it was a puzzle to physicians, why some women would show pre-eclamptic symptoms and others would remain problem-free.
New research on patients’ medical history from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Oxford, Great Britain has been able to point out predisposing risks for pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.

Pre-eclampsia Is Predictable

Pre-eclampsia Is Predictable

A family history and history of previous eclampsia increases the risk, but also certain health problems make it more likely that pre-eclampsia will occur in the later stages of pregnancy: diabetes mellitus, kidney disease and high blood pressure are medical conditions that increase the risk. Beside these health conditions an increased body mass index at the start of pregnancy can be a predisposing factor, and a high maternal age-women over 40 years of age- are more likely to have the complication of pre-eclampsia. It is obvious that the risk gets higher, if several of these predisposing factors are present. The highest risk is found in women with a rare inherited variation of lupus, called anti-phospholipid syndrome, where blood clots are a problem and pre-eclampsia is a high risk with pregnancy.

Risk Factors For Pre-Eclampsia According To Meta Analysis (published
in the Brit.Med.Journal, March 12, 2005)

Pre-eclampsia Risks

Pre-eclampsia Risks

Explanation of independent risk factors: A= Previous History Of Pre-eclampsia; B= In Women With Anti-Phospholipid Antibodies; C= Pre-existing Diabetes; D= Twin Pregnancy; E= First Child; F= Family History; G= High Blood Pressure; H= High Body Mass Index;
I= Maternal Age 40 or more

While it is absolutely imperative that regular pre-natal checks are part of proper health care, there are other consequences. There would be reason to be especially watchful with predisposing conditions. Last not least, prevention also has its place.

It is important that health concerns are already addressed as part of planning for a healthy pregnancy. Avoidance of alcohol and quit smoking are of extreme importance, followed by achieving a normal weight. Good eating habits are needed throughout the entire pregnancy. Opting for pregnancy after age 40 seems trendy in some celebrity circles, but with the knowledge of risk factors, it should be looked at with caution. Nature equipped the human species to have children in the age of 20 to 30, and even though a forty year old may have a youthful appearance, the genetic material is aged, and the biological clock cannot be fooled. Prevention also means that any health condition like preexisting diabetes should be well controlled before a pregnancy.
With a proactive and common-sense approach pre-eclampsia can be either avoided or recognized and treated early, resulting in healthy outcome for mother and baby.

More information about high risk pregnancies: http://nethealthbook.com/womens-health-gynecology-and-obstetrics/pregnancy-labor-delivery-2/%20High%20Risk%20Pregnancies/

References: British Medical Journal 2005;330:565(12 March)

Last edited October 28, 2014


High Blood Pressure On The Increase In The US

High blood pressure on the rise

Dr. Hajjar, of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and Dr. Kotchen, of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have compared a large group of people in the US in the years 1999-2000 with prior studies in 1988-1991and 1991-1994 where peoples’ blood pressures were measured.

The latest study involved more than 5000 people, the prior studies more than 9000 people each. Almost 29% of the population has a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher in the latest study.

Compared to the 1988-1991study this is a significant increase of 3.7%. More than half of this was explained on the basis that the population’s weight (measured by body mass index calculation) had increased. The sub groups who had the largest increase in blood pressure were as follows:

1. diabetics with high blood pressure. In this high risk group only about 25% had a blood pressure readings of less than 130/85, which is the target value.

2. Mexican Americans had a significantly poorer awareness and control of their elevated blood pressures than the non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.

3. Women as a group were poorer in blood pressure controlling than men.

4. People above the age of 60 had a much higher rate of uncontrolled blood pressure as well.

The study concluded that by concentrating campaigns and efforts on these four target groups significant gains could be made in terms of control of blood pressure, reduction of strokes, heart attacks and kidney damage.

Here are some links regarding high blood pressure, prevention of strokes and heart attacks to various chapters of my nethealthbook.com:

High blood pressure link

Heart attack link

Stroke link

Last edited October 26, 2014