Q. I cannot believe you would write about magnetic bracelets for arthritis. This is just a bunch of hooey designed to loosen the purse strings of gullible readers.
I am surprised you would give credence to any "study" of this nonsense. This bunk should be consigned to the trash can.
A. We agree that magnet therapy seems far-fetched, but just because we don't understand how something works doesn't mean we should ignore it.
The well-designed study you refer to was published in the British Medical Journal (Dec. 16, 2004). The researchers randomly assigned patients to wear a bracelet containing either a strong magnet, a weak magnet or a nonmagnetic washer.
After three months, the patients wearing the strong magnets had measurable relief from hip and knee pain. The investigators concluded that "pain from osteoarthritis of the hip and knee decreases when wearing magnetic bracelets."
The placebo effect is hard to eliminate in such studies, but these scientists did their best to control for it. Even though they could not explain how magnet therapy works, they summarized: "Whatever the mechanism, the benefit from magnetic bracelets seems clinically useful."
Q. I would like to know if athlete's foot and nail fungus make feet smell. I have smelly, obnoxious foot odor that is so embarrassing I am afraid to wear sandals. I would welcome any remedies you might have.
A. Nail fungus is not likely to cause smelly feet, but the conditions that foster athlete's foot might contribute to foot odor. Like fungus, bacteria can grow in a moist, warm environment and create an unpleasant aroma.
You may be able to rid yourself of nail fungus, foot odor and athlete's foot by soaking your feet in a vinegar solution (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water). Other foot soaks include strong tea, baking soda or Epsom salts.
We are sending you our Guides to Solutions for Smelly Feet and Home Remedies, with more practical tips for these problems.
Q. I just read an article on chocolate that left me confused. It said that Dutch chocolate is alkali-processed. Is that true?
I just checked the label on some organic soy milk in my fridge and noticed that its chocolate is Dutch-processed. How does this affect the benefits?
A. Natural cocoa is slightly acidic. In the early 19th century Dutch scientist Conrad Van Houten developed a process in which he mixed cacao with alkali. The resulting cocoa was less acidic and easier to make into a drink. This is the origin of the name "Dutch-processed" for cocoa or chocolate treated with alkali.
This modification reduces the amount of natural flavonoids in the finished product. These chemicals impart the health benefits of chocolate.
Q. Fish oil is supposed to be good for your heart, but I have heard that diabetics should avoid it. Is this true?
A. In the past doctors worried that fish oil might raise blood sugar. A review last month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association concluded that fish oil provides heart protection without interfering with glucose control.
XIn their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.
& copy; 2005 King Features Syndicate Inc.