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UA Study Shows Glucosamine Is Ineffective

A short-term study led by C. Kent Kwoh, MD, director of the University of Arizona Arthritis Center, and a collaborative team of researchers has found that oral glucosamine supplementation is not associated with a lessening of knee cartilage deterioration among individuals with chronic knee pain.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Boston University, Texas Woman’s University in Houston and Klinikum Augsburg in Augsburg, Germany. Dr. Kwoh, who previously was with the University of Pittsburgh and VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, is corresponding author of the study.

“Our study found no evidence that drinking a glucosamine supplement reduced knee cartilage damage, relieved pain or improved function in individuals with chronic knee pain,” said Dr. Kwoh. An internationally recognized expert in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other joint diseases, he also is UA professor of medicine and medical imaging, The Charles A.L. and Suzanne M. Stephens Chair of Rheumatology, and chief of the Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.

The findings, published online March 11 in Arthritis & Rheumatology, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), indicate that glucosamine does not decrease pain or improve knee bone marrow lesions—more commonly known as bone bruises and thought to be a source of pain in those with osteoarthritis (OA).

According to the ACR, 27 million Americans over age 25 are diagnosed with OA—the most common form of arthritis and primary cause of disability in the elderly. Patients may seek alternative therapies to treat joint pain and arthritis, with prior research showing glucosamine as the second-most commonly used natural product. A 2007 Gallup poll reported that 10 percent of individuals over the age of 18 in the United States use glucosamine. According to the website www.nutraingredients-usa.com, global sales of the supplement in 2010 totaled more than $2.1 billion.

“The Joints on Glucosamine (Jog) Study: The Effect of Oral Glucosamine on Joint Structure, A Randomized Trial” is the first study to investigate whether the supplement prevents the worsening of cartilage damage or bone marrow lesions.

For the double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, Dr. Kwoh and colleagues enrolled 201 participants with mild-to-moderate pain in one or both knees. Participants were randomized and treated daily for 24 weeks with 1,500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride in a 16-ounce bottle of diet lemonade or a placebo. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to assess cartilage damage.

Trial results showed no decrease in cartilage damage in participants in the glucosamine group, compared to the placebo group. Researchers report no change in bone marrow lesions in 70 percent of knees, 18 percent of knees worsened and 10 percent improved.

The control group had greater improvement in bone marrow lesions compared to treated participants, with neither group displaying a worsening of bone marrow lesions. Glucosamine was not found to decrease urinary excretion of C-telopeptides of type II collagen (CTX-II)—a predictor of cartilage destruction.

In addition to Dr. Kwoh, researchers who contributed to the study included Ali Guermazi, MD, Boston University; Frank W. Roemer, MD, Boston University, Mass., and Klinikum Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany; Michael J. Hannon, John M. Jakicic, MD, Stephanie M. Green, Rhobert W. Evans, PhD, and Robert Boudreau, PhD, University of Pittsburgh; and Carolyn E. Moore, PhD, Texas Woman’s University, Houston.

The study was funded by the Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness, The Coca-Cola Company and the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (P60 AR054731).

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Sedona No. 13 among Top 25 U.S. Destinations

Sedona has been ranked as one of the Travelers’ Choice® 2014 “Top 25 Destinations in the United States.” Coming in at No. 13, Sedona is pleased with the abundance of positive feedback and awe-inspiring reaction of both long time visitors and newcomers to the area.

“Sedona is a true oasis, a vacationer’s paradise in the middle of the Arizona desert. Here, you’ll find resorts and spas, canyons and red rock formations. Bell Rock and Oak Creek Canyon are great hiking spots, and the dramatic architecture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a religious experience itself. When the sun dips down below the horizon it introduces the best show in Sedona: the night sky.” –TripAdvisor

“On behalf of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, it is great honor to be placed on the Travelers’ Choice® 2014 Top 25 Destinations in the United States. As the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor assists visitors in gathering travel information, posting travel reviews and engaging in interactive travel forums. This powerful web-based company boasts 200 million unique monthly visitors and over 100 million reviews and opinions. We are honored that world travelers voted Sedona as one of the best destinations to visit in the US,” says Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

The top 25 destinations include: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Washington DC; Boston, Los Angles, Honolulu, New Orleans, Seattle, Miami, Sedona, Savannah, Charleston, Napa, San Antonio, Lahaina, Portland, Philadelphia, Myrtle Beach, Kailua Kona, Palm Springs, Naples, and Houston.

