May 15, 2017

Health Roundup: Sleep skills, kiwis, nod to beat dizziness, too much exercise, gardening for fat kids, octopus toys for premies

Sleep Is the New Status Symbol

If sleep used to be the new sex, as Marian Salzman, a trend spotter and chief executive of Havas PR North America, proclaimed 10 years ago, today it is a measure of success — a skill to be cultivated and nourished — as a “human potential enhancer,” ....“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body,” Dr. Walker of U.C. Berkeley said.

Kiwi fruit, the surprise secret to nodding off:

Eating two of them one hour before bedtime 'helps people sleep more soundly'.  It is not understood why, but it could be linked to high antioxidant and serotonin levels in the fruit.

Do you want to beat dizziness? Nod your head:

One in three pensioners suffer from dizziness caused by inner ear problems. Researchers at Southampton University found five minutes of simple head movements a day can solve problem. The home remedy was found to be twice as effective as seeing a family doctor.  After only six weeks, 40 per cent of dizziness sufferers felt much better or completely well. The exercises were twice as effective as conventional care for adults aged 50 and older. They showed significantly lower levels of dizziness symptoms after three and six months.

The researchers say the exercises must be followed precisely as directed through a freely available internet program called Balance Retraining.  Paul Little, a GP and professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton, said: ‘Balance Retraining intervention has huge potential to provide effective and easily accessible treatment for a really under-served patient group.’

Volunteering more than doubles your protection against dementia by keeping your brain engaged

Researchers from the University of Calgary analyzed 1,001 retired Swedish citizens over five years....Results revealed those who never volunteered were around 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia than those who consistently did so for at least an hour a week....

Study author Yannick Griep, from the University of Calgary, said, '[Volunteering] brings a structure to the day. It offers social contact with people outside of our family. It makes us feel like we're making a meaningful contribution to society.'

TOO much exercise causes a leaky gut and increases health risks

The first study to investigate gut bacteria during military training found that intense physiological stress can change the composition of our gut microbiota.  Imbalances in the gut are linked to diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Findings raise concerns for endurance athletes and military personnel

Gardening helps reduce childhood obesity

Researchers from the University of California studied the impact of gardening lessons to children aged nine to 10-years-old at four schools in California. The results, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, revealed that the gardening classes dramatically improved student's health.

Octopus toys improves health of premature babies

Hospital sees an improvement in health of premature babies in intensive care after using knitted octopus toys with woolly tentacles that feel like an umbilical cord which appear to replicate the feeling of being inside the womb.  The fluffy sea creatures - which each take two hours to make - calm the agitated newborns by making it feel like they are attached to an umbilical cord.

According to medical staff in Curitiba Maternity Hospital in Brazil, where the initiative has been launched, the donated toys are working wonders and nurses have seen an improvement in the infants.  Each baby receives two octopuses which are sterilized at temperatures of 375ºF which they can take home when they are discharged from hospital. A team of 50 knitting volunteers has produced nearly 150 octopuses in a month
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

New medical research and technology: Cure for baldness and greying, breast milk substance, anorexia partially genetic, UpnRide vertical wheelchair and more

Skin cell discovery could spell cure for baldness and grey hair:

Researchers were investigating how certain tumors form when they discovered the identity of the cells that produce hair and turn it grey.  The study found the protein called KROX20, more commonly associated with nerve development, turned on in skin cells that become the hair shaft. These hair precursor, or progenitor, cells then produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) which is essential for hair pigmentation.

Dr Lu Le, professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Texas, said the chance discovery could lead to an effective treatment to cure baldness and stop greying.

Swedish scientists discover that breast milk contains a substance that kills cancer cells

Breast milk is being used to fight cancer after scientists accidentally discovered it contains a substance that kills tumor cells.Trials in patients with bladder cancer have already yielded promising results and researchers believe the compound breast milk contains – nicknamed Hamlet – will also help tackle bowel cancer and cervical cancer. They also say it homes in on cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed – so it has none of the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.

The substance attacks cancer cells in numerous ways – first evading the cell’s outer defenses, then targeting the ‘power station’ mitochondria and the ‘instruction manual’ nucleus. These actions cut off the cell’s energy source and ‘program’ it to commit suicide, in a process called apoptosis.

Professor Catharina Svanborg, who made the initial discovery, said last night: ‘There’s something magical about Hamlet’s ability to target tumor cells and kill them.’ She said human breast milk contained a protein called alpha-lactalbumin, which is transformed into a cancer-fighting agent when in the gut. An immunologist at Lund University in Sweden, she made the chance discovery that the substance kills tumor cells when working on antibiotics.

Early trials in patients with bladder cancer show those injected with Hamlet start shedding dead tumour cells in their urine within days. A full-scale trial pitting Hamlet against a placebo ‘dummy drug’ is now planned.

Anorexia is partly genetic and eating disorder risk could be passed on to children, study finds

An international collaboration of scientists found that many people who suffer from anorexia nervosa have mutated DNA on a particular chromosome.

Apple's watch really can save your live: Study finds its sensors can spot signs of a stroke with 97% accuracy

The Apple Watch has been found to detect a heart condition that affects some 2.7 million people in the US, a new study has revealed. By pairing the smartwatch's heart rate sensors with artificial intelligence, researchers developed an algorithm capable of distinguishing an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, from a normal heart rhythm - and with 97 percent accuracy. Atrial fibrillation, although easily treatable, has been difficult to diagnose.

CCM disease, a common hard-to-treat brain disease starts in the GUT, study reveals

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are clusters of dilated, thin-walled blood vessels in the brain that can cause stroke and seizures.  Tests on mice showed certain gut bacteria triggered the formation of clusters that cause these seizures. Looking at human models it seems the same is true for people. Currently there is not drug available to treat CCM. The only treatment option is surgical removal.

In 2016, Dr Mark Kahn, a professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, discovered the molecular mechanism in cells that underlies CCM formation. These studies identify an unexpected, direct link between the microbiome and a common cerebrovascular disease.'This suggests that treatments designed to block TLR4 signaling or alter the microbiome may be used to treat this disease,' Dr Kahn said.

Looks like a Segway, acts like a wheelchair

Introducing the UPnRIDE convertible wheelchair from the Israeli makers of the ReWalk robotic exoskeleton....UPnRIDE will enable many wheelchair users to be fully mobile in standing position anywhere, including in an urban environment.

As a category, the standing wheelchair is not a new product. These devices have been shown to improve circulation, elimination and bone density, and could also improve overall quality of life and independence among wheelchair users.  What’s different about the UPnRIDE?“The twist we bring here is the stabilization,” said says Oren Tamari, CEO of RehaMed Technologies.

A new laser imaging technique now allows for a real time look inside the the body of a small animal.

The technique, which uses light and ultrasound, provides enough resolution to see active organs, flowing blood, circulating melanoma cells and firing neural networks.  The researchers, based at the Duke University and The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), used a technique called 'single-impulse photoacoustic computed tomography (SIP-PACT)' to produce the images.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

May 10, 2017

Medical research and technology: Skin gun for burns, 'capsule robot', depression gene, tequila study and MRIs from newborns

Remarkable advance in treating burns with the 'magic' skin gun

Burns victims are making incredible recoveries thanks to a revolutionary ‘gun’ that sprays stem cells on to their wounds, enabling them to rapidly grow new skin. People who suffer extensive burns usually have to endure weeks or even months of treatment, with surgeons taking large sheets of skin from elsewhere on the body and grafting them. The process is painful, and patients are often left with permanent, unsightly scars.

Now, US doctors are using a new technique that allows patients to regrow a new layer of healthy skin in as little as four days. One man,  45, with horrific hot-water burns was sprayed with 17 million cells and within six days new skin had formed over whole wound and he was discharged;

 Skin Gun Before After-1

Patients who have benefited say their new skin is virtually indistinguishable from that on the rest of the body. Thomas Bold, chief executive of RenovaCare, the company behind SkinGun, said: ‘The procedure is gentler – and the skin that regrows looks, feels and functions like the original skin.’

Colonoscopy 'capsule robot' could make the diagnosis of bowel conditions more comfortable

Despite its potential to save lives, many people fear the discomfort of having a colonoscopy. But in the future, tiny robots could be deployed to search for pre-cancerous lesions and tumors in the bowel, resulting in less discomfort for patients. Researchers have shown an 18mm magnetized capsule colonoscope can perform intricate and sometimes autonomous movements inside the colon for the first time. The 'capsule robot' was guided by an external magnet attached to a robotic arm.

'Not only is the capsule robot able to actively maneuver  through the GI tract [digestive tract] to perform diagnostics, it is also able to perform therapeutic maneuvers, such as biopsies of tissue or polyp removal, due to the tether - something that other capsule devices are unable to do,' said Keith Obstein, the study's corresponding author and associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Scientists discover 'depression gene' that takes effect in childhood

Scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center found a gene linked to childhood depression that appears to be linked to variations that have long been linked to bipolar disorder. Studying children that had the gene, researchers found they were more prone to depression and had severe reactions to stressful situations.

Tequila study: Drinking tequila could be good for your bones and help fight osteoporosis:

At the Centre for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico, researchers conducted experiments with mice and found that substances from the tequila plant may help boost levels of calcium and magnesium, minerals that help keep your bones strong.  Dr Mercedes López, leader of the project, said 'The consumption of fructans contained in the agave, in collaboration with adequate intestinal micriobiota, promotes the formation of new bone, even with the presence of osteoporosis.'  ...Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to replace old bone with new. As a result, the skeleton becomes porous and weak.
The researchers hope to perform clinical studies on humans to prove that agave sugars can be used as a treatment.

Newborn MRI scans reveal the growth of TRILLIONS of neural connections

A ground-breaking project  has released its first images which researchers from around the world can download to study how the brain develops its wiring. The images could help scientists understand how conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficit disorders arise.

The Developing Human Connectome Project is a collaboration between researchers from King's College London, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford. It aims to make major scientific progress by creating the first 4-dimensional brain map of early life.  The goal of the project is to create a dynamic map of human brain connectivity from 20 to 44 weeks post-conceptional age, which will link together imaging, clinical, behavioral, and genetic information.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 AM | Permalink

May 9, 2017

Health Roundup: Pot for elderly, salt to lower blood pressure, coffee for pain, cheese and dairy good

Could marijuana hold a key to keeping our brains forever young? .

There are many indications that weed can impair the developing adolescent brain....But what does cannabis do to the elderly brain?  A coalition of researchers from Germany and Israel published a study in Nature Medicine that examined the different effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in weed that's also known as THC, on young and old mice.

Their findings were provocative: A low dose of THC... "reversed the age-related decline in cognitive performance of mice aged 12 and 18 months." ...The experiment focused on learning, spatial skills and memory. While older mice typically did not perform as well as young ones in mazes or with location-recognition tasks — an outcome consistent with the decline of brain function in aged individuals — they performed just as well as their younger cohort under the influence of THC. Meanwhile, younger mice given doses of THC demonstrated worse performance, more in line with that of average old mice

Clinical trials on humans will start later this year.

'A toke a day keeps the dementia away.'

Marijuana could help reverse brain aging in senior citizens, especially Alzheimer’s patients, according to a new study....“We repeated these experiments many times,” Andreas Zimmer, head author of the study, told The New Scientist. “It’s a very robust and profound effect.” The findings were published May 8 in Nature Medicine.

“If we can rejuvenate the brain so that everybody gets five to 10 more years without needing extra care then that is more than we could have imagined,” said Andras Bilkei-Gorzo, one of the study’s co-authors. "The treatment made the young brain old and the old brain young," he said. "So that was something that was above our imagination."  If it is shown to help the memories of aging adults, Bilkei-Gorzo says the psychoactive ingredient could be taken in the form of an herbal tea.

Higher sodium, lower blood pressure. You read that right.

In another blow against decades of accepted medical wisdom, one of the most prestigious, long-running studies reports that lowering sodium intake doesn’t reduce blood pressure.

The study also implies that most Americans are consuming a perfectly healthy amount of salt, the main source of sodium. But those who are salt-sensitive, about 20 to 25 percent of the population, still need to restrict salt intake. Consuming fewer than 2,500 milligrams of sodium daily is actually associated with higher blood pressure, according to the Framingham Offspring Study report, given today. The study is an offshoot of the groundbreaking Framingham Heart Study. Both are projects of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and Boston University.
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The report directly contradicts advice from the American Heart Association, which recommends consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day to reduce blood pressure and risk of heart disease.

Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong  New York Times

Forget ibuprofen - grab a coffee:

Coffee is far better treatment for chronic pain than over-the-counter pills, new research shows. Feeling tired drastically increases pain sensitivity, the study found. To counteract that, scientists from Boston Children's Hospital gave exhausted lab mice either painkillers, coffee or more time asleep. They found the most wide-awake mice - after a jolt of caffeine or a long sleep - were more impervious to pain than those on painkillers.In the caffeine-drinking mice, they saw a rush of dopamine to the brain's pleasure center, which alleviated their feelings of pain.  Sleep also abated pain sensitivity better than over-the-counter pills

Why eating cheese will not harm your health:

Eating dairy does not raise the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a team of international experts have found. Scientists analyzed 29 previous studies to find a link between dairy and disease. They found foods containing milk had a 'neutral' impact on human health. Even full-fat cheese, milk and yoghurt do not increase the danger, the meta-analysis of 29 studies found. The findings contradict warnings that dairy can be harmful because of its high saturated fat content.

Eat your butter, it’s good for you!

According to a new editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the belief that saturated fat in foods such as butter, cheese and meat clogs arteries is “just plain wrong.” Instead, the focus should be on eating a Mediterranean-style diet, taking a brisk walk daily and minimizing stress.

The editorial identifies coronary heart disease as a “chronic inflammatory condition.” Malhotra explains that eating too much white bread, pasta, and potatoes — carbohydrates, essentially — raises blood glucose rapidly, and the body responds by creating too much insulin.When the body is constantly flooded with insulin, it can’t do its job of getting glucose into cells for energy. This initiates an inflammatory response, which in turn begins to harden your arteries.
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Not since doctors touted smoking as a digestive aid has there been such a medically sanctioned public health debacle. The rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease have skyrocketed since low-fat diets were universally recommended, while those suffering from diet-induced ill health have been blamed and shamed. It’s about time doctors spoke up and put the blame where it belongs, on processed and refined “low-fat” foods.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:27 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2017

New Medical research and technology: Exercise in a pill, brain in a dish, robotic brain surgeon and more

Artificial 'brain in a dish'

Scientists have grown the first working 'mini-brains' in a dish which could provide future treatments for autism and epilepsy. The lab-grown organs have their own brain cells, formed into circuits similar to those of a two-month-old baby in the womb. Described as 'thrilling science', it is the first time a human forebrain has been seen in action outside the body. Scientists hope to use the mini-brains to watch in real time the triggers for epilepsy, when brain cells become hyperactive, and autism, where they are thought to form bad connections.

An artificial womb successfully grew baby sheep — and humans could be next

The lambs spent four weeks in the external wombs and seemed to develop normally
Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study, said the point of developing an external womb — which his team calls the Biobag — is to give infants born months too early a more natural, uterus-like environment to continue developing in.

The robotic brain surgeon will see you now: drill can perform complex procedures 50 times faster

Scientists have revealed a robotic drill that can cut the most sensitive brain surgery down from two hours to two and a half minutes. The machine, developed at the University of Utah, is being hailed as a potential breakthrough in survival for brain patients as the reduced time they spend in surgery will drastically cut the chances of infection....It has so far not been tested on a human patient.

One Day, a Machine Will Smell Whether You’re Sick

Each of us has a unique “odorprint” made up of thousands of organic compounds. These molecules offer a whiff of who we are, revealing age, genetics, lifestyle, hometown — even metabolic processes that underlie our health....
Researchers have been trying for decades to figure out how to build an inexpensive odor sensor for quick, reliable and noninvasive diagnoses. The field finally seems on the cusp of succeeding.  “You’re seeing a convergence of technology now, so we can actually run large-scale clinical studies to get the data to prove odor analysis has real utility,” ...

Scientists discover key genes that control our immune response to chlamydia

Scientists may be one step closer to discovering a cure for the silent but devastating sexually transmitted infection (STI) chlamydia...Often called the 'silent disease', as it rarely produces symptoms early on, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if untreated. ...

Switching off' two key genes makes immune cells more susceptible to infection. The genes could be a useful target for new chlamydia therapies, helping to combat antibiotic resistance that increasingly limits STI treatment options. The researcher's model demonstrates how chlamydia interacts with our immune system, which could also have important implications for other infections

Muscle-building 'exercise pill' one step closer, scientists say

A muscle-building “exercise pill” that could reduce visits to the gym has come a step closer with the publication of a new study focusing on a protein that keeps us weak. Scientists found that suppressing production of the protein myostatin increased muscle mass and led to significant improvements in markers of heart and kidney health. Although the research was conducted in mice, the team hopes that further down the road it will lead to human treatments.
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“A pill that inhibits myostatin could also have applications for muscle-wasting diseases, such as cancer, muscle dystrophy and Aids.”  Myostatin is known to be a powerful “brake” that holds back skeletal muscle growth.

“Exercise-in-a-pill” boosts athletic endurance by 70 percent

Salk Institute scientists, building on earlier work that identified a gene pathway triggered by running, have discovered how to fully activate that pathway in sedentary mice with a chemical compound, mimicking the beneficial effects of exercise, including increased fat burning and stamina. The study, which appears in Cell Metabolism on May 2, 2017, not only deepens our understanding of aerobic endurance, but also offers people with heart conditions, pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes or other health limitations the hope of achieving its benefits pharmacologically.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2017

Health roundup: Older sleep, dementia, hepatitis, chronic fatigue linked to gut, colon, stomach and bladder cancers

Older people need as much sleep as those who are younger - but don't get it due to brain deterioration

A scientific review has concluded that we cannot get away with less sleep as we age, as many experts believe.  Older people appear to need less sleep because they are less exhausted after missing out on it, seeing less of a drop in their ability to carry out normal tasks than the young. But a review by US scientists has found they may simply have just adjusted to a life without proper rest. But this has a mental and physical price too, increasing the risk of dementia and other illnesses.

Study author Professor Matthew Walker, of the University of California, Berkeley, said ... as the brain ages, neurons and circuits in the areas that regulate sleep slowly degrade, resulting in a decreased amount of non-REM sleep.  Writing in the journal Neuron, Professor Walker said: 'Sleep changes with aging, but it doesn't just change with aging, it can also start to explain aging itself.

Drugs already in medicine cabinets may fight dementia, early data suggests

In mouse and cell studies, two drugs shut down damaging stress response, protected brain....The two drugs—trazodone hydrochloride, used to treat depression and anxiety, and dibenzoylmethane (DBM), effective against prostate and breast tumors—could shut down a devastating stress response in brain cells, known to be critical for the progression of brain diseases. The drugs both protected brain cells and restored memory in mice suffering from brain diseases.

More people are dying from hepatitis than AIDS and tuberculosis, warns World Health Organization

In its first global report on hepatitis, WHO found deaths from the infection, often caused by alcohol and drug abuse, is rising. Viral hepatitis is believed to have killed 1.34 million people in 2015, it warned. This is a similar amount to those who have died from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; but while those are both falling, hepatitis deaths continue to rise globally

The two most common forms, which are responsible for 96 per cent of deaths from the disease, are hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV). HBV can be passed on through unprotected sex and bodily fluids. It requires life-long treatment with a drug commonly used to battle HIV. New infections of this type of the disease are falling, thanks to a vaccine given to 84 per cent of newborns across the world....HCV, usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, can be cured relatively swiftly. But four fifths of those infected with this type of the disease are unaware they are suffering.

Another Study Just Linked Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to Gut Bacteria

It was only in 2015 that the US Institute of Medicine detailed a comprehensive way to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), and earlier this year, scientists linked the condition to faulty cell receptors in immune cells for the first time - which explains why the side effects can be so varied and hard to pin down.

But there are still no effective treatments for the disease, and no cure - some commonly prescribed treatments for the condition have been cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise, neither of which have any evidence to support they work, and could actually be doing more harm than good. Now, new research has shown that patients with ME/CFS have abnormal levels of specific gut bacteria - and those levels change depending on the severity and type of symptoms they have.

Scientists Halt Growth of Colon, Stomach Cancers

Protein-inhibiting drug possible within 3 years say Australian researchers.  "Our discovery could potentially offer a new and complementary approach to chemotherapy and immunotherapy as options for treating gastrointestinal cancers."

The FDA just approved a new drug that uses the body's immune system to treat bladder cancer

AstraZeneca Plc's immuno-oncology drug treats a type of bladder cancer in patients whose disease progressed despite chemotherapy. The drug, called Imfinzi, works by helping the body's immune cells kill cancer, offering an alternative to toxic chemotherapy.  While not without side effects, immuno-oncology is a kinder option that also promises longer-lasting efficacy, although it costs more.  Imfinzi, chemically known as durvalumab, belongs to a new class of oncology drugs called PD-L1 inhibitors that block a mechanism tumors use to evade detection from the immune system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Food Edition: Gluten-free, cauliflower, sparkling water, broccoli, espresso, beer and snot

Gluten-free is not so great: People who avoid grains increase the risk of developing heart disease

The Harvard researchers, whose work was published last night in the British Medical Journal, tracked more than 110,000 people for 26 years, found  slightly more heart problems in the fifth that ate least gluten compared with those who ate most. Looking only at the difference in gluten intake resulting from whole grains, those who ate most had a 15 per cent lower risk of heart attacks.  ‘The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without coeliac disease should not be encouraged.’ ‘

Separate research, also by experts at Harvard, concluded in March that people with a low-gluten intake were also at greater risk of developing type two diabetes.They found that people with the highest 20 per cent of gluten consumption had a 13 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes than those with the lowest 20 per cent. Researcher Dr Geng Zong, who led that study, said: ‘Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fibre and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more.

The Gas in Sparkling Water is Acidic,

Adam Thorne, a dentist in Harley Street, warns fizzy water is extremely acidic, more than wine, fruit juice and even vinegar. 'The bubbles erode your tooth enamel – and over time this causes painful, yellow cracked teeth.'

Cauliflower is the new kale:

 Caulifflower

'It is replacing kale as the "new" sweetheart vegetable because of its ability to substitute for rice and potatoes in recipes,' ...'Its texture is so versatile that you could puree it and add it to any soup or casserole.... The cruciferous vegetable is also packed with nutrients that keep you full, help digestion, strengthen your body against cancer, and strengthen your bones

How broccoli helps beat strokes:

A powerful daily pill that harnesses a potent chemical in broccoli could soon be given to patients to protect against the most damaging effects of a stroke. British researchers have proved that a molecule called sulforaphane, which occurs naturally in the vegetable, turns on a protective enzyme in the brain. Scientists at King’s College London found this ‘scavenger’ enzyme then removes dangerous free radical cells that damage and kill other cells in a process known as oxidative stress.

Three espressos a day cuts prostate cancer risk by 50%, study claims

The study, conducted by the Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed (IRCCS) in Pozzilli, Italy, looked at about 7,000 men residing in central Italy and found that drinking three espressos daily can cut your risk of prostate cancer by 53% The drink was also found to suppress the growth of tumor cells.  Caffeine has been linked to a decreased risk of disease, suicide and depression. Espresso was also shown to improve exercise performance. A 2014 study from the University of California found that drinking two espressos a day enhanced the process of memory consolidation. This process, in turn, improved long-term memory among the participants.

Energy drinks ARE more dangerous than other caffeine-laden options and raise blood pressure in just 2 hours

Researchers found drinking 32 fluid ounces - just under a litre - of an unnamed but commercially-available energy drink resulted in profound changes to the heart's electrical activity and blood pressure. The drink was packed with 108g of sugar - roughly 27 teaspoons - and 320mg of caffeine, close to the daily recommended daily limit, along with other 'natural' substances such as taurine, ginseng and carnitine.

Two pints of beer are better than paracetamol (Tylenol) for pain relief

The analysis, published in The Journal of Pain, observed 18 studies involving 404 participants who were experiencing chronic pain. The studies provided alcohol versus no-alcohol comparisons for 13 tests of pain threshold...
Dr Trevor Thompson, who headed the study at London's Greenwich University, told The Sun: '[Alcohol] can be compared to opioid drugs such as codeine and the effect is more powerful than paracetamol.' Now the experts are planning to find out if alcohol either lowers anxiety of pain, which then reduces the perception of discomfort, or if it numbs the sensation of pain by affecting the brain receptors.

Why picking your nose and eating it may be good for you!

Austrian lung specialist Professor Friedrich Bischinger, said: 'Eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system. Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. 'In terms of the immune system, the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine.' 

Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that nasal mucus' rich reservoir of 'good' bacteria prevents cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to teeth. Published in the American Society for Microbiology, their findings also suggest snot could defend against respiratory infections, stomach ulcers and even HIV.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

April 25, 2017

New medical research and technology: malaria vaccine, at home DNA tests, smart gut pills and more

After Decades of Work, a Malaria Vaccine Is Here

Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will begin piloting the injectable vaccine next year with young children. The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures. The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether protective effects shown in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. The vaccine has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said.

Scientists uncover the possible cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Scientists may be one step closer to discovering a cure for the debilitating lifelong condition multiple sclerosis (MS). Researchers have shown MS sufferers have high levels of a certain protein in their brain cells, which is virtually nonexistent in healthy people. This protein alters the cells' energy supply, triggering the disabling symptoms.The finding may enable scientists to create protein-targeting treatments for the incurable disease.

Scientists at the Universities of Exeter and Alberta analysed human brain tissue samples.  They discovered high levels of a protein, known as Rab32, in MS patients. Rab32 is thought to cause the part of the brain cell that stores calcium to get too close to the cell's so-called energy supplier. This causes miscommunication within the cell, leading to brain cell damage. Although it is established that MS occurs due to nervous system damage, the cause of this was less clear. 

FDA Approves At-Home DNA Tests For Ten Diseases

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first home DNA tests Thursday that let people find out if they have a genetic risk for certain diseases. The FDA decision allows home DNA test company 23andMe to directly market its gene tests for 10 diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, celiac disease and some rare blood diseases. “It is important that people understand that genetic risk is just one piece of the bigger puzzle”

Harvard study breakthrough on genetics of parenting behavior across species

Why is it that some species seem to be particularly attentive parents while others leave their young to fend for themselves? For years, scientists have believed one of the major drivers is experience — an animal raised by an attentive parent, the argument goes, is likely to be an attentive parent itself.

A Harvard study is challenging that idea, and breaking new ground by uncovering links between the activity of specific genes and parenting differences across species...the study found not only that different genes may influence behaviors in males and females, but also that the gene for the hormone vasopressin appears to be closely tied to nest-building behavior in parenting mice.

Guts and glory for RMIT smart pills

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have successfully completed phase one human trials of ingestible capsules that have the potential to revolutionize the prevention and diagnosis of gut disorders and diseases. The ingestible smart capsules (the size of a vitamin pill)  journey through and measure gas levels in the gastrointestinal tract. The ingestible technology has demonstrated several thousand -times more sensitivity to gut gases than alternative techniques.

"Currently, one of the only methods for diagnosing gut disorders, such as mal-absorption of carbohydrates, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammable bowel disease, is to measure hydrogen concentrations in the breath," Kalantar-zadeh said. "However, breath tests are mired by a lack of sensitivity and specificity and are unable to provide the necessary gold standard for diagnosis."

Co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean said: "Ingestible sensors also offer a reliable diagnostic tool for colon cancer, meaning that people won't have to undergo colonoscopies in future."  Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention," Berean said. An added advantage is that the capsules can be synched with smartphones, meaning results are easily accessible by users and doctors online.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:40 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup - Food Edition

Is your diet good for your gut bacteria?  Probably not as Adam Rutherford found when he had his tested

...the results? To be honest, pretty crap....“You are near bottom of the class. You’re in the lowest 10% of the population for diversity,”....How many of these beneficial bacteria did I have? Zero.

Diversity is one of the keys to a healthy gut, he explained, the idea being that different microbes perform different tasks, and a diverse workforce brings more skills to the table. We contain, on average, around one thousand different species of bacteria inside our guts. And in total: well, it’s difficult to count, but there are trillions. And they are almost all doing useful work for us.
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Fermented foods are especially good for encouraging a healthy microbiome. “People know about live yoghurts, but the next stage up which has five times as many microbes is kefir, a Persian soured milk,” Spector told me. Other fermented foods like miso soup and kimchi (pickled cabbage) are a delicious feast for your internal lodgers.
If that all sounds a bit rich, then garlic, artichokes, bananas and whole grains are also good fibrous fodder.

Drinking beetroot juice has important brain benefits.

Drinking beetroot juice before working out makes older adults’ brains perform more efficiently, a new study by Wake Forest University has found. “It resembles more of a brain of a younger adult than it does an older adult,"
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Beets have a high level of dietary nitrate, which is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide when consumed, Rejeski said. Nitric oxide increases blood flow in the body, and previous studies have shown it can improve exercise performance in people of varying ages. The study found that combining beetroot juice with exercise delivers more oxygen to the brain and strengthens the somatomotor cortex, which processes information from the muscles.

Gluten-free diets may cause serious health problems

including CANCER due to the high levels of toxic metals found in gluten-free foods. Two major studies from the US reveal that those choosing gluten-free foods have twice as much arsenic in their urine as those who eat gluten. They also have 70 per cent more mercury in their blood and worryingly high levels of other metals such as lead and cadmium. Contamination comes mainly from rice flour, which is used as a substitute in products such as bread, spaghetti and cereals.

Why pasta and bread lower the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. How carbs are good for your brain.

The NBA’s Secret Obsession with Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

With little fanfare, PB&Js have become a locker room staple for multiple teams in the league for over a decade. ...
One reason for the PB&Js popularity is that calorie-dense foods that are high in fats, sugars, starches, proteins, and salts trigger both dopamine and serotonin releases in humans. Any food that gives rushes of energy and happiness is an obvious boon to professional athletes, and those same foods also lower the body’s heart rate. In other words, PB&Js a unique combination of performance enhancer and comfort food.

Sneaky mind tricks that make us splash out on more food

From scrunchy crisp packets to heavy cutlery in restaurants and French music in the wine aisle, an Oxford psychologist reveals how you're manipulated every time you leave home

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

April 20, 2017

Roundup of medical research and technology:

Restoring the sense of touchSolar-Powered Graphene Skin Enables Prosthetics to Feel

Several products are in development, including this haptic system at Case Western Reserve University, which would enable upper-limb prosthetic users to, say, pluck a grape off a stem or pull a potato chip out of a bag. It sounds simple, but such tasks are virtually impossible without a sense of touch and pressure.

Now, a team at the University of Glasgow that previously developed a flexible ‘electronic skin’ capable of making sensitive pressure measurements, has figured out how to power their skin with sunlight. That renewable energy could be used to power an array of sensors to add feeling to an artificial limb, the authors describe this month in Advanced Functional Materials.


Organs on chips technology
The FDA just struck a deal that could replace animal testing with a tiny chip

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration inked a collaborative research and development agreement with Emulate, a company that makes "organs-on-chips" technology.  The hope is that instead of testing new drugs or supplements on animals, researchers can use Emulate's chips. Each chip is about the size of a human thumb, and contains tiny channels filled with living human cells that imitate the functions of different organs.
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To start, the collaboration between the FDA and Emulate will focus on the company's Liver-Chips, which are meant to show how an animal's liver might react to a certain drug. The liver is where most drugs get broken down on their way out of the body.

Cancer-detecting CHEWING GUM to replace blood tests:

A biotech company has created a chewing gum that detects cancer. Volatile organic compounds, unique to each type of cancer, are produced in the body. The gum traps the compounds, which will then be analyzed for different cancers. It could mean the end of blood tests, urine samples and biopsies. The gum absorbs what are called 'volatiles' in a person's saliva as they chew it - chemical compounds which are released by certain forms of cancer.  After it has been chewed for 15 minutes, the product is then analyzed to determine whether or not it contains these specific chemicals. So far, scientists at the Alabama-based firm Volatile Analysis have developed different types of gum can detect pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer

Synthetic Blood Is About To Go Through Human Trials

There have been decades of failure in making a usable blood substitute but now, scientists from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford have isolated and manipulated stem cells in labs to produce red blood cells.

Their goal is to make red cells for patients with complex blood types because it can be hard for them to find donors. In the future, lab-grown blood could revolutionize medical care by providing a far reaching solution to keeping people in need supplied with blood regardless of type or donor.

Paralyzed man moves his legs and STANDS for the first time

A man paralyzed from the waist down has moved his legs for the first time after doctors inserted an electrode sending an electrical current to the spinal cord. The electrode is connected to a computer-controlled device under the skin in the 28-year-old patient's abdomen. The electrical stimulation on his spinal cord, along with intense physical therapy, enabled him to move his legs, stand and make step-like motions for the first time in three years.....Mayo Clinic researchers, who tested the pioneering treatment, say these results offer further evidence that a combination of this technology and rehabilitation may help patients with spinal cord injuries regain control. 'We're really excited, because our results went beyond our expectations,' says neurosurgeon Kendall Lee, principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic's Neural Engineering Laboratory.

A blind man sobs as he sees his wife for the first time in decades - after having his TOOTH inserted into his eye

A blind man who had his sight restored earlier this year in an incredible procedure using one of his own teeth said the best part was being able to see his wife again, "Gorgeous"

The amazing procedure saw a lens inserted into one of his teeth, which was extracted and then placed into his cheek so tissue would grow around it, enabling its own blood supply...After three months surgeons removed the tooth and inserted it into Mr Ings' old cornea. Skin was then removed from his mouth and placed over the new cornea to seal it. An opening was made to allow the new lens to work. It was the first time the surgery, called osteo-odonto kerato-prosthesis, has been performed in Australia. Mr Ing damaged his right eye in a childhood accident, and gradually lost vision in the other over the past 16 years because of the herpes simplex virus.

Chinese doctors grow a new ear on a man's ARM and transplant it to his head

Mr Ji, whose age is unknown, lost his right ear in a traffic accident in 2015.  He yearned to have the organ back because he no longer 'felt complete'. A plastic surgeon took cartilage from the patient's ribs to build an artificial ear that was modeled with the help of 3D-printing technology. It was then attached to his forearm under a piece of expanded skin. There it was allowed to grow for several months until experts deemed it ready for the transplant.  Once fully grown, it was finally transplanted from his arm to his head.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2017

"Americans must be suffering from an awful lot of pain."

Existing political proposals, Republican or Democratic, for solving the problem are based in economics.  The problem runs much deeper Damon Linker writes in The spiritual agony behind America's opioid crisis

One might even call them spiritual.  Imagine, for a moment, that addiction is a response to spiritual agony. Then consider the role of substance abuse in our lives.

A 2015 study showed that 32 million Americans (one out of every seven adults) struggled with a serious alcohol problem during the previous year — and that nearly a third of all Americans will exhibit signs of an alcohol-use disorder at some point in their lives. That's an astonishingly high rate of alcohol abuse....As of the end of 2015, the rate of fatal opioid overdoses was more than five times higher than [the crack epidemic] — 10.3 per 100,000. ...

Then there are prescription medications for depression and anxiety. The United States leads the world in per capita consumption of these drugs, with roughly 11 percent of the population over the age of 12 using them.....

What is clear is that the United States is filled with people pursuing various forms of relief from various forms of profound unhappiness, discontent, malaise, agitation, and emotional and/or physical pain....

Americans must be suffering from an awful lot of pain.

"The more often we’ve heard in this century about white privilege, the more often white people have dropped dead in despair, writes Steve Sailer in White Privilege, White Death.

The charts below shows how bad it is.

