Q: Years ago, I heard you on the radio praising the benefits of coffee. You made an exception for French press coffee, though. I really like French press coffee, but I wonder if it could do me harm.
A: Research during the past decade suggests coffee drinkers are less likely to be diagnosed with heart failure (Circulation: Heart Failure online, June 26, 2012) or develop Type 2 diabetes (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2010).
Regular coffee consumption also seems to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease (Journal of Alzheimer's Disease online, June 5, 2012) and may help to protect against prostate and uterine cancers (Journal of National Cancer Institute online, May 17, 2011; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention online, Nov. 22, 2011).
The problem with French press and other types of unfiltered coffee techniques lies with blood lipids. Compounds from coffee can raise total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2012). The culprits are in coffee oils that get trapped by filters, so people drinking filtered coffee should get the benefits without the higher cholesterol.
Q: Three times I have been forced by my insurance company to switch from Wellbutrin XL to generic bupropion. Each time, depression reared its ugly, gloomy head. Wellbutrin XL works, but the generic is a disaster for me. Where is the accountability? Generic drug makers should refund the money we waste on ineffective products.
A: Hundreds of others have reported similar problems with generic bupropion. Not only have they experienced a return of their depression, they also have reported side effects such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and insomnia.
Despite the Food and Drug Administration's claim that there are no problems with the generic antidepressant bupropion, there are substantial variations in resulting blood levels between the brand name and some generic formulations. We discovered that the FDA never required testing of one 300 milligram long-acting formulation it approved. Dozens of other generic drugs also may pose problems.
We describe this controversy in great detail and offer practical tips on using generic drugs safely in our book "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them." It is available in bookstores, libraries and online (www.PeoplesPharmacy.com).
Q: I don't want to use soap with triclosan because I read that it might affect muscles. As an athlete, I don't want to weaken my performance.
I don't like alcohol-containing hand sanitizers. Are there any alternatives?
A: Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical found in soaps, deodorants, mouthwash and toothpaste. Research in mice and fish suggests that triclosan impairs muscle function (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online, Aug. 13, 2012).
Old-fashioned soap and water is a great way to clean hands. If you would like a sanitizer you can carry with you, consider CleanWell products. They use thyme derivatives as the active ingredient and contain no alcohol.