In addition to Sedona’s superb positioning, beautiful Adobe Grand Villas has been ranked No. 3 out of 25 on the Travelers’ Choice® 2014 “Top 25 Small Hotels” list; as well as #5 on the “25 Most Romantic Hotels in the United States”. “We have such great guests, who become friends rather than just customers. We have a very high return rate due to our staff treating each guest as they are the only ones, even if it’s a full house. The villas are designed to create an intimate experience. Fires places are located in each room as well as by the Jacuzzi tub. Couples can also memorialize their special stay or occasion on our unique Love Lock fence. Call to create a special romantic stay, from flowers, couples massages, to a private dinner prepared special by Michael Merilli.”

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Ashton Woods Tops List of Most Trusted Builders in America

Trust is the new currency by which customers evaluate the merits of new-home builders, according to ground-breaking national research of more than 21,500 new- home shoppers in the Lifestory Research Most Trusted Builders in America Study SM.

The study finds that three-fourths of customers (76 percent) report that trust is a critical criterion by which they evaluate the merits of a home builder before making a purchase decision, placing significant emphasis on the perceived trustworthiness of home builder brands. “Home builders need to begin to ask themselves how consumers see their brand in regards to trust if they wish to effectively compete in the current marketplace,” said Lifestory Research President and CEO Eric Snider. “We find that the trust held by a customer toward a home builder is playing a central role among home shoppers as they seek to reduce uncertainty in the high-risk decision of purchasing a new home.”

The Lifestory Research Most Trusted Builders in America Study tracks 133 home builder brands in the top 27 housing markets in the United States.  However, for purposes of examining builders at the national level for this release, a builder brand was included if a builder was in the top 30 builders in the United States and was selling homes in at least three markets.  Based on this, the following brands were included in the national study of the Most Trusted Builders in America: Ashton Woods, Beazer, Centex, DR Horton, David Weekley, Del Webb, Drees, Gehan, Highland (TX), KB Home, KHovnanian, Lennar, M/I, Meritage, Perry, Pulte, Richmond American, Ryan, Ryland, Shea, Standard Pacific, Taylor Morrison, Toll Brothers, Trilogy by Shea Homes, and Woodside.

The Most Trusted Builder in America was Ashton Woods, the nation’s 25th largest builder selling homes in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Antonio and Tampa.  Ashton Woods produced a Net Trust Quotient Score of 111, followed in order by David Weekley Homes (108.5), Trilogy by Shea Homes (106.9), Perry Homes (106.8), Drees Homes (106.8), Meritage Homes (104.2), Highland Homes of Texas (104.2), Taylor Morrison Homes (101.6), M/I Homes (100.8), and Woodside Homes (100.8). Trilogy by Shea Homes also was recognized as the Most Trusted Active Adult Builder in America.

In a shift away from product usage and satisfaction research, Lifestory Research’s investigation focuses on how brands influence the purchase behavior of home shoppers. “We have seen a fundamental shift in consumer psychology that has occurred in response to the massive social revolution that has taken place over the last several years,” Snider said.  “Consumers are referencing customer advocacy organizations less for product information; instead, people are turning to their peers, friends, and digital social networks to garner opinions.  Moreover, in the process of shopping for a home, consumers rely upon their direct experience they have with the multitude of builder brands in a given marketplace.  As a result, we have seen brands rise in importance in the consumer purchase process.”

The study, in its first year, evaluates attitudes from thousands of consumers who are actively in the process of shopping for a new home in one of the top 27 housing markets in the United States.  Trust is measured through the Lifestory Research Net Trust Quotient Score.  This score is based on the fundamental perspective that every organization’s customer can be divided into three categories: “advocates” are customers who feel a significant trust toward a given brand; “neutrals” are customers who trust a specific brand, but they do not see a specific brand as standing on the shoulders of other brands in regards to trust; and “antagonists” are skeptics who have little, if any, trust in a specific brand.