From Death Rates Rise for Wide Swath of White Adults, Study Finds in the WSJ

Increases in ‘deaths of despair’—from drugs, alcohol-related liver diseases and suicide

 White Deaths


 Death Rates Despair Comparison

 Death Opiods2000-2016

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

What do cucumbers and olives have in common with blueberries?

Tomatoes, winter squash, avocados, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, corn, olives, pumpkins, pea pods and zucchini are ALL FRUITS. 

What’s the Difference Between Fruits and Vegetables?

Botanically, fruits and vegetables are classified depending on which part of the plant they come from. A fruit develops from the flower of a plant, while the other parts of the plant are categorized as vegetables.  Fruits contain seeds, while vegetables can consist of roots, stems and leaves.

From a culinary perspective, fruits and vegetables are classified based on taste. Fruits generally have a sweet or tart flavor and can be used in desserts, snacks or juices.Vegetables have a more mild or savory taste and are usually eaten as part of a side dish or main course.

Than again, you can classify them by color

 Fruitveggiecolorwheel

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink

April 1, 2017

Preparing for Ticks

Prepare for a Bad Summer for Ticks (WSJ)
Mild winters and big deer and mice populations mean more ticks and higher rates of Lyme disease diagnoses

Symptoms can include a ring-like rash, along with flulike symptoms, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. It is usually diagnosed based on symptoms or a blood test. It is treated with antibiotics. Longer-term infections can cause more serious symptoms, including arthritis, severe muscle pain and headaches, heart palpitations, brain inflammation and nerve pain. Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease is controversial with many differences of opinion between patient groups and doctors.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are more than 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease a year, about triple the rate from two decades ago. Most cases are centered in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic region and Upper Midwest states, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

On average 10 to 30% of deer nymphal ticks are infected with Lyme disease...Ticks typically feed on humans for three to five days, said Jorge Parada, a medical director of infection prevention and control at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. A tick that latches on for only a few hours is unlikely to transmit infection. For Lyme disease to be transmitted, a tick usually has to be attached for 24 to 48 hours, said Dr. Parada, though for some other diseases it is less time. Thus, “the importance of doing tick checks.”

Best Advice You're Probably Going to Get a Tick This Summer. Good Luck.

Try to grab the tick near the skin and pull it out from there. Don’t have the fortitude to execute such a precise maneuver with tweezers? The Tick Twister and Tick Key make the job almost foolproof....

You certainly can pick up a tick from the woods, but you’re also likely to find them in parks and backyards. Ticks bury themselves in damp soil or leaf litter, and climb up on grass or brush to wait for their prey. You can make your yard less of a tick haven by keeping your grass short, removing any rotten leaves or similar debris, and get rid of brush piles where mice like to live. 

When you go to tick-prone areas, wear shoes that you’ve thoroughly sprayed with permethrin. This is an insecticide that is very safe for humans but stops ticks from crawling up your legs. Treat your favorite hiking boots, socks, and pants with the stuff; consider it for the shoes you use for yard work, too. To finish the job, spritz on a DEET-based spray whenever you head out to the backyard or park. It’s also safe when used properly, even for kids, and it will repel mosquitoes as well as ticks.

When you plan to work outside or walk in the wood, you're best of wearing long sleeves and long pants.  Since the little buggers like to climb up your leg, tuck your pants inside your socks.  When you're done shower well.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:47 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2017

Roundup of new research and medical tech

Unprecedented HIV vaccine breakthrough as researchers discover 'on-off switch'

Scientists say they've engineered an 'on-off switch' into a weakened form of HIV, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of a potential vaccine for the virus. HIV needs a specific amino acid to replicate so researchers replaced the code that does this with a 'nonsense' version that halts amino acid production.  When the supply of amino acids stopped, so did the replication....HIV has killed 35 million people since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s.

A wheelchair that can climb STAIRS could hit the market by the end of next year Video at the link.

Scewo is the brainchild of a group of masters students from Switzerland. Rigid rubber tracks allow the chair to safely travel up and down staircases. Self-balancing technology also enables the chair to turn on the spot, as well as to mount curbs without getting stuck. Users will be able to control the chair with a joystick orsimply by shifting their body weight. The team hopes to launch a mass market version be the end of 2018

The 'triple threat' cancer capsule that can navigate itself towards tumors before exploding and releasing drugs

Researchers have designed tiny cancer-fighting microcapsules that can navigate themselves towards cancerous tumors in the body. The multilayer capsule contains an anti-cancer drug which can be released via an ultrasound trigger, working as a guided drug delivery system....The capsule, designed by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has three traits that have been difficult to achieve all together in a single cancer drug. They're easily detectable via low-power ultrasound, they can safely and efficiently encapsulate the cancer drug doxorubicin, and a dose of ultrasound can trigger the release of the drug. Doxorubicin is a chemotherapy drug that's used to treat several types of cancer. 

The new technology could offer a noninvasive alternative to cancer surgeries or chemotherapy. Next step - animal testing.

Speaking of animal testing - Tiny human liver-on-a-chip could help put an end to animal drug testing

Sleek microchip uses real organ tissue to mimic a liver in the human body that could be used to test drugs, eliminating the need for animal testingResearcher Dr Lawrence Vernetti, from the University of Pittsburgh developed the miniature human liver using  human liver cells that were taken from patients during medical procedures, or livers intended for organ donation that weren't used.....Missing however is a vital part of the organ - the bile duct. Bile is a fluid made in the liver that facilitates the digestion of fats in the small intestine.
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Mark Donowitz, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is working on an intestinal chip using human stem cells....One group, based at Harvard University's Wyss Institute in Boston, is adapting 'bone marrow on a chip' to study the effects of radiation....Researchers at Harvard University have been able to create kidneys, gut, bone marrow and lungs on a chip.

Dr Donald Ingber, a bioengineer at Harvard University's Wyss Institute who has been leading much of the work, said the idea was to mimic the chemical and mechanical function of the organs with little micro-engineered devices that are lined with human cells and reconstitute organ level functions.' 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup Birth control app, life-saving virus, new cholesterol drug, most cancer random, depression and pine tree bark

Female Physicist Creates World’s First Government-Approved Birth Control App

If approved in the United States, Natural Cycles would provide Americans a drug-free alternative in a market saturated with hormonal and abortive birth control....In typical use, a peer-reviewed study of 4,000 women found Natural Cycles was 93 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, meaning of 100 women using the app to prevent pregnancy, 7 got pregnant in a given year of use and 93 did not. For comparison, the pill is 91 percent effective, injectable birth control is 94 percent effective, and IUDs are 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy in typical use, according to the CDC.  Another well-established non-hormonal NFP method called Creighton has been rated in a federal study as 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

A virus, fished out of a lake, may have saved a man’s life — and advanced science

Earlier this year, in an experimental treatment, doctors put 100 million OMKO1 viruses into a man’s chest to save his life...Dr. Ali Khodadoust, an ophthalmologist in New Haven, is 80 years old  had spent the past four years fighting a devastating infection.

Khodadoust ended up having a coronary artery bypass; his cardiologist patched a section of his aorta with a piece of plastic mesh. The whole procedure went off without a hitch, after which Khodadoust went home to recover. But things quickly went south. Within 48 hours, he had developed a raging fever and had to be rushed back to the hospital. When surgeons opened his chest, they discovered that an infection had destroyed his sternum, and his chest cavity was filled with blood and pus.... There was a moss-green patch on his aorta. It had to be an infection with a common species of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa...

Before the  doctors could even think about treating the infection, they had to save Khodadoust’s life.  “He was beyond ill — his heart actually burst on the table,”....When Khodadoust thinks back to that time, he remembers being in absolute darkness. “A tiny string was stretching from me to infinity,” he said.....

[After phage therapy} Khodadoust showed up at Narayan’s office over the summer, without an IV port in his chest and off antibiotics. He had recovered completely from his four-year infection. “I couldn’t believe it,” Narayan said. “He looked like a million bucks.”

Cholesterol-Slashing Drug Can Protect High-Risk Heart Patients, Study Finds

The drug, Repatha, is called a PCSK9 inhibitor and can make cholesterol tumble to levels almost never seen naturally in adults, or even in people taking cholesterol-lowering statins. The Amgen drug and a similar one, sold by Sanofi and Regeneron, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 with the hope — and expectation — that they would lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and not just reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, the dangerous kind.
That hope has now been realized for the Amgen drug.

“This is like the era of the statins coming in,” said Dr. Eugene Braunwald, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School . ... Like statins, which were introduced in the 1980s, the new class of drugs has the potential to improve the health and longevity of millions of Americans with heart disease, the nation’s leading killer, accounting for one in four deaths.“It’s a new ballgame,” he said.....But cost will be an issue. Statins are available as cheap generics. The new drugs have a list price of $14,523 a year. “The next big challenge is financial: how to pay for it.”

Most cancer mutations arise from ‘bad luck,’ but many cases still preventable, researchers say

Using health records from 69 countries, they conclude that 66 percent of cancer-causing genetic mutations arise from the “bad luck” of a healthy, dividing cell making a random mistake when it copies its DNA.

AI that detects cancer in blood and pinpoints its location before symptoms appear 'could be ready in one year'

Scientists from the University of California developed the new software that works by looking for specific molecular patterns in cancer DNA. The algorithm was able to correctly detect cancer in 80 per cent of cases

Depression Is Now the Leading Cause of Illness and Disability Worldwide

Depression has become the leading cause of ill health and disability across the world, now affecting more than 300 million people globally, the World Health Organization said Thursday. However, half of people suffering from depression don’t get treatments they need to live healthy, productive lives.

How pine tree bark could revolutionize your trip to the dentist:

Resin fillings typically last for seven to ten years at most before they crack and fall out. Scientists have discovered that an extract from the bark of pine tree roots alters the chemical structure of teeth to make them stronger and allow fillings to bind to them better. Dr Guido Pauli, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, said compounds in the pine tree extract work by strengthening dentine – the tissue layer beneath the enamel in teeth. Tests show the tree extracts can increase the strength of dentine by up to ten times.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2017

Roundup of Medical Technology: Robots in surgery, diagnosis and active aging companion, 'body on a chip' and heart tissue from a spinach leaf

Robot-assisted surgery is reaching an incredible level of precision!

Watch the video at the link and see for yourself how it peels a grape and then sews it back on!  It's astounding.

Robot Worm could be miniaturized to help doctors spot digestive issues

The robot that can move forwards or backwards in a wave-like motion is known as the single actuator wave-like robot (SAW) and was developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel.

Artificial Intelligence Will Help the Elderly  Watch the video at the link to see how ElliQ works

For the past month or so, a small group of older adults in San Francisco has been learning to engage with a talking device named ElliQ. It’s more desk lamp than archetypal robot—think of the hopping light at the beginning of Pixar movies. But while ElliQ is meant to sit on a table or nightstand, it’s all about movement, or more accurately, body language.

 Elio Robot For Elderly

ElliQ talks. But it also moves, leaning toward the person with whom it’s speaking. It lights up, too, as another means of engagement, and uses volume and sound effects to distinguish its messages. “If ElliQ is shy, she will look down and talk softly, and her lights will be soft,” explains Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics, the Israeli company behind the device. “If she tries to get you to go for a walk, she will lean forward and take a more aggressive tone, and her lights will be bright....

ElliQ keeps learning...One of the first steps in establishing a relationship with this particular robot is to set some goals, such as how many times a week a person wants to go out for a walk or be reminded to see friends. Then, it’s up to ElliQ to determine the most effective way to do its job. In other words, it will learn that one person responds better to “It’s nice out, why don’t you go for a walk,” while another needs to be prodded more aggressively with “You’ve been on the couch watching TV for four hours. Time to get up and take a walk.”  “That’s where the emotive side kicks in,” he says. “ElliQ can set a whole different tone, and use different body language and gestures based on what works and what doesn’t work. The machine fine-tunes itself.”

“Mass-Produced” Blood Now Possible,

Researchers at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant....developed a method to freeze stem cells in their early development — while they are still replicating — which has the effect of “immortalizing” them such that scientists can produce infinitely more stem cells. They will harvest the excess stem cells to produce blood.  Right now the new method is cost-prohibitive. For the foreseeable future, it will mostly be used to provide hard-to-source blood for patients with rare blood types.

Spinach Leaf Transformed Into Beating Human Heart Tissue

Using the plant like scaffolding, scientists built a mini version of a working heart, which may one day aid in tissue regeneration.

Menstrual cycle recreated 'in a dish'

US scientists say they have made a mini working replica of the female reproductive tract using human and mouse tissue...to construct a palm-sized device that ooks nothing like a womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.  Researchers say it should help with understanding diseases of these organs and tissues and a novel way  to test new treatments.

The work is part of a project to create the entire human "body on a chip". The ultimate goal would be to take cells from any given individual in order to create a personalized model of their body to test drugs and treatments on.

We Were Wrong - the Testes Are Connected to the Immune System

Some parts of the body – including the tissues of the brain and testes – have long been considered to be completely hidden from our immune system....Last year scientists made the amazing discovery that a set of previously unseen channels connected the brain to our immune system; now, it appears we might also need to rethink the immune system's relationship with the testes...potentially explaining why some men are infertile and how some cancer vaccines fail to provide immunity.

An Unexpected New Lung Function Has Been Found - They Make Blood!  Video at the link shows how

In experiments involving mice, the team found that they produce more than 10 million platelets (tiny blood cells) per hour, equating to the majority of platelets in the animals' circulation. This goes against the decades-long assumption that bone marrow produces all of our blood components.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco also discovered a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells that makes this happen inside the lung tissue - cells that were incorrectly assumed to mainly reside in bone marrow....Scientists have now watched megakaryocytes functioning from within the lung tissue to produce not a few, but most of the body's platelets. So how did we miss such a crucial biological process this whole time?  The discovery was made possible by a new type of technology based on two-photon intravital imaging - a similar technique to one used by a separate team this week to discover a previously unidentified function of the brain's cerebellum.

10 Human Body Modifications You Can Expect in the next Decade

1. RFID Chips implanted in the body
2. Exoskeletons
3. Real-time Language Translation
4. Augmented Vision
5. Smart Contact Lenses
6. 3D Printed Body Parts
7. Smarter Drugs
8. Brain-computer Interfaces
9. Designer Babies
10. Enhanced Sexual Organs

UPDATE:  Paralyzed man moves his arm and hand with the power of his mind and a microchip

A cycling accident left Bill Kochevar unable to move from the shoulders down, but  he can now feed himself in his wheelchair, using a microchip in his brain. He is the first quadriplegic to have his movement restored by the system...
‘For somebody who’s been injured eight years and couldn’t move, being able to move just that little bit is awesome’...Researcher Dr Bob Kirsch said: ‘He’s really breaking ground for the spinal cord injury community. This is a major step toward restoring some independence.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

March 20, 2017

Health round-up: Exercise and cancer, cystic fibrosis, statins, tea, coffee and vitamins

Cystic fibrosis patients living 10 years longer in Canada than U.S. thanks to a high fat diet

Researchers identify differences in diet, health insurance and access to lung transplants...A spike in Canadian survival rates noted in 1995 may be due to a high fat diet, emphasizing cheeses, fish and nuts, recommended for Canadians with cystic fibrosis since the 1970s.  "The Canadians tried high fat diets, more calories, more palatable, and this really had an impact on the nutritional status, particularly with children, and that seems to set the trajectory for the disease."

Antidepressants can stop prostate cancer from spreading to the bones where it kills 90% of patients

Prostate cancer metastasises, or spreads, to the bones in 9 out of 10 fatal cases.  Scientists found a reducing a protein in the brain stopped the cancer spreading.  Discovery could pave the way to a treatment for advanced forms of the disease

How exercise reduces the risk of cancer.

Exercising is known to reduce the risk of breast, bowel, colon and womb cancer.  But how?  Scientists say active people are better at removing a by-product - lactate -  that fuels tumors. Lactate – which makes muscles stiffen after exercise – is a key driver of cancer growth and spread, experts claim.

Dr Inigo San Millan, of the University of California, Berkeley, said: 'With this paper, we open a whole new door for understanding cancer, showing for the first time that lactate is not only present, but mandatory for every step in its development. 'We hope to sound the alarm for the research community that to stop cancer you have to stop lactate.'

Gene in some people which makes their brains 12 YEARS older than they should be

Researchers at Columbia University found a certain gene is present in people with prematurely aged brains
Just as some people physically age faster than others, the same goes for brains. The study examined autopsy data from almost 2,000 people without diseases.  They found those with older-looking brains had two copies of a certain gene - TMEM106B.  The common genetic variant greatly impacts normal brain aging from around the age of 65.  It may also increase one's risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease or dementia.

Just ONE cup of tea a day lowers the risk of toxic clumps forming in the brain

Researchers found that drinking tea reduces the risk of dementia by some 50% while those who carry a 'dementia gene' can slash their chances by around 86%.  Tea leaves are considered to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. And it doesn't matter whether you prefer green tea or black.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore assessed the tea consumption of 957 adults over the age of 55 over a period of 12 years.  Every two years, the participants were assessed on their cognitive function using standardized tools.  "A simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life," said Dr Feng Lei and help  protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration.

Coffee 'stops vitamin pills working'

Scientists claim swallowing tablets with your morning cup of caffeine wipes out all of the good they do because the heat in the drinks can dramatically reduce the effects of tablets. It can even kill the ‘friendly’ bacteria in probiotic foods such as yoghurts..Now experts suggest waiting at least an hour before consuming hot food or drink after taking tablets.

City-dwellers should stock up on B vitamins, experts claim.

A new study suggests that the supplements may play a critical role in reducing the devastating impact of air pollution. In a trial on humans, scientists found just small doses could offset the deadly damage caused by tiny, toxic particles. Experts believe the findings could have a significant public health benefit in heavily polluted cities across the world.

Mediterranean diet 'as effective as statins' in reducing heart attack risk

“For most middle-aged people wishing to avoid heart disease, a healthy diet offers a far more powerful, sustainable and enjoyable plan than lifelong statin tablets,” said Prof Simon Capewell, vice-president of the UK Faculty of Public Health.

Taking high dosages of statins raises the risk of developing diabetes in older women by 50%

Australian scientists have carried out one of the first studies of its kind focusing on the effects of statins on more than 8,000 female pensioners....The team found over-75s face a 33 per cent higher chance of getting diabetes if they are taking them.  But the risk rose to more than 50 per cent for those on higher doses. It follows research last year which showed people with naturally higher levels of cholesterol, paradoxically, are less likely to suffer diabetes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2017

Ambient music in the ICU ' to induce calm and a space to think'

Tripping in the ICU  For those suffering the trauma of intensive care, the soothing swoosh of otherworldly ambient music can be a welcome gift.

The noise of life-support machines and vital-sign monitors is a constant background. Phones ring, bin lids bang, staff call for help and doctors are constantly being paged to the next emergency. The racket frequently exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for safe noise levels......In patients who are heavily sedated and on ventilators, rates of ICU delirium are as high as 80 per cent. ...An intensive-care stay can be a psychological and physical trauma; invaded on all sides, the body feels like it is being murdered....

A recent study showed that a quarter of ICU patients with a particular life-threatening respiratory condition had signs of PTSD six months after discharge...The evidence points to sedation as the culprit....Good reason, then, for reversing the policy of heavy sedation. But, for all the worthy intentions, critically ill patients were now coming to their senses in a suburb of hell. The former patient Taylor noted the horrible irony that her hearing was pretty much the only one of her senses that was preserved.
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Music has begun to emerge as a specifically powerful therapeutic medium. ...A problem is that one person’s easy listening is another’s aural poison. ....

Ambient music. Instead of distinctive rhythms, it gives us shifting periodicities. The melodies of pop command the attention, and we want our ambient performance to be there and yet not there at the same time. In the words of its greatest modern pioneer, Brian Eno, ‘ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.’ This is music aimed simultaneously at both the centre and the periphery of experience. It’s about what you don’t play as much as what you do.

Brian Eno wrote that ambient music ‘is intended to induce calm and a space to think’. It is not music for tapping your foot to. It’s music designed to take you into another mental space....

Rhythmic unpredictability is only one of the things going on. By not commanding the listener’s attention, ambient music frees the mind to wander.  It’s that potential to set minds wandering that lies behind our art project. Behind the chilled-out purveyor of ambient sounds, there’s an inquiring researcher looking for what might just lead to a clinical development. In my part-time academic post, I research inner experience: everyday phenomena such as mind-wandering, and more unusual mental happenings such as hallucinations. Both of these extremes can be encompassed in the experience of ICU patients, whose bodies can appear to be doing not very much at all, but whose minds are often far from restful.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:07 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2017

Health Roundup: Dizzy spells, CML, artificial retina, cannabis, second-hand smoke and bad news for bald men

From Authority Nutrition 13 Simple and Natural Ways to Lower Your Triglycerides

Cancer Pill Gleevec Keeps Patients Alive and Well for a Decade

The once-a-day pill turned chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, from a certain death sentence into a manageable disease. Now data shows it's helped 83 percent of patients live 10 years or longer...."It's the first targeted personalized medicine that had ever been used. It was also the most successful," ...Gleevec is targeted to a mutation specific to CML...."It's a 10-year survival of 83 percent, which is extraordinary," Silver said. "It has led to what we call biologic cures." Patients still have leukemia, but it's not affecting their blood cell counts.

Dizzy spells in middle age may be a warning sign of dementia 20 years before symptoms appear

Scientists think sudden drops in blood pressure - often signaled by dizziness when standing up - could cause lasting damage to the brain that raises the risk of dementia. A study of 11,000 middle-aged people found that those who suffered this problem, known as orthostatic hypotension, were 40 per cent more likely to develop dementia later in life.

Study leader Dr Andreea Rawlings, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, said: 'Even though these episodes are fleeting, they may have impacts that are long lasting. 'We found that those people who suffered from orthostatic hypotension in middle age were 40 per cent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not. 'It's a significant finding and we need to better understand just what is happening.'

Scientists Have Created an Artificial Retina Implant That Could Restore Vision to Millions

Scientists have developed a retinal implant that can restore lost vision in rats, and are planning to trial the procedure in humans later this year.  The implant, which converts light into an electrical signal that stimulates retinal neurons, could give hope to millions who experience retinal degeneration – including retinitis pigmentosa – in which photoreceptor cells in the eye begin to break down, leading to blindness.


For the Blind, an Actual-Reality Headset  Not just Star Trek fiction, a new visor from eSight is a lightweight, high-contrast vision system for legally blind people.

Artist Yvonne Felix recalls the first time she saw “Starry Night” with her eSight visor on, it made her cry. “I saw every little stroke. When I saw the color mixtures and how thick the paint was, it was the most overwhelming moment of my life,” she says. “I thought that never in my life would I be able to see something so beautiful.”

Secondhand smoke isn’t as bad as we thought. The relevant question, however, should not be merely whether there are any dangers from secondhand smoke but also how big they are.

If the alarmist claims made by anti-smoking groups were true, we’d be justified in avoiding secondhand smoke as if it were the plague. But we know now that those claims were exaggerated, so it’s worth asking whether contemporary bans have gone too far.... Now that’s not nothing, but other recent research may be even more surprising. “No clear link between passive smoking and lung cancer,” read a 2013 headline in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, hardly a pro-tobacco publication. That was a report on a cohort study tracking 76,000 women that failed to detect a link between the disease and secondhand smoke. The finding comports with existing literature suggesting that the effect is borderline and concentrated on long-term, high levels of exposure.

Cannabis boosts risk of stroke and heart attack, independent of tobacco, new study finds

Data taken from more than 1,000 US hospitals found that people who used the drug had a 26 per cent higher chance of suffering a stroke than those who did not, and a 10 per cent higher chance of having a heart attack....They indicate there is something intrinsic about cannabis which can damage the proper functioning of the human heart.  The research was published Wednesday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Washington DC.

Bad news for bald men: Hair loss drugs cause erectile dysfunction that lasts for years

Those taking a popular growth stimulant were left impotent for an average of four years after finishing the medication, a study found.  Sufferers were left unable to maintain an erection despite being given Viagra to try and solve their problem.  Experts now say that taking finasteride is a bigger risk factor for the condition than diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking.  The drug, sold as Propecia, lowers prostate specific antigen levels and is used for treating male-pattern hair loss.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine assessed the effects of the hair growth stimulant. Of the 11,909 men who were studied, 1.4 per cent went on to develop persistent erectile dysfunction. This continued for an average of 1,348 days.  But the researchers found men under the age of 42 who used either drug for seven months had a 4.9-fold higher risk.

This comes after Turkish scientists last week found blood type could influence a man's performance under the sheets. Those with blood types A, B or AB are up to four times more likely to suffer from impotence than men who have blood type O.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2017

Two powerful articles on Opiod Addiiction

American Carnage: The New Landscape of Opiod Addiction by Christopher Caldwell

The best way for a society to avoid the dangers of addictive and dangerous drugs is to severely restrict access to them. That is why, in the twentieth century, powerful opiates and opioids (an opioid is a synthetic drug that mimics opium) were largely taboo—confined to patients with serious cancers, and often to end-of-life care. But two decades ago, a combination of libertarian attitudes about drugs and a massive corporate marketing effort combined to instruct millions of vulnerable people about the blessed relief opioids could bring, if only mulish oldsters in the medical profession could get over their hang-ups and be convinced to prescribe them.
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OxyContin was only the most commercially successful of many new opioids. ...The American Pain Foundation, which presented itself as an advocate for patients suffering chronic conditions, was revealed by the Washington Post in 2011 to have received 90 percent of its funding from medical companies.
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The calamity of the 1990s opioid revolution is not so much that it turned real pain patients into junkies—although that did happen. The calamity is that a broad regulatory and cultural shift released a massive quantity of addictive drugs into the public at large. Once widely available, the supply “found” people susceptible to addiction. ...Relaxed taboos and ready supply created a much wider appetite for opioids. Once that happened, heroin turned out to be very competitively priced.
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In state after state, voters have chosen to liberalize drug laws regarding marijuana. If you want an example of mass media–induced groupthink, Google the phrase “We cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem” and count the number of politicians who parrot it. It is true that we cannot arrest our way out of a drug problem. But we cannot medicate and counsel our way out of it, either, and that is what we have been trying to do for almost a decade.
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Calling addiction a disease usefully describes certain measurable aspects of the problem—particularly tolerance and withdrawal...Addiction is different. Addicts resist known cures—even to the point of death
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In 1993, Francis F. Seeburger, a professor of philosophy at the University of Denver, wrote a profound book on the thought processes of addicts called Addiction and Responsibility. We tend to focus on the damage addiction does. A cliché among empathetic therapists, eager to describe addiction as a standard-issue disease, is that “no one ever decides to become an addict.” ....“Addiction itself . . . is tempting; it has many attractive features.” In an empty world, people have a need to need. Addiction supplies it. “Addiction involves the addict. It does not present itself as some externally imposed condition. Instead, it comes toward the addict as the addict’s very self.” Addiction plays on our strengths, not just our failings. It simplifies things. It relieves us of certain responsibilities. It gives life a meaning. It is a “perversely clever copy of that transcendent peace of God.”

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous thought there was something satanic about addiction. The mightiest sentence in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous is this: “Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning, baffling, powerful!” The addict is, in his own, life-damaged way, rational. He’s too rational. He is a dedicated person—an oblate of sorts, as Seeburger puts it. He has commitments in another, nether world.
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The deeper problem, however, is at once metaphysical and practical, and we’re going to have a very hard time confronting it. We in the sober world have, for about half a century, been renouncing our allegiance to anything that forbids or commands. Perhaps this is why, as this drug epidemic has spread, our efforts have been so unavailing and we have struggled even to describe it. Addicts, in their own short-circuited, reductive, and destructive way, are armed with a sense of purpose. We aren’t. It is not a coincidence that the claims of political correctness have found their way into the culture of addiction treatment just now. This sometimes appears to be the only grounds for compulsion that the non-addicted part of our culture has left.

Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In, Die Off: Medicaid Funds the White Death

In a massive and extensively researched article for Commentary, Nicholas Eberstadt shows how Medicaid is funding the gateway drugs — opioid prescription painkillers — which lead people towards deadly heroin and early death.
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Eberstadt’s citation of 2013 Census Bureau data is sobering: 21 percent of all civilian men between 25 and 55 years of age are now Medicaid beneficiaries.....Further, a jaw-dropping 57 percent of non-working white males in the same age bracket are now collecting disability benefits. Some of them are receiving benefits from multiple government programs.
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Princeton economics professors Angus Deaton and Anne Case “calculate that if the death rate among middle-aged whites had continued to decline at the rate it fell between 1979 and 1998, half a million deaths would have been avoided over the years from 1999 through 2013. That, they note, is about the same number of deaths as those caused by AIDS through 2015,”
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Eberstadt also briefly touches on the hollowing out of the civil society resources which normally cope with stress and loss:... the overwhelming majority of the prime-age men in this un-working army generally don’t “do civil society” (charitable work, religious activities, volunteering), or for that matter much in the way of child care or help for others in the home either, despite the abundance of time on their hands. Their routine, instead, typically centers on watching—watching TV, DVDs, Internet, hand-held devices, etc.—and indeed watching for an average of 2,000 hours a year, as if it were a full-time job.

The Left has largely accomplished its grand 50-year mission, destroying the nuclear family, organized religion, and masculine values such as self-reliance, leaving many dependent on government functionaries for sustenance and hope. We aren’t supposed to be competitive anymore, and we aren’t meant to feel even a twinge of shame about long-term dependency on welfare programs or about dropping by the local Medicaid clinic for more pain pills. We have been strictly instructed to place no particular value on traditional marriage — not for its role in healthy child-rearing, or for the vital and different benefits it brings to men and women.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2017

"The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea," Isak Dinesen

 Salt

Can Salted Doorknobs Prevent Superbug Infections?

It was a casual conversation with a former butcher that led Brayden Whitlock, a graduate student at the University of Alberta, to design a pilot study that put salt and copper head to head. Coupon-sized strips of pure, compressed sodium chloride were covered in an MRSA culture, alongside similar strips of antimicrobial copper and stainless steel. Whitlock found that salt killed off the bug 20 to 30 times faster than the copper did, reducing MRSA levels by 85 percent after 20 seconds, and by 94 percent after a minute.
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The salt-covered doorknobs, meanwhile, are already in the market. Doug Olson, the former butcher who first told Whitlock about the idea, has already received a patent for the technology in nine different countries, and registered the trade name Outbreaker. Prototypes have been built by local salt companies—the compression process is identical to how salt licks for livestock are made—and discreetly installed in a handful of settings around Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, over the past few years. Compressed and smooth, with a feel akin to ceramics, Whitlock says most users have no idea that what they’re really grabbing is a fistful of table salt.

From the website for Outbreaker

OUTBREAKER is a patented, self-sanitizing, antimicrobial surface made of compressed sodium chloride (CSC). This solid, durable, versatile surface can be installed on anything frequently touched by hands. The technology is simple, all natural, and completely safe and non-toxic, while remaining very cost effective.

OUTBREAKER  recently had a pilot study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection (October, 2016). In a parallel bacterial elimination study between OUTBREAKER and antimicrobial copper, OUTBREAKER eliminated the drug-resistant superbug MRSA 20-30 times faster.

OUTBREAKER is made by a specialized compression process that turns simple, safe and non-toxic salts into a versatile surface, using over 250 tons of pressure. The resulting product is strong and durable, and can take any shape.  This simple new product is amazingly effective.  Independent laboratory tests have shown that OUTBREAKER kills between 95% and 99.9% of common germs like E. coli and Salmonella in just one minute. It has recently been shown to be extremely effective against drug resistant superbugs like MRSA and VRE.

Salt kills microorganisms in three main ways: Recrystallization, dehydration and denaturation.

“Salt of the Earth”: Is science picking up on what the Church has long believed?

The ancient world used salt much as butchers today do, as a disinfectant, purifier, and preservative. These physical uses became ritualized in many early religions. In the Old Testament, the prophet Elisha uses salt to purify a polluted spring, both materially and spiritually. The ritual use of salt has been part of Catholic tradition since the earliest days.
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Blessed salt is a sacramental. It is used in the blessing of holy water and in the exorcism of evil spirits. (The folk custom of tossing spilled salt over one’s left shoulder to drive away the Devil is a popular superstition derived from the Rite of Exorcism.) A mixture of blessed salt, holy water, and wine is used to reconsecrate an altar that has been desecrated. Placing salt on the tongue of those to be baptized was a frequent part of the catechumenate at the time of St. Augustine, and it is still an optional part of the Rite of Baptism today.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2017

Digital brain disorders and tips for easy stress-relief

5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age

1. Nomophobia - the feeling of panic one has upon being separated from one's phone or tablet. In one U.K. survey, 73 percent of respondents felt panic when they misplaced their phone. And for another 14 percent, that panic spiraled into pure desperation.
2. Technoference - It could also be dragging down our relationships. In one 2014 study, more than half of the 143 participants said that tech devices interrupt their leisure time, conversations, and meals with their significant other. The researchers gave these interruptions a name: "technoference." Not surprisingly, higher technoference correlated directly with lower relationship and life satisfaction.
3. The phantom ring - Fauxcellarm, phantom ringing, and ringxiety are new to our lexicon, thanks to the universal presence of our buzzing, pinging smartphones. These terms refer to the perception that one's mobile device is ringing (or, more precisely, vibrating) when, in fact, it is not.
4. Cyberchondria - Hypochondria is not a new disorder, but the internet has taken it to the next level. In the broadest definition, cyberchondria refers to people who research and diagnose their own illnesses online. Sure, we've probably all done that — in fact, one in three American adults say they have used the internet to self-diagnose. But for some people who might already be prone to hypochondria, this can be detrimental.
5. Truman Show Delusion. Do you ever have that spooky feeling that someone's watching you? In the 1998 film The Truman Show, Truman Burbank had that feeling too, only his turned out to be true.---while it isn't directly caused by our digital devices, Truman Show Delusion is a product of our overly connected, reality-TV obsessed, social media–driven lifestyles that nurture our most narcissistic qualities.

The last one, #5, may not be a delusion at all given the latest Wikileaks drop, Vault #7, which show the CIA tapping just about everyone through our phones, smart TVs, and deliberately insecure software.                                                 

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Easy Rituals That Will Make You Stress-Free

1. Clench your facial muscles and relax them: (If you use Botox, just skip to the next tip.)

2. Take slow, deep breaths: If it gets Navy SEALs through Hell Week, it’ll get you through tax season.

3. Splash your face with cold water: Wakes you up, calms you down and cleans your mug. Now that’s efficiency.

4. Play some music and do a little dance: Add a “neuroscience” playlist to Spotify.

Even easier ways to  kill stress and be happier with almost no effort whatsoever.

Research shows that owning a dog reduces stress. In fact, the effect is so powerful that just watching a video of a cute animal reduces heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Watch nature documentaries to instantly boost your mood

A new study has found even watching small clips of shows such as Planet Earth II boosts people's emotions of awe, contentedness, joy and amusement.  It also can instantly help reduce anxiety, fear and tiredness.

Findings come from the BBC research, in collaboration with University of California, Berkeley.
Reviewing 150 further studies as part of the project, Berkeley's Professor Dacher Keltner found that our connection to nature enhanced our attention, cognitive performance and sense of calm. This made us more social and effective teamworkers and could even improve our physical health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

Heath Roundup: Hairspray, coffee, vegetables and Millennial problems

Pregnant women warned against using hairspray

New evidence suggests that chemicals they contain may be linked to an increasingly common birth defect in boys called hypospadias which  disrupt male hormones and interfere with the developed of the male genitalia in the crucial first three months of the pregnancy.
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The study at Amiens University Hospital in France involved comparing the use of hair cosmetics, chemicals and pesticides in 250 women who had given birth to boys with and without hypospadias. No association was found between hypospadias and the use of chemicals such as paint, solvents, gasoline, ink, glue and household products, but the use of hair cosmetic was found to raise the risk by 80 per cent.

