Our Least-Favorite Pests, The Latest on Death, Etc.

Will success be the undoing of herbal remedies? Claims for ginseng as a “mood booster” are debunked in a new study by the American Dietetic Association. This follows recent scientific pooh-poohing of claims made for St. John’s Wort as an anti-depressant. For years, herbal supplements have had small but loyal followings. Flying under the radar of scientific scrutiny, they’ve tended not to attract the sort of studies that might rebut the claims made for them. But the category has grown so big that we’re likely see more negative attention paid to it by a skeptical medical establishment. This won’t dissuade true believers, but it could crimp the mainstream growth of herbal wares.

This week’s honors for Agency Least Likely to Win a Domestic-Car Account Anytime Soon go to Clarke Goward in Boston, thanks to its efforts on behalf of that city’s Barcode. Other restaurants may have snooty waiters to keep the riffraff in line, but how many can boast of snooty parking valets?

Cockroaches could be forgiven for feeling life isn’t fair. A survey by the National Pest Management Association finds 51 percent of Americans would “call in a professional” to rid their homes of cockroaches, while just 34 percent would do so to deal with mice. Twelve percent identified mice as a “serious potential health threat,” while 21 percent accorded that status to mosquitoes and20 percent to cockroaches and rats alike.

Smile, and the whole world may use your photo in an ad campaign for dental insurance. If an old picture of the Osmond kids isn’tsufficient to put Ameritas Group Dental on the map, the series also features a toothy batch of Miss Universe contestants and a local TV news team. Bailey Lauerman of Lincoln, Neb., created the campaign.

At last, an unimpeachable excuse for featuring breasts in ads. An item on the HealthScout Web site notes that a California company “wants to collect, process and sell human breast milk.” While this company would sell it to hospitals, who’s to say the product couldn’t attract a consumer market of mothers with thirsty babies? Of course, an ad agency might see a breast-milk account as a risky proposition. If the stuff sells well, few people would give the ads much credit. But if it fares poorly, the agency would forevermore be known as the one that couldn’t sell mother’s milk to babies.

And now for something completely morbid. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds ups and downs in the leading causes of death. Analyzing data for 1999, the report found age-adjusted death rates in the U.S. continuing to fall for heart disease and cancer, though these remain the leading causes of death. Also showing declines were death by suicide, homicide and guns. Taking up the mortal slack were deaths due to septicemia, hypertension, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease moved ahead of auto accidents and breast cancer in the rankings, though largely because of a methodological shift in the CDC’s counting.