Mind Games

Americans are increasingly heading to the supplements aisle at the first sign of a sniffle. Some believe that supplements are an effective way to head off a cold or the flu. Others are wary of the side effects associated with over-the-counter drugs, or alarmed about the risks cold medicines appear to pose to children.

Sales of cold and flu supplements have grown so much (8% in 2006, compared to 2% for over-the-counter drugs), that more traditional cold and flu brands have taken note. Even the mainstream Theraflu now makes a formulation, Fortifense, containing zinc, echinacea and vitamin C.

But are supplements worth the money spent on them? If the goal is a quick recovery or rapid relief from symptoms, the answer is probably not.
In 2006, sales of homeopathic immune boosters grew 13%, according to data collected by the Nutrition Business Journal; Airborne’s sales jumped nearly 50%, according to company figures. Although sales of formerly popular alternatives such as zinc and echinacea are lagging somewhat (sales dropped more than 6% and 16%, respectively, in 2006, according to the Nutrition Business Journal), they’re still among the top sellers for cold and flu – and both, along with vitamin C, are common ingredients in many patented blends.

“People will go out and spend a whole lot of money on these different products, and unfortunately there’s not that much that’s been shown to be effective,” said Dr. Ian Paul, a pediatrician at Penn State College of Medicine who has studied alternative remedies for coughs in particular (his research has so far shown that honey works better than cough syrup for kids).

In the absence of a cure for the common cold or flu, what most people are seeking is a little relief.

With alternative remedies, as with over-the-counter remedies, said Paul, that relief often comes from the belief that the treatment is working. “There’s such a large placebo effect with a lot of these things,” he said.

Andrew Shao, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association, agreed. “To say that things like vitamin C and zinc don’t work wouldn’t be totally accurate, because clearly for some people they do.”

The research may be equivocal, Shao added, “but you hear people all the time saying, ‘Well, I swear by it, it works for me.’ ”

There are, of course, better ways to treat or prevent a cold or the flu. A healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables helps keep the immune system strong. Getting enough rest is critical for prevention and recovery. Exercise has been shown to reduce cold and flu infections, and so, of course, has frequent hand-washing.

What About Vitamin C?

Americans spend more money on vitamin C, roughly $330 million a year, than on any other purportedly immune-boosting supplement, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. Perhaps because it’s been around so long.
Vitamin C was first isolated in the 1930s, and studies investigating its potential to prevent colds got underway in the 1940s. In 1970, two-time Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling touted the powers of C in his best-selling book, “Vitamin C and the Common Cold.” He was particularly inspired by a 1961 study at a ski school in the Alps. Kids in the study who took one gram of vitamin C per day (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s daily reference value is 60 milligrams a day) had 45% fewer colds than their untreated classmates. They also recovered from colds in two-thirds the time it took their peers to get better.

Pauling’s book and subsequent papers on the topic encouraged numerous researchers to investigate the alleged wonder vitamin in large-scale clinical studies of their own. Soon, conflicting evidence began to emerge. Some studies found the vitamin reduced the frequency of colds, some found it reduced the duration of colds, but still others found that it had no effect at all.

Last summer, the Cochrane Collaboration, a nonprofit organization that reviews the science on health topics, reviewed more than 50 well-designed, published studies on vitamin C and the common cold. The researchers found that taking at least 200 milligrams of C on a daily basis doesn’t reduce the odds of getting a cold — but it does speed recovery time by about 8% in adults. In children, it hastens recovery by 13.6%.


Get Smart

In 2004, the California Public Utilities Commission directed the state’s regulated utilities to explore the feasibility of upgrading electric meters in homes and small businesses to the type used to measure energy usage by larger business customers. Currently, home meters record only the total electricity used during a billing period. The next generation ofmeters will record not only how much power is used, but when, making possible a wide range of new energy saving service options.

Southern California Edison (SCE) worked with meter manufacturers to develop an enhanced, solid-state electric meter promising a lower overall cost, greater customer benefits and improved grid operations. The outcome is Edison SmartConnect, the industry’s leading advanced metering system currently in field testing by SCE. Between 2009 and 2012, SCE plans to replace 5 million electric meters for residential and commercial customers below 200 kilowatts in demand with “next generation” smart meters.

The system will empower customers to proactively manage their energy use and save money by participating in new programs with time-differentiated rates and demand response options. SCE’s smart meters will enable all residential and small business customers below 200 kilowatts in demand to achieve a “connected home of the future.”