How coffee could protect you from dementia: Caffeine helps to boost enzyme that shields you from the disease

Scientists say the drug boosts the power of an enzyme in the brain that protects neurons and fights misfolded proteins.  They found that the enzyme, called NMNAT2, plays two roles in the brain. The first is a protective function to guard neurons from stress and the second is a 'chaperone function' to combat misfolded proteins called tau, which accumulate in the brain as 'plaques' due to aging.  Plaque build-up in the brain is a known precursor to serious neurodegenerative diseases.

The study, conducted by Indiana University Bloomington, screened over 1,280 compounds, including existing drugs, and tested them on mice.  The team identified 24 compounds - and caffeine in particular - to have an increase on the production of NMNAT2 in the brain.  Caffeine had previously been shown to improve memory function in mice with high levels of misfolded tau proteins.

More vegetables, less stress! Study reveals every extra veggie you add to your plate lowers your stress levels by 5%

The study, conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia, looked at 60,000 Australians who were age 45 or older. Researchers measured the participants' fruit and vegetable consumption, lifestyle factors and psychological distress at two time points: 2006-08 and 2010.

The benefits were even more pronounced when it came to women. Women eating three to four daily servings of vegetables had an 18 percent lower risk of stress. But women who ate five to seven servings had a 23 percent lower risk of stress than women who ate one or less servings a day.

Millennial bowel cancer crisis:

Unprecedented numbers of young people are being diagnosed with bowel cancer - due to poor diets and lack of exercise, a study warns.  Millennials - those born between 1980 and 1995 - are four times more likely to develop rectal tumors stemming from the large intestine compared to those born around 1950.

Epidemiologist Dr Rebecca Siegel, of the American Cancer Society, said: 'Trends in young people are a bellwether for the future disease burden. 'Our finding that colorectal (bowel) cancer risk for millennials has escalated back to the level of those born in the late 1800s is very sobering.

Social Justice Syndrome: ‘Rising Tide of Personality Disorders Among Millennials’

A 2016 UK survey found that, since 1990, rates of depression and anxiety among the young have increased by 70%, while the American Counseling Association has reported a “rising tide of personality disorders among millennials.”....In 2014, a survey of 100,000 college students at 53 U.S. campuses by the American College Health Association found that 84% of U.S. students feel unable to cope, while more than half experience overwhelming anxiety.  That such disorders appear to be an acute problem with this generation may be an unintended outcome of the unprecedented experiment conducted in the 1990s and 2000s by progressive parents.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2017

Health Roundup - Food

WALNUTS make men more fertile:

Scientists claim the crunchy snack is essential for boosting sperm quality. In about 40% of cases, the male is the sole or contributing cause of infertility. Eating 2.5 ounces of walnuts a day could improve fertility in males, study claims.  Walnuts reduce lipid peroxidation - a process that damages sperm cells and they are the only tree nut made up of fats that are destroyed by the damage

Eating foods rich in omega-3 can reduce harm caused by air pollution by up to half.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that toxic particles can penetrate through the lungs into other organs, including the brain and testicles.  Poor air quality is a major cause of disease and death – increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. But the study found omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, soy beans and spinach can be used to prevent and treat the damage caused by polluted air.

Grab a MOCHA! Caffeine combined with cocoa can enhance your brain function

Researchers studied participants who drank coffee and hot chocolate for a year.  They found that while coffee boosts energy levels, hot chocolate relieves anxiety. Combining the two drinks is the best way to improve your attention span


Could fruit and steak cure epilepsy?
Study claims that a low-carb, high-fat diet is the key to controlling seizures as it alters the activity of brain cells.

Super-refractory status epilepticus (SRSE) is the most severe classification of the brain condition, killing 60 per cent of sufferers....  new research [from John Hopkins University] suggests that a ketogenic diet, high in fruit and steak,  could be used in future as a life-saving treatment for patients.  High in fats and low in carbohydrates, the diet alters the activity of brain cells to prevent deadly fits, scientists claim.

Study author Mackenzie Cervenka said: 'We can only state that it appears to work in some patients to halt status epilepticus and reduces the frequency of their seizures... What we can say is that the ketogenic diet is promising for at least a subset of patients... Any safe means we have of getting patients off of anesthesia and out of a coma quickly will be welcome."

9 Reasons You Should Eat Dark Chocolate Every Single Day

1. Dark chocolate just makes you happy.  It contains tryptophan, an amino acid that’s used by the brain to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happiness.

2. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contains a solid amount of soluble fiber. A 100-gram bar of 70-85 percent chocolate has 11 grams of fiber. Soluble fiber helps keep cholesterol down, keeps you feeling fuller longer, and is good for your digestive health.

3. Eating dark chocolate might be good for your brain. That’s right, eating chocolate may keep your brain sharp and help you ward off dementia. A four-decade long study found that people with frequent chocolate consumption preformed better on brain-powered tests.

4. It’s good for your heart, too. Eating dark chocolate may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that eating chocolate five or more times a week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57 percent.

5. Dark chocolate makes for happier babies. And who doesn’t want a happy baby? A Finnish study found that mothers who ate more chocolate during pregnancy had happier, less fussy babies. This is great news for pregnant women everywhere.

6. It’s got the flavonoids we all want and need. Flavonoids are a plant-based antioxidant found in cocoa, and are one of the main reasons that dark chocolate is so good for you. These antioxidants may lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and also maintain the health of your blood vessels.

7. Dark chocolate is also good for your skin. Eating it can actually help protect you from sunburn thanks to two antioxidants, phenols and catechins, found in dark chocolate.

8. It’s a natural stress reliever ― Dark chocolate is found to lower the levels of stress hormones, which could very well be part of the reason you crave the stuff when feeling stressed out.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

Round-up of new technologies in the field of medicine

Computers Turn Medical Sleuths and Identify Skin Cancer, Wall St Journal

When it comes to melanoma, early detection is a matter of life and death. But it takes a trained eye to distinguish a harmless blemish from cancer, and many people around the world lack ready access to a dermatologist...Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to get a computer, using its algorithm, to identify skin cancer as reliably as board-certified dermatologists can. The hope is that, eventually, scientists can get this to happen on a smartphone anywhere in the world.

Google's artificial intelligence can diagnose cancer faster than human doctors

The system is able to scan samples to determine whether or not tissues are cancerous...it's unlikely to replace human pathologists just yet. The software only looks for one thing - cancerous tissue - and is not able to pick up any irregularities that a human doctor could spot.

Scientists Have Stored a Movie, a Computer OS, and an Amazon Gift Card in a Single Speck of DNA
    "The highest-density data-storage device ever created."

Israeli technology revolutionizes heart attack detection with one drop of blood

Israeli technology has changed the face of heart attack detection with a kit so small it fits in the palm of your hand...

A health professional needs only one drop of blood to let a patient know if a heart attack has occurred. If two stripes appear on the kit, the result is positive and the patient must immediately receive additional care. The test is easy, noninvasive and takes less than 15 minutes to perform.

Many people believe they can identify classic heart attack symptoms, which include chest pain, dizziness, nausea, pain traveling particularly to the left arm, wheezing and extreme anxiety similar to a panic attack. In reality, these can be symptoms of heartburn, but until now, in order to find out, a patient would have to wait in an emergency room and undergo at least six hours of testing, including blood tests and an EKG.

On the other hand, less than 50 percent of heart attack victims experience classic symptoms. Many people have atypical symptoms such as shoulder or stomach pain or exhaustion. By the time they  have finished with the classic tests, precious hours will have passed, which can lead to unnecessary heart damage and even heart failure

A blood test for cancer? Simple liquid biopsy could identify where in the body a tumor exists

'Liquid biopsies' are hoped to revolutionize cancer treatment, by identifying people with slow-growing tumors and those most in danger. They work by detecting the DNA released by dying tumor cells. Now, for the first time, US scientists can also pinpoint the part of the body affected. That is because the normal cells killed off by cancer also release DNA into the bloodstream, which has its own unique signature. A team from the University of California San Diego have found the DNA patterns for 10 different types of tissue, including from the liver, lung and kidneys.  Next step is a clinical trial.

Scientists Reverse Sickle Cell Disease for the First Time Using Gene Therapy

While this is just one case study involving a single French teenager, the early signs are encouraging, and the therapy could eventually lead to an effective treatment for the millions of people with this crippling disease worldwide. Sickle-cell disease occurs when one of the proteins making up a type of hemoglobin we use to carry oxygen through our body takes a slightly different form. This small change is enough to make the red blood cells they occupy lose elasticity, deforming them into a curved 'sickle' shape and risking clumps of cells piling up as they struggle to slip through blood vessels.

But by using a virus to insert genes for the correct form of this protein into the bone marrow of a French teenager, researchers have been able to restore the elasticity to the patient's blood cells.  After 15 months of therapy, the patient is off medication, and while it's far too early to say he's been functionally cured, it's a case of 'so far so good' for this pioneering kind of treatment.

In this case scientists removed bone marrow stem cells from the teen's body and added a specially made virus, designed to recode the cells to produce normal hemoglobin again. The cells were then transfused back into the patient. Doctors are reporting that half the patient's red blood cells are now regular and healthy, and he hasn't needed any blood transfusions since three months after his first treatment.

Heart failure Breakthrough: Stem cells trial offers hope to millions.

A method of repairing damaged heart muscles that have been scarred as a result of disease or earlier heart attacks has been called the “biggest breakthrough since transplants”. British scientists have found a way to use stem cells to repair damaged tissue which could help millions living with heart failure. The data, presented at the European Society of Cell and Gene Therapy in Florence, showed an average of 40 per cent reduction in heart damage in those on the treatment.  Next year global trials involving 500 people will begin.

New 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid sends data straight to your phone while it works

A 'silver bullet' pill powered by your own stomach acid will send health data from inside your body to your phone.  It is believed the tiny pill could revolutionize medicine by constantly monitoring your health and administering medicine.  The pill powers up when a zinc electrode interacts with stomach acid.  Small sensors continually monitor temperature and heart rate and it administers medicine. The creation was unveiled at the world's biggest science conference in Boston

Scientists at the University of Ottawa have developed a way of growing human cells and tissue on apples
    Video at the link shows how the biohacking was done and the new possibilities it opens.

Bad Hospital Design Is Making Us Sicker  Evidence-based medical care will require evidence-based hospital design.

It’s no secret that hospital-acquired infections are an enormous contributor to illness and death, affecting up to 30 percent of intensive care unit patients. But housing patients together very likely exacerbates the problem. Research suggests that private rooms can reduce the risk of both airborne infections and those transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. One study reported that transitioning from shared to private rooms decreased bacterial infections by half and reduced how long patients were hospitalized by 10 percent. Other work suggests that the increased cost of single-occupancy rooms is more than offset by the money saved because of fewer infections.  Installing easier-to-clean surfaces, well-positioned sinks and high-quality air filters can further reduce infection rates.

Falls in the hospital are another major problem, leading to serious injuries, longer hospital stays and significant costs. Trying to navigate the unfamiliar space of a hospital room, often while disoriented by pain and medications, makes many patients susceptible to falling. A number of design factors contribute: poorly lit areas, slippery floors, toilets that are too high or too low......And then there’s the problem of noise. The average noise level in hospitals far exceeds guideline-based recommendations, making it hard for patients to sleep. ....when it comes to recovering from illness, the more nature the better. But too often patients and physicians find themselves cooped up in dim rooms and sterile hallways with little access to natural light or views of nature: too much concrete, not enough jungle.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2017

Sounds that make us happy

Sounds that make the nation happy.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 360 million people living with disabling hearing loss worldwide.
Hearing loss is a major public health issue and its impact is set to increase. 'In adulthood hearing loss is associated with greater unemployment, increased risk of poor health, depression and increased risk of other conditions including dementia.'

March 3 is designated World Hearing Day.  To mark the occasion, Cochlear commissioned a poll of 1000 people in the UK to reveal the top 5 happy sounds:
 

1. Children laughing
2. Birds singing
3. Being told 'I love you'
4. Waves crashing
5. Music

Others which missed the top five included the revving of a car engine, walking on gravel and the sound of skis on fresh snow as well as the grind of a coffee machine and rain on a tin roof.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:25 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2017

Health Roundup: Simple new ways to detect ovarian and lung cancers, treat common vertigo, prevent stroke and prevent serious migraines

Blood test spots ovarian cancer in nine of ten cases.

Women at high genetic risk should have a blood check every four months.  A mutated BRCA1 gene raises the risk of ovarian cancer from 1.3 per cent to 39 per cent. Women with such gene, like Angelia Jolie, are advised to have their ovaries removed. A number of other genes, if mutated, also increase the risk.

A simple and cheap nose swab could soon detect lung cancer in smokers, scientists claim.

Detecting these changes can accurately predict whether the patients have tumors without having to perform a biopsy.
Smoking damages the cells in the lining of the nostrils involved in smell, research shows.  A persistent cough, coughing up blood, persistent breathlessness and unexplained tiredness are symptoms of what may be lung cancer. Those suspected of having it are given a chest x-ray and then scans - but these are unable to differentiate between benign and malignant lesions.

Those believed to be at risk then have to undergo an invasive bronchoscopy to take a tissue sample. Boston University School of Medicine researchers found a biomarker in the nasal passages can determine the likelihood of a lung lesion being malignant. The simple swab of their nose can determine if they have the disease sparing them from costly and risky procedures.

Colorado Doctor Finds Way To Treat Common Vertigo

Dr. Carol Foster, Director of the Balance Laboratory at the University of Colorado School of Medicine has experienced vertigo, the most common form called positional vertigo. It happens when particles in the ear that sense gravity get dislodged and end up in spinning sensors....vertigo.  She describes it thus, “You’re rolling over in bed and suddenly you’re hit with this incredible spinning and you see the room going around like you’re in the inside of a washing machine.”

One morning, in treating herself, she came up with her own spin on how to fix vertigo at home. It’s called the “Half Somersault Maneuver.” Patients put their head upside down like they are going to do a somersault. They wait for dizziness to end then raise their head to back level. They then wait again for dizziness to end and then sit back quickly “And that causes the particles to leave the semicircular canal,” Foster said.

A six-month study showed patents preferred the exercise over the one commonly used by doctors. Foster’s recently published research is a breakthrough in the treatment of vertigo and could be life-changing for people who are disabled at times by extreme dizzy spells. “I was surprised at how well it worked,” Foster said.

Hope for migraine sufferers? Epilepsy drug relieves seizure-like symptoms that cause blinding headaches

Lyrica relieves a seizure-like phenomenon believed to be the cause of migraines.  It works by stopping a wave of brain cells, preventing symptoms and was found to boost calcium levels, with low amounts causing headaches.  The findings by a team at the British Columbia University, Canada, were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More evidence ties gum health to stroke risk 

Adults with gum disease may be twice as likely as people with healthy gums to suffer a stroke, new research suggests...."The higher the level of gum disease, the worse the risk."  Floss your teeth and use a water pic.  Regular dental check-ups can spot and treat early gum disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2017

Health Roundup: Chronic fatigue syndrome, gene therapy for blood cancer and Alzheimer's

One of the Biggest Myths About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Just Got Debunked. Chronic fatigue IS a real disease.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is one of the most perplexing conditions out there. It affects up to 1 million Americans and as much as 2.6 percent of the global population, often triggering exhaustion so severe that patients can't work or study.

But for decades, researchers have struggled to find an underlying cause, leading to an assumption by many doctors that it's 'not a real disease'. Now, Australian researchers have blown that myth wide open, showing for the first time that CFS is linked to a faulty cell receptor in immune cells. Not only is this the first research to show how the faulty cell receptor causes the immune system changes seen in CFS/ME, it also offers researchers a long-sought-after target for future treatments and tests.

It was two years ago that the US officially listed CFS/ME as a disease, [renaming it  ‘systemic exertion intolerance disease’, or SEID for short....There's still no way to test for the disease, and no effective treatment.  In fact, the two most commonly prescribed treatments for the condition are cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise, neither of which have any evidence to support they work - and many feel could actually be doing more harm than good.
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The new research suggests that all of the common CFS/ME symptoms can be explained by these faulty calcium ion channels.

"We now know that this is a dysfunction of a very critical receptor and the critical role that this has, which causes severe problems to cells in the body," said Don Staines, co-director of Griffith University's National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases.  Already, Staines and his team are working to figure out the best markers that can be used to test for these faulty receptors, so they can begin to create a CFS/ME test. They're also looking for medications that act on these specific calcium ion channels in the hopes of finding potential treatments for the disease.

Gene therapy 'seems extraordinary' at fighting blood cancer, US drug firm study claims

An experimental gene therapy that turns a patient's own blood cells into cancer killers has worked with 'extraordinary' results in a major study.  More than one-third of very sick lymphoma patients showing no sign of disease six months after a single treatment, its maker said on Tuesday.  In all, 82 percent of patients had their cancer shrink at least by half at some point in the study.
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The therapy is not without risk. Three of the 101 patients in the study died of causes unrelated to worsening of their cancer, and two of those deaths were deemed due to the treatment. ...The treatment involves filtering a patient's blood to remove key immune system soldiers called T-cells, altering them in the lab to contain a gene that targets cancer, and giving them back intravenously.

Doctors call it a 'living drug' - permanently altered cells that multiply in the body into an army to fight the disease...Its sponsor, California-based Kite Pharma, is racing Novartis AG to become the first to win approval of the treatment, called CAR-T cell therapy, in the U.S. It could become the nation's first approved gene therapy.  It was developed at the government's National Cancer Institute and then licensed to Kite. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society helped sponsor the study.

Is the Leading Theory About Alzheimer's Wrong?  Yet another failed drug trial has prompted soul-searching about the “amyloid hypothesis.”

The “amyloid hypothesis” began with a simple observation: Alzheimer’s patients have an unusual buildup of the protein amyloid in their brains. Thus, drugs that prevent or remove the amyloid should slow the onset of dementia. Yet all drugs targeting amyloid—including solanezumab from Eli Lilly and bapineuzumab from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, to add a few more high-profile flameouts to the fail pile—have not worked so far.
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Other skeptics of the amyloid hypothesis are coming back to tau, the protein Selkoe left decades ago to focus on amyloid. In the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, tau gets twisted into tangles that block the internal transport system of neurons. A recent failed trial aside, several drugs targeting tau are in early phases of clinical trials.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, MS, Parkinsons, cooling caps and holding hearts

Too much sugar causes Alzheimer's: Study reveals 'tipping point' link between blood glucose and brain disease.

The study by the University of Bath and King's College London builds on previous research showing diabetes appears to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.  They found a 'tipping point' when glucose levels start to inhibit a protein that fights the early stages of Alzheimer's.  Once levels pass the threshold, they restrict the performance of a vital protein, which normally fights the brain inflammation associated with dementia.  This is the first evidence showing link between sugar and the brain disease.

Radical stem cell treatment for MS could stop the disease in its tracks for 5 years and even allow some sufferers to walk again

Imperial College London experts used chemotherapy to kill faulty immune cells. They then replaced them with stem cells in a bid to 'reset' the body's defenses. They found that Nearly half of patients saw the disease stop progressing for 5 years. Some patients went for as long as ten years with no worsening in their condition. Experts say the findings offer hope of the first lasting treatment for MS patients.

Doctors, however, stressed the treatment is more likely to 'stabilize' rather than 'reverse' the disease - and has better outcomes for patients whose disabilities are not severe. The Imperial study is the largest trial to date of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation - or AHSCT - widely considered the most promising treatment for MS.

Is this the 'master switch' that prevents Parkinson's disease? Scientists discover key gene that stops brain cells from dying

Researchers from the University of Leicester found that a gene known as ATF4 plays a key role in the onset of Parkinson's in fruit flies. Acting as a switch, ATF4 helps to control the energy stations of cells - known as mitochondria - including neurons. The discovered gene boosts the energy of neurons, preventing their destruction.  This groundbreaking discovery could help to prevent or delay Parkinson symptoms.  Dr Martins said: 'Studying the roles of genes such as ATF4 in human neurons could lead to tailored interventions that could one day prevent or delay the neuronal loss seen in Parkinson's.' 

This comes after groundbreaking research in December found that Parkinson's disease may start in the stomach. Scientists from California Institute of Technology found the first ever conclusive link between gut microbes and the development of Parkinson's-like movement disorders in mice.

Studies: Cooling Caps Help Chemo Patients Keep Hair Up to two-thirds of breast cancer patients kept more than half their hair.

Cooling caps are affixed to patients' heads before, during, and after chemo; a machine cycles cooling liquid through the caps. While researchers aren't exactly sure how the caps prevent hair loss, one theory is they restrict blood vessels in the scalp, reducing the amount of chemo that reaches the hair follicles. About half of breast cancer patients say hair loss is the most daunting part of chemo, and 8% say they would turn down chemo in order to keep their hair. One breast cancer survivor who used a cooling cap says it has psychological benefits. She tells the Times that losing their hair makes people "think they're sicker than they actually are.

Would YOU want to hold your heart? Texas hospital lets transplant patients clutch their removed organs after surgery

Normally, hospitals dispose of surgically-removed organs after testing them and taking records. However, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, has launched an unusual scheme called the 'Heart-to-Heart' program. It has offered more than 70 people the virtually unheard-of opportunity to see their ailing body part, and to hold it, before it is stored for further study. It all started with Dr William C Roberts, a cardiac pathologist at Baylor, who has been storing every removed heart to study for further study since he joined the institution in 1993.  The patients are overcome with emotion when they hold their own hearts in their hands.

 Holding Hearts

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

February 23, 2017

"With enough butter, anything is good," Julia Child

 Barbra Buttah Meme Large

"The difference between a good cook and a great cook is a quarter pound of butter," said my mother who cooked and baked
simple and utterly delicious meals for her seven children.  The vegetables served with every meal with plenty of butter were so tasty, we gobbled them up.  When recalling to one another any of a number of dishes she made, our mouths water.  I never even heard of margarine until I went to college and when I tasted it, I knew it was an abomination.  My mother never said, “As for butter or margarine, I trust cows more than chemists,” but it sounds like her.  Despite decades of people saying it was bad for you, I never gave up on butter.

I feel vindicated now the pendulum has swung the other way.

Cooking with butter may be more heart-healthy than vegetable oil: Study.

Data from a 1970s survey of mental hospital patients had never been analyzed until researchers from the University of North Carolina published published their findings in the British Medical Journal.  The findings come from subjects who had a carefully regimented and documented diet, if not altogether of their own will.  The research team analyzed unpublished nutritional data gathered between 1968 and 1973 in a controlled study of more than 9,400 men and women in one nursing home and six state mental hospitals in Minnesota that concluded that there was 22 percent greater risk of death for those on the vegetable oil diet.

Authority Nutrition: Why Grass-Fed Butter is Good For You

1. The saturated fat in butter can actually improve the blood lipid profile by raising the levels in HDL (the good) cholesterol which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and changing the LDL rom small, dense (bad) to Large LDL – which is benign and not associated with heart disease. 
2. Grass-Fed Butter is Loaded With Vitamin-K2, The Missing Nutrient That De-Calcifies Your Arteries.  High-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows are among the best sources of Vitamin K2 in the diet.  Studies consistently show that Vitamin K2 dramatically reduces the risk of both osteoporosis and heart disease.
3. Butter is Loaded With an Anti-Inflammatory Fatty Acid Called Butyrate. 
4. In Countries Where Cows Are Grass-Fed, Butter Consumption is Associated With a Dramatic Reduction in Heart Disease Risk. ...According to one study from Australia, where cows are grass-fed, individuals who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 69% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, compared to those who ate the least.

I swear by Kerrygold grass-fed butter, made in Ireland where as its website says:
The winds, rain and warming influence of the Gulf Stream all contribute to the lush grass our cows feed on year-round. They produce the sweetest, richest milk in the world, which makes our grass-fed cow’s milk Irish butter taste silky and creamy and glow a healthy, golden yellow.

 Kerrygold Salted Butter

Kerrygold butter is sold in every state, except for Wisconsin which is cracking down on 'Illegal butter'.

Butter protectionism in the Dairy State has made this foreign butter illegal.  An obscure regulation turns “ungraded butter” into contraband. Since Kerrygold isn’t produced in the good ole U.S. of A., it’s not graded and hence, illegal. Selling illicit butter bears a fine up to $1,000 and a possible six-month stint in the slammer.

Wisconsinites who enjoy Kellygold Irish butter have been forced to venture across state lines to buy the gold foil packaged dairy goodness....If you haven’t tasted Kerrygold, I can assure you it is definitely worth the drive...... It’s pricey, but worth every penny. [Editor's note: Buy it at Costco for best value].

Colcannon or Champ
Colcannon is Irish mashed potatoes with cooked kale or cabbage, milk and plenty of butter.  Recipe here.  Irish Champ is mashed potatoes with scallions and plenty of butter.  Here's a good recipe.  I most often combine both.  With a sprinkle of parsley on the top, the greens add a lovely Springtime taste. 

 Irish Champ Potatoe

While your unpeeled potatoes are boiling until tender, finely chop scallions (white and green parts) and mix with cold milk.  Then heat them gently.  When the potatoes are done, peel, then mash, and while still hot mix with the boiled milk and scallions. Then add some of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a knob of butter on the top.  Eat from the outside in, dipping each forkful into the melted butter.

"With enough butter, anything is good," Julia Child.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

February 2, 2017

Health roundup: Eczema, chilies, back pain and "breathprints"

Petroleum Jelly May Reduce Risk of Eczema

Applying inexpensive petroleum jelly to a new baby daily for the first six months of life may reduce the risk that the infant will develop eczema, which can be a lifelong torment, according to a new analysis....The theory is that moisturizers “seal” a baby’s skin against some invader that triggers inflammation.

Chillies could help beat cancer as research finds capsaicin destroys diseased cells

Capsaicin, the active component that gives chillies their trademark kick, can switch on specialized channels surrounding cancer cells causing them to die....However, capsaicin isn't effective if it's eaten, inhaled or injected, and researchers think it will only be effective as a pill attached to another drug that targets cancer cells.

Back pain? Only exercise will give you long-lasting relief..Ibuprofen DOESN'T work for back pain: Only 1 in 6 feel any benefit from taking the drug (and exercise is the only effective treatment)

Scientists from the George Institute for Global Health in Australia examined 35 trials involved more than 6,000 patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. They found its benefits were minimal and were as ineffective as paracetamol (Tylenol). In fact, the cheap pills made adults 3 times more likely to have stomach ulcers
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Yoga can help relieve the agony of back pain, a major review of medical evidence last month found.The practice, which includes stretching and breathing exercises, is an effective way to improve mobility and ease the chronic discomfort, experts said.  Researchers at the University of Maryland found yoga was twice as likely to improve the condition than simply doing back exercises.

Researchers Can Now Diagnose Parkinson’s, Cancer Via Patient’s ‘Breathprints’    The breath test could be the next blood test.

A promising new technique allows scientists to identify the presence of 17 different diseases based on the smell of somebody’s breath. While groundbreaking, the concept of studying the chemical makeup of human byproducts like sweat, urine, tears, and breath has been around since Hippocrates hypothesized about it in 400 B.C

Exhaled breathe contains oxygen, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of over 100 different chemical compounds that, when analyzed in relation to one another, can reveal a lot about the state of someone’s health.

In the hopes of advancing this prospect, scientists have created “breathprints,” distinct patterns found in one’s breath, for illnesses. “Just as each of us has a unique fingerprint that distinguishes us from others, each disease has a chemical signature that distinguishes it from other diseases and from a normal state of health,” Professor Hossam Haick of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who led the research group, said. “

The “breathprints” were created based on samples collected from 1,404 subjects diagnosed with one of 17 different diseases. Using artificial intelligence to analyze the results, scientists learned that each disease had a unique chemical marker based on the various amounts of 13 chemical compounds.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 PM | Permalink

January 30, 2017

Health roundup: Growing back teeth, appendix, stem cells, cats + Alzheimers, marijuana studies

End of fillings in sight as scientists find Alzheimer's drug makes teeth grow back

Researchers at King's College London found that the drug Tideglusib stimulates the stem cells contained in the pulp of teeth so that they generate new dentine – the mineralized material under the enamel.....Scientists showed it is possible to soak a small biodegradable sponge with the drug and insert it into a cavity, where it triggers the growth of dentine and repairs the damage within six weeks. The tiny sponges are made out of collagen so they melt away over time, leaving only the repaired tooth.

Appendix Isn't Useless At All: It's A Safe House For Good Bacteria

Long denigrated as vestigial or useless, the appendix now appears to have a reason to be – as a "safe house" for the beneficial bacteria living in the human gut.

Drawing upon a series of observations and experiments, Duke University Medical Center investigators postulate that the beneficial bacteria in the appendix that aid digestion can ride out a bout of diarrhea that completely evacuates the intestines and emerge afterwards to repopulate the gut

Scientists can now grow a beating human heart from stem cells

A team of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have used adult skin cells to regenerate functional human heart tissue. The study, published in the journal Circulation Research, detailed that the team took adult skin cells, using a technique called messenger RNA to turn them into pluripotent stem cells, before inducing them to become two different types of cardiac cells.  Then for two weeks they infused the hearts with a nutrient solution, allowing them to develop under the same circumstances a heart would grow inside a human body. After the two week period, the hearts contained well-structured tissue, which appeared similar to that contained in developing human hearts. When shocked with electricity, they started beating.

Could your CAT give you Alzheimer's? Parasite found in feline feces 'increases risk of developing the crippling brain disease'

Scientists claims cats are putting their owners at risk of Alzheimer's.  The focus of investigation is Toxoplasma gondii, a single-cell parasite in cat feces. The parasite has been linked to brain cancer, anxiety and schizophrenia. Now researchers have found the parasite can lead to Alzheimer's disease

About one-third of people worldwide are suspected of having a T. gondii infection, and many more are at risk.  This includes cat owners, who don't wash their hands thoroughly after handling contaminated litter, and pregnant women, who can pass the infection to a child in the womb.  Once infection occurs, the parasite moves to the brain.

When Kale, coconuts, and avocados could be bad for you.

Experts say there’s something metallic lurking in those foods, in our water, and elsewhere that could be making us feel miserable. Anxiety, trouble focusing, exhaustion, and an all around mental funk are familiar symptoms for a lot of people....After some investigation Dr. Kogan — an internist — said she found that copper is increasingly the culprit. “These are wonderful things to have as part of our diet, but if somebody is consuming excess they could certainly be at risk,” she said.  At risk for a condition known as ‘copper toxicity.’  “If you had six cups of coffee and you’re feeling jittery, that’s the feeling to describe copper toxicity,” she explained.

Marijuana DOES cause schizophrenia and triggers heart attacks, experts say in landmark study that slams most of the drug's medical benefits as 'unproven'

In fact, the current lack of scientific information 'poses a public health risk,' said the report, released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  The report lists nearly 100 conclusions about marijuana and its similarly acting chemical cousins, drawing on studies published since 1999.

It found strong evidence, for example, that marijuana can treat chronic pain in adults and that similar compounds ease nausea from chemotherapy, with varying degrees of evidence for treating muscle stiffness and spasms in multiple sclerosis.  Limited evidence says marijuana or the other compounds can boost appetite in people with HIV or AIDS, and ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the report concluded.

Turning to potential harms, the committee concluded:  Strong evidence links marijuana use to the risk of developing schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, with the highest risk among the most frequent users.  Some evidence suggests a small increased risk for developing depressive disorders, but there's no evidence either way on whether it affects the course or symptoms of such disorders, or the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder....Substantial evidence links pot smoking to worse respiratory symptoms and more frequent episodes of chronic bronchitis.

Marijuana is far more damaging to young teenage brains than we thought, a new study claims.

They found adolescents who smoked pot as early as 14 fared far in cognitive tests when they reached 20 - and dropped out of school at a much higher rate than non-smokers.  There has been a surge in teen cannabis smokers in the last few years, with a 2014 report saying about a third of teenagers try the drug before they reach 15.  But scientists warn new research shows that it is far better for their brains if they wait until after they turn 17.

Planned Parenthood Caught Denying Women Prenatal Care: 92 of 97 Abortion Clinics Turned Them Away

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:46 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: Incremental care, healing wounds without scars and burns without skin grafts

The Heroism of Incremental Care by Atul Gawande in The New Yorker

We devote vast resources to intensive, one-off procedures, while starving the kind of steady, intimate care that often helps people more.....

Surgery was a definitive intervention at a critical moment in a person’s life, with a clear, calculable, frequently transformative outcome. Fields like primary-care medicine seemed, by comparison, squishy and uncertain. ...

Observing the care, I began to grasp how the commitment to seeing people over time leads primary-care clinicians to take an approach to problem-solving that is very different from that of doctors, like me, who provide mainly episodic care....  "It's the relationship."
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We’d begun collecting the data, developing the computational capacity to decode the patterns, and discovering the treatments that could change them. Seemingly random events were becoming open to prediction and alteration. Our frame of medical consideration could widen to encompass our entire life spans.

There is a lot about the future that remains unpredictable. Nonetheless, the patterns are becoming more susceptible to empiricism—to a science of surveillance, analysis, and iterative correction. The incrementalists are overtaking the rescuers. But the transformation has itself been incremental. So we’re only just starting to notice.

Scientists have figured out how to make wounds heal without scars

"Essentially, we can manipulate wound healing so that it leads to skin regeneration rather than scarring," said one of the team, "The secret is to regenerate hair follicles first. After that, the fat will regenerate in response to the signals from those follicles."

If you've ever wondered why scar tissue looks so different from regular skin, it's because scar tissue doesn't contain any fat cells or hair follicles. ...If hair follicles were induced to grow where a wound was healing, the resulting skin was found to be indistinguishable from pre-existing skin.

On the horizon.  Revolutionary burn treatment uses stem cell spray  Spray heals with little to no scarring

“Burns are absolutely one of the most devastating diseases known to man," said Dr. David N. Herndon, chief of staff and director of research at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston. When they're over 30 percent of the body they can be lethal. The list of physical and emotional complications from burn wounds goes on and on, and Herndon said with standard care (mesh skin grafting), the pain can last for weeks or even months.
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The SkinGun claims to take a postage-size sample of skin and extract the patient's own stem cells, then spray them onto the wound, avoiding skin grafts entirely. Plus, RenovaCare said, this does not have any legal limitations because the stem cells are not manipulated.  “I think this should work, in my mind, without exposing the patients to risk," Herndon said. "(There's) nothing but benefit, so I feel strongly this will be approved."

The company that makes the product is based in Berlin. By Skype, the CEO and president of RenovaCare, Thomas Bold, said the treatment is not yet available in the United States, but it should be.  “Normally, a wound heals from the edges to the middle, and the larger the wound and the longer the process takes, the higher is the risk for inflammation and scarring," Bold said. "What we are doing with our system, we are placing thousands and thousands of little regenerative islands throughout the wound. Those islands, those stem cells, connect to each other and close the wound really faster."

Next steps “Our next steps will be figuring out the efficiency and safety of the product and with the relevant clinical studies, but this we need to discuss and negotiate with the FDA, but these will be our next steps,” Bold said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:38 PM | Permalink

January 4, 2017

The Mesentery or the human organ you never heard of

It's official: A brand-new human organ has been classified

Researchers have classified a brand-new organ inside our bodies, one that's been hiding in plain sight in our digestive system this whole time. Although we now know about the structure of this new organ, its function is still poorly understood, and studying it could be the key to better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive disease.