The most effective way to gauge the trust of a brand is to take the percentage of customers who are trust advocates and subtract the percentage of people who are dis-trusters.  Scores are standardized (using z scores and t scores) with 100 being equal to the overall average.  Scores can array above and below the 100 point average.  Each Net Trust Quotient Score represents the net value of a brand on trust.  A brand with a high positive score is an indication that the brand is trusted by a large portion of the target market.  Conversely, a low score is an indication that the brand is not trusted by the consumer marketplace.

To qualify to participate in the study, participants must have met all of the following criteria:  Household located in the metro area of one of the 27 markets in the study (see link for list of markets), a household income in excess of $50,000, between the ages of 25 and 69, actively shopping for a home during the last 90 days, and with intentions of owning their next home (versus renting).

Detailed information about the study can be found at www.lifestoryresearch.com/builderrankings.

From left: Steven Murray, president of Direct Energy; Jim Lundy, chairman of GPEC; Kevin Sullivan and Matt George of the Arizona Commerce Authority. Photo by Huan Vo/Az Business

Direct Energy bringing 500 jobs to Valley

Wednesday marked the official announcement of the expansion into Arizona of Direct Energy, a multibillion-dollar energy company which promises to create about 500 new jobs by the end of this year.

Based in Houston and specializing in upstream production and downstream delivery, Direct Energy is one of North America’s largest energy services providers with approximately 6,000 employees.

The company worked with the Arizona Commerce Authority and Greater Phoenix Economic Council to open a new call center in Tempe, which is expected to bring $7 million of capital investment to the region and create 250 to 300 new jobs when it’s open.

“I can’t tell you how easy they have made it for us to expand and invest in Arizona,” said Steven Murray, president of Direct Energy. “It’s an easy, pleasant experience.”

Expected to be fully functional by the end of the first quarter year of 2013, the new call center will be tasked with call taking for the residential energy business, which will enable Direct Energy to “offer a wide range of products and services in one location,” according to the company’s news release.

Working with the ACA and GPEC gave Direct Energy an understanding of and access to a quality workforce that attracted Direct Energy in the first place, Murray said.

“Beyond the ease, I mean the quality workforce, you can have an entirely educated, motivated, hardworking people, and it really makes it easy,” he said.

“I think this commitment just illustrates that we do have a quality workforce in addition to the quality, smart economics policies that GPEC and ACA, the governor’s office, the state Legislature have been working behind the scenes just to get this economy going again,” said Jim Lundy, chairman of GPEC’s board of directors and CEO of Alliance Bank of Arizona.

Direct Energy is on a mission to make a difference to its customers through the provision of choice, which will help families with tight budgets.

“In a world of constraint household economics, people on tight budgets need to have products that meet their needs and give them control of how they are actually consuming and spending money,” Murray said.

Murray said Direct Energy has grown quickly over the years, and with each step in growth, the company is doing its best to invest and create jobs in communities where it started.

Direct Energy is accepting job applications online at www.directyourenergy.com, and at the Nation Career Fair at Phoenix Airport Marriott, 1101 N. 44thSt., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on January 21.

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Scottsdale ranked No. 1 for Republican singles

While Democrats had a big win with President Obama this week, Republicans, do not fret. As a consolation prize for the presidential race, Chemistry.com has released the Top 10 Cities Where Republicans are Still Irresistible. The site reveals where conservatives are in the highest demand online, showing the top U.S. cities where red reigns. Republican singles in Scottsdale receive the most attention, followed by the swing state of Florida and then historically conservative Texas. You can find the full blog post here.

Top 10 Cities for Republicans to find their like-minded match:
1. Scottsdale
2. Jacksonville, FL
3. Dallas, TX
4. Houston, TX
5. Colorado Springs, CO
6. San Antonio, TX
7. Oklahoma City, OK
8. Virginia Beach, VA
9. Raleigh, NC
10 Charlotte, NC