Californians lead the nation in energy efficiency. Nevertheless, the state’s population and per-person energy use continue to grow. As a result, state officials and utilitiesare exploring ways to provide customers with incentives to conserve and shift usage away from periods of peak demand. Edison SmartConnect is key to accomplishing this goal.

Utilities pay much more for the power their customers use during a weekday afternoon than in the middle of the night. But residential and small business rates do not reflect this, and these customers have little incentive to use electricity in ways that reduce utility and customer costs and slow the need for new power plants and transmission lines. If electric rates were higher during peak periods and lower during off-peak times, customers likely would find ways to save by moving discretionary consumption to off-peak periods.

The Edison SmartConnect system will allow customers with communicating, energy-smart thermostats and appliances to automatically respond during critical peak pricing and grid reliability events. This will reduce the overall peak power consumption by an estimated 1,000 megawatts –the entire output of a major power plant.

SCE’s new meters will also be able to “talk” to home area networks, providing customers with real-time energy use and cost information to enable energy conservation. The Edison SmartConnect system has the ability to provide information from the meter into the home through a two-way wireless interface allowing customers to immediately see how their actions affect usage. The result is expected to increase sustained energy conservation that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants by a minimum of 365,000 metric tons per year –the equivalent of removing 79,000 cars from the road.

In addition, the new technology will make remote service activations possible, enabling the 1 million customers who relocate each year to activate service on demand.

Edison SmartConnect is just one aspect of SCE’s national leadership in smart grid technology, bringing customers more reliable, cost-effective, environmentally responsible power.

To learn more about Edison SmartConnect, please visit www.sce.com/smartconnect.


Use forgiveness as a mantra. Forgive all those around you and forgive yourself.
Replace judgment and reaction with forgiveness throughout the day. It will make you feel lighter and more loving of yourself and those around you.

Michelle Kronenberg, Yoga Instructor

Contact Michelle at harijiwan@earthlink.net to get list of her classes and events.

Solar LA

Los Angeles is at a critical energy crossroads. The choice facing Los Angeles consists of staying on a path of dirty, unsustainable and dangerous energy resources or shifting to a clean energy path that exploits the abundant, renewable and reliable energy resources available today.

Los Angeles currently relies heavily on fossil fuels and nuclear power subjecting residents to long-term instability from price spikes, market manipulation and supply shortages. In 2005, 75 percent of the city’s energy came from burning fossil fuels: 50 percent from coal and 31 percent from natural gas. Renewable energy accounted for five percent of DWP’s total electric generation which is significantly lower than the state average of 12 percent.

Much progress has been made over the past few years. Los Angeles now has a goal of increasing renewable energy to 20 percent by 2010, and renewable energy has doubled in the past three years.  These developments should be applauded. However, most of the renewable energy developed by LADWP under its new renewable energy program is large scale projects like wind farms, geothermal fields and biogas facilities. The amount of solar power installed in Los Angeles is among the lowest in the state despite the city’s unparalleled amount of sunshine.

There’s no question, the city of Los Angeles has the potential to be the world’s capitol for solar power. With its year-round sunshine, growing energy needs and an enormous number of rooftops just perfect for solar panels, Los Angeles could easily generate at least five percent of its energy needs from solar power within the next decade. And, accounting for 10 percent of the state’s entire electricity usage, Los Angeles can play a leadership role in realizing California’s goal of building a million solar roofs in 10 years. 

Furthermore, LADWP’s rate structure creates financial barriers for individuals wanting to go solar. For example, DWP limits excess solar electricity generated during a weekday afternoon to offset net demand only during other weekday afternoons, as opposed to allowing afternoon-generated electricity to offset energy usage at night-time. In contrast, the rest of California allows customers to use their solar credits to offset any and all net demand within an annual timeframe. In other words, usually net metering allows a solar system owner to essentially use the grid as a giant battery, storing solar power by day for use by night. LADWP’s net metering program, in contrast, only allows solar system owners to “store” solar energy during the day which is, of course, the time of day storage is not needed.

Both of these issues need to be addressed if Los Angeles is to comply with the spirit of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative and, more importantly, if it is to become a world-wide solar power leader. The opportunity is to make Los Angeles a world-class solar city, bringing significant environmental, public health and economic benefits. Building 100,000 solar roofs in Los Angeles over the next ten years would:

Result in 300 MW of solar power installed in Los Angeles;
Cut global warming pollution by roughly 300,000 tons per year
Reduce smog forming pollution by 90,000 pounds per year
Create 2,100 new jobs