Known as the mesentery, the new organ is found in our digestive systems, and was long thought to be made up of fragmented, separate structures. But recent research has shown that it's actually one, continuous organ. The evidence for the organ's reclassification is now published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

So what is the mesentery? It's a double fold of peritoneum — the lining of the abdominal cavity — that attaches our intestine to the wall of our abdomen, and keeps everything locked in place.

One of the earliest descriptions of the mesentery was made by Leonardo da Vinci, and for centuries it was generally ignored as a type of insignificant attachment. Over the past century, doctors who studied the mesentery assumed it was a fragmented structure made of separate sections, which made it pretty unimportant.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

December 30, 2016

Health roundup: heartburn, 'sugar-free' and Parkinson's

Popular heartburn medications linked to higher risk of stroke

Millions of Americans take proton pump inhibitors to treat acid reflux and heartburn. Known as PPIs, they are among the most prescribed drugs in the United States and are widely available over the counter. The research was conducted in Denmark among a quarter-million patients who suffered from stomach pain and indigestion, and were taking one of four PPIs: Prilosec, Protonix, Prevacid or Nexium.  Overall stroke risk increased 21% among patients who were taking a PPI, according to the study. At the lowest doses, the authors found either no or minimal increased risk of stroke. At the highest doses, they found that stroke risk increased 33% for Prilosec and Prevacid patients, 50% for Nexium patients and 79% for Protonix patients.

Parkinson's could start in the GUT not the brain:

Scientists at California Institute of Technology find first ever link between the disease and gut microbes.  Studying mice, they managed to treat their symptoms with antibiotics.  The discovery, published today in the journal Cell, could overhaul medical research and treatment of Parkinson's.

Sugar-free products stop us getting slimmer

Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital said,"We found that aspartame blocks a gut enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP)," and its beneficial aspects.  IAP is produced in the small intestine. "We previously showed [this enzyme] can prevent obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

DNA linked to sugar cravings also leads to binge drinking, study finds. Is THIS the booze gene?

Beta-Klotho is activated in the brain by a hormone produced in the liver.  Around 60% of the population carry a variation, researchers found. Having the variant made adults drink an extra 0.97g of alcohol each day.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, man flu, autism+Vitamin D

Statins link to reduced chance of Alzheimer's - major new study

A review of 400,000 patients established that those who took the tablets regularly slashed their chances of succumbing to the condition by between 12 and 15 per cent. Scientists behind the study say the link may be explained by an interplay between cholesterol, which is regulated by the drug, and beta-amyloid, which plays a role in dementia, or that an anti-inflammatory property of statins themselves could be protecting against the disease.

Man flu DOES exist! Viruses want to kill men more than women, study finds

Viruses such as HPV and TB are more likely to kill men than women, study shows. Researchers at Royal Holloway University found the pathogens had adapted to target men and cause less-severe disease in women. They believe it is because women are 'more valuable hosts' to pathogens. Women are more likely to pass the virus on to others such as babies by nursing

Could autism be linked to a lack of vitamin D?

Research reveals women who are deficient in it during pregnancy are more likely to have children who display 'autistic traits'
Lead researcher Professor John McGrath, from the University of Queensland, said this suggested vitamin D supplements could reduce the incidence of autism.  The study, led by researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute, looked at blood samples from more than 4,000 pregnant women and their children.

Women who had low vitamin D levels at 20 weeks' pregnant were more likely to have children displaying autistic traits by the age of six, the study found.  Professor McGrath said: 'This study provides further evidence that low vitamin D is associated with neuro-developmental disorders. 'Just as taking folate in pregnancy has reduced the incidence of spina bifida, the result of this study suggests that prenatal vitamin D supplements may reduce the incidence of autism.'

Homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses, study finds

Treatment has 'no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo'

Though placebos can have an astonishing effect.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:15 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Beer edition

Don't want to go deaf? Have a pint of Guinness each day: High levels of iron helps to prevent hearing loss, study finds

Around 30 per cent of the world's population are believed to be anaemic - leaving them at risk of losing their ability to hear
A study of more than 300,000 people found a link between iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) and hearing loss. Pennsylvania State University researchers found a lack of the mineral can cause sensorinerual hearing loss - damage to the cochlea or nerve pathways. They also discovered it could also cause conductive hearing loss - problems with the bones in the middle of the ear.

A pint of Guinness each day may help to prevent you from going deaf, new research suggests. The popular beverage contains high levels of iron, which scientists believe helps to ward off hearing loss. In England, post operative patients used to be given Guinness because of its high iron content.  Although Guinness and its parent company, Diageo, make no such claims today, its advertising slogan from the 1920's was 'Guinness is good for you!' But nutritionists warn a pint contains less than three per cent of the iron needed daily.

Previous research suggested it may work as well as a low dose aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks. It is believed antioxidant compounds in the drink, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for the health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.

How to cook healthy with BEER: Replace oil with ale when cooking it has nearly HALF the calories

Beer has around 75 calories per tablespoon while oil has up to 120 calories. Food fans suggest braising your meat in dark beer or add it to chili, stew or even your homemade burgers to give it a rich, dark flavor.

Toby Amidor, a registered dietician and author, says that beer can be considered a healthier alternative. She goes on to explain that beer can actually boost your health because it is packed with B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.  As well as claims from the University of Pennsylvania that with moderation dark ale or stout can protect you from heart attacks, beer can also strengthen your bones because it contains silicon which can help promote growth.

Don’t want a hangover on New Year’s Day? Then you should avoid spirits and just stick to beer, study finds

Hops in beer can lessen the harm done to the liver after a night of heavy drinking. They reduce the production of toxins that occur from alcohol such as spirits. Some of these molecules are believed to cause a headache the following day

Can music change the flavor of beer? Different sounds can transform your tastebuds.

High pitch notes from piano or flute and harmonies enhance the sweetness. Lower pitch tones made by brass instruments makes beer taste more bitter. The highest pitch notes along with some percussion like chimes or clapping can add a hint of sourness to an ale while dissonant notes can make it seem stronger.

Have some nuts with your beer.  Snacking On Nuts Can Reduce Risk Of Heart Disease, Cancer

A new study from European researchers in the journal BMC Medicine says eating a handful of nuts a day can cut down on several health risks. Data from more than 800,000 people who ate all kinds of nuts, including hazelnuts, walnuts and peanuts, shows they cut their risk of dying from heart disease by nearly 30 percent and cancer by 15 percent. The risk of premature death was also 22 percent lower for people who ate nuts. “It’s quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food,” study co-author Dagfinn Aune said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink

Easy-peasy resolutions for a healthier New Year

Don't eat too much kale or spinach.  How one woman's obsession with spinach and kale smoothies almost caused her to go BLIND after a build-up of a healthy compound clouded her vision

An Asian woman in her 60s was found to have high levels of lutein in her eye. She was taking supplements with her daily smoothies of leafy green vegetables. It caused her to develop crystalised deposits in her eyes - affecting her vision which can trigger age-related macular degeneration - a cause of blindness.  After stopping taking her supplements, her vision improved straight away

The advice to eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables certainly still stands, but this study serves as an indicator that there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to eye-healthy foods. People should only be taking large doses of added supplements if their eye doctor has detected signs of age-related macular degeneration. Taking more than your body needs can potentially cause more harm than good.'

Don't obsess over a few extra pounds.  Why being chubby could help you live longer...and other fascinating reasons why fat isn't always your enemy, from a book by a top biochemist 

Obesity warnings are well-founded but we should not treat fat like the enemy. Having extremely low body fat can lead to deficiencies in vital vitamins. Researchers found that low body mass index (less than 20) in middle-age is linked to a 34 per cent higher risk for dementia later in life. ... Plump patients may live longer....Embrace extra fat after the menopause.

Take a quick break every hour or so to move around.  Work. Walk 5 Minutes. Work.

Stuck at your work desk? Standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood, combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention, and even dull hunger pangs, according to an instructive new study. Frequent, brief walking breaks were more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work.

Time your showers.  Shower in the morning to boost creativity and at night if you want to fall asleep:

Morning showers can help those who are feeling stressed due to work or under pressure to be creative.  Showering helps you relax but also makes you alert, so washing in the morning can stimulate creativity.  Night-time showers are helpful because they regulate body temperature which can help you fall asleep more easily.


Swim in the ocean. 
From soothing your skin to clearing up sinuses, expert reveals the benefits of swimming in the ocean

Historically, doctors would recommend their patients go to the seaside to improve various ills.  Using seawater for medical purposes even has a name: thalassotherapy.

Take care of someone elseGrandparents can enjoy 5 extra years of life if they occasionally care for their grandchildren

Experts assessed survival rates of more than 500 people between 70 and 103. They were split into 2 groups based on if they cared for their grandchildren. Half of those who cared for their young family members were alive 10 years later while around the same amount of those who didn't died within just 5 years.  Providing care to anyone was associated with 3 years of extra life.

Get more sleep.  You'll be happier, healthier and slimmer too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

December 29, 2016

Health Roundup - Good news

MS breakthrough: Doctors hail the discovery of a 'landmark' drug that alters the immune system

Ocrelizumab reported positive results in the treatment of one form of MS, primary progressive. It works by preventing the body's immune system from malfunctioning.  It was found only 33% of primary progressive patients deteriorated over time. However, 39% suffered from worsening symptoms after taking a placebo drug
The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved testing on more than 700 patients across Europe and the US.

New antibiotic mined from human gut reverses drug resistance in superbugs

Using DNA sequences, scientists decode new antibiotics used in gut warfare.....The microbes bustling in our bellies may be gold mines for new antibiotic drugs, researchers report this week in Nature Chemical Biology. As proof of gut-bugs’ potential, the authors dug up a new bacteria-busting drug that can reverse resistance in pathogens and help kill off methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. In mice with lethal MRSA infections, the drug helped cure 100 percent of infections.

Scientists have figured out how to help nerve fibers repair themselves

A team of scientist from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) began their research with the hypothesis that such a molecular brake naturally exists - something that stops neurons growing when we become adults and our bodies are fully formed.  But finding such a mechanism was like "looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack", according to lead researcher Frank Bradke.  By using a data-crunching approach called bioinformatics - where computers analyze and interpret biological information - the team eventually zeroed in on the gene they were looking for.

They have identified a gene that inhibits fibre regrowth when nerve connections become damaged. This gene, called Cacna2d2, acts as 'molecular brake', but now that we know how to turn the brake off, it could help us to develop treatments for conditions like paralysis and other spinal cord injuries.

Over 60,000 People Every Year Get Adult Stem Cell Treatments, Embryonic Cells Help No One

To date there is no proven success with human embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are the least likely type of stem cell to help any patients. Their very nature—a tendency to incessant growth—means that they are much more likely to form a tumor than to form healthy tissue, and so embryonic stem cells risk the life and health of those who are injected with them.

Even some embryonic stem cell advocates are beginning to admit failure. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, charged with spending $3 billion of state taxpayer dollars primarily for embryonic stem cell and human cloning research, has lately been funding mostly grants for non-embryonic stem cell research, hoping that they will have something to show for their expenditures which so far have yielded nothing from embryonic stem cells.
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Adult stem cells remain the gold standard among stem cells when it comes to helping patients. For the latest facts on adult stem cell transplants see lozierinstitute.org.

In the last year, adult stem cells have been shown the potential to re-grow damaged heart muscle and reduce scars in the heart tissue.  They have been used to regrow new windpipes in patients with cancer or other tracheal problems. French scientists showed for the first time that a few adult stem cells from a patient could be used to grow enough red blood cells in the lab for a transfusion. The adult stem cells efficiently produced new cells that survived transfusion back into the patient’s body and functioned normally.

Ebola breakthrough as vaccine trial shows 'historic' 100% success rate

11,300 people died in West Africa's 2013-2016 epidemic of the virus.  New vaccine was found to be 100% successful in 2015 Guinea trial 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

December 22, 2016

Health Roundup - sniff test Alzheimer's, aluminum, saunas, aging

A simple 'sniff test' is accurate in diagnosing Alzheimer's early on

The sense of smell is known to decline sharply in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.  Experts believe this is because the build-up of toxic clumps in the brain - the signature hallmark of dementia - affects the memory region. Asking people at risk to try and identify a range of odors could provide an accurate early diagnosis, a new study found.  The 5-minute test could also be used to detect mild cognitive impairment - the pre-cursor to the debilitating disease, it suggested.

The 5-minute test could also be used to detect mild cognitive impairment - the pre-cursor to the debilitating disease, it suggested. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania asked 728 elderly people to detect 16 different odors using the Sniffin' Sticks test - which was developed in Germany and available to buy online.

Saunas Help Your Brain, Says Deeply Finnish Study

Published in Age and Ageing and highlighted by the New York Times’ Well blog, the study tracked 2,315 healthy guys between the ages of 42 and 60 over the course of about 20 years.

After controlling for lots of things — age, alcohol, smoking, diabetes, resting heart rate, body mass index, and the like — the analysis found that the dudes who bathed in saunas four to seven times a week had a 65 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s and a 66 percent lower risk of dementia compared to those who went just once a week.

Aluminum DOES cause Alzheimer's: Expert says new findings confirm the metal plays a role in the devastating brain disease

A link between aluminium and Alzheimer's disease has long existed.But many scientists says there is not enough evidence to blame the metal, used by thousands for everyday purposes to cook and store food.

However, Professor Chris Exley, from Keele University, says his latest research confirms it does indeed play a role in cognitive decline.  Alzheimer’s disease has a much earlier age of onset, for example, fifties or early sixties, in individuals who have been exposed to unusually high levels of aluminium in their everyday lives. We now show that some of the highest levels of aluminium ever measured in human brain tissue are found in individuals who have died with a diagnosis of familial Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists reverse aging in mammals and predict human trials within 10 years

Using a new technique which takes adult cells back to their embryonic form, US researchers at the Salk Institute in California, showed it was possible to reverse aging in mice, allowing the animals to not only look younger, but live for 30 per cent longer.
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Dr Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory. “With careful modulation, aging might be reversed. Obviously, mice are not humans and we know it will be much more complex to rejuvenate a person. But this study shows that aging is a very dynamic and plastic process, and therefore will be more amenable to therapeutic interventions than what we previously thought."
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The breakthrough could also help people stay healthier for longer.  The aging population means that the risk of developing age-related diseases, such as dementia, cancer and heart disease also rises. But if the body could be kept younger for longer then it could prevent many deadly diseases for decades.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink

December 10, 2016

Health Roundup - Good News

U.S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages

Dementia is actually on the wane. And when people do get dementia, they get it at older and older ages....The new study found that the dementia rate in Americans 65 and older fell by 24 percent over 12 years, to 8.8 percent in 2012 from 11.6 percent in 2000. That trend is “statistically significant and impressive.”

Playing harmonicas helps people with limited lung capacity breathe easier

The COPD Foundation helped 25 treatment centers offer weekly classes as part of its new Harmonicas for Health initiative? All that breathing in and out strengthens the diaphragm, allowing the patients in the program to breathe deeper. The harmonica players also say they experience reduced anxiety, a renewed sense of purpose, a decrease in social isolation and just plain old fun .

The Many Benefits of Choir Singing When You’re Older  It's a way to improve memory, reduce stress and make breathing easier

Using Ecstasy to treat PTSD: ‘I felt like my soul snapped back into place’ said Jessi Appleton after three sessions. 

Appleton, 32, was treated in Boulder, Colorado, in a study arranged and funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that has long pursued a strategy of supporting rigorous scientific research into otherwise illegal drugs. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the treatment an important boost, when agency officials met with officials from MAPS to start clearing the way for one or more large-scale research studies.

Man 'cured' of prostate cancer after doctors shock tumor to death with testosterone

Professor Sam Denmeade, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, US, who led the study, said: ""Our goal is to shock the cancer cells by exposing them rapidly to very high followed by very low levels of testosterone in the blood. The results are unexpected and exciting. ...The treatment is revolutionary because testosterone is generally assumed to fuel prostate cancer.

Tasmanian devil's milk can KILL the most deadly drug-resistant bacteria known - including golden staph

The Tasmanian devil, the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world is the size of a small dog and can be found only on the Australian island state of Tasmania.  Biologist Emma Peel was inspired by the fact that under-developed Tasmanian Devils don't get sick in the pouch.

Sydney University researchers found that the milk of the Tasmanian Devil has been shown to kill some of the most deadly bacterial and fungal infections, including golden staph.  This is due to the peptides contained in the milk having six naturally occurring anti-microbes which researches have set about replicating.  'We showed that these devil peptides kill multi-drug resistant bacteria, which is really cool,' Ms Peel told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2016

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Researchers just linked chronic fatigue to changes in gut bacteria

Researchers have identified biological markers in both gut bacteria and blood that can be used to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome - also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS - in more than 80 percent of patients tested.  ME/CFS is currently difficult to diagnose – it was only last year that it was properly classified as a real disease, and the existing treatment options are limited and controversial... the researchers found that ME/CFS patients had less diversity in their gut bacteria than the control group - specifically, fewer bacterial species that were anti-inflammatory and more which were pro-inflammatory....

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The CDC reports that  one million Americans have CFS. This illness strikes more people in the United States than multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many forms of cancer....CFS occurs four times more frequently in women than in men;... The illness occurs most often in people in their 40s and 50s...CFS occurs in all ethnic and racial groups and in countries around the world....People of all income levels can develop CFS.  With his son terribly ill, a top scientist takes on chronic fatigue syndrome

The Implosion of a Breakthrough Study on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

In 2011, a study published in The Lancet claimed that it had done exactly that: The data, the authors declared, showed that a combination of exercise and talk therapy could significantly alleviate the symptoms of the disease, and even cure it fully in up to 20 percent of cases. Immediately, the study (also called the PACE trial) was both hailed as a great leap forward and criticized as bad science.

And now, definitive proof has emerged that the latter camp was correct. In a column published in Stat today, writer Julie Rehmeyer — herself a CFS patient — explained how a supposed breakthrough blew up so spectacularly. Soon after the study was published, Rehmeyer wrote, she and other CFS patients, skeptical of the study’s claims, began to examine it more closely. What they found looked a lot like manipulated data:

Bad science misled millions with chronic fatigue syndrome. Here’s how we fought back by Julie Rehmeyer

But patients like me were immediately skeptical, because the results contradicted the fundamental experience of our illness: The hallmark of ME/CFS is that even mild exertion can increase all the other symptoms of the disease, including not just profound fatigue but also cognitive deficits, difficulties with blood pressure regulation, unrestorative sleep, and neurological and immune dysfunction, among others.

Soon after I was diagnosed in 2006, I figured out that I had to rest the moment I thought, “I’m a little tired.” Otherwise, I would likely be semi-paralyzed and barely able to walk the next day.

Research published the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest Chronic fatigue syndrome may be a human version of 'hibernation'

After looking at the 612 different metabolites...They found that 80 percent of the metabolites were lower in those with CFS. They also found what they described as “abnormalities” in 20 of the metabolic pathways. All this suggests that the metabolism of people with CFS is markedly slowed down.....although humans do not, in fact, hibernate, he said the “metabolic signature” is similar to that of animals in hibernation.... If that were the case, he explained, curing people of CFS may be akin to waking the body up. Davis said it’s possible that the treatment may not be anything radical; it might involve putting the body back in balance with the right mix of diet and supplements.

But even Davis cautioned that however alluring the paper’s implications are, “it is only a hypothesis.”  The scientists are now trying to replicate the PNAS study with a larger sample size.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 PM | Permalink

September 18, 2016

Let them eat dirt

In the Wall Street Journal, more evidence on the importance of the microbes in our gut to our health.

Get Your Children Good and Dirty

Most human communities have experienced the benefits of medical advances like antibiotics, vaccines and sterilization, which have radically reduced the number and severity of infections that we suffer throughout life. Dying from a microbial infection is now a very rare event in the Western world, and, in the U.S., lifespans have increased by some 30 years since 1915—in large part because of success against infectious diseases.

Our anti-microbe mission has been accompanied, in industrialized countries, by an explosion in the prevalence of chronic noninfectious diseases and disorders. Diabetes, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune diseases, autism, obesity and certain types of cancer are at an all-time high. The incidence of some of these disorders is doubling every 10 years, and they are starting to appear sooner in life, often in childhood.

The practical upshot of all this research is clear: Our health depends to a large degree on maintaining a robust and diverse community of microorganisms in our bodies—and establishing good gut-health as children is especially important.

Inflammatory diseases (such as asthma, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease) and metabolic diseases (such as obesity and diabetes) are characterized by alterations in our immune system and our metabolic regulation. Knowing what we do now about the role of the microbiota, it is not surprising that these diseases are being diagnosed in more children. They are, to a great extent, a consequence of relatively recent changes in our lifestyle—modern diet, oversanitization, excessive use of antibiotics—that have altered the specific microbes that affect our metabolism early on.

Never before in human history have babies and children grown up so cleanly, and our diets have lost many of the elements most crucial to the health of our guts. We have become very bad hosts to our microbes.  By preventing babies and children from following their innate impulse to get dirty, we shield them from the microbial exposure that is essential for the development of a healthy immune system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 PM | Permalink

September 17, 2016

Health Roundup: HRT triples breast cancer risk, new lung cancer drug and new CLL cancer drug,

HRT triples the risk of breast cancer, longest ever study shows

Now new findings by the Institute of Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Now suggest the original risk had actually been underestimated.  A study of 100,000 women over 40 years found those who took the combined estrogen and progestogen pill for around five years were 2.7 times more likely to develop cancer compared to women who took nothing, or only the estrogen pill. The risk rose to 3.3 times for women who took the drugs for 15 years or more. “We found that current use of combined HRT increases the risk of breast cancer by up to threefold, depending on how long HRT has been used.

Breakthrough lung cancer drug could detect it early and stop the deadly disease from spreading around the body

Melbourne researchers discovers new drug that could stop lung cancer. They identified an inflammation-causing molecule (Interleukin 6 or Il-6) that triggers the lung disease.  Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the lung grow in an uncontrolled way. It often spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body before the cancer can be detected in the lungs.

The drug, which is currently undergoing clinical human trials to fight inflammatory bowel disease in Europe, appears to shut the signaling system down that is responsible for developing lung cells.  The drug contains a naturally occurring receptor that could potentially block the molecule from attaching itself to lung cells - the most aggressive form of the disease - and stop tumor growth.

German collaborators at the University of Kiel have developed a radical new drug sgp130Fc in a bid to target a similar signaling process in inflammatory bowel disease. The drug contains a naturally occurring receptor that could potentially block the molecule from attaching itself to lung cells - the most aggressive form of the disease - and stop tumor growth.

Prof Jenkins, who is monitoring the European trials, said the existing drug has been effective in halting the disease that could help the tens of thousands of lung-cancer patients. "You see a dramatic reduction in the amount of tumors forming - they just don't seem to grow anywhere near as well as the tumors would if sgp130Fc was not there. It is very effective at blocking and retarding the growth of these tumors."

The US has given fast-track approval to a surprising new cancer drug for CLL  "Even when it's killing cells, you feel great."

A new cancer drug called Venetoclax is causing quite a stir in the medical community, with the announcement that the US FDA has given it fast-track approval for the treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).  CLL is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults, and during a recent clinical trial, 80 percent of patients treated with Venetoclax experienced complete or partial remission of their cancer. Developed in Australia over several decades, Venetoclax is taken in pill-form, and of the small sample of patients who have been treated with it so far, some reported no adverse side-effects at all.
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So, how does the drug work? Venetoclax is one of a new generation of immunotherapy cancer drugs that are designed to address certain failings of a person’s own immune system - such as missing portions of chromosomes that inhibit the cells’ ability to fight the spread of cancer...."Venetoclax works by specifically blocking the action of that BCL2, and allows the cells to die in the way that they were destined to." So rather than killing off the cancer cells - and a bunch of healthy cells in the vicinity - like current treatments like chemo and radiotherapy do, the drug reestablishes the balance of the body’s immune system, and effectively allows the cancer cells to die on their own.

Cancer 'smoke detector' test can spot the disease 10 years before symptoms appear

A revolutionary blood test, which acts like a smoke detector to spot cancer up to 10 years before symptoms appear, could be available within five years. Scientists at Swansea University have discovered that mutations occur in red blood cells way before any signs of cancer are evident. They have devised a simple test which hunts for the mutations and can indicate if cancer is present in just a couple of hours.
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The scientists look for mutated blood cells that have lost sticky Velcro-like proteins, which help other proteins attach to the cell. In healthy people only a few mutated cells are found per million. But in people with cancer the figure jumps by more than ten fold.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 PM | Permalink

The Fight Against Superbugs

The breath test that proves which patients really DO need antibiotics - and could help slow the drug resistance crisis

A simple breath test could soon help doctors in the war against superbugs.  Scientists have worked out how to instantly tell whether someone needs antibiotics for a chest complaint. Compounds were found in patients' breath who have respiratory infections; those who exhaled certain compounds also had specific bug in their lungs  The research, which experts hope will eventually be used to build a licensed breath test, could slash the rate of antibiotics prescribed for coughs and colds.  Experts fear that the overuse of antibiotics is driving a superbug epidemic that will kill more people than cancer by 2050.

Scientists just found a compound that kills 98% of a drug-resistant bacteria

Researchers have discovered a compound in an Antarctic sea sponge that's capable of killing 98 percent of the drug-resistant superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - better known as MRSA - which is rapidly spreading throughout the US.

The discovery of this new compound, which has been named 'darwinolide', is so exciting. Researchers found it inside an Antarctic sponge, Dendrilla membranosa, and initial lab tests have shown that it's able to kill 98.4 percent of MRSA cells.

Could this be the end of SUPERBUGS? Scientists create a protein which 'rips apart' and destroys antibiotic-resistant bacteria

The star-shaped 'peptide polymers' - dubbed SNAPPs - tear down cell walls in their attempts to defeat mutated bugs, experts claim.  They aren't toxic to the body and pose no risk to patients.  Genetically engineered, the molecules kill bacteria in different ways than most antibiotics which are designed to halt growth. Images appear to show bacteria exploding when attacked by the proteins.  Lead researcher Shu Lam said: 'This discovery could potentially be developed as an antibiotic replacement for treating bacterial infections that do not respond to currently available antibiotics anymore.We are still at a preliminary stage and need to perform more detailed assessments on the star peptide polymers."

Your Next Antibiotic Might Be a Virus

When a 43-year-old Chicago woman caught a sinus infection in 2009, she never imagined it could kill her. But five years later, after multiple antibiotics had failed to work, her body began to shut down: She could barely eat, her vision suffered, her head spun, and her joints ached. She had contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of about 20 multidrug-resistant superbugs that together infect about two million people in the United States every year, killing 23,000 of them. 

Desperate, the woman turned to the internet, where she discovered a treatment called phage therapy, an alternative to antibiotics that is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration but is attracting excitement as our national stockpile of antibiotics grows increasingly less potent. In July of last year, the world's first scientific trial of the therapy began in Europe. In January, the National Institutes of Health dedicated funds to studying it here. And this month, a startup called AmpliPhi Biosciences, in partnership with the U.S. Army, released the results of the first major FDA study of the treatment's safety. 

This is a coup for a medical technique that was popular before the discovery of penicillin and which has for years only been available in countries like Russia, Georgia, and Poland. It's a lot like returning to old warplanes from modern fighter jets and realizing that the original planes had certain advantages all along.

The "phage" in phage therapy is short for bacteriophage, which is a type of virus that infects bacteria rather than people.  "Phages are extremely specific for the bacteria we want to kill," says Robert Ramig, a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine. Each virus prefers a single species, so doctors can target bad bacteria and spare beneficial strains. In cases where bacteria develop resistance to the phages, doctors just create a new cocktail. Or they can give patients phages and antibiotics at the same time. "For some reason, when bacteria become resistant to phages, they lose their resistance to antibiotics, which often become effective again," says Ramig. "The bacteria lose either way.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 PM | Permalink

Revolutionary Alzheimer's Drug

Alzheimer's: New drug that halts mental decline is 'best news for dementia in 25 years'

The first drug that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease is finally on the horizon after scientists proved they can clear the sticky plaques from the brain which cause dementia and halt mental decline.  Hailed as the "best news" in dementia research for 25 years, the breakthrough is said to be a potential "game changer" for people with Alzheimer’s.

Scientists said they were amazed to find that patients treated with the highest dose of the antibody drug aducanumab experienced an almost complete clearance of the amyloid plaques that prevent brain cells communicating, leading to irreversible memory loss and cognitive decline.

Crucially they also found that after six months of the treatment, patients stopped deteriorating compared with those taking a placebo, suggesting that their dementia had been halted. "The results of this clinical study make us optimistic that we can potentially make a great step forward in treating Alzheimer's disease," said Prof Roger Nitsch, at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich.“In the high dose group the amyloid has almost completely disappeared. The effect size of this drug is unprecedented.

Could this be the end of Alzheimer's? Revolutionary drug 'may stop the disease from ever developing'

While current therapies ease the symptoms, aducanumab tackles the underlying damage in the brain, raising hopes it will be the first to alter the course of the disease.  It contains an antibody that homes in on amyloid, the protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, poisoning and killing the cells. In future, healthy pensioners could be prescribed the drug to ward off dementia, in much the same way as statins are given today to those at risk of heart attacks.

FDA fast-tracks Biogen drug, Aducanumab

The Massachusetts-based biotech company Biogen will bring the product  to market.  The drug which targets brain plaque in Alzheimer’s has been granted a speedier process based on its success, and is now undergoing phase III trials, which doctors say will determine how effective the drug is in large populations.  If successful, it would be the first Alzheimer’s treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration in over a decade.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:22 PM | Permalink

August 15, 2016

Health Roundup Alzheimer's

Marijuana compound removes toxic Alzheimer's protein from the brain

An active compound in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been found to promote the removal of toxic clumps of amyloid beta protein in the brain, which are thought to kickstart the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The finding supports the results of previous studies that found evidence of the protective effects of cannabinoids, including THC, on patients with neurodegenerative disease.

David Schubert from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California and his colleagues  tested the effects of THC on human neurons grown in the lab that mimic the effects of Alzheimer's disease.  He said, "Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuro-protective against the symptoms of Alzheimer's, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells."

Decrease in blood flow to the brain is 'earliest sign of Alzheimer's'

A landmark study has identified the first physiological sign of late-onset Alzheimer's.  Contrary to previous understanding, brain scans show a decrease in blood flow through the brain is the earliest indicator that a patient has the disease. An increase in amyloid protein was thought to be the number one sign. But while amyloid plays a role, experts at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital have determined that blood flow decreases first in the most thorough study ever published on Alzheimer's. They also found that changes in cognition begin earlier than previously thought.

Scientists REVERSE memory loss 'for the first time' in Alzheimer's patients with changes to sleep, diet, medication and exercise

The new research was a collaboration between the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the UCLA Easton Laboratories for Neurodegenerative Disease Research.  A study of 10 patients found they all showed memory improvements; all have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working.

Study leader Dr Dale Bredesen hopes it could pave the way for the first effective treatment for the disease since it was first described more than 100 years ago.  He said his approach is personalized, tailored to each individual patient - and is based on extensive testing to help determine the best therapies for each patient's brain.

'Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well,' he said. 'The drug may have worked, and a single hole may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much.' He went on: 'All of these patients had either well-defined mild cognitive impairment (MCI), subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) or had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's before beginning the regimen. 'But follow up testing showed some of the patients going from abnormal to normal.'

Vaccine to halt dementia in its tracks 'is five years away': Treatment will target problem that triggers condition and one that causes it to worsen

A vaccine which protects against dementia could be available within five years.  Scientists believe they have made a breakthrough development which could stop Alzheimer’s disease in its tracks when given to people diagnosed in the early stages. They hope it will allow patients to carry on their lives much as normal while the progression of the condition is delayed by years – and perhaps for good.
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As a preventative measure, the drug could even be given like a flu jab to over-50s or at risk groups. Experts believe delaying the development of Alzheimer’s by just five years could halve the number of people dying with the condition. The vaccine formula, worked on by researchers in the US and Australia, is the first to target both the protein believed to trigger Alzheimer’s and one which causes it to worsen.  These proteins tend to become misshapen and group together to form ‘clumps’ in the brain.

The vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies which dissolve the clumps, latch on to the proteins and take them out of the brain and into the blood stream, where they can be broken down. Researchers said the formula is boosted by a ‘turbo charger’ which makes it between 100 and 1,000 times more effective than previously tested vaccines.  Their work showed the vaccine was successful on mice. It will now be tested in humans in the US and, if trials go well, it could be available in five to six years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:05 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2016

"47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months."

On The Dark Web, Medical Records Are A Hot Commodity

More than 113 million medical records were hacked in 2015 alone, according to data compiled by the Health and Human Services. A newly released report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a cybersecurity think tank, found that some 47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months. As cardiologist and author Eric Topol points out, the majority of patients haven't ever accessed their medical record before that happens.
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On the dark web, medical records draw a far higher price than credit cards. Hackers are well aware that it's simple enough to cancel a credit card, but to change a social security number is no easy feat. Banks have taken some major steps to crack down on identity theft. But hospitals, which have only transitioned en masse from paper-based to digital systems in the past decade, have far fewer security protections in place.
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On the dark web, complete medical records typically contain an individual's name, birthdate, social security number, and medical information. These records can sell for as much as (the bitcoin equivalent) of $60 apiece, whereas social security numbers are a mere $15. Stolen credit cards sell for just $1 to $3. During the tour, we spotted one hacker who claimed to have a treasure trove of just shy of 1 million full health records up for grabs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2016

Health Roundup: Missing Y chromosome, Alzheimer's, Migraines

Revealed, why women live longer: Male genes that may protect against dementia and cancer 'often go missing with age'

Researchers say that the Y chromosome, or more specifically, the loss of it, may be to blame for men’s shorter lifespans. Only found in men, the Y chromosome contains the DNA that makes males male and is present in almost every cell in the body. But, in some men, it starts to disappear from some of their blood cells as they get older. Previous research has shown these men are more likely to die young and to suffer from a range of cancers.

Now, scientists have also linked loss of the Y chromosome to Alzheimer’s disease. And they say that while the missing DNA has no effect on a man’s manliness, it may help explain why males, as a whole, tend to die younger. The researchers, from Uppsala University in Sweden, came up with the theory after studying more than 3,200 men aged between 37 and 96. Tests showed the Y chromosome to be missing from white blood cells in roughly one in five men. And the older they were, the more common it was....Health records showed Alzheimer’s disease to be almost three times as common in men affected by the phenomenon.

Rowan Led Research Team Develops Highly Accurate Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease

Early detection of Alzheimer’s Disease may be more possible than ever thanks to a group of researchers from Rowan University.  The group announced that they have developed a blood test that uses the immune system to find early stage Alzheimer’s in patients. The study included 236 subjects.  In terms of identifying early Alzheimer’s in patients with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, the overall accuracy rate was 100 percent, according to the researchers.

Cassandra DeMarshall, the lead author of the study, said that 60 percent of patients with MCI, have it due to an early stage of Alzheimer’s. “Our results show that it is possible to use a small number of blood-borne autoantibodies to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s. These findings could eventually lead to the development of a simple, inexpensive and relatively noninvasive way to diagnose this devastating disease in its earliest stages.”

What's the best thing you can do to avoid dementia? EXERCISE!

Regular exercise from the age of 40 can help prevent Alzheimer's disease.  Researchers at the University of Melbourne, tracked 387 women aged 45 to 55 over 20 years.  They assessed a range of lifestyle factors over the course of 20 years including exercise, diet, education, smoking, height, weight and BMI.  They found  exercise was the most important factor in preventing dementia. Any intensity from walking the dog to mountain climbing has benefits. Experts say every year counts, so the sooner a person exercises the better.

