DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please advise about the Gardasil vaccine. My granddaughter just turned 18 (to date, no sexual activity — really) and begins college next year. Her doctor is pushing the vaccine for her and for her just-turned-14 sister. I value your common-sense approach to medical issues. What do you recommend? — S.B.
ANSWER: Without any hesitation, I recommend wholeheartedly the vaccine for protection against the human papillomavirus. It’s the virus that causes cervical cancer. Gardasil protects against the most common strains of cancer-causing papillomavirus, strains 16 and 18.
This vaccine is a medical breakthrough. Never has there been a vaccine for protection from any cancer.
Your granddaughters are not too young. The recommendation suggests that the vaccine be given when a girl is 11 or 12, but it can still be given up to age 26.
For best effectiveness, it should be given before a girl has had any sexual encounters. The human papillomavirus is extremely widespread, and exposure to the virus before the vaccine has been given lessens the vaccine’s ability to protect against the virus and the cancer it causes.
A second papillomavirus vaccine is also on the market. It’s called Cervarix.
The booklet on cervical cancer and Pap smears discusses these topics in greater detail. It does not discuss the vaccines. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 1102W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow three to four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a question about diabetes. My husband has it. He saw a doctor on a television program who said that taking 2 teaspoons of red vinegar at lunch and dinner lowers your blood sugar a lot. Do you think this is true? Should sweetener be added, or water? — N.F.
ANSWER: I believe you’re referring to the work of Carol Johnston, Ph.D., a professor in the nutrition department of Arizona State University. She showed that taking 2 tablespoons of vinegar before or during a meal lowers the sudden spike in blood sugar that happens with eating. Such spikes are not good if they are very high and occur often. They disturb blood sugar control.
This isn’t a cure for diabetes. It might be a help for sugar control. Your husband should not stop using his diabetes medicines or abandon his diabetic diet.
I don’t know why the TV doctor insisted on red vinegar. Dr. Johnston didn’t. You can take the vinegar along with olive oil as a salad dressing. You can dilute it in water if you want. You can add an artificial sweetener to it if the sweetener doesn’t say not to. And you can start with the TV doctor’s recommendation of 2 teaspoons instead of 2 tablespoons. See if the 2 teaspoons work. If it doesn’t, increase the dose until you reach the 2 tablespoons.
Are you sure your husband tolerates vinegar? I guess there’s only one way to find out.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.