New drug for migraines.  injection 'halves' the number of attacks by blocking chemical to blame

Trials of the new drug, which is delivered via a monthly injection, suggests it could halve the number of attacks for at least 53 per cent of people. ..Study author Dr Marcelo Bigal, of American firm Teva Pharmaceuticals which developed the TEV-48125 drug, said: ‘Most people who receive preventive medication for chronic migraine stop using them, and one reason for that is the drugs can take a long time to become effective.

Described as one of the few true ‘holy grails’ of medical research, an injection to truly tackle migraines is being pursued by drugs giants Amgen, Eli Lilly and Alder, who are each competing with Teva to get the first license for the medication.  The four companies are each developing variants of a drug which tackles a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which triggers the pain and nausea associated with a migraine....

CGRP causes the swelling of blood vessels intertwined with nerve endings on both sides of the head. Researchers have found that monoclonal blood proteins – antibodies specifically engineered to bind to CGRP – were able to ‘mop up’ the chemical, meaning it did not trigger a migraine.

Are migraines triggered by a lack of sunshine? Those who suffer attacks are 'often lacking vitamin D'

A lack of the sunshine could be triggering migraine attacks in children, teenagers and young adults, a study has found. Migraine attacks cause dizziness, nausea and headaches - and although painkillers and other drugs can ease the symptoms, they only work for some patients. Now a study has found a lack of vitamin D, vitamin B2 or riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) - an enzyme the body produces to help energy for cell growth and maintenance - in a high percentage of migraine sufferers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:32 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Cannabis, autism and depression

Smoking cannabis ALTERS your DNA 'causing mutations that can trigger serious illness, including cancer'

Dr Stuart Reece, and Professor Gary Hulse from the University of Western Australia's School of Psychiatry, analyzed literary and research material to understand the likely causes.  Dr Reece said: 'Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person's DNA. With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population.'

While a person may appear healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also be passed on to their children, and cause illness for several generations to come.'Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father's sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,' Dr Reece said. 'The parents may not realize that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.'

Smoking pot 'increases baby's risk of asthma, premature birth and mother's risk of high blood pressure'

Smoking both cannabis and tobacco during pregnancy creates a greater health risk to your unborn baby, than cigarettes alone, experts have warned. Though the statement may sound obvious, more women are using cannabis while they are expecting, as it becomes legal in more places.    Between 2 and 11% of pregnant American women smoke pot, experts say.

Cannabis IS addictive - and smoking it harms the brain permanently research suggests

Researchers showed long term marijuana users pictures of the drug or fruit. Brain circuit controlling pleasure was more active when they saw drug. This suggests using cannabis regularly over years changes the brain.

Now, scientists have discovered why: smoking cannabis long term disrupts certain brain circuits, leading to cravings and dependency. These changes mark the difference between occasional users and people who have become dependent, researchers said. Despite the drug causing problems in people's lives - such as family and relationship issues - they carried on using it, a sign of psychological dependence, researchers said.

Autism is NOT just a disease of the brain: Sensitivity to touch, anxiety and difficulty socializing 'may be caused by nerve problems in the legs, arms and hands'

Until now, it was believed autism was cause by abnormal brain development.  Now, scientists believe some aspects of the disorder may occur as a result of problems with nerves found in the arms, legs, hands, fingers and skin that send sensory information to the brain.

Symptoms including being sensitive to touch, having difficulties with social interaction and anxiety might be caused by defects in the sensory nerves that run through the body.  Harvard Medical School experts believe that in people with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these sensory nerves are defective due to gene mutations.  This means the 'volume' is turned up all the way in these nerve cells, meaning touch is felt at an exaggerated, heightened level - and this can lead to anxiety and behavioral problems. Defects in touch processing may help to explain some of the behaviors observed in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Blood test to personalize depression treatment for the first time

Scientists at King's College London have developed a blood test that accurately and reliably predicts whether depressed patients will respond to common antidepressants, which could herald a new era of personalized treatment for people with depression. Guided by this test, patients with blood inflammation above a certain threshold could be directed towards earlier access to more assertive antidepressant strategies, such as a combination of antidepressants, before their condition worsens.

Approximately half of all depressed patients do not respond to first-line antidepressants and a third of patients are resistant to all available pharmacological treatments. Until now, it has been impossible to establish if individual patients will respond to common antidepressants or if they need a more assertive antidepressant treatment plan, which may include a combination of more than one medication.

As a result, patients are treated with a trial-and-error approach whereby one antidepressant is tried after another, often for 12 or more weeks for every type of antidepressant. This can result in long periods of ineffective antidepressant treatment for individuals who may not show an improvement in symptoms anyway.

Giving young people antidepressants 'may do more harm than good' and increase the risk of suicide

Most available antidepressants do not help children and teenagers with serious mental health problems and some may be unsafe, experts have warned.  A review of clinical trial evidence found that of 14 antidepressant drugs only one, fluoxetine - marketed as Prozac - was better than a 'dummy' placebo at relieving the symptoms of young people with major depression.
Another drug, venlafaxine, was associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Researchers recommended close monitoring of young people on antidepressants, regardless of what drugs they were prescribed, especially at the start of treatment.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:14 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Stem cell breakthroughs in treating stroke, MS and Bubble Baby disease

Major breakthrough as doctors REVERSE symptoms of a stroke- up to 3 YEARS later

Doctors have reversed the symptoms of stroke in a major medical breakthrough. Patients regained the ability to walk, speak and have a normal family life, thanks to a procedure requiring only local anesthetic and a single night in hospital.  Remarkably, the stem cell treatment was shown to work even three years after someone had suffered a stroke - meaning that millions of people could potentially benefit from the treatment.

Eighteen patients underwent the procedure in an initial trial - with stunning results. Despite the long gap between stroke and treatment, all 18 patients in the pilot showed increasing improvement for the 12 months they were tracked after the operation. Nearly half showed ‘clinically meaningful’ results - which meant the procedure had a significant impact on their lifestyle.
One patient who relied on a wheelchair, unable to properly use her legs, has since taken up jogging. Another woman, who could barely get to her feet before the operation, has since walked down the aisle and is now expecting a baby with her new husband.  And another, completely paralyzed apart from the use of her left thumb, has regained the ability to walk.

The treatment, carried out by scientists at Stanford University in California, is thought to be so effective because it triggers the rapid regeneration of brain circuits damaged during a stroke. But the team has already started on work to replicate their results on a larger scale, and if that is successful the technique has great potential to revolutionize life for stroke patients.

Hope for multiple sclerosis cure as 23 seriously ill patients recover after 'breakthrough' stem cell treatment

Multiple sclerosis patients who were severely disabled are walking, working and even downhill skiing again following a breakthrough therapy which completely destroys, then rebuilds, the immune system.  The trial, which is the first in the world to show complete long-term remission from the debilitating disease has been hailed by experts as ‘exciting’ ‘unprecedented,’ and ‘close to curative.’

Although it is unclear what causes MS it is thought that the immune system attacks the protective coating which surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to inflammation, pain, disability and in severe cases, early death.

The new technique, which is a treatment usually used to fight leukemia, involves using chemotherapy to entirely eradicate the damaged immune system, before rebooting it with a transfusion of bone marrow cells.

Out of the 24 patients who were given the treatment at least seven years ago, the majority have seen significant improvements . 70 per cent of patients saw a complete stop to the progression of the disease, while 40 per cent saw a reversal in symptoms such as vision loss, muscle weakness and balance loss.

Dr Mark Freedman, of the University of Ottawa and Ottawa Hospital, where the trials were carried out, said: “Jennifer, she freaked me out one day when she came to the clinic wearing high heels. This was a girl who could barely walk.”

Stem Cell Breakthrough: UCLA Researcher Pioneers Gene Therapy Cure for Children with “Bubble Baby” Disease

UCLA stem cell researchers cured 18 children born without a working immune system due to life-threatening ADA-deficient Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) Breakthrough stem cell gene therapy developed by Dr. Donald Kohn and team identifies and corrects faulty gene in children with ADA-deficient SCID using child’s own cells

Children born with adenosine deaminase (ADA)-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), often called “Bubble Baby” disease, a life-threatening condition that if left untreated can be fatal within the first year of life. To date, 18 children with SCID have been cured of the disease after receiving the stem cell gene therapy in clinical trials at UCLA and the National Institutes of Health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

Health Roundup: Arthritis and Cataracts

Could tiny worm hold the key to treating arthritis?

A tiny worm could help bring relief to millions of chronic arthritis sufferers, scientists claim.A study has found that the immune response triggered by infection with a parasite called N. brasiliensis eases rheumatoid arthritis.  Experiments with the parasite could bring hope of new treatments for people with the debilitating condition, and cut the need for expensive hip and knee replacements.
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One of the most common forms of the disease, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints by mistake. The wrists, fingers, toes, ankles and knees are particularly susceptible.  Current drugs do not work for everyone, and one in three sufferers give up work within ten years of diagnosis. Those whose joints have been very badly damaged can undergo hip or knee replacements. However this involves a major operation, as well as months of rehabilitation, and the new joints have a limited lifespan.

When the German researchers infected arthritis-stricken mice with the worm, the creatures’ health improved. Inflammation was cut and damage to cartilage reduced, the journal Nature Communications reports.  It is thought that the immune response triggered by the worm – which normally lives in rats’ stomachs – counteracts the rogue immune response behind the disease. Parasitic worms have already been used to successfully treat other illnesses in which the immune system turns on the body, including Crohn’s disease.

Researchers Develop ‘Holy Grail’ Eye Drop to Prevent, Treat Cataracts Without Surgery

Researchers at Louisiana State University have formulated drops made of nanoparticles that are able to efficiently deliver into the eye lens the natural substance called lutein–which is plentiful in youthful eyes, but diminishes in old age....  Cataracts are a common condition in older adults that causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy and block light from the retina. There were more than 24 million cases of cataracts in the U.S. in 2010.

Professor Cristina Sabliov and assistant professor Carlos Astete in the LSU AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering found a way to use nanoparticles to make the plant-based anti-oxidant more absorbent for humans. “The nanoparticle matrix can deliver lutein to the eye efficiently, which improves its effect against cataracts,” Sabliov said. This new product would have the unique advantage of both being able to prevent cataracts before they start or to treat cataracts after they form,” she said.

Tests on rats have been successful in reducing the size of cataracts in just one week, but the team expects further animal tests and human tests to take years before the eye drops can hit the market
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2016

Health Roundup: Superbug, antibiotics, fecal transplant, natural killer immune cells, adult ADHD

Superbug resistant to ALL drugs reaches the US

A woman in Pennsylvania has become the first American to test positive for a strain of bacteria that is resistant to all antibiotics, even those used as the last line of defense....

CDC director, Dr Tom Frieden, said: 'It basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics, that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics.
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Dr Gerry Wright, director of the Michael G.DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University said while serious, the discovery of the strain in the US was to be expected. 'The mcr-1 gene has been reported across the globe since it was first reported in November of last year. The US was actually not an anomaly in not finding it until now. I expect it's been around for some time, just not detected.  Because the patient has no reported travel history, you can predict with certainty that mcr-1 is established in the USA.'

Antibiotics that kill gut bacteria also stop growth of new brain cells

"We found prolonged antibiotic treatment might impact brain function," says senior author Susanne Asu Wolf of the Max-Delbrueck-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany. "But probiotics and exercise can balance brain plasticity and should be considered as a real treatment option."

Fecal transplant found to wipe out symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Scientists have found fecal microbiota transplantation is an effective approach to helping individuals who suffer from ulcerative colitis. The condition is an inflammatory bowel disease, which causes long-term inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. It affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum, which can lead to rectal bleeding, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.

After carrying out the transplants on a group of patients, researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia, found marked improvement in their symptoms. One in four patients who were resistant or intolerant to conventional treatment - steroid or anti-inflammatories - reported their symptoms had disappeared and showed signs that their digestive tracts improved. Furthermore, more than half of patients reported an improvement in their symptoms after undergoing fecal transplant.

Researchers in Australia identified a mechanism that causes natural killer (NK) immune cells to show mercy to cancer.

Switching it off had a dramatic effect on mice with normally lethal skin, prostate and breast cancers.  NK action against the tumors was stepped up, preventing deadly metastasis, the spread of cancer to vital organs in the body. In the case of breast cancer, tumor growth in the mammary glands was significantly reduced.

Natural killer cells are specialized white blood cells that act as the immune system's assassins. Like murderous agents working for a totalitarian state, their job is to locate and eradicate 'deviant' cells in the body that may pose a threat.

Ground-breaking new study finds a poor immune system can lead to 'serious mental illness'

The study, from the University of Sydney and Perth-based charity Meeting for Minds, found immune treatment had already worked for a large number of mental health sufferers.

One person’s cancer can be fought using someone else’s immune cells, study finds

For the first time, scientists have shown that even if a patient’s own immune cells are incapable of recognizing and attacking tumors, someone else’s immune cells might be able to.  In a new study, scientists have shown that by inserting certain components of healthy donor immune cells (or T cells) into the malfunctioning immune cells of a cancer patient, they can 'teach' these cells how to recognize cancer cells and attack them.
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While this is just a proof-of-concept study with only three participants, the results are promising enough that the treatment will hopefully be tested in a much wider clinical study in the future.

ADHD May Not Show Up Until Adulthood

It’s not just for schoolkids. A new U.K. study may uproot everything researchers believed they knew about when attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder presents itself.
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“Although ADHD occurs in approximately 4 percent of adults, relatively few adults receive a diagnosis or treatment for the disorder,” Agnew-Blais said. “It is crucial that we take a developmental approach to understanding ADHD, and that the absence of a childhood diagnosis should not prevent adults with ADHD from receiving clinical attention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 PM | Permalink

May 24, 2016

Health Roundup: Cheese, potatoes, church, belonging, 'hidden killers', long life personality traits and Oct4, the 'fountain of youth' gene

Cheese triggers the same part of the brain as hard drugs, say scientists

Researchers from the University of Michigan have revealed that cheese contains a chemical found in addictive drugs. Casein, a chemical, which is found in all dairy products, can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, producing a feeling of euphoria linked to those of hard drug addiction.

Scientists studying dairy products found that in milk, casein has a minuscule dosage. But producing a pound of cheese requires about 10 pounds of milk — with addictive casein coagulating the solid milk fats and separating them from the liquids.  As a result the super-strength chemical becomes concentrated when in solid dairy form, so you’ll get a higher hit of addictive casein by tucking into a cheese sandwich than you will in your morning bowl of cereal.

Eating potatoes four times a week raises risk of high blood pressure: Baked are as bad as fries - but chips  have no effect

Baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes raises the risk of high blood pressure.  Researchers, from Harvard Medical School, think eating any form of potato too often can cause blood pressure problems. They suspect the starch in potatoes is to blame. Because potatoes have a high glycaemic index, these starchy carbohydrates rapidly transform into sugars in the body, triggering a sharp rise in blood sugar levels.  Over time, this may cause blood sugar problems, the researchers said.

The experts, whose work was published in the British Medical Journal, analyzed data from 187,000 men and women tracked in three large US projects for 20 years.  The results suggest women who eat regularly eat potatoes may be at slightly higher risk of suffering high blood pressure than men. Overall, however, they found men or women who ate four or more servings a week of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes had an 11 per cent increased risk of high blood pressure compared to those who ate potatoes less than once a month.

New Harvard Study: Women Live Longer if They Go to Church

A new Harvard study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that women who regularly attend church services live longer. In the study, titled “Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women,” researchers found that women who attended church more than once per week had a 33% lower mortality rate, compared with women who never attended church.  The self-reported research took place over a 20-year period and investigated the church-going habits of 74,534 women who participated in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study. The average baseline age of the women studied was 60 and most were Catholic or Protestant.

Tyler VanderWeele, Harvard professor and author of the study, said church attendance was an under-appreciated health resource. “Religious attendance is a relatively good determinant of health,” he said. Women who attended church regularly were more optimistic, had greater social support, lower rates of depression, were less likely to smoke and suffered less from anxiety.

A sense of belonging makes you happier:

If you feel you belong with your social group, chances are you are likely to be a happy soul.  Psychologists have found that people the more people feel connected to a group and connect with others, the more satisfied they were with their lives.  The findings show that identifying as part of a group may give people a stronger sense of purpose and security, as well as providing support them when times are tough.

Researchers from Nottingham Trent University focused on how connected people felt to certain groups, measuring the impact this had on their happiness and life satisfaction. They looked at almost 4,000 people, and focused on how much they identified with their family and local community. Additionally, participants added a group of their choice, such as a sports team, or a hobby group.

Managing your emotions can save your heart    The negative impact of emotions when your heart is already vulnerable

There are two kinds of stress that impact your brain. Helpful stress (also known as eustress) can assist you with getting things done by helping you focus your attention. Unhelpful stress (distress), on the other hand, can be so severe that it can lead to fatigue and heart disease.

If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), your heart may be deprived of oxygen. This deprivation of oxygen, called myocardial ischemia, can occur in as many as 30% to 50% of all patients with CAD.  It can be further exacerbated by emotional stress. In fact, if you have any type of heart disease, any strong emotion such as anger may also cause severe and fatal irregular heart rhythms. Expressions like “died from fright” and “worried to death” are not just hyperbole — they are physiologic possibilities. Furthermore, when patients with newly diagnosed heart disease become depressed, that depression increases the risk that a harmful heart-related event will occur within that year.

Revealed, the five 'hidden killers' that could send you to an early grave

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Chicago University researchers said we must look at a person as a whole if we are to accurately judge their health. Lead author Martha McClintock said: ‘The new comprehensive model of health identifies constellations of health completely hidden by the medical model.’
The team, which included psychologists, sociologists and doctors specializing in the care of the elderly, analyzed a mountain of data on the health and habits of 3,000 men and women aged between 57 and 85 and discovered the 'hidden killers':

Loneliness
Losing your sense of smell
Broken sleep
Breaking a bone in middle age
Difficulty in walking

The researchers say these factors are just as important as obvious medical conditions such as weight, blood pressure and heart disease.  In fact, being obese won’t necessarily send people to an early grave. And age, it seems, really is just a number. These contained some surprises.  For instance, the members of the healthiest group were all overweight. And despite them having only a 6 per cent chance of dying or becoming very unwell, high blood pressure was also common.However, psychological health, mobility and the sense of smell were all good and the researchers said that if an older adult is otherwise healthy, obesity ‘seems to pose very little risk’.

Scientists have discovered 5 personality traits linked with a long life

For their 75-year study of 300 engaged couples who enrolled in the study in their mid-20s, researchers found that men who were seen by their friends as more conscientious, meaning they were less likely to take risks but also tended to be more thorough and efficient, lived longer.  In sum, the five traits are:

Conscientiousness
Openness
Emotional stability
Friendliness
The ability to express feelings

'Fountain of youth' gene prevents heart attacks, stroke - and could lead to drugs that DELAY aging

A single gene is thought to protect against heart attacks and stroke as well as delay aging, scientists have discovered. The strand of DNA responsible - dubbed the 'fountain of youth' gene - had previously been thought to be inactive in adults.
Scientists believed the gene, named Oct4, was active in embryos but silenced as a person reached adulthood.

However, the new discovery is now hoped to open a new avenue for those battling deadly conditions, and raises the tantalizing prospect that doctors could one day use the gene to protect or delay the effects of aging. Dr Owens and his colleagues have determined the gene plays a crucial protective role in the formation of key plaques inside the blood vessels. The rupturing of these plaques is the underlying cause of many heart attacks and strokes.

The researchers found Oct4 controls the creation of protective fibrous 'caps' inside the plaques - caps that make the plaques less likely to rupture. In addition to this finding, the scientists believe the gene promotes a number of changes in gene expression that help to stabilize these plaques
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

May 17, 2016

Health roundup: Risks of tylenol and heartburn drugs, daily beer good, so are gardens, advances in breast cancer, Alzheimers and depression

Acetaminophen doesn't just kill pain - it makes us less CARING

Acetaminophen may be a more powerful painkiller than we realize.  Research shows that the popular pills don’t just ease our pain, they also stop us from feeling others’ pain.  It is thought by dulling the part of the brain that feels pain, we also find it harder to imagine what others are going through.

With previous research crediting acetaminophen with blunting joy, the researchers say we have a lot to learn about the drug....Previous research has found it to take some of the pain out of making difficult choices.  The team is now starting to study ibuprofen, to see if it produces similar results.

Popular heartburn tablets 'may increase risk of dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems'

Indigestion pills taken daily by millions of people around the globe may increase the risk of dementia, heart attacks and kidney problems, research suggests. Scientists found proton pump inhibitors - available in supermarkets and pharmacies without a prescription – accelerate the aging of cells which line blood vessels. Researchers said that the discovery was a ‘smoking gun’ which backs up previous reports linking long-term use of PPI medicines to several serious illnesses. Sold in bottles and packets, the drugs are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux, a severe form of heartburn.
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In the new study, lab tests at Houston Methodist Research Institute found long-term exposure to PPIs accelerated the aging of the human endothelial cells which line the inside of blood vessels.  Writing in the journal Circulation Research, they said: ‘When healthy, these cells create a Teflon-like coating that prevents blood from sticking. ‘But older and diseased, the endothelium becomes more like Velcro, with blood elements sticking to the vessel to form blockages.’
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But the findings are supported by a German study of 74,000 people, published in the journal JAMA Neurology in February, which suggested that elderly people who used PPIs at least once every three months had a 44 percent increased risk of dementia compared with those who did not take the drugs.  And a Stanford study of 3million people, published last July, suggested that people who took PPIs were 16 to 21 per cent more likely to have a heart attack.

FORTY mutated genes are to blame for the 10 different forms of breast cancer, experts at the University of Cambridge discover

Only a fraction of these genes were previously known to be involved in the development of the disease....The information could, in the future, help design clinical trials for breast cancer patients, or give researchers more flags to look out for in liquid biopsies, a type of test used to detect genetic material in the blood that is released by dying cancer cells.

Brain scan spots Alzheimer's 15 YEARS before symptoms appear: Early detection will help delay onset of disease

Scientists are using positive emission tomography (PET) scans that can identify clumps of destructive proteins that form in the brain. These clumps build up for years  before symptoms of Alzheimer's appear.

A beer a day keeps a heart attack at bay: Even one can reduces risk of disease by a quarter

A review of 150 studies found that drinking 1.4 pints a day  reduces risk of heart problems and does not increase risk of dementia or cancers.
Alcohol and other chemicals in the drink protects heart and blood vessels.  But researchers warned binge drinking is known to harm our health

Green thumb?  Expect to see a ripe old age: Having access to a garden or living near the countryside 'helps people live longer'

Research conducted by Harvard University explored the link between higher amounts of vegetation and mortality rates. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, it studied the well-being of 108,630 women and adds further weight to the suggestion urban living takes a greater physical toll.  Specifically, researchers found those who live in the urban jungle had a 12 per cent higher death rate than those with access to green spaces. In addition, they also had higher chances of developing cancer or respiratory illnesses.

Those in the greenest areas had a 34 per cent lower rate of respiratory disease-related mortality and a 13 per cent lower rate of cancer mortality. The increased opportunity to get out and be active, along with breathing in less air pollution or suffering noise pollution were factors in reducing death rates.

Scientists think they've found the key to ketamine's unprecedented anti-depressant effects

Back in February, we reported how patients with severe depression have been reporting "unbelievable" relief from taking the psychedelic party drug, ketamine, with symptoms being treated within hours, and doctors reporting response rates of 75 percent.
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Now a new study, published in Nature, brings us closer to an answer. Researchers in the US report that a breakdown product of ketamine - not the drug itself - appears to be responsible for the anti-depressant effects seen in a mouse study....One of these breakdown molecules, a chemical called (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine, appears to be behind the benefits. 

Fountain of Youth? Drug Trial Has Seniors Scrambling to Prove They’re Worthy

What if there were a way to stave off the creaks and calamities of old age? Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is working on it. With word leaking out, seniors from all over the globe have been hounding Dr. Barzilai and his colleagues to get in on the action—with many writing to prove their worthiness. Never mind that formal patient recruitment is still perhaps a year away.
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Behind the mania is a widely used, inexpensive generic pill for Type 2 diabetes called metformin. Scientists are planning a clinical trial to see if the drug can delay or prevent some of the most devastating diseases of advanced age, from heart ailments to cognitive decline to cancer. To test the pill, gerontologists at 14 aging centers around the U.S. will follow 3,000 seniors for six years. Half the seniors involved would get the drug, while the others would receive a placebo.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2016

Health Roundup: Cancer Cure 'on the brink', Alzheimers stopped in its tracks, heartburn drugs, light therapy, reversing tooth decay and chocolate for your brain

Cancer Cure 'on the brink'  Starving Cancer Cells by cutting off key supply routes  'eradicates tumors'

To arrive at their findings, a team from The Australian National University, blocked gateways through which the cancer cell was obtaining the amino acid glutamine.  They found the cells almost completely stopped growing.

Professor Stefan Bröer, who led the study, said: 'This is likely to work in a wide range of cancers, because it is a very common mechanism in cancer cells.'  'Better still, this should lead to chemotherapy with much less serious side-effects, as normal cells do not use glutamine as a building material. ...Crucial white blood cells, which current treatments damage, could be spared, and it could cut out the hair loss that chemotherapy causes.'
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Lead author Angelika Bröer spearheaded the effort to identify and genetically knock out glutamine transporters.'It is an exciting time to do cancer research,' she said. ...Now the importance of glutamine gateways have been identified in cancer, the hunt is on to find drug treatments that will lock them down and kill the disease....: 'we have developed a set of tests, which make it very easy to determine if a drug is targeting glutamine transporters.This means we can set robots to work that will test tens of thousands of drugs for us over the next year or two.'  The results are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

First drug that can stop Alzheimer's in its tracks 

A new breakthrough study shows a drug can stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease - and it could be available within five years.  Tests have shown that a cheap drug commonly used to treat diabetes called Liraglutide stopped the brain disease from advancing and in some cases even gave sufferers a cognitive boost.  No study has ever before shows such dramatic results, and it could mean those who detect the disease at an early stage could live a lifetime of normal brain function.

The breakthrough was made a Denmark's Aarthus University and trials have now begun at Imperial College London, with neuroscientists said to be 'really excited', reports The Express.  Professor Jorgen Rungby, who led the study in Denmark, said: 'This is a significant step. We now have a drug that appears to have some kind of effect on how the brain works in Alzheimer’s.

The drug is commonly used to treat diabetes and scientists recognize a link between type 2 of the disease and Alzheimer's, as the brain being unable to utilize sugar is a symptom of dementia.  A 26-week test on 38 patients resulted in 'proof in principle' that the drug halted the progression of the disease, with patients maintaining their brain metabolism.  It is now being tested on 206 people in 20 hospitals around the UK, who will be given the drug via insulin pen, then have their memory and thinking assessed by doctors.

Dr Paul Edison, consultant physician at Imperial College, London, is leading the UK trials and expects the results by 2018.  He said: 'If effective, there could be a potential new and safe treatment for Alzheimer’s in the next five years.'

WSJ A Simple Tool to Ease Cancer’s Side Effects

In a test, researchers at Mount Sinai try light therapy to help the fatigue and depression that many cancer patients feel...“We know that cancer patients are light-deprived,” says William Redd, a Mount Sinai psychologist and professor of medicine and another of the lead researchers in the trial. “You feel lousy, you stay at home, you feel even worse.” Light therapy “has had a major impact on cancer patients with fatigue and depression,”

WSJ Simple Dental Treatments May Reverse Decay

Some fillings may not be necessary.  A recent study led by Wendell Evans at the University of Sydney supports growing evidence that early tooth decay, before a cavity forms, can often be arrested and reversed with simple treatments that restore minerals in the teeth, rather than the more typical drill-and-fill approach.

The randomized, controlled trial followed 19 dental practices in Australia for three years, then researchers checked up on the patients again four years later. The result: After seven years, patients receiving remineralization treatment needed on average 30% fewer fillings.  In the study, patients in the experimental group with early decay received a fluoride varnish to the site. Dentists also gave those patients fluoride varnish preventively two to four times a year, and encouraged them to brush well and avoid sugary snacks between meals.

Commonly used heartburn drugs may lead to kidney damage

Long-term use of a common type of medication used to treat heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers may lead to an increased risk of kidney disease and kidney failure, new research shows. The study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, adds to prior research that suggests proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), a group of drugs which reduces gastric acid production, can lead to serious kidney damage.

The paper notes that an estimated 15 million Americans were prescribed PPIs in 2013, though the authors point out that the number is likely higher as many, including Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid, are available over the counter. ....After controlling for other factors, including age and other diseases, this translated to a 28 percent increased risk of developing kidney disease for PPI users.

Could PROBIOTICS ward off cancer? Increasing levels of 'good' bacteria in the intestines 'slows and stops the disease developing'

New study found anti-inflammatory bacteria lowers risk of cancer.  Experts at UCLA found the bacteria, used to make yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut 'slows and stops the development of lymphoma'

Eating chocolate regularly ‘improves brain function’ according to new study

Researchers used data collected from a Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), in which 968 people aged between 23 and 98 were measured for dietary intake and cardiovascular risk factors, as well as cognitive function.  They found that regularly eating chocolate was significantly associated with cognitive function “irrespective of other dietary habits”.  More frequent chocolate consumption was “significantly associated with better performance on [cognitive tests including] visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:52 PM | Permalink

Art is Good for your Heart

A scientific study confirms the obvious, Art is Good for your Heart.

Experts recently studied 100 people during a visit to the monumental Basilica of Vicoforte in northern Italy's Cuneo - with surprising results.
Prior to entering the 18th century church, participants had their saliva tested for presence of the stress hormone cortisol.  The volunteers - men and women of different ages and with varying IQ levels - climbed 200 ft to the apex of the building as part of their two-hour experience. Then, following their tour of the building - which is famed for its elliptical cupola, the world's largest - the test was performed again.

 Oval-Cupola Basilica-Vicoforte


Professor Enzo Grossi, who studies the relationship between culture and physical health, told La Repubblica newspaper: 'On average, we found that cortisol levels dropped by 60 per cent. More than 90 per cent of the participants said they felt much better at the end of the experience.

'The idea of art as therapy is not new. But this is the first time that the beneficial effect of art on health has been measured.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2016

"Every industry gets worse when government gets involved"

The cost of federal regulations each year for each household is about $15,000.     Economy Hit With Hidden $1.9 Trillion Tax From Federal Regulations.

More than 3,400 rules were issued by agencies, while Congress only enacted 114 laws in 2015, the report said. That means there were about 30 regulations for every law passed

No one can keep up, no matter how many administrators are hired.

 Growth Drs Admin

"I am a general surgeon with more than three decades in private clinical practice. And I am fed up," wrote Jeffrey Singer in How Government Killed the Medical Profession  in Reason, 2013

Government interventions over the past four decades have yielded a cascade of perverse incentives, bureaucratic diktats, and economic pressures that together are forcing doctors to sacrifice their independent professional medical judgment, and their integrity. The consequence is clear: Many doctors from my generation are exiting the field. Others are seeing their private practices threatened with bankruptcy, or are giving up their autonomy for the life of a shift-working hospital employee. Governments and hospital administrators hold all the power, while doctors—and worse still, patients—hold none.
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Once free to be creative and innovative in their own practices, doctors are becoming more like assembly-line workers, constrained by rules and regulations aimed to systemize their craft. It’s no surprise that retirement is starting to look more attractive. The advent of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which put the medical profession’s already bad trajectory on steroids, has for many doctors become the straw that broke the camel’s back.
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A June 2012 survey of 36,000 doctors in active clinical practice by the Doctors and Patients Medical Association found 90 percent of doctors believe the medical system is “on the wrong track” and 83 percent are thinking about quitting. Another 85 percent said “the medical profession is in a tailspin.” 65 percent say that “government involvement is most to blame for current problems.” In addition, 2 out of 3 physicians surveyed in private clinical practice stated they were “just squeaking by or in the red financially.”
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As old-school independent-thinking doctors leave, they are replaced by protocol-followers. Medicine in just one generation is transforming from a craft to just another rote occupation.

Every Industry Gets Worse When Government Gets Involved

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:17 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2016

Health Roundup: Migraines, Parkinson's, prostrate cancer and the dangers of common medicines including cold and flu tablets

The cholesterol drug 'that kills prostate cancer':

An experimental drug designed to lower cholesterol may turn out to be an effective weapon against prostate cancer, research has shown.
Tumors need cholesterol to build their cell walls. By cutting their cholesterol production a chemical compound known as RO 48-8071 causes the cancerous cells to fall apart and die. 

Professor Salman Hyder, from the University of Missouri in the US, who led the research said: 'Often, cancer patients are treated with toxic chemotherapies.  The study, to appear in the journal OncoTargets and Therapy, tells how Professor Hyder's team found that the drug killed cancer cells in the laboratory.  The compound was originally developed by the drug company Roche for the treatment of high cholesterol.

Common medicines including cold and flu tablets, heartburn drugs and sleeping pills 'SHRINK the brain and slow down thinking'

Common over-the-counter medicines should be avoided by older people as they have been linked to memory loss and problems in thinking, scientists have discovered.  Treatments for colds and flu, hay fever, allergy and heartburn tablets containing anti-cholinergic drugs had the effect for one month after treatment, a study found.  Effects associated with taking the drugs included having slower brain processing times and smaller brains overall.  Well known treatments including the heartburn medicine Zantac, Night Nurse Liquid containing Promethazine and the sleeping tablet Nytol, containing diphenhydramine, are included among drugs that may result in the effects, the research said.

The drugs block the chemical acetylcholine, which is involved in the transmission of electrical impulses between nerve cells.  The treatments are prescribed for a wide range of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nausea and vomiting, sleeping problems, high blood pressure, depression and psychosis.  But the authors warn: ‘Use of AC [anti-cholinergic] medication among older adults should likely be discouraged if alternative therapies are available.’

Previous studies have linked the drugs with cognitive impairment, increased risk of dementia and falls. However, the new study by Indiana University School of Medicine, is the first to explore their impact on brain metabolism and atrophy through brain scans.

Parkinson's disease drugs 'are likely to turn more sufferers into sex and gambling addicts than previously feared'

Parkinson's disease drugs are more likely to turn patients into sex and gambling addicts than was previously thought, according to new research.
Scientists at Loyola University found the pills can also increase the risk of compulsive shopping and binge eating leading to disastrous consequences.
Previous research has suggested up to one in seven people taking the medications develop these impulse control disorders (ICDs) - but the problem is 'probably more prevalent', according to a review.

The jab that could end the misery of migraines  New 'holy grail' drug slashes the number of attacks by up to 75%

Millions of people who suffer migraines have finally been offered hope of an effective treatment, after trials showed that a new injection could prevent attacks.  In a trial of 600 people, the drug, code-named ALD403, significantly slashed attacks in a third of patients, Alder BioPharmaceuticals  claims

Described as one of the few true ‘holy grails’ of medical research, an injection to truly tackle migraines is the being pursued by drugs giants Amgen, Eli Lilly and Teva, who are each competing with Alder BioPharmaceuticals to get the first license for the medication.  Each of the four companies are developing variants of a drug which tackles a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which triggers the pain and nausea associated with a migraine.  CGRP causes the swelling of blood vessels intertwined with nerve endings on both sides of the head.

Researchers have found that monoclonal blood proteins – antibodies specifically engineered to bind to CGRP – were able to ‘mop up’ the chemical, meaning it did not trigger a migraine.The research has now come to a point where we understand the condition enough that we have worked out how to treat it.

‘All the studies that have been done are positive, and there has been an almost-embarrassing lack of side effects.For a group of people who have never had a proper treatment, this is fantastic news.’

On the horizon.  Flexible spinal cord implants will let paralyzed people walk

Doctors dream of helping the paralzyed walk through implants that stimulate their spinal cords, but current technology makes that impossible; these stiff, unnatural gadgets usually end up damaging or inflaming nervous tissue over time. Swiss researchers may have just solved this problem once and for all, though. Their bendy e-Dura implant combines flexible electrodes (made of platinum and silicon microbeads), cracked gold electronic tracks and fluidic microchannels to deliver both electrical impulses and chemicals while mimicking the spine's movements and avoiding friction. Paralyzed rats in lab tests could both walk again after a few weeks and keep wearing their implants after two months.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup with news you can use

Chocolate, cheese and red wine: Key to weight loss is the bugs in YOUR gut rather than counting calories

Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said that everything we think we know about diets is wrong.  He says bacteria in the stomach is more important than calorie counting.  By eating the right foods we can cultivate more good bacteria to stay slim. ‘The more diverse foods we eat, the more varieties of microbes in our bodies, which makes us healthier.’  That includes cheese, chocolate, dairy, nuts and red wine are all on the menu.  But avoid processed foods and they are limited in microbe levels because they are mainly made up of chemicals.

A handful of walnuts a day keeps heart disease at bay:

Doctors from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Loma Linda University in Barcelona tracked cholesterol levels in more than 700 elderly men and women. Half added around 2oz of walnuts – roughly a handful - to their daily diet while the others ate as normal. After a year, levels of LDL cholesterol, the harmful form blamed for clogging arteries had fallen in the walnut-eaters. Those given the nuts as part of their diet did not experience weight gain.

How brushing your teeth can ward off Pancreatic Cancer. Bacteria found in the mouth 'linked to deadly strains of the disease'

Since childhood we are told to brush our teeth twice a day, or risk painful cavities and rotting teeth.  But new research suggests that properly cleaning our teeth may also help ward off a pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of all 22 common cancers - at just 3 per cent.  Scientists have discovered that pancreatic cancer is linked to two types of bacteria that also cause gum disease.  A team in the US found that people who had these two bugs in their mouths were up to twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer over the next decade.

Why being in a choir could help the body fight cancer:

Singing in a choir boosts the immune system and even helps the body fight cancer, according to research.  Scientists found that just one hour of singing significantly increased levels of the immune proteins that the body uses to battle serious illnesses including cancer.

The new research, conducted by scientists at Imperial College London, University College London and the Royal College of Music, found that it also has a profound impact on the immune system.  The team found that singing for an hour resulted in significant reductions in stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increases in cytokines, immune proteins that boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness.  Doctors suspect that reducing stress and anxiety takes strain off the immune system, allowing it to better use its resources at fighting disease.

Never get blisters again! Scientists spend two years studying runners to discover a single strip of surgical tape is all you need

Researchers studied 128 runners participating in an 155-mile ultramarathon.. They applied paper tape to just one of each of the runners' feet and the untaped areas of the same foot served as a control.  For 98 of the runners, no blisters formed where the tape had been applied

Watercress could be an unlikely weapon in the fight against smoking, experts have revealed.

Taking the plant extract several times a day significantly inhibits the activation of a tobacco-derived carcinogen in smokers, a new study suggests.
The findings also show how the extract detoxifies environmental carcinogens and toxicants found in cigarette smoke.  Furthermore, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh say the effect is stronger in people who lack certain genes involved in processing carcinogens.....Dr Yuan warned that while eating cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress and broccoli, is good for people, they are unlikely to have the same profound effect as the extract.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

April 7, 2016

Good and Rogue Immune Cells Affect the Brain

From the MIT Technology Review, The Rogue Immune Cells That Wreck the Brain

Beth Stevens thinks she has solved a mystery behind brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Microglia are part of a larger class of cells—known collectively as glia—that carry out an array of functions in the brain, guiding its development and serving as its immune system by gobbling up diseased or damaged cells and carting away debris.
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In one groundbreaking paper, in January, Stevens and researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard showed that aberrant microglia might play a role in schizophrenia—causing or at least contributing to the massive cell loss that can leave people with devastating cognitive defects. Crucially, the researchers pointed to a chemical pathway that might be targeted to slow or stop the disease. Last week, Stevens and other researchers published a similar finding for Alzheimer’s.

This might be just the beginning. Stevens is also exploring the connection between these tiny structures and other neurological diseases—work that earned her a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant last September.  All of this raises intriguing questions. Is it possible that many common brain disorders, despite their wide-ranging symptoms, are caused or at least worsened by the same culprit, a component of the immune system? If so, could many of these disorders be treated in a similar way—by stopping these rogue cells?

Not so long ago, it was accepted that the immune system had little effect on the brain.  But in the past two years, that assumption has blown up. 

Already this year, a coalition of Alzheimer's researchers have urged scientists to reassess the evidence that Alzheimer's could be spread by microbes.  The herpes virus - the kind that causes cold sores - and two types of bacteria, all of which have already been linked to Alzheimer's disease. ..."We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component," said Douglas Kell, a chemist from the University of Manchester in the UK, who was one of the editorial's authors. "We can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence."

A new study at the University of California, Irvine, new study revealed key immune cells located outside of the brain actually help rid the brain of the plaques that build up and trigger the disease.  Study co-author Dr Mathew Blurton-Jones said: ‘We were very surprised by the magnitude of this effect.

A study last year  shows that our immune system,… plays a part in the debilitating disease.  The Duke University study in mice found that in Alzheimer's disease, certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume an important nutrient: arginine.  Blocking this process with a small-molecule drug prevented the characteristic brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.

Alzheimer's could be prevented and even cured by boosting the brain's own immune response, scientists at Stanford University believe.  Researchers discovered that nerve cells die because cells which are supposed to clear the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits, stop working.  These cells, called 'microglia' function well when people are young, but when they age, a single protein called EP2 stops them operating efficiently.  Now scientists have shown that blocking the protein allows the microglia to function normally again so they can hoover up the dangerous sticky amyloid-beta plaques which damage nerve cells in Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers found that, in mice, blocking EP2 with a drug reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 AM | Permalink

April 6, 2016

What an untreated strep infection could lead to

Catching’ a mental illness: one family’s story 

Connor was in the midst of full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Bewildered by the dramatic change, his parents were trying desperately to help him, and to figure out what had happened to their son.
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OCD is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to complete over and over. .....Connor had been exhibiting increasing and multiplying signs of the disorder, launched by an overwhelming fear of germs. He developed rituals to rid himself of perceived contaminants by taking multiple, lengthy showers a day, and washing his hands until “they looked like he was wearing red gloves,” Lucia recalls. He began avoiding conversations, fearful that traces of spittle might fall on him from the other person. At times, he would only touch light switches and other objects around the house with his shirtsleeves wrapped over his hands, so some family members wore rubber gloves to help buffer Connor’s fears. Midnight runs to the grocery store for special soaps and scrubbing utensils that Connor needed became frequent.
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Saving Sammy: A Mother’s Fight to Cure Her Son’s OCD by Beth Alison Maloney is the story of a mother who fought to find a cure for her son, who had inexplicably been afflicted with OCD and Tourette’s syndrome. In her mission to heal her child, Maloney uncovered research that linked his mental illnesses to a previously unknown strep infection. Despite ignorance and some opposition from parts of the medical community, Maloney found doctors who were willing to help treat Sammy with the crucial assistance of prolonged antibiotics to rid his system of the strep virus.

As soon as Lucia cracked open the pages of Saving Sammy, she felt like she’d found the missing puzzle piece that had been eluding her for so long: Connor’s OCD might be rooted in a simple strep infection....Controversy or not, when Lucia Odom stumbled upon Beth Maloney and her book, it unlocked a once impenetrable door. With antibiotic treatment and behavioral therapies, Connor has emerged, saying he feels like a new person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:36 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2016

Health Roundup: Breast cancer, melanoma patch, gut bacteria, sugar, chocolate and exercise

Bombshell Study Finds 58-108% Increased Breast Cancer Risk for Women Having Abortions

The most recent study is yet another one from India, making the total number of South Asian studies (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) 15, all since 2008. Every one of them reports increased breast cancer risk with abortion, with risk increases as high as almost 2,000 percent (20-fold)

On the horizon.  A skin patch to treat melanoma..

Scientists developed a revolutionary skin patch with microneedles, filled with antibodies to help T cells attack cancer cells and delivering slow-releasing cancer immunotherapy directly to the site of melanoma.  Scientists say patch is more effective than injections or drug cocktails.

Tweaking our gut bacteria could help protect our brain from strokes   Experiments with animals saw 60% less brain damage.

Recent research has shown how fundamentally important the bacteria in our gut are to the rest of our mental and physical health, affecting everything from our appetite to our state of mind.  Now a new study suggests that our gut bacteria could even play a role in protecting us from brain damage, with an experiment involving mice showing that certain types of stomach microbes can actually help reduce the severity of strokes.
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The findings, reported in Nature Medicine, suggest that the microbiota do not interact with the brain chemically, but somehow influence immune cells to promote neural survival. These immune cells end up making their way to the meninges – the outer covering of the brain – where they organize a response to mitigate the stroke.

Revealed, your body on sugar:

From weakening the immune system to triggering thrush, this terrifying tool reveals exactly how the white stuff harms our health.  Beneden, a healthcare insurance provider, has created an online tool showing how sugar affects the body which shows the differing effects of too much sugar on men, women and children.  The sugar bowl tells you everything you need to know about sugar from how much sugar is in our grocery carts, how sugar affects our mental performance to breaking the sugar addiction and healthy alternatives

Chocolate Can Boost Your Workout. Really.

Adding a little dark chocolate to a training diet may effortlessly improve endurance performance, according to a new study of sports nutrition  by researchers at Kingston University in England.
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For some time, dark chocolate has been touted as a relatively healthy treat, with studies showing that small amounts may have benefits for the heart and brain. Most of this research has focused on the role of a substance called epicatechin, a plant nutrient found in cocoa. Dark chocolate is generally rich in epicatechin, though levels vary, depending on how the sweet was produced. Levels of epicatechin tend to be much lower in milk chocolate, which contains little cocoa.

Statin intolerance is real, researchers find. Another (more costly) drug may get around the problem.

The Food and Drug Administration approved PCSK9 inhibitors last year, but only for small groups of people, including those with an inherited disease that dramatically elevates their LDL cholesterol levels.
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The PCSK9 inhibitor works by blocking a substance that hinders the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol from the blood. Ezetemibe, by contrast, decreases cholesterol absorption in the small intestine.  The monthly injections of the PCSK9 inhibitor proved far more effective after 24 weeks, cutting patients’ LDL cholesterol by an average of 52.8 percent, compared with 16.7 percent for the other drug.
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PCSK9 inhibitors, she added, are “going to be, possibly, an option for patients who are statin-intolerant.” But that may not happen for a while. In addition to requiring FDA approval, the drugs are much more expensive — from $10,000 to $15,000 a year. And because evidence of statin intolerance is largely subjective, insurance companies may balk until there are ways to more conclusively prove that patients are unable to take the cheaper drugs.

EXERCISE is the fountain of youth: Secret to feeling young is 'superb fitness and young muscles'

The true secret to remaining youthful has been right under our nose the whole time - exercise. Scientists say it is 'superb' fitness that keeps people young. Experts from University of Guelph, in Canada, revealed elderly people who were elite athletes in their youth – or later in life – have much ‘younger muscles.’ ...Their legs were 25% stronger and had 14% more muscle mass

The Amazing Links Between Exercise & Anti-Aging from Yahoo Beauty

Aside from the obvious perks (better mood, weight loss, toned muscles), recent studies indicate a direct link between your skin’s ability to stay young-looking and your exercise schedule. Here, we pulled together five ways your skin’s health is linked to exercise....
1. Sweat Is Antibacterial....recent studies have shown that perspiration contains a natural antibiotic known as Dermcidin, which kills E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

March 30, 2016

Impact of Vaccines

I've yet to see a more startling and convincing set of graphs than those published in the Wall St Journal showing  The Impact of Vaccines in Battling Infectious Diseases in the 20th century

 Impact Of Vaccines-2

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2016

“We’re attacked about every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day,” CIO Beth Israel Deaconess hospital

5 Major Hospital Hacks: Horror Stories from the Cybersecurity Frontlines

In real-world war, combatants typically don’t attack hospitals. In the cyber realm, hackers have no such scruples. “We’re attacked about every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day,” says John Halamka, CIO of the Boston hospital Beth Israel Deaconess. And the strikes come from everywhere: “It’s hacktivists, organized crime, cyberterrorists, MIT students,” he says.
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These attacks may all sound like nightmare scenarios, but the experts say they’re becoming almost routine. And hospitals have not made cybersecurity a priority in their budgets, Halamka says: “In healthcare, we spent about 2 percent on IT, and security might be 10 percent of that.” Compare that percentage to the security spending by financial firms: “Fidelity spends 35 percent of its budget on IT,” he says. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2016

Health roundup: Switching off Cancer, Reversing Osteoporosis, Reversing Diabetes and Hope for Stroke Victims

Cancer breakthrough as scientists uncover HOW diseased cells take first steps away from their tumor to spread through the body

Cancer cells remodel their environment in order to reach nearby blood vessels, scientists have revealed. Doing so allows them to more easily spread – or metastasize – throughout the body. Cancer metastasis is responsible for 90 per cent of cancer deaths, according to experts from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And, scientists have found that high levels of a certain protein – called MenaINV - are linked to metastasis and earlier death among breast cancer patients, in particular. Thus, finding a way to block that protein could help prevent metastasis, experts revealed.

Scientists discover how to 'switch off' cancer: Remarkable breakthrough means diseased cells can be made healthy again

Scientists have found a code for turning off cancer, it was announced today. In exciting experiments, they made cancerous breast and bladder cells benign again. And they believe many other types of cancer should be in their grasp. They said that their work reveals ‘an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer’. Most importantly, it uncovers ‘a new strategy for cancer therapy’.

The work is still at an early stage but brings with it hope that cancer will take fewer lives in the future. Unlike conventional cancer drugs, which work by killing cancer, the US work aims to disarm it and render them harmless. The breakthrough focuses on a protein called PLEKHA7 that helps healthy cells clump together.

The research, from the Mayo Clinic in Florida, showed it to be missing or faulty in a range of cancers. When this happens, key genetic instructions to the cells are scrambled and they turn cancerous. A research team, led by Panos Anastasiadis, was able to reset the instructions – turning off the cancer. Experiments in a dish showed that human cells from highly dangerous bladder cancers can be made normal again.
Dr Anastasiadis said: ‘Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising.’ He thinks the approach, detailed in the journal Nature Cell Biology, would apply to most cancers, other than brain and blood cancers.

However, much more research is needed before the technique is tried out on people for the first time. And even if the therapy did help patients, it is likely they would still need chemotherapy. British experts described the research as ‘beautiful’ and ‘absolutely fascinating’. But they cautioned that it is still a long way from helping people.

Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said: ‘This important study solves a long-standing biological mystery, but we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. 'There’s a long way to go before we know whether these findings, in cells grown in a laboratory, will help treat people with cancer.’ He added that such work is ‘crucial’ if ‘the encouraging progress against cancer we’ve seen in recent years’ is to continue.

Hope for stroke victims: Zapping the brains of patients with electricity can restore strength and grip after just nine treatments

Zapping the brains of stroke patients with electricity could greatly improve their recovery, Oxford University research suggests.
Men and women whose arms and hands had been weakened by a stroke found it easier to reach, lift and grasp after nine short sessions of electrical brain stimulation.  One was able to peel a banana and another could cut a steak for the first time in years.

While such improvements may seem small to the able-bodied, they could have a big impact on quality of life.
Even small changes strength or dexterity that allow people to do up their buttons or brush their teeth could boost independence.
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The technique trialled in Oxford involved a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS.  It involves passing a gentle 'tingling' current through the damaged part of the brain, in the hope of increasing the number of messages passed between brain cells.....
Tests showed the improvements lasted for three months and the patients say they are still feeling the benefit today, four years on.

Osteoporosis in mice reversed with single injection of stem cells

Age-related osteoporosis, where the bone structure deteriorates and becomes more vulnerable to fracture, is said to affect more than 200 million people worldwide. Drugs are available to treat or delay the condition, but a cure has remained elusive. Much-needed help may now be on the way, however, with scientists discovering healthy bone structure can be restored in mice with a single injection of stem cells.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital had previously found a causal effect between mice developing age-related osteoporosis and a deficiency in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). One of the promising attributes of MSCs is that, while they can grow into different cells in the body just like other stem cells, they can be transplanted without the need for a match.  "We reasoned that if defective MSCs are responsible for osteoporosis, transplantation of healthy MSCs should be able to prevent or treat osteoporosis," says William Stanford, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and Professor at the University of Ottawa.

To put this reasoning to the test, the scientists injected MSCs into mice with the condition. Six months later, which is one quarter of the life span of the animal, they observed a healthy functional bone in place of the damaged one. "We had hoped for a general increase in bone health," says John E. Davies, co-author of the study. "But the huge surprise was to find that the exquisite inner 'coral-like' architecture of the bone structure of the injected animals – which is severely compromised in osteoporosis – was restored to normal."

According to the scientists, these results could form the basis for new ways of treating or indefinitely postponing the onset of osteoporosis. The team is currently waiting on the results of trials where elderly patients were injected with MSCs to investigate various outcomes. If these show improvements to bone health, the team hopes dedicated trials will commence in the next five years.

Dieting for just eight weeks can reverse your diabetes: Experts say restricting food for two months could eradicate the disease

A crash diet lasting just eight weeks can reverse type 2 diabetes, experts have found.  Even people who had suffered with diabetes for a decade saw their condition eradicated after they restricted their eating for two months.  And six months after stopping the diet, participants in the Newcastle University trial were still free of the disease, suggesting that the condition had effectively been reversed.

Type 2 diabetes occurs either when the body does not produce enough insulin to control the blood sugar – or the cells don’t react to it. The condition is often linked to obesity and usually occurs in middle age, coming with a risk of limb amputations, heart attacks and vision loss.
Experts used to think that once the disease had taken hold, it was incurable. But a growing body of evidence suggests that losing weight could reverse the condition. Scientists think that this is because removing fat from the pancreas allows insulin production to return to normal, eradicating the problem at the root of the disease.  Now, a British trial has suggested that the condition could not only be reversible – but that the reverse could come in a matter of weeks.
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‘Type 2 diabetes can now be understood to be a metabolic syndrome potentially reversible by substantial weight loss, and this is an important paradigm shift.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's

Breakthrough MIT study: Memories lost to Alzheimer’s may be recovered

An MIT neuroscientist has made a breakthrough discovery that researchers say will open countless doors for future treatments: memories obscured by the devastating illness have the potential to be restored.  “The big message is that there is a way to strengthen these memory cells,” said Dheeraj Roy, doctoral student at MIT and lead author on the study. “If we had a way of restoring the memory of patients, we think this could have a huge impact on society.”

A paper published today online in the science journal “Nature” outlines the study by Roy and his colleagues, which found genetically engineered mice with early-stage Alzheimer’s could recall seemingly “lost” events when memory cells in the brain were stimulated. The study involved both healthy and memory-impaired mice that were put in boxes and given a shock. Those that did not suffer from memory-loss froze out of fear when placed back in the box. The Alzheimer’s mice were not afraid. The researchers used a technique known as optogenetics on the mice with memory loss: They injected the memory cells, called “engram cells,” with a light-sensitive protein and activated them using blue light. The mice immediately showed fear.

The MIT researchers noted that the engram cells of Alzheimer’s mice were missing tiny buds called dendritic spines, which allow neurons to communicate with each other. The study’s revelations have sent a ripple through the Alzheimer’s research community, and have effectively “shattered a 20-year paradigm of how we’re thinking about the disease,” said Rudy Tanzi, a Harvard neurology professor, who is not involved in the research.  “Since the mid-’80s, it’s been thought that these memories just weren’t getting stored,” Tanzi said. “This paper shows that the information is getting stored — we just can’t access it.”

Another reason to floss.  Gum disease may signal faster Alzheimer’s decline

For people with Alzheimer’s disease, having gum disease is tied to faster cognitive decline, according to a new study. “What we have shown is that regardless of the severity of dementia (within this mild to moderate impaired group) that patients with more severe gum disease are declining more rapidly,” said senior author Clive Holmes of the University of Southampton in the UK.

Could this implant PREVENT Alzheimer's? Capsule under the skin 'releases antibodies to fight the disease'

Scientists develop an implantable capsule that can prevent Alzheimer's.  The capsule is implanted in tissue under the skin before cognitive symptoms appear and releases a steady flow of antibodies into the bloodstream that target Alzheimer's plaque in the brain. Tests on mice found that the antibodies prevent the plaques from forming.
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A team of experts at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland developed the implantable bioactive capsule to deliver a steady and safe flow of antibodies to clear the brain of amyloid plaques. The capsule  is made of two permeable membranes that are sealed together with a polypropoylene frame – and contains a hydrogel that facilitates cell growth. The capsule’s cells must be compatible with the patient, so that the immune system isn’t triggered against them – just like a transplant. The capsule’s membranes shield the cells from being identified and attacked by the immune system.

The cells are taken from muscle tissues – and permeable membranes allow them to interact with surrounding cells, so that they are able to get the necessary nutrients and molecules. The team of scientists tested the device on mice genetically modified with Alzheimer’s disease. The results showed a ‘dramatic reduction’ of the plaque load. Furthermore, the constant flow of antibodies produced by the capsule over 239 weeks prevented the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain. The team found that the capsule also reduced the altering of a protein called tau – which is another hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The study was published in the journal Brain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 PM | Permalink

March 16, 2016

Health Roundup: Astonishing breast cancer treatment, Talc, Viagra, Chronic stress, Antibiotic fail, Happy gardeners, Curing blindness with stem cells and more

Terminal breast cancer could be wiped out by tweaking an EXISTING treatment, 'astonishing' study declares

Terminal breast cancer has been wiped out, in ‘astounding’ research that raises hope of a cure for thousands of women with the disease.
In tests on mice, their cancer vanished completely for at least eight months.  This is the equivalent of 24 years for a woman and would be judged a lasting cure.  In contrast, current treatments extend life by as little as six months.....Mauro Ferrari, president of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, said: ‘I would never want to over-promise to the thousands of patients looking for a cure but the data is astounding.’
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While the initial tumor that appears on a woman’s breast rarely kills, once the disease starts to eat away at other parts of the body it becomes incurable. Drugs struggle to get to tumors hidden deep in the lungs or liver and once there, they risk being pumped out by cells that have become resistant to treatment.

Dr Ferrari, of the Houston Medical Research Institute, has found an ingenious way of getting round these defenses - and so of potentially curing metastatic cancer. He has taken a widely-used cancer drug called doxorubicin and packed it in microscopic discs made of silicon. The silicon packaging hides the drug from the cancer, allowing it to sneak into its cells. Once inside, the silicon is broken down, releasing the drug, which is in an inactive form. The drug then moves out of reach of the pumps that are poised to eject it and towards the very heart of cell. Once there, the drug is activated and the cell is killed. In tests on mice with terminal disease, all the animals given conventional treatment died. In contrast, half of the creatures given the new treatment were still cancer-free after eight months – roughly 24 years in human terms.

Dr Ferrari says that in future, women with metastatic breast cancer could be given a jab of billions of drug-filled silicon discs into their arm.
This would home in on the tumors riddling their lungs or liver and destroy them.  He hopes to test the treatment on women for the first time next year and says that some of the early drug trials could be in the UK.

Talc 'IS linked to ovarian cancer': Risk of disease is ONE THIRD higher for women who use talcum powder on their genitals.

Women who regularly powder their genitals with talc have a one-third higher risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, scientists have warned. A new study asked 2,041 women with ovarian cancer - and 2,100 free of the disease - about their talcum powder use. Those who routinely apply talc to their genitals, sanitary napkins, tampons and underwear were found to have a 33 per cent higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Lead study author Dr Daniel Cramer, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told Reuters that there must be warning labels on talcum powder. He said: 'This is an easily modified risk factor."  The study comes a week after a St. Louis jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in damages to the family of a woman who allegedly died of the disease after using their baby powder.

Chronic stress turns cancer deadly by opening up new routes for the disease to spread quickly through the bloodstream' 

Chronic stress accelerates the spread of cancer, scientists have revealed. A new study found that stress builds lymphatic ‘highways’ that allow cancer cells to move around the body faster. The lymphatic system normally transports immune cells throughout the body to fight illness.

A global wake-up call: common antibiotics are failing in up to half of all children

The most common antibiotics are failing in up to half of children, a study published in the British Medical Journal has found.  The researchers, from Bristol University and Imperial College London, reviewed 58 studies from 26 countries involving 78,000 E.coli patients — in particular those with urinary tract infections, which are common in children. In half of the children the bacteria were resistant to ampicillin. In a quarter of the children the bacteria were resistant to trimethoprim, while co-trimoxazole failed in a third of the children.  The figures were higher still in developing countries. The researchers say that if the trend continues, future treatments could be rendered ineffective.

Viagra promotes the growth of aggressive skin cancer

The drug, sildenafil which is marketed as Viagra and Revatio, is commonly prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction,  A long-term study, published in 2014, of nearly 15,000 men in the US suggested that sildenafil increased the risk of malignant melanoma.
The correlation was confirmed in 2015 in a study of nearly 24,000 men in Sweden.

A new study by researchers at the University of Tübingen in Germany found that sildenafil  has a stimulating effect on the messenger molecule cyclic guanosine monophosphate - or cGMP, cGMP, in turn, promotes the growth of existing malignant melanomas. The scientists reached this conclusion through animal experiments and human cell cultures.

Obese women on the Pill are '30 times more likely to suffer a rare type of stroke

Obese women taking oral contraceptives are up to 30 times more at risk of suffering a rare type of stroke, a new study warned.
Dutch researchers found women with a body mass index is above 30 were at a greater risk of cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) - a blood clot on the brain.  Although the risk is still low, scientists said women should be informed of the risk and offered alternative contraceptives that are not linked to thrombosis.

How Dirt Makes You Happy: Antidepressant Microbes In Soil

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.

Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.

Is Your Medicine Right for Your Metabolism?

People can respond to drugs very differently. A medication that brings relief for some patients might show no benefit at all in others, or even cause harmful side effects.  A growing array of genetic tests is designed to help predict how people are likely to respond to many common medications, from antidepressants and antihistamines to pain relievers and blood thinners. The tests, which are controversial, look for tiny variations in genes that determine how fast or slow we metabolize medications.

Because of such gene variations, codeine, frequently prescribed to relieve pain, has little effect on as much as 20% of the population, while 2% of people have such a strong reaction that a normal dose can be life-threatening. About 25% of people can’t effectively absorb Plavix, a clot-busting drug, putting them at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Even everyday drugs such as Advil and Motrin, for pain relief, and Zocor, to lower cholesterol, can have widely varying effects.
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How people’s genes affect their response to medications is called pharmacogenetics. One of the first such drug-gene interactions was identified at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in the 1970s. Researchers discovered that about 1 in 300 children being treated for childhood leukemia had a gene variation that made the drug thiopurine destroy their bone marrow. Now, children are routinely tested before undergoing treatment with the drug.

Scientists have since discovered that about 75% of prescription and over-the-counter drugs depend on a handful of liver enzymes to be absorbed and eliminated from the body. Minor variations in the genes that regulate those enzymes are very common—95% of people have at least one.

On the horizon. New technique to detect cancer and HIV 'could prove 10,000 TIMES more effective, and lead to earlier diagnosis', experts claim

Early detection of most diseases significantly increases the chance of successful treatment.  While one aspect of early diagnosis is luck - whether a patient is screened at the right time, another important aspect is that tests are sensitive enough to pick up on the minuscule changes that diseases leave in the blood stream.  Now scientists at Stanford University have developed a new technique, which they hope will prove thousands of times more sensitive than those currently used in lab experiments.

When a disease, whether it is cancer or a virus like HIV, begins growing in the body, the immune system responds by producing antibodies.
Fishing these antibodies or related biomarkers out of the blood is one way that scientists can discover the presence of a disease.  The new technique looks for a short strand of DNA.  Experts say the new technique is much more sensitive and is better at picking up subtle changes in the blood stream. These changes indicate the presence of disease, they say. Noticing small changes earlier 'increases the chances treatment will work'

The researchers tested their technique, with its signature DNA flag, against four commercially available, FDA-approved tests for a biomarker for thyroid cancer. The new technique outperformed the sensitivity of all of them, by at least 800 times, and as much as 10,000 times.
By detecting the biomarkers of disease at lower concentrations, doctors could theoretically catch diseases far earlier in their progression, the chemists noted.

On the horizon Pioneering stem cell op 'could bring back sight for millions'

A revolutionary technique that harnesses the power of stem cell therapy promises to restore the sight of millions.
Taking as little as 45 minutes, the procedure offers hope to those with age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in adults globally.  In the breakthrough developed at University College London, doctors inserted a patch of stem cells into the retina of a woman who has lost her central vision.

The procedure, which has attracted the support of medical giant Pfizer, is carried out under local anaesthetic. It involves taking a single embryonic stem cell and growing it into a 6mm patch of 100,000 retinal pigment cells. That patch is then rolled into a thin tube, which is injected through a tiny slit in the eye. Once unfurled, it is placed behind the retina where scientists hope it will replace the faulty cells.

Retinal surgeon Professor Lyndon Da Cruz, who conducted the operation, said at the time: ‘There is real potential that people with wet age-related macular degeneration will benefit in the future from transplantation of these cells.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:29 PM | Permalink

Children need lots of 'free play' to ward off anxiety and depression

There's a reason kids are more anxious and depressed than ever.  They don't play enough.  In 2010,  Lenore Skenazy wrote Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) and started a movement which she documents on her blog. Free Range Kids.  In 2014 The Atlantic examined The Overprotected Kid and the preoccupation with safety that has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer

Now psychologist Peter Gray looks at the statistics and the studies.  The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders

Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past 50 to 70 years. Today... five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. ...
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The increased psychopathology seems to have nothing to do with realistic dangers and uncertainties in the larger world. The changes do not correlate with economic cycles, wars, or any of the other kinds of world events that people often talk about as affecting children's mental states. Rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents were far lower during the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the turbulent 1960s and early ‘70s than they are today. The changes seem to have much more to do with the way young people view the world than with the way the world actually is.
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One thing we know about anxiety and depression is that they correlate significantly with people's sense of control or lack of control over their own lives. People who believe that they are in charge of their own fate are less likely to become anxious or depressed than those who believe that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control. ---- Yet the data indicate that young people's belief that they have control over their own destinies has declined sharply over the decades.

The standard measure of sense of control is the Internal-External Locus of Control Scale developed by Juien Rotter.  Modified for use with children 9-14 is the Nowicki-Strickland Scale. 

Many studies over the years have shown that people who score toward the Internal end of Rotter's scale fare better in life than do those who score toward the External end. They are more likely to get good jobs that they enjoy, take care of their health, and play active roles in their communities—and they are less likely to become anxious or depressed.
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Julien Twenge analyzed many previous studies from 1960-2002 and the dramatic shift from the Internal to the External end of the scale...the same linear trend as did the rise in depression and anxiety.  The average young person in 2002 was more External than were 80% of young people in the 1960s....

Twenge's own theory is that the generational increases in anxiety and depression are related to a shift from "intrinsic" to "extrinsic" goals. Intrinsic goals are those that have to do with one's own development as a person—such as becoming competent in endeavors of one's choosing and developing a meaningful philosophy of life. Extrinsic goals, on the other hand, are those that have to do with material rewards and other people's judgments. They include goals of high income, status, and good looks. ...

We have much less personal control over achievement of extrinsic goals than intrinsic goals. I can, through personal effort, quite definitely improve my competence, but that doesn't guarantee that I'll get rich. I can, through spiritual practices or philosophical delving, find my own sense of meaning in life, but that doesn't guarantee that people will find me more attractive or lavish praise on me. To the extent that my emotional sense of satisfaction comes from progress toward intrinsic goals I can control my emotional wellbeing. To the extent that my satisfaction comes from others' judgments and rewards, I have much less control over my emotional state.

Of course this shift from intrinsic to extrinsic goals reflects our increasing materialistic culture.  How could it not with constant ads and shows delivering the message that happiness depends on good looks, popularity and material goods.  The author suggests another: Play.

As I pointed out ....children's freedom to play and explore on their own, independent of direct adult guidance and direction, has declined greatly in recent decades. Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to solve their own problems, control their own lives, develop their own interests, and become competent in pursuit of their own interests.

By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

Alzheimer's Roundup : Herpes virus a cause? Strong immune system, blueberries, maple syrup and exercise wards off

Scientists identify a virus and two bacteria that could be causing Alzheimer's

An international group of 31 Alzheimer's researchers has published an editorial urging the science world to change its focus when it comes to Alzheimer's disease. The message is clear - after a decade of failed attempts to treat and prevent the disease, it's time to reassess the evidence that Alzheimer's could be spread by microbes. The editorial specifically implicates the herpes virus - the kind that causes cold sores - and two types of bacteria, all of which have already been linked to Alzheimer's disease.
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Right now, the leading hypothesis is that Alzheimer's is caused by the build-up of sticky amyloid plaques and mis-folded tau proteins in the brain, which break down communication between neurons and lead to memory loss, cognitive decline, and eventually death.

Now the editorial claims it's time to consider the idea that certain viruses or bacteria are triggering this plaque build-up in the first place, and investigate whether antimicrobial drugs could help stop it. They say that the first microbes we should investigate are the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), the chlamydia bacteria, and a type of spiral-shaped bacteria called spirochaetes. ....

"We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s Disease has a dormant microbial component," said Douglas Kell, a chemist from the University of Manchester in the UK, who was one of the editorial's authors. "We can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence."

Remember when stomach ulcers were thought to be caused by spicy food?    Well, in 2005, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to 2 Australian scientists who showed that  inflammation of the stomach and stomach ulcers result from an infection of the stomach caused by H. pylori bacteria. 

Immune cells found to be vital in protecting against Alzheimer's

It was long thought that the immune system does not have much of an effect on Alzheimer’s disease. However, a new study revealed key immune cells located outside of the brain actually help rid the brain of the plaques that build up and trigger the disease.   A team of scientists from the University of California, Irvine genetically modified a group of mice with Alzheimer's to lack those immune cells - B-cells, T-cells and NK-cells.  They were found to have a far larger accumulation of Alzheimer's plaque than mice whose immune systems were intact.
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Study co-author Dr Mathew Blurton-Jones said: ‘We were very surprised by the magnitude of this effect.  We expected the influence of the deficient immune system on Alzheimer’s pathology to be much more subtle.’

Brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's disease developed by US scientists

Alzheimer’s disease could be definitively diagnosed for the first time after scientists proved brain scans can pick up the condition in its earliest stages.  Currently the only way to determine whether Alzheimer’s is present is to look at the brain of a patient after death.
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Researchers at the University of California have proven that it is possible to spot the sticky amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles which cause the disease and pinpoint the moment that they trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
The US scientists were able to track the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s disease, even in adults who showed no symptoms. It means that people at risk from the condition – such as one in five of the population who carry the APOE gene variant – could be regularly screened.

What you can do.  Eat more blueberries

Snacking on blueberries from middle age could prevent dementia developing decades later, scientists say.
Experts told a major US conference that a compound in the berries may strengthen the brain’s defenses against Alzheimer’s....
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....The  benefits are due to anthocyanins, the plant chemicals that give the berries their deep blue/purple color.  They are thought to act on the brain in various ways, including boosting blood flow, cutting inflammation, and enhancing the passage of information between cells. The chemicals may also boost cells’ defenses, an American Chemical Society conference heard. In a second study of people who hadn’t been diagnosed with any memory problems, but simply felt they were becoming more forgetful, the berries also helped boost cognition, although to a lesser extent.

Maple Syrup is another food that could ward off Alzheimer's by protecting the brain against rogue proteins which destroy memory'

Just like blueberries, broccoli and fish, maple syrup  is rich in antioxidants that boost immunity.  Already linked with reducing the risk of cancer and diabetes, maple syrup has been included at the annual American Chemical Society meeting in a list of healthy natural products that could prevent the kind of damage found in dementia.
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The effect was similar to resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine which has been found to help slow dementia. The findings come after scientists from the University of Cincinnati told the same conference in San Diego earlier this week that regularly eating blueberries from middle age could prevent dementia developing decades later. Researchers found an extract of maple syrup may help prevent the misfolding and clumping of two types of proteins found in brain cells - beta amyloid and tau peptide.

In Europe, the LipiDiDiet project is investigating how nutrition impacts the development of Alzheimer's. We have known for a while that diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia. Indeed, certain nutrients have been found to have a neuroprotective effect on the brain," said researcher Tobias Hartmann from Saarland University in Germany and coordinator of the LipiDiDiet project. Nutrient drink helps protect memory in early Alzheimer's patients, study finds

Early results from an ongoing study into Alzheimer's disease in Europe suggest that a commonly available, over-the-counter nutritional supplement could help conserve memory function in patients with the early stages of the disease.  Scientists in Finland have been examining the effects of regular consumption of 'Fortasyn Connect', a patented combination of nutrients, sold under the brand name Souvenaid. While the early findings offer mixed results, the two-year clinical trial of 311 Alzheimer's patients suggests drinking Souvenaid daily does confer benefits to the memory function of people with prodomal (early stage) Alzheimer's...Just one drink a day brought back personal memories.

Don't forget that regular exercise can protect the brain.

In their quest to discover how to prevent the onset of the debilitating condition, a team of experts from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, found that those who are physically active cut their risk of dementia by 50 per cent...Virtually any form of exercise, including jogging, walking, dancing and even gardening, boosts brain volume in older people.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2016

Medical breakthroughs: leukemia, organ transplants, breast cancer, schizophrenia and HIV

With all the bad news in the world, it's good to realize how much good news there is in the medical field.

The breakthrough that could halt leukemia in its tracks

Eliminating a protein essential for leukemia cell growth can stop the disease from progressing, scientists have revealed. The protein Hhex is produced in excess in patients with the disease – enabling cancerous cells to ‘grow uncontrollably'; however, the protein isn’t needed by healthy blood cells.  Removing this protein essential for leukemia cell growth can stop the disease from progressing, scientists have revealed and does not cause patients any harm, researchers noted.


And so, scientists from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne targeted Hhex in preclinical disease models. They found they can put a ‘handbrake’ on acute myeloid leukemia cell growth and division. This finding could pave the way for new therapies for leukemia, they said...Acute myeloid leukemia is an aggressive blood cancer that develops suddenly, grows quickly and has a poor prognosis.  Currently, AML treatments are associated with serious side-effects. Nearly three-quarters of patients relapse after only a short period of treatment.

New therapy 'alters the immune system, allowing the body to accept incompatible kidneys'.  Breakthrough means patients could receive organs from ANY donor.

The breakthrough procedure, known as desensitization therapy, allows patients to receive kidneys from live donors, who are not exact matches. Desensitization therapy filters out antibodies that would attack the non-matched organ, from the patient's blood.  Patients who undergo the procedure are more likely to be alive after eight years than those who wait for a kidney from a deceased donor - or don't receive a transplant, according researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Senior study author Dr Dorry Segev, of Johns Hopkins University, told Reuters: 'We used to say if you had a compatible donor, you could do a transplant.  'Now you can say, if you have an incompatible donor, we can make that transplant happen. That's very exciting to those on the waiting list.'

More than 100,000 people are currently on the waiting list in the US for a kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Breast cancer Tumors shrunk 'dramatically' in 11 days

 Breast Cancer, Mri Scan-Spl-1

A pair of drugs can dramatically shrink and eliminate some breast cancers in just 11 days, UK doctors have shown.
They said the "surprise" findings, reported at the European Breast Cancer Conference, could mean some women no longer need chemotherapy.  The drugs, tested on 257 women, target a specific weakness found in one-in-ten breast cancers.
Experts said the findings were a "stepping stone" to tailored cancer care. The doctors leading the trial had not expected or even intended to achieve such striking results. They were investigating how drugs changed cancers in the short window between a tumor being diagnosed and the operation to remove it.

The drugs were lapatinib and trastuzumab, which is more widely known as Herceptin.They both target HER2 - a protein that fuels the growth of some women's breast cancers. Herceptin works on the surface of cancerous cells while lapatinib is able to penetrate inside the cell to disable HER2.

Breast cancer is now thought of as at least ten separate diseases, each with a different cause, life expectancy and needing a different treatment.  Matching the specific errors in a tumor to targeted drugs is considered the future of cancer medicine.

Scientists crack what causes schizophrenia: Process that 'tidies the brain' in the teenage years goes haywire, landmark study reveals

A game-changing study described as a 'turning point' in tackling mental illness has revealed the biological cause of schizophrenia. For the first time scientists have linked the devastating disease to a physical process, the 'pruning' of unwanted connections between brain neurons.  During the teenage years, the brain undergoes widespread re-wiring that involves 'synaptic pruning'.
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The new study, based on a genetic analysis of nearly 65,000 people from around the world, pinpointed a defective gene that appears to trigger excessive pruning.  Scientists believe it is this that underlies the symptoms of schizophrenia, a severe psychotic condition marked by a loosening grip on reality, delusions, paranoia and hallucinations.

They hope the discovery will lead to more effective treatments targeting the disorder's roots rather than its symptoms. Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide and typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Breakthrough as researchers find HIV virus manipulates 400 genes

HIV produces a key protein call Tat that directly binds to 400 human genes which in turn creates an environment in which HIV can thrive and cause AIDS, scientists found at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. Study author Dr Ivan D’Orso said: ‘The findings clearly suggest that blocking Tat activity may be of therapeutic value to HIV patients.’

HIV causes AIDS to develop by hijacking immune cells and killing off cells that normally fight disease.
Also, HIV hides in cells and undermines the host’s immune system – even if antiretroviral therapy is being used.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the US were living with HIV in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

More on how foods increase or decrease your risk for developing certain diseases

White bread, bagels and rice 'increase the risk of lung cancer by 49%

Many studies suggest carbohydrates are bad for your waistline.  But a new study has warned they may also be bad for your lungs.  Specifically, foods with a high glycemic index - such as white bread or bagels, corn flakes and puffed rice - may increase the risk of lung cancer, scientists say. And non-smokers, who account for 12 per cent of those killed by the disease, appear to be particularly at risk.

The glycemic index is a measure of the quality of dietary carbohydrates - and is defined by how quickly blood sugar levels are raised after a meal. The theory now is that a high-GI diet triggers higher levels of blood glucose and insulin. This, in turn, increases levels of a type of hormone called Insulin-Like Growth Factors (IGFs).  Elevated levels of IGFs have previously been linked with a higher risk of lung cancer.

Lead study author Dr Stephanie Melkonian, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said: 'We observed a 49 per cent increased risk of lung cancer among subjects with the highest daily GI compared to those with the lowest daily GI.'
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Previous studies have found that dietary factors may have an influence on a person's risk of developing lung cancer.
Diets high in fruits and vegetables were found to decrease the risk - while increased consumption of red meat, saturated fats and dairy products are know to increase the risk of the disease.
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The study recommended that people limit foods and beverages with high GI.
Examples of low GI foods include whole-wheat or pumpernickel bread, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal and pasta.

Grapes that are great for your eyes - and could reduce the risk of blindness later in life

The fruit protects against a chemical process known as oxidative stress, which releases harmful molecules called free radicals into the retina, the study found. Grapes are rich in antioxidants that protect healthy cells from DNA damage and it is believed these compounds are behind the eyesight benefits.
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Widely recognized as a superfood, grapes are packed with vitamins C and K and beta- carotene, which help rid the body of free radicals, by-products of oxygen use that cause cellular damage.  Previous research by scientists at the University of Glasgow found that the antioxidant benefits of drinking purple grape juice could also reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Another study, by scientists at Washington State University, found that eating grapes can help prevent weight gain. They contain a compound called resveratrol – also found in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and apples – that converts bad, white fat in the body into good ‘beige fat’, which burns up calories.


 Grapes-Bunches

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 AM | Permalink

The continuing failure of Obamacare

NPR and Harvard agree: Obamacare is a complete failure.

National Public Radio collaborated with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to survey Americans’ recent experience with health care. As to the Affordable Care Act, the survey’s findings are damning. They suggest that Obamacare has been worse than a complete waste of money.
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The survey says more people think health care has gotten worse (26%) than better (15%).  Forty-nine percent of people think health care has stayed about the same.
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Remember how we were all supposed to save $2,500 a year in health insurance premiums? Only 4% say they have saved anything, and those respondents are probably wrong. For the vast majority, Obamacare has either done nothing, or has increased the cost of health care, counting premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Good going, Barry!
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The federal government has had its share of failures over the years, but it is hard to think of a federal program that has proved such a comprehensive disaster, in such a short period of time, as the Affordable Care Act. Which, by the way, still hasn’t been fully implemented, as the Democrats have postponed some of its more baleful effects until 2017. So the number of people who are hurt by Obamacare, e.g. by losing the employer-based coverage with which they were content, is destined to rise.

Over half of the nonprofit health insurance co-ops formed by Obamacare have failed.

These failed ObamaCare co-ops have not repaid $1.2B in federal loans. and still owe more than $1 billion in additional liabilities, according to recent financial statements cited Thursday at a congressional hearing.

“In some states, these losses will be absorbed by other insurance companies—which means, by the policyholders of other insurance companies who have to pay increased … premiums,” he said. “In other states, doctors, hospitals and individual patients stand to suffer large out-of-pocket losses due to the co-op failures—as our report details
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:08 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2016

Health Roundup - Food

Citrus fruit intake has been associated with reduced stroke risk.

The key may lie with a citrus phytonutrient called hesperidin, which appears to increase blood flow throughout the body, including the brain....When subjects drank straight orange juice instead of the hesperidin solution, their blood flow was even better. In other words, the stroke-reducing effects of oranges extend beyond just the hesperidin. When it comes to food, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

 Cruciferous

Forget wonder drugs, you need broccoli and spinach to protect against deadly diseases

Broccoli is incredible. It can prevent DNA damage and metastatic cancer spread; activate defenses against pathogens and pollutants; help to prevent lymphoma; boost the enzymes that detox your liver; target breast cancer stem cells; and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression.

The component responsible for all this is thought to be sulforaphane, which is formed almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables — including rocket, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spring greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, radishes, turnip tops and watercress. Sulforaphane may also help protect your brain and your eyesight, reduce nasal allergy inflammation and manage type 2 diabetes. It was even recently found to help treat autism....
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Popeye was right about spinach: dark green, leafy vegetables are the healthiest food on the planet. As whole foods go, they offer the most nutrition per calorie.  Of all the food groups analyzed by a team of Harvard University researchers, greens turned out to be associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases.  That meant about a 20 per cent reduction in risk for heart attacks and strokes for every additional daily serving. Yet today, only about one in every 25 people even eat a dozen servings in a month, let alone a week.

A healthy diet slows the damaging effects of smoking and helps to prevent lung cancer from spreading 

Lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are the biggest killers.  One potential cause of lung cancer may be the fumes from frying food

A healthy diet may help mitigate the DNA-damaging effects of tobacco smoke, as well as perhaps helping prevent lung cancer from spreading...In one study of long-term smokers, as little as a single stalk of broccoli a day resulted in  41 per cent fewer DNA mutations in their bloodstream over ten days — and it seems the broccoli wasn't just helping their livers work better, but making them more resilient at a subcellular level. ...
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, makes it difficult to breathe and gets worse over time. Data going back 50 years show that a high intake of fruit and vegetables aids good lung function. Just one extra serving of fruit each day may mean a 24 per cent lower risk of dying from COPD.
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Researchers in Sweden decided to test out a plant-based diet on a group of 35 severe asthmatics who weren't getting better despite the best medical therapies.  Of the 24 patients who stuck with the plant-based diet, 70 per cent improved considerably after four months and 90 per cent improved within a year.

Lack of vitamin D 'significantly speeds up the growth of breast cancer tumors and causes the disease to spread'

The Stanford University School of Medicine study highlights a direct link between circulating vitamin D levels and the expression of a gene called ID1, known to be associated with tumor growth and breast cancer metastasis.
It adds to previous findings that a vitamin D deficiency not only increase a person's risk of developing breast cancer, but are also correlated with more aggressive tumors and worse prognoses.

Vitamin pills don't have the cancer-fighting effects of real food

After following more than 60,000 people for more than a dozen years, University of Oxford researchers found those who consume a plant-based diet were less likely to develop all forms of cancer combined.  The greatest protection appeared to be against blood cancers. The incidence of leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma among those eating vegetarian diets is nearly half that of meat-eaters.  Green, leafy vegetables - including salad and cooked greens - and citrus fruits seemed to offer the most protection

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2016

Health Roundup: T-cell immunotherapy, liquid biopsy for cancer, statins for the brain, breast cancer, heartburn drugs and sleep

T-cell immunotherapy.  Is this the cure for cancer? Genetically modified blood turned into 'living drug' in stunning new therapy that hunts down and destroys diseased cells and prevents them from returning - possibly FOREVER

The treatment is created from T-cells – white blood cells that normally fight off viruses and bacteria – which are removed from the patient and genetically tweaked to recognize and attack their cancer.  The genetically-modified cells are then grown in their millions in a lab before being infused back into the patient, where they hunt down and destroy the cancer cells.
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Two landmark studies have revealed the therapy’s stunning potential. One suggests it will last for at least 14 years in the body, raising the tantalizing prospect of a permanent cure for cancer.  In the other, 94 per cent of terminally ill patients saw the disease vanish completely. Scientists around the world are perfecting the technique, and a series of trials have shown it to have remarkable potential.

Liquid Biopsy: A new 10-minute test for cancer developed by scientists can be taken at home with just a drop of saliva.

David Wong, a professor of oncology at California State University says it is possible to detect tumor DNA when is it circulating in bodily fluids – an approach known as a liquid biopsy.  The saliva test is 100 per cent accurate and is so simple that it could be carried out at a pharmacist, the dentist or even in the privacy of someone's own home.  The test is non-invasive and cheap, costing around just $22.  It is due to enter full clinical trials in lung cancer patients later this year, and is expecting approval within two years from the Food and Drug Administration in America.

Too much diversity New test 'accurately' spots the most deadly forms of breast cancer BEFORE they spread

According to initial trials of the test, developed by the Institute of Cancer Research in London, doctors were able to spot women at the highest risk of dying from their disease. The test could now be used to tailor treatment for women at the highest risk.

Scientists modified methods initially developed by wildlife experts to identify ecological diversity in the natural world. They adapted the ecologists’ computer algorithm to use it on tumor samples.  Tumors with a greater diversity of types of cell tend to be the most aggressive, and most likely to eventually become fatal.  The cancer team found that they could use the naturalists’ approach to give each tumor a ‘diversity score’ - which they showed was an accurate predictor of how dangerous it would become.  In a trial of 1,000 women, they found that those whose tumors had the highest diversity score were three times more likely to die within three five than those with the lowest score.

Common antibiotics may trigger DELIRIUM:  Drugs can cause confusion, hallucinations and agitation for weeks.

The research suggests antibiotics may be more strongly linked to delirium than was previously believed
....Dr Shamik Bhattacharyya, of Harvard Medical School, and the study's author reviewed all available scientific literature on delirium and found case studies on 391 patients, over seven decades, who were given antibiotics and later developed the condition as well as other brain problems....A total of 54 different antibiotics were involved.  Some 47 per cent of people taking the drugs had delusions or hallucinations, 14 per cent had seizures, 15 per cent had involuntary muscle twitching and 5 per cent had loss of control of body movements.  Data from electroencephalograms (EEG) - a test that detects electrical activity in the brain - was also abnormal in 70 per cent of the cases. Additionally, 25 per cent of people who developed delirium

Heartburn Drugs Tied to Dementia Risk

The popular heartburn drugs known as proton pump inhibitors have been linked to a range of ills: bone fractures, kidney problems, infections and more. Now a large new study has found that they are associated with an increased risk for dementia as well.  Proton pump inhibitors, or P.P.I.s, are widely available both by prescription and over the counter under various brand names, including Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium.

German researchers found that regular use of P.P.I.s increased the risk for dementia in men by 52 percent and in women by 42 percent, compared with nonusers....“Our study does not prove that P.P.I.s cause dementia,” said the senior author, Britta Haenisch of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. “It can only provide a statistical association. This is just a small part of the puzzle.

'Statins for the brain' may prevent the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s from ever forming

Cambridge University scientists have discovered drugs that could stop the cruel disease ever developing.
After searching the medical literature for a drug that interfered with the very first stage of the process, they tested this drug, bexarotene, in a test-tube and it stopped the clumps from forming.

Good as bexarotene was, Professor Vendruscolo has since found several that are even more powerful.  Much more research is needed before their Alzheimer’s prevention powers are tested on people but the professor is optimistic that it will one day be possible to stop the amyloid-beta protein from poisoning the brain.

One per cent. Reversing the symptoms of schizophrenia for some (about 1%) who carry a genetic mutation known as the 22q11.2 microdeletion.

Scientists have found people with schizophrenia carry key mutations in DNA.  These, in turn, disrupted genes involved in the transmission of chemical messengers across the brain.

The balance of the messengers plays a crucial role in ensuring the brain develops healthily and functions normally.
Some chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters, 'excite' brain cells into an action, whereas other 'inhibit' the activity of cells.  Disruptions to neurotransmitters can therefore change whether cells function, and researchers believe this may be what causes schizophrenia.

Using a drug candidate designed to block the activity of Gsk3β in mice, researchers found it prompted neurons in the animals' brains to branch out and form new connections. Test showed the communication between brain regions was restored. Although the findings have yet to be replicated in human patients, the scientists behind the study said the compound could eventually lead to new treatments for schizophrenia.

One per cent. Reversing autism 'at the flick of a switch': 'Turning on' a single gene in mice has been found to reduce autistic behaviors

Autism is a complex spectrum of disorders caused by numerous underlying factors. But around one per cent of cases are caused by a missing gene called Shank3. Neuroscientists report that by switching on this single gene they were able to reverse changes to the brain in animals with the condition.
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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that in mice lacking the gene, switching it back on later in life could reverse some of the autism-like behaviors in the animals.  According to the team, the findings show that the brain may be capable of adapting to genetic changes even after it is fully developed and can make and break connections.

Too much sleep 'is a bigger stroke risk than too little': More than eight hours a night can increase risk by 146%

A study of nearly 290,000 people found seven to eight hours’ sleep a night may protect against the chance of a stroke.
But the US researchers, from the New York University School of Medicine, found that those who sleep for longer than this increase their risk of having a stroke by 146 per cent. And less than seven hours of sleep also increases the risk, by 22 per cent.

Sleeping seven to eight hours a night and taking 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to six times a week gave the maximum benefits for stroke prevention.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:00 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2016

Health roundup: Fats and garlic for your heart, Statins, new uses for old drugs and more

How eating fat could SAVE one million lives: Adding nuts, seeds and tofu to diets 'prevents early death from heart disease'

Study author Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said: ‘Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats. ‘Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats.’
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Polyunsaturated fats help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood. That, in turn, can lower the risks of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats provide essential fats that the body needs – including long chain fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods including soybeans, corn and sunflower oils, tofu, nuts and seeds. They are also contained it fatty fishes, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.

The study sought to estimate the number of annual deaths related to various patterns of fat consumption.
The team of scientists used 2010 data from 186 countries....eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats  accounted for 10.3 per cent of total global heart disease deaths.... excess consumption of trans fats accounted for 7.7 per cent of global heart disease deaths.

Garlic REALLY is good for you: Extract 'reverses build-up of deadly plaque that clogs arteries and triggers heart attacks'

Aged garlic extract reduces dangerous plaque buildup in arteries, according to the study from Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.  That helps prevent the progression of heart disease – which is the leading cause of death worldwide. 

The study involved 55 patients between the ages of 40 and 75, each of whom were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.  The participants were screened at the beginning of the study to measure their total coronary plaque volume as was their dense calcium, non-calcified plaque and low-attenuation plaque using cardiac computed tomography angiography (CCTA), an imaging technology that measures deposits and build up in arteries.

One year later, a follow-up screening was conducted. The study determined those who had taken aged garlic extract had slowed the total plaque accumulation by 80 per cent. Furthermore, they reduced soft plaque and demonstrated regression for low-attenuation plaque.
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The findings fall in line with a study last year from the University of Missouri. That study revealed garlic offers the brain protection against aging and disease.It also suggested garlic could even prevent age-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Antidepressants can raise the risk of suicide, biggest ever review finds

Antidepressant use doubles the risk of suicide in under 18s and the risks to adults may have been seriously underestimated, researchers find after an analysis of 70 trials of the most common antidepressants - involving more than 18,000 people.

Like mother, like daughter: 'Emotional' brain circuit is passed down through the female line and may be a factor in depression

It has been long suspected that mothers can 'pass on' depression to their daughters. Researchers believe the wiring in the brain structure, known as the corticolimbic system, may be an inherited factor contributing to risk, or resistance to depression being passed on.


Teenagers who use sunbeds are up to SIX times more likely get lethal skin cancer by the age of 40

132,000 cases of the often-fatal melanoma occur globally every year.  Those under diagnosed with melanoma began using sunbeds at about 16 and used them more frequently than older women.  All but 2 of 63 diagnosed with melanoma under 30 reported tanning indoors

Two energy drinks a day 'increases the risk of heart palpitations, fast heart rate and chest pain in healthy people'

70% of patients at emergency department with heart palpitations had consumed an energy drink - 36% in the last 24 hours.

Statins DOUBLE the risk of diabetes according to 'alarming' 10-year study

Healthy patients taking the heart drug statins have a significantly higher risk of new diabetes and a very high risk of serious diabetic complications, a study has found.
The research, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in May 2015, tracked individuals in a database for almost ten years. It discovered statin users had a higher incidence of diabetes and also weight gain.
Patients using the drugs were also more likely than the others to develop diabetes with complications including eye, nerve and kidney damage.

But Statins found to clear away deposits that cause blindness in the elderly

An estimated 20 million people worldwide suffer with dry age-related macular degeneration - known as dry AMD - a disease which causes blurred vision and eventually blindness.  Known as the ‘Alzheimer’s of the eye’ because of the way it robs elderly people of their sight, the condition affects a quarter of British over-60s.  Until now there have been very few treatments for the condition, but experts have discovered that statins - a cheap cholesterol drug already taken by millions - may provide a solution....

Scientists at Harvard Medical School in the US found that high-dose treatment with the statin Lipitor cleared away fatty deposits behind the retina, leading to visual improvement in ten patients with dry AMD.  They hope that future larger trials will show that the drug has the potential to halt progression and even reverse the disease in some cases.

A pound-a-day pill that has revolutionized the treatment of malaria – and is based on a Chinese herbal remedy – could be the latest weapon against bowel cancer.

Scientists say artesunate could be effective for the estimated 40,000 Britons who are diagnosed with the disease every year. ..Artesunate is derived from the leaves of sweet wormwood, an aromatic herb used to treat fever for more than 2,000 years. Chinese scientist Tu Youyou was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery that the herb could be used to treat malaria.

Early trials show that bowel-cancer patients who took the drug for two weeks before surgery were six times less likely to have a recurrence of the disease compared to those who took a placebo.  Patients taking the drug did not suffer any side effects, giving hope that the pill could provide a safe, affordable treatment....Only one patient taking artesunate had a recurrence of cancer after three-and- a-half years, compared to six in the placebo group.  Now the treatment is being rolled out in a larger UK trial involving 140 patients.

Could a pill help people with autism chat more easily? Drugs used to treat high blood pressure 'improve social skills'

One of the most commonly recognized symptoms of autism is problems with social interaction and communication including difficulty understanding and being aware of other people's emotions and feelings as well as problems taking part in, or starting, conversations

But a new study used a common drug taken for high blood pressure pill helped to improve the both verbal and non verbal conversational skills.  Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia gave 20 volunteers either a 40-milligram dose of propranolol or a placebo pill....It found the total communication scores were significantly greater when the individual took propranolol compared to the placebo.

'Though more research is needed to study its effects after more than one dose, these preliminary results show a potential benefit of propranolol to improve the conversational and nonverbal skills of individuals with autism,' associate professor Dr David Beversdorf.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

January 21, 2016

On the health horizon

In five or so years. The gastric bypass in a PILL:

Capsule filled with natural oils suppresses appetite and stops 'even the hungriest person from eating'. Fish oil-type capsule is thought to trick the stomach into thinking it's full. Scientists: 'It should have the same effect as gastric bypass surgery' but will not be expensive or carry the risks of major invasive surgery.  Developers hope the product could be on the market within five years.

Or there's this new operation that's  less invasive and cheaper than gastric bypass surgery - and 'reduces weight by 54%'

Gastric bypass surgery is invasive, costly and carries risks. Only two per cent of people who need the surgeries actually get them.  Doctors from Mayo Clinic have developed an alternative procedure called endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty.  By inserting a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, doctors can reduce the size of a stomach by creating a ‘sleeve’ with sutures, a new study revealed.  The procedure falls under the umbrella of endoscopy – the nonsurgical procedure that gastroenterologists use to examine a person’s digestive tract.

The Mayo Clinic conducted a study on 25 obesity patients who underwent the procedure. They found it reduced excess body weight within one year.  Additionally, the procedure delayed solid food emptying from the stomach – creating an earlier feeling of fullness during a meal.  That feeling of fullness resulted in a more significant and long-lasting weight loss.

It required less than two hours of procedure time – and patients returned to their normal lifestyles within one to three days.  The doctors utilized standard ‘off-the-shelf’ endoscopic tools instead of specific weight loss devices or platforms. The procedure ended up costing just one-third the price of typical bariatric surgeries.  But, the study authors said randomized control studies with longer follow-up must be conducted to confirm the findings in a larger patient population.

'Invisibility cloak' makes chemotherapy drug '50 TIMES more powerful - and shields patients from grueling side effects'

The new technique involves packaging the drug paclitaxel in containers derived from a patient's own immune system.  By doing so, scientists believe they can protect the drug from being destroyed by the body's own defenses, and as a result direct the full-force of the medication at the tumor.
Dr Elena Batrakova, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina's School of Pharmacy, said: 'That means we can use 50 times less of the drug and still get the same results.

Researchers focused on exosomes, tiny spheres harvested from the white blood cells that protect the body against infection. The exosomes are made of the same material as cell membranes, meaning the patient's body does not recognize them as a foreign body.  Researchers said this has been one of the toughest hurdles to overcome in the last decade, using plastic-based nanoparticles to deliver drugs into the body. Paclitaxel is a potent drug used in the United States as a first- and second-line treatment for breast, lung and pancreatic cancers

Dr Batrakova said: 'Exosomes are engineered by nature to be the perfect delivery vehicles.
'By using exosomes from white blood cells, we wrap the medicine in an invisibility cloak that hides it from the immune system. 'We don't know exactly how they do it, but the exosomes swarm the cancer cells, completely bypassing any drug resistance they may have and delivering their payload.'

Dissolvable Brain Sensors Disintegrate Once Their Job Is Done

They can measure pressure, temperature, and much more before being safely absorbed into the body.

A Microrobotics Army to Defend Your Health

Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage from way back in 1966? In that film, a submarine with its crew was somehow shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the bloodstream of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain. In addition to featuring Raquel Welsh in a clingy body suit, the film had great special effects showing the sub passing through various parts of the body.

Miniaturized tools that move through the bloodstream to repair damage was science fiction then, but they may now be on the verge of becoming reality. Instead of a mini sub with a crew, a swarm of microrobots (also called nanobots or nanorobots) could be injected into the body to deliver a highly targeted dose of a drug or radioactive seeds to treat cancer, or to clear a blood clot, or perform a tissue biopsy, or to build a scaffold around an area where new cells need to be grown.

Tomorrow’s Heart Drugs Might Target Gut Microbes

Scientists can stop gut bacteria in mice from making a chemical that causes arterial disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

January 19, 2016

Poop in the News

Ed Driscoll writing on Instapundit :

THE 21st CENTURY ISN’T TURNING OUT THE WAY I HAD EXPECTED: Scientists Think Eating Poop May Help You Lose Weight.
Or as Iowahawk recently tweeted:  Eat Shit and Diet

Gut bacteria from the stool samples of thin people could help treat obesity

In March 2016, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston will launch a clinical trial (“Fecal Microbiota Transplant for Obesity and Metabolism”) to study the impact of gut bacteria on weight....using freeze-dried poop pills.

How Gut Bacteria Help Make Us Fat and Thin

....researchers found that the gut community in lean people was like a rain forest brimming with many species but that the community in obese people was less diverse—more like a nutrient-overloaded pond where relatively few species dominate. Lean individuals, for example, tended to have a wider variety of Bacteroidetes, a large tribe of microbes that specialize in breaking down bulky plant starches and fibers into shorter molecules that the body can use as a source of energy.

In the New Yorker, Emily Eakin writes about Bacteria on the Brain  A brilliant surgeon offered an untested treatment to dying patients. Was it innovation or overreach?

....before he replaced the “bone flap”—the section of skull that is removed to allow access to the brain—he soaked it for an hour in a solution teeming with Enterobacter aerogenes, a common fecal bacterium. Then he reattached it to Egan’s skull, using tiny metal plates and screws. Muizelaar hoped that inside Egan’s brain an infection was brewing.....
The procedure was heretical in principle: deliberately exposing a patient to bacteria in the operating room violated a basic tenet of modern surgery, the concept known as “maintaining a sterile field,” which, along with prophylactic antibiotics, is credited with sharply reducing complications and mortality rates.
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“I know several neurosurgeons who would say, ‘If I ever have a glioblastoma, I would have it infected.’ ”
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The prognosis for glioblastoma is grim. Even with the standard treatment—surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—the median survival time from diagnosis is little more than fourteen months. But for decades talk has circulated in the field about glioblastoma patients who, despite hospitals’ efforts to keep the O.R. free of germs, acquired a “wound infection” during surgery to remove their tumors. These patients, it was said, often lived far longer than expected. A 1999 article in Neurosurgery described four such cases: brain-tumor patients who developed postoperative infections and survived for years, cancer-free.

Three of the patients were infected with Enterobacter, the fecal bacterium, and although the cases were anecdotal, and the alleged connection between the bacterium and survival was unproven, the notion became operating-room lore. One neurosurgeon, currently in private practice, told me that his former boss would joke during operations, “If I ever get a GBM, put your finger in your keister and put it in the wound.”

The Rise of the Do-It-Yourself Fecal Transplant  something I do not recommend.

Because the stool is about 50% bacteria, the theory behind the transplant is that it can replace bacteria that have gone missing from the gut. It can have dramatic results, even after a single treatment.The process of doing it at home is surprisingly simple.
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Fecal transplants, in which stool is obtained from a healthy friend or relative and injected into the colon during a colonoscopy procedure, have been shown to cure C. diff about 90% to 95% of the time. It’s a cure rate that Silverman and other experts call “utterly remarkable.”

Fecal transplants have become standard care for people who have repeated bouts of C. diff. It’s much easier to get them in a medical setting than it was even 2 years ago. And the stool doesn’t even have to be delivered via colonoscopy anymore. Doctors can order new capsules of carefully screened, freeze-dried donor stool made by a biotech startup company called OpenBiome that patients swallow to get nearly the same benefits.

Quiz: The Scoop on Poop

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

January 7, 2016

Health Roundup: Another reason to...

Another reason to floss.:    GUM DISEASE increases your risk of breast cancer:

In a study that monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women without breast cancer, those with gum disease had a 14% higher chance of breast cancer.  Researchers from the University of Buffalo suggest that bacteria ‘enters the blood stream triggering the disease’.  Periodontal disease – or gum disease – is a common condition that is known to be associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Previous studies also found links between gum disease in oral, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic and lung cancers.

Another reason to get enough sleep:.  A lack of sleep can increase YOUR risk of dementia.

During sleep the brain clears out toxins that trigger Alzheimer's..  Too little sleep and the toxins build up and damage the brain.  Dr Jeffrey Illif, a brain scientist at Oregon Health and Science University, told NPR that ‘changes in sleep habits may actually be setting the stage’ for dementia.  With previous research showing deep sleep to ‘power cleanse’ beta-amyloid from the brain, the researchers believe lack of sleep to be a key part of a vicious circle in which memory gets worse and worse. University of California, Berkley researcher Matthew Walker said: ‘The more beta-amyloid you have in certain parts of your brain, the less deep sleep you get and, consequently, the worse your memory.

Another reason to take vitamin C:  Migraine breakthrough  the process that triggers EVERY symptom

Jonathan Borkum, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Maine, studied 2,000 papers on migraines to look at a range of triggers, such as dehydration or air pollution, and compared how each of them affected the brain. He concluded that a surplus of free radicals, the corrosive molecules produced by our bodies as we process oxygen, were at the root of all headaches.  The surplus creates an imbalance in the body called ‘oxidative stress’ when there are not enough antioxidant defenses to fend off the free radicals.  The discovery means that headaches could be prevented or alleviated using supplements such as beta carotene and vitamin C which bind and shut down free radicals. However they may have health risks and one study found that antioxidant supplements were associated with higher risk of death than those who did not take them.

Another reason to exercise:  Regular exercise may be the best medicine for prostate cancer:

Exercise could be the best medicine for many men with prostate cancer if the disease is caught early, doctors believe.
Walking, cycling, swimming and other regular physical activity may have the power to keep the disease in check, they suggest. This would mean that fewer men would need radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other powerful treatments that can have distressing and long-lasting side effects.  A world-first trial underway at  Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K.

Another reason to take vitamin D:  82% of IBS sufferers 'are deficient in vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin'

Scientists found a link between irritable bowel syndrome and vitamin D when their findings revealed that  82% of IBS patients are vitamin D deficient.  Doctors suggest people with IBS,  a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, take vitamin D supplements.

Another reason to maintain a healthy weight:  Being overweight raises the risk of 10 different types of cancer

Being overweight, which is defined as having a Body Mass Index of more than 25, increases the risk of developing 10 different cancers including esophagus, bowel, breast, liver and pancreatic cancer. It also raises the risk of kidney, womb, ovary, gallbladder and advanced prostate cancer.  The World Cancer Research Fund says a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight.

'It doesn't have to be anything too difficult – cutting down on high calorie foods and sugary drinks, drinking less alcohol, or even 10 to 15 extra minutes each day of physical activities such as brisk walking could all decrease a person's cancer risk.'

Another reason to maintain and nourish your relationships: Loneliness is 'AS deadly as a lack of exercise and diabetes': Poor social network 'drastically increases risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer'

Previous studies found that aging adults live longer if they have more social connections.  Scientists from the University of North Carolina  builds on that research with a new study that demonstrates how social relationships reduce the risk of poor health at each stage of life.  They determined that weak relationships in younger years can increase your risk of inflammation – at the same rate as lack of exercise.  Furthermore, hypertension in old age is more likely to occur as a result of loneliness than clinical risk factors, including diabetes.  Yet, people who have the support of loved ones are less likely to develop health conditions – and more likely to have a longer life expectancy.
Dr Kathleen Mullan Harris, of UNC and the Carolina Population Center, said: ‘Based on these findings, it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:31 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2015

Identity Politics is Poison

In Spiked, Brendan O'Neill examines identity politics and the death of the individual in The Crisis of Character

The subjectivity of human identity in the 21st century is striking, and alarming. Today, to feel something is to be something....Politics has become an arena for the pitting of personalized identities against one another: a new caste system, in effect...

This desire to treat the world as a mirror, as a thing that must validate our self-esteem, is far more pronounced today than it was in the 1970s. The cult of self-identification, the insistence that grammar, education and institutions reorganize themselves around what individuals feel themselves to be, takes to the extreme the reduction of public life to the level of mere validator for insecure individuals.
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Where earlier celebrators of the individual emphasised our capacity for autonomy and for governing our own minds and sense of ourselves, today’s self-identifiers cannot exist without the blessing of new forms of therapeutic authority.....The self-identifiers are enslaved by the 21st-century validation machine, their esteem locked in a danse macabre with the self-esteem industry
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What is today referred to as the rise of identity politics is in truth the hollowing out of the institutions, beliefs and freedoms around which life and identity were shaped and cohered for centuries. It is a crisis not merely of politics, or class, or the left; it is a crisis of character, a questioning of what it means to be human, an uncertainty as to how we become fully human. Addressing the emergence of new, weak identities, and the corresponding creation of a therapeutic industry and new forms of moral censure to prop up these identities, will require more than ridiculing the new left or the so-called ‘identitarian movement’. It demands nothing less than the reconstruction of public life, and the rediscovery of our faith in the strong individual who both makes and is made by the world, rather than simply needing to be consoled by it. It requires that we refuse to acquiesce to alienated, subjective identity-making, and instead recreate the conditions in which people can develop their identity through the exercise of moral autonomy, and through creating and engaging in new institutions, new ideas and new societies.

As Bill Clinton said,

"I believe that in ways large and small, peaceful and sometimes violent, that the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity,"

And Christopher Hitchens wrote,

"People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of "race" or "gender" alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things."
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“For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my 'race,' unless I was permitted to put 'human.' The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put 'white,' which is not even a color let alone a 'race,' and I sternly declined to put 'Caucasian,' which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King's campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you 'black.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2015

New evidence for the body-brain connection: Fit body, fit mind

NYT Does Exercise Help Keep Our Brains Young?

Physical fitness may be critical for maintaining a relatively youthful and nimble brain as we age, according to a new study of brain activation patterns in older people.

For most of us, our bodies begin to lose flexibility and efficiency as we enter our 40s....our thinking becomes less efficient. We don’t toggle between mental tasks as nimbly as we once did or process new information with the same aplomb and clarity.
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The results suggest that “higher aerobic fitness is associated with improved cognitive function.” Fit older people’s brains require fewer resources to complete tasks than do the brains of older people who are out of shape....
..... daily mild exercise such as walking and mild jogging may affect the way the brain works, so that an older person’s brain “acts like a younger brain.”

Strong legs contribute to a healthier brain in old age, study finds

Researchers find leg muscle force to be more closely linked to age-related changes in mental function than any other lifestyle factor tested...Researchers found a “striking protective relationship” between high leg power and better preserved mental ability and brain structure over a period of 10 years.

Dancing, Sudoku, fish and fruit – the keys to a mentally alert old age

Researchers in Finland tested more than 1,000 people aged 60 to 77 in a long-term study that could improve treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia.....Researchers in Finland recruited 1,260 people aged between 60 and 77, and effectively re-organized the lives of half of them. They were given regular gym sessions with physiotherapists to strengthen their muscles one to three times a week and took part in aerobic exercises, sometimes in groups, two to five times a week. They had brain training using computer programs not unlike commercial games, where success leads to another layer of difficulty. And they were advised to eat a Nordic diet – not dissimilar to the Mediterranean diet – containing fish at least twice a week, lots of fruit and vegetables, and olive and other vegetable oils. The other group were given standard health advice.

At the end of two years, those who had been eating a better diet, getting active and training their brains scored on average 25% higher in mental tests than those in the other group. In some of the tests, the difference was even more striking. For executive function – the brain’s ability to organize and regulate thought processes – the intervention group scored 85% higher and in processing speed, 150% higher.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: High blood pressure, Alzheimer's, loneliness, popcorn lung, 2 minute exercise bursts

Persistent high blood pressure could be cured by 'dirt cheap' drug that's been around for 50 years, doctors discover

Spironolactone was first used in 1959 as a water pill to treat fluid retention.  New study shows it works in 60% of patients with unregulated high blood pressure. Experts today said the finding offered hope of 'spectacular' cost savings.  New findings 'should now lead to a re-writing of current guidelines'

How Loneliness Wears on the Body  study by researchers from the Universities of California and Chicago

The results suggested that people suffering from social isolation may be more prone to inflammation and less able to fight viral infections—which could be one reason why lonely elderly people are more susceptible to illnesses ranging from the common cold to dementia, and why they have higher mortality rates than their peers.

Anti-depressants 'no more effective than counselling'

New research published in the BMJ suggests that for moderate to severe depression, talking therapies can be just as effective as anti-depressants...Researchers led by Danube University analyzed the results of 11 randomized controlled trials, involving more than 1,500 patients.

Men undergoing testosterone-lowering therapy for prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease,

Androgens are male hormones that play a key role in stimulating prostate cell growth.  And as a result, therapies that suppress androgen activity are a common treatment for prostate cancer....Nearly half a million men in the US receive androgen deprivation therapy at any given time.....Scientists are not yet sure precisely how low testosterone would lead to increased Alzheimer’s risk.  However, there is some evidence that testosterone has a 'general protective effect' on brain cells.

Pill that may wash away the cause of Alzheimer's: Treatment dissolves toxic plaques on the brain that are warning sign of the disease

Scientists say they have taken the first steps towards developing a pill that could one day stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks.  The treatment, tested on mice, dissolved toxic plaques in the brain that can be a warning sign of the incurable disease.  The animals, genetically engineered to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s, also showed improvements in memory and learning....
Experts say more work needs to be carried out before the drug, known as EPPS, can be tested on humans.  Korean researchers say the treatment could be best targeted at those at risk from inherited forms of the disease.

Worrying about getting old 'increases the risk of dementia'  Positive thinking is the key to a healthy brain in old age

Dreading growing old may raise your risk of Alzheimer’s, scientists have warned.  They have shown that middle-aged people who view aging as a handicap are more likely to have dementia-like changes to their brain decades later. It is thought the stress generated by such thoughts and fears eats away at the brain over time.

The US researchers said while there has been a lot of focus on how a healthy diet can help keep the mind young, we should also consider the benefits of positive thinking.  Easier than exercise and cheaper than drugs, it could help stem the rise in Alzheimer’s disease. ....Dr Levy has previously shown that thinking positive adds an average of seven and a half years to life – more than exercising or not smoking.

Men with big muscles cut cancer risk by 40 per cent

Men with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 per cent less likely to die from cancer than men who do not pump iron, according to new research.  The findings, by an international team of researchers, suggest muscular strength is as important as staying slim and eating healthily when it comes to protecting the body against deadly tumors....A team of experts, led by scientists from Sweden's Karolinska Institute, tracked the lifestyles of 8,677 men aged between 20 and 82 for more than two decades.

Vegetarianism can come with some unexpected side effects.

"I hear from vegetarians every day; they have this terrible depression and anxiety, and they don't understand why," says Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth. "People think they're eating a beautiful, righteous diet, but they don't realize there's a potential dark side."

Smokers who use e-cigs 'are risking harm to their lungs'- Popcorn lung.:

Tests on 50 types of device find most contain chemical responsible for incurable condition known as 'popcorn lung'.....The chemical diacetyl... is used to give popcorn its buttery taste and found in many other artificial flavorings. But, when inhaled, it is thought to scar tiny air sacs within the lungs, causing coughing and shortness of breath. In severe cases, only a lung transplant will help.The condition came to light in popcorn factories, leading it to be nicknamed 'popcorn lung'.

Just two minutes of hopping a day can strengthen bones and reduce the risk of suffering a fracture, scientists have found

It may not be the most dignified form of exercise, but hopping may help protect older people from hip fractures.
Just two minutes a day can strengthen bones in the area and reduce the risk of breakage in a fall, scientists believe.....Researchers at Loughborough University in The Hip Hop study saw 34 men aged between 65 and 80 perform a program of hopping exercises on a randomly assigned exercise leg only. They were told to avoid any other changes to their physical activity or dietary habits during the year-long trial…..Increases of up to 7 per cent were identified in the bone mass of some parts of the outer shell (cortex) and in the density of the layer of spongy bone underneath this. They said that, importantly, there were improvements in the thinnest areas of the bone most at risk of fracture after a fall.

Just TWO-MINUTE bursts of exercise can help fight heart disease

'Strong benefits’ in repeated short bouts of intense activity like star jumps. ‘The key is to get your heart rate up,’ Newcastle University experts said.  Patients asked to do short spells on a cycling machine, repeated five times, three times a week for 12 weeks

Cure for alcoholism now one step closer: Scientists pinpoint specific cells in the brain that make drinkers crave more booze

Scientists have discovered the specific neurons that incite cravings. Dopamine D1 receptors are part of a 'go' pathway in the brain. When D1 neurons are stimulated they compel us to perform an action. By suppressing D1 neurons experts suppressed the compulsion to drink
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 PM | Permalink

November 8, 2015

Medical Quarterbacking

WSJ Medical Quarterbacking.  A review of The Patient's Playbook by Leslie Michelson
Providers are drowning in patients. As a result, you need to fight tenaciously to make sure that you get the best care.

As Leslie D. Michelson explains  in “The Patient’s Playbook,” people who are confronted by a serious illness discover that “there is no map.” There is no one with the time, information and stamina to coordinate, or “quarterback,” their care.

Mr. Michelson seeks to change all this. He isn’t a physician, but he has spent the past decade delivering what might be called concierge medical quarterbacking—helping patients, generally people with a high net worth, manage complex medical challenges. Now he’s ready to share his “playbook” with the rest of us.

The advice is often disarmingly simple. Prepare for illness when you are healthy. Get hold of your medical records. (You have a legal right to them.) Figure out which hospital you would want to go to in an emergency. He tells the harrowing story of parents who brought their jaundiced 2-day-old infant to the hospital where she was born, only to discover that the emergency-room staff there were used to adult patients and had minimal experience taking care of children.

Above all, Mr. Michelson implores patients to be intensely involved in their own care. Many people, when speaking with a doctor about a health problem, “behave as if they were powerless,” he writes. Some become deferential; others just want to leave as fast as possible. He urges patients instead to “bring their A-game” to the doctor’s office. Use a trusted resource like the National Institutes of Health or the UpToDate medical website to educate yourself about your condition; then, during your appointment, take notes and ask questions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:38 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2015

"I see firsthand in my company why not enough people are signing up and premiums are rising."

The Wall Street Journal  on the The Slow-Motion Implosion of ObamaCare by Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants.

I see firsthand in my company why not enough people are signing up and premiums are rising.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced recently that she expects 10 million people to be enrolled in health-care coverage through ObamaCare’s exchanges by the end of next year. What she didn’t mention was that in March of last year the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 21 million people would be enrolled in 2016—more than double the new estimate.
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Supporters credit ObamaCare with helping nine million uninsured Americans find coverage in 2014. But a new paper from the Heritage Foundation, however, suggests that nearly all of the increase came from adding nearly nine million people to the Medicaid rolls.

In other words, ObamaCare expanded coverage in 2014 to the extent that it gave people free or nearly free insurance. That goal could have been accomplished without the Affordable Care Act. To justify its existence, ObamaCare must make affordable private insurance available to a broad cross-section of uninsured Americans who are ineligible for Medicaid.

But with fewer people buying insurance through the exchanges, the economics aren’t holding up. Ten of the 23 innovative health-insurance plans known as co-ops—established with $2.4 billion in ObamaCare loans—will be out of business by the end of 2015 because of weak balance sheets.

One problem is that nearly half of the 10.5 million uninsured people eligible for ObamaCare are between the ages of 18 and 34—and young people tend to be healthy and unwilling to pay for pricey coverage they don’t need.

But propping up ObamaCare requires this group’s subsidizing the medical costs of the aging and ill. So far, no luck. It makes sense for healthy young people to pay a penalty rather than purchase the insurance. And in 2015 that’s what 6.6 million people did, according to the IRS. Next year the minimum penalty increases to $695 or 2.5% of income above $10,000, whichever is greater. In many cases, that’s still much cheaper than insurance.
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It is easy to avoid or limit exposure to the penalty with some simple tax planning, as there are 30 different exemptions (which 12 million people claimed last year) and the IRS collects the penalty by reducing an employee’s tax refund.

The uninsured also know they can receive medical care at the emergency room. And if they fall ill, they can always purchase insurance during the next enrollment period, because ObamaCare eliminated existing conditions as a justification for denying coverage.

Our employees are smart enough to figure this out. Of our company’s 5,453 eligible employees, only 420 enrolled.

How have things changed under ObamaCare? Wealthy Americans continue to have health insurance, albeit at a higher price. But they can afford it. Many middle-class Americans are paying higher premiums they can hardly afford. And then millions more low-income Americans have heavily subsidized insurance or Medicaid coverage.

However, millions of other Americans who enjoyed good individual insurance before ObamaCare have found themselves forced out of affordable plans, with their new premiums rising rapidly. Other middle- and working-class Americans who were uninsured are still uninsured and paying the penalty or claiming an exemption. That isn’t affordable care. In many cases, it isn’t care at all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

September 30, 2015

Musical medicine

Byron Janis pens a personal account of the power of music in the Wall Street Journal, How Music Soothes the Troubled Soul.

What an extraordinary gift music has given us besides its beauty. It has a scientifically proven ability to help heal both physical and psychological problems. Listening to your favorite music does help, but playing an instrument has a greater success. Playing well or badly doesn’t matter; just using one finger to plunk out a tune is sufficient—you can come away with a feeling of well-being. Music’s healing powers, which Pythagoras called “musical medicine,” have been the leitmotif of my career.
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Music has also helped me conquer physical challenges. From an accident at age 11 that left me with a permanently numb little finger to living with arthritis for 40-plus years, music has been a constant healing force. In the late 1980s after a botched operation on my arthritic left thumb, I fell into a devastating depression lasting many months. Then one day my wife, Maria, asked me to compose a theme for a film documentary on her father entitled “Gary Cooper: American Life, American Legend” (1989). I didn’t feel up to it, but as it was “family” I wanted to try.

After a few days I came up with a theme and played it for her. She suddenly began crying. “Why are you crying?” I asked. “Because your music totally captures my father’s spirit.” It also recaptured me! That wonderful feeling of hope was coming back, and my depression slowly began to lift. Music had started working its magic.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

September 11, 2015

Heart Health Roundup: Hearts older than bodies, Rx, intermittent fasting, vitamin C, pros and cons of statins

Nearly three out of four U.S. adults have a heart that is older than the rest of their body, CDC report reveals.

The average U.S. man's heart age is nearly eight years older than his real age  Meanwhile, average woman's heart is about five-and-a-half years higher.  Mississippi is the state with highest proportion of adults with advanced heart age, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Alabama.

 Heart Age Us

This is alarming. Heart disease is the nation's number one killer,' said the report's lead author, CDC scientist Quanhe Yang.
'But the bottom line is you can do some very simple things' to become younger at heart, he said..  Rx for a young heart

 Rx For Young Heart

Live Science Does Intermittent Fasting Have Benefits? Science Suggests Yes

Instead of eating three square meals a day, an eating schedule that involves "intermittent fasting" could help fight not just obesity but many related diseases of modern life, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's, researchers say….

Mounting evidence reveals that other key aspects of diet — when and how often people eat — can also play a major role in health. In fact, the most common eating pattern in modern societies of three meals daily, plus snacks, is abnormal from the perspective of human evolution, an international group of researchers wrote in an article published online Nov. 17 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Fasting alone is more powerful in preventing and reversing some diseases than drugs," said Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor of regulatory biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, and one of the co-authors of the article.

Could vitamin C be a replacement for EXERCISE?   

A daily vitamin C supplements of 500mg 'is as effective as walking in improving the heart health of obese people', claims a study of 35 overweight and sedentary people. 

The blood vessels of people who are overweight or obese show elevated activity of the small vessel-constricting protein, endothelin (ET)-1. Narrowed blood vessels mean it is harder to pump blood around the body.  While past studies have show that exercise helps to reduce ET-1 activity, many overweight use a lack of time as an excuse for not incorporating exercise into their daily routines.

Scientists at the University of Colorado examined whether vitamin C supplements, which have been found in the past to improve vessel function, can also lower ET-1 activity. Their findings, which will be presented at the 14th International Conference on Endothelin: Physiology, Pathophysiology and Therapeutics, suggest the supplement can have similar benefits to a person's heart health as exercise.

Giving patients statins before ANY operation could halve the risk of dying and slash complications dramatically

Statins, the cholesterol-busting drugs are usually prescribed for at risk cardiac patients.  When given  before planned heart surgery to prevent complications, statins were linked to a 43 per cent lower chance of dying from any cause and a 52 per cent reduced risk of dying from a heart-related problem.

While Healthy patients using statins are 'more likely to suffer side-effects than gain health benefits'

Fewer than one in every 200 healthy patients who take statins actually benefit, doctors have warned.  Reigniting the debate over the cholesterol-busting drugs, the experts warn that too many patients are given statins without proper information about their drawbacks.
They say people should stop using them if they are suffering side effects - and call for patients to have a greater choice over taking the pills in the first place.

People should be advised to take up more exercise and improve their diet before they are directed towards statins, the experts say.
Their editorial, published last night in the Prescriber medical journal, points to industry-sponsored studies which found that only 0.5 per cent of healthy people avoided a heart attack or stroke by taking statins for five years.

While accepting that those with a history of heart disease can benefit from statins, they say that a tiny minority of people who take it as a ‘preventative’ medicine will actually live longer.

The authors - London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, Canadian pharmacist Professor James McCormack, and US physician Professor David Newman - called for a complete rewrite of British and American guidance.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

August 31, 2015

Health roundup: Naps, steak or salmon daily, aspirin, antibiotics + type 2 diabetes, mutant head lice + selfies

The blood test that predicts if breast cancer will return:

Breakthrough can detect warning signs eight months before a relapse.  Test detects uncured cancer eight months before the patient feels a lump,  That extra time could be used to delay or prevent breast cancer’s return Experts hope the test can also be used to detect others types of tumors

Taking antibiotics increases the risk of type 2 diabetes:

People who receive more than four courses of antibiotic  drugs over 15 years are 53 per cent more likely to get the disease, according to the results of a large study of 1.4 million Danish patients

The authors of the new study suspect that this is the reason for the between antibiotics and diabetes, with alterations in gut bacteria meaning people absorb sugar and fat in different ways. But an alternative explanation could be that people with as-yet undiagnosed diabetes may be more prone to infection, and therefore use more antibiotics, the scientists said.  ‘This latest study only shows a possible link between the two, rather that proving that antibiotics could cause diabetes.’

Selfies are causing a rise in MUTANT head lice:

Physician Sharon Rink warns trend for touching heads in pictures is to blame for increase in treatment-resistant nits.  She dubbed the phenomenon 'social media lice'  has It is being caused by group selfie snaps that cause friends to bump heads
Recent research suggests head lice have developed a 'high level' of resistance to some of the most popular treatments

Hormone jabs cut bone fractures:

Growth hormone injections reduced the risk of brittle bone fractures in older women long after treatment was stopped, a ten-year study found. They halved the fracture rate in those with osteoporosis over the period.  Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that causes the bones to become weak and more likely to break.  Women are three times more likely to experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in their lifetimes than men.

During an 18-month-long trial, 80 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis received daily injections of either a placebo, a single unit of growth hormone or a 2.5-unit dose of growth hormone. Researcher Doctor Emily Krantz, of Sodra Alvsborgs Hospital in Sweden, said: ‘Our study is the largest and longest controlled study of growth hormone treatment for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women to date.  ‘Years after treatment stopped, women who were treated with growth hormone still experienced improved bone density and reduced fracture risk.’


A nap a day could save your life

It is the news that nap afficionados have been waiting for.  A mid-day snooze doesn’t just have the power to revive – it could reduce blood pressure and prevent a future heart attack.

Research involving almost 400 middle-aged men and women found that those who had a nap at noon later had lower blood pressure than those who stayed awake through the day. The findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual conference in London, showed pressure was lower both when awake and later, during their night time sleep.  The small difference – of around 5 per cent – was enough to have a significant impact on rates of heart attack, researchers said.  Far smaller reductions have been found to reduce the chance of cardiovascular events by 10 per cent, the cardiologists said……Longer naps of up to an hour achieved the best results, the study found.

Eating steak or salmon every day or drinking a pint of milk could be 'as good for your heart as giving up smoking'

Eating a small steak every day could be as good for you as stopping smoking, scientists say. People who eat lots of protein-rich food were found to have lower blood pressure and more healthy arteries, significantly lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Scientists say the benefit is down to amino acids - the building blocks of proteins - which help strengthen the cells, tissues and muscles in our body.  People who ate high levels of certain amino acids saw benefits on similar scale to those expected for stopping smoking, reducing salt intake or increasing exercise.

The team, from the University of East Anglia, said that protein-rich foods including meat, fish, dairy produce, beans, lentils, broccoli and spinach all contain the beneficial compounds.Their study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, was based on health data from 2,000 British women.  Different food source had different benefits, they found. Amino acids from vegetables and pulses - such as beans, lentils, broccoli and spinach - were associated with lower blood pressure.  Whereas amino acids from dairy, meat and fish were linked to lower levels of arterial stiffness.  Lead researcher Dr Amy Jennings, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: ‘This research shows a protective effect of several amino acids on cardiovascular health.

A daily dose of aspirin appears to cut the risk of a common type of cancer  But you have to make if a habit and do it for 5 years.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, and researchers say they have found a way to reduce one’s risk of it by up to 45% – by taking aspirin, Advil, Motrin, Aleve or certain other painkillers.
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NSAIDs, appeared to reduce the risk even more. People who took non-aspirin NSAIDs for at least five years were 30% to 45% less likely to have colorectal cancer than those who didn’t take the painkillers. Ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Advil and Motrin, among others) and naproxen (the active ingredient in Aleve) are two examples of this type of NSAIDs.

Cancer up close: Stunning 3D simulations show tumors growing in treatment breakthrough

Videos reveal the growth, mutation and evolution of a lethal cancer and shed new light on how cancers develop resistance to drugs and chemotherapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

August 26, 2015

Health Roundup: Programming cancer cells, stomach bug and lung disease, coffee and tea

Cancer cells programmed back to normal by US scientists

Scientists have turned cancerous cells back to normal by switching back on the process which stops normal cells from replicating too quickly.  For the first time aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, US, said it was like applying the brakes to a speeding car.  So far it has only been tested on human cells in the lab, but the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day be used to target tumors so that cancer could be ‘switched off’ without the need for harsh chemotherapy or surgery.

New hope for lung disease sufferers… in a stomach bug

Bacteria that is common among patients with pulmonary conditions can be detected by a simple breath test and can treated with antibiotics.  The bacteria helicobacter pylori often found in pulmonary disease patients with levels of the bacteria up to three times higher in COPD patients

Why a splash of milk in your tea keeps teeth white: Protein found in dairy prevents staining - and is BETTER than whitening toothpaste

Tea contains dark-colored tannins that make it bitter and stain the teeth. Casein, the main protein in milk, binds to the tannin and prevents staining. Milk is more effective than whitening toothpaste and as good as bleaching

Why green tea could prevent colon cancer

Green tea could lower the risk of colon cancer, say researchers at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea. Compounds in green tea prevent rogue cells that could lead to polyps from developing. They are testing this in a study involving 180 people who have had polyps - benign growths - removed from their colon; these polyps can be a precursor to colon cancer. The patients will be given a daily green tea extract pill (nine cups of green tea) or no treatment. The researchers believe compounds in green tea prevent the rogue cells that could lead to polyps from developing

How coffee could help fight bowel cancer:

Coffee could prove to be a powerful medicine for bowel cancer patients.  A study of 1,000 patients that looked at caffeinated coffee and cancer recurrence found the disease was almost half as likely to return in men and women who drank at least four or five mugs a day.  It is thought the caffeine cuts inflammation which the cancer feeds on.

The research, from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, found that consuming around 460mg of caffeine a day cut the odds of bowel cancer coming back by 42 per cent.It also made people 33 per cent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.
Smaller amounts of caffeine brought lower benefits.  A mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine and an espresso, the base for many High Street coffees, 80mg.

'You'd have to drink six glasses of almond milk to get the same amount of protein as just half a cup of nuts' New video reveals truths about six 'healthy' eating habits

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

August 13, 2015

Health Roundup: Universal plaque-busting drug, saturated fat and fish oil for psychosis

Great news Universal plaque-busting drug could treat various brain diseases

A virus found in sewage has spawned a unique drug that targets plaques implicated in a host of brain-crippling diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Results from tests of the drug, announced this week, show that it breaks up plaques in mice affected with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, and improves the memories and cognitive abilities of the animals. Other promising results in rats and monkeys mean that the drug developers, NeuroPhage Pharmaceuticals, are poised to apply for permission to start testing it in people, with trials starting perhaps as early as next year.

The drug is the first that seems to target and destroy the multiple types of plaque implicated in human brain disease. Plaques are clumps of misfolded proteins that gradually accumulate into sticky, brain-clogging gunk that kills neurons and robs people of their memories and other mental faculties. Different kinds of misfolded proteins are implicated in different brain diseases, and some can be seen within the same condition (see “Proteins gone rogue”, below).

More good news. 'No link' between eating fatty food and early death: Findings raise further doubts over advice to avoid butter, full-fat milk and other meat and dairy products

Researchers trawled through the health records of hundreds of thousands of patients and found no statistical link between eating saturated fat and falling ill with heart disease, strokes or type 2 diabetes. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, raise further doubts about 32-year-old guidelines that warn people to avoid butter, full-fat milk and other meat and dairy products with high levels of saturated fats.

Academics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, looked at 12 previous studies, involving between 90,000 and 340,000 patients in each study, and calculated the overall link between saturated fat and different health conditions.

But Cutting saturated fat doesn't necessarily reduce heart disease risk

It's just that people who reduce their intake of fat usually end up eating more sugar, white flour and empty calories, said co-author Russell de Souza, an assistant professor and registered dietitian at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. His review, which examined 73 earlier studies, was published in the BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal.
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For children, the government still advises diet sodas anytime, milk once in a while

David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital said  the government still hasn’t completely caught up with the science.

The National Institute of Health’s We Can! program, which aims to help children maintain a healthy weight, steers families toward low-fat foods. The program lists diet soda and ketchup as foods to eat “almost anytime,” but says low-fat milk should be consumed only “sometimes.” The NIH program puts whole milk in the most restricted category as cookies, doughnuts and French fries, to be consumed only “once in a while'.

Could fish oil protect against psychosis? Taking omega-3 for 12 weeks 'lowers the risk of developing schizophrenia' for up to 7 years afterwards

Young people who take omega-3 are at lower risk of schizophrenia. Those at risk of the mental illness were four times less likely to suffer psychotic episodes up to 7 years after three months taking supplement. Scientists say no other intervention - including drugs - are as effective
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 PM | Permalink

August 11, 2015

Roundup: Eating and drinking

Drink pear juice for a hangover. Pear juice can reduce effects of a night's drinking by up to a fifth

Eating a juicy pear before a night of heavy drinking could help alleviate the effects of a hangover, scientists claim.
Researchers say those who are suffering from the consequences of the evening before could feel up to 21 per cent better thanks to the fruit's juice. It helps increase concentration, reduces memory loss and even decreases the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, according to Australian government scientists. Pears also reduce a person's sensitivity to light and sound.
The only type of pear tested in the study was the Asian pear, but researchers are now planning to widen their scope to see whether varieties of Western pear produce the same results.

More is not better, Woman 'going blind' after drinking 28 Red Bulls every day.

Lena Lupari, 26, has gained so much weight from drinking seven liters  of the energy drink that her brain has swollen. The mother-of-three was ingesting 3,000 calories every day and was unaware of the harm she was doing to her body until she collapsed in June.

Eat celery, beetroot , lettuce, spinach and parsley They're rich in nitrates which help lower blood pressure

It's already known that nitric oxide, a gas produced naturally by the body and carried in the blood, tells your blood vessels to expand, so lowering blood pressure. That's why beetroot in particular is so good for blood pressure — the body converts the nitrites in this veg into nitric oxide. Researchers have since found nitric oxide does a lot more, including helping you to sleep and fight off infections. And now it turns out we have large, totally unexpected stores of it under our skin, and that our blood cells don't work properly without it.

Until a few years ago, no one knew that blood cells even carried nitric oxide. Now we realize that it plays a vital role in ensuring cells get the oxygen they need, as research at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland in the U.S. has found.
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The thinking is that a lack of the gas could cause problems generally linked to poor blood flow, such as heart attack, heart failure, stroke, damage to the kidneys and poor circulation in the legs. Nitric oxide is thought to be particularly important for older people, whose levels drop with age,

But the best way to keep your supplies topped up is through diet, especially foods rich in nitrates, which your body turns into nitric acid with the help of bacteria found in your saliva. These include beetroot (particularly rich in nitrates), along with celery, lettuce, rocket, spinach, celeriac and parsley.Our bodies can also make nitric oxide from an amino acid called L-arginine, found in nuts, meat, fruits, dairy products, chocolate and raisins.

Eat spicy food. Three times a week reduces the risk of early death from cancer or heart disease'

A study of nearly 500,000 middle-aged people found that those who ate a spicy meal every one or two days were far less likely to die than those who infrequently ate the food. Scientists suspect that capsaicin — a chemical contained in chili peppers — has anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and cancer fighting properties.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, was based on a study of 487,000 Chinese people, each aged between the ages of 30 and 79 who were tracked for 7 years.

Drink coffee. Science: Coffee is The World’s Biggest Source of Antioxidants

Coffee is Linked to a Reduced Risk of Many Diseases:  A 23-50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a much lower risk of liver cirrhosis. Coffee may also lower the risk of liver and colorectal cancer, and several studies have shown a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Consuming coffee on a regular basis may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease by 32–65%. Some studies have shown that coffee may also benefit mental health. Women who drink coffee are less likely to become depressed and commit suicide.  Above all, drinking coffee has been linked to a longer lifespan and up to a 20–30% lower risk of premature death.

However, keep in mind that most of these studies are observational. They cannot prove that coffee caused the reduction in disease risk, only that coffee drinkers were less likely to get these diseases.

Then take a 15-minute walk everyday and reduce chance of dying in over-60s by 22%

Regular exercise reduces obesity, increases bone strength and cuts the risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and cancer. The World Health Organization recommends all adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week,  but the latest research suggests that the guidelines are too stringent - and the authors suggest halving the recommendations to just 75 minutes a week for over-60s.  Advising people instead to go for a brisk 15-minute walk five times a week will be far more achievable, and will still have a beneficial effect on health, enough  to extend life expectancy for the over 60s, experts say.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:57 PM | Permalink

August 7, 2015

Health roundup: Breast cancer test, HIV, depression, placebo effect and French kissing

Breast cancer: Test that could predict breast cancer nine years before it strikes

Measuring levels of methyl in women's blood could show if they will suffer the disease later. Those with low levels in white blood cells most likely to get breast cancer

The team from Imperial College London analysed blood samples from around 2,600 women from the UK, Norway, Australia and Italy, looking at changes to the DNA of white blood cells.  In a series of studies that tracked the women for an average of nine years, they found that those who went on to contract breast cancer had lower levels of a chemical called methyl in their white blood cells’ make-up compared to those who did not.

HIV: Cocktail of drugs stops HIV in its tracks: Treatment is 93% successful in preventing virus being transmitted through sex

A combination of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) stops HIV from being passed on from infected men and women to their uninfected partners, the results of a landmark study show.  Antiretroviral therapy (ART) consists of the combination of at least three antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease.  Researchers found the drugs were able to reduce the transmission of the virus by 93 per cent in couples assigned to ART treatment.

Depression: Could depression be triggered by a stomach bug?

Imbalance of bacteria in the gut 'may lead to mental health problems'. Scientists say the roots of depression may lie in the gut and the trillions of bacteria that live there.

Although you might not realize it, the average human stomach is home to around 2 pounds of microbes – roughly the same weight as a bag of sugar.  Some members of this ‘gut microbiome’ help with digestion. But others are increasingly being linked to overall health, with conditions from autism to multiple sclerosis said to have links to the bugs in our bodies. 

Now, a series of animal experiments suggests that intestinal bugs play an important role in triggering depression. Canadian researchers showed that if newborn mice are subjected to the stress of being repeatedly separated and reunited with their mothers, they appear anxious and depressed.  However, if their guts are germ-free, the stress does not affect their mental health. But give them a transplant of bugs and depression strikes.

It is thought that severe stress, particularly in childhood, affects the chemistry of the stomach, allowing some bugs to thrive more than others. These then produce compounds that affect the chemistry of the brain, leading to symptoms of depression. Researcher Premysl Bercik said: ‘We have shown for the first time…that bacteria play a crucial role in inducing this abnormal behavior.  But it's not only bacteria, it's the altered bi-directional communication between the stressed host - mice subjected to early life stress - and its microbiota, that leads to anxiety and depression."  Writing in the journal Nature Communications, Dr Bercik said small changes in the balance of the bugs in the gut could have ‘profound’ effects on behavior.

Matter over mind The placebo effect IS real - even when patients know the treatment they are getting is fake

Scientists found patients given a fake painkiller continued to feel benefits from it after they were told it was not genuine…. Scientists applied 47.5C heat on subjects' forearms and gave 'cooling gel'.  Individuals needed four sessions to believe the placebo gel worked
But there was a catch. In order to feel these effects, the subjects had to be conditioned into thinking that the treatment was real – and needed enough time for this belief to become ingrained.  Those told it was fake after just one session did not continue to experience pain relief, the US study found, but those told after four sessions still felt the benefits.

Senior author Tor Wager, of the University of Colorado Boulder, said: "We’re still learning a lot about the critical ingredients of placebo effects. …What we think now is that they require both belief in the power of the treatment and experiences that are consistent with those beliefs….Those experiences make the brain learn to respond to the treatment as a real event….After the learning has occurred, your brain can still respond to the placebo even if you no longer believe in it.’

French Kissing  KISSING overtakes smoking as leading risk for head and neck cancers

The humble French kiss can pass on human papilloma virus (HPV). A top doctor, Head of Maxillofacial and Head and neck Surgery at the Royal Darwin Hospital, warns of 'tsunami' of oral human papilloma virus cases.  The virus was responsible for 70% of head and neck cancer cases…. If you became infected by HPV in the oropharynx, your risk of developing head and neck cancer was 250 times higher than that of someone without the virus.

Dangers of some OTC drugs Over-the-counter medicines for hayfever and insomnia raise the risk of serious falls in older men.

Men over 65 were twice as likely to have been hurt like this if they took one of a powerful class of drugs called anticholinergics, says a study of 2,700 pensioners. The medicines under scrutiny affect the brain by blocking a key chemical messenger called acetylcholine which moderates many brain functions including moods, behavior and response to pain.  Up to half of elderly Britons are prescribed at least one medication with anticholinergic properties, including anti-depressants, antihistamines, sleeping pills and antipsychotics…..
A previous study suggested that people who regularly took the drugs in high doses for three years or more had an increased risk of dementia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:46 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2015

It's healthier to cook with LARD than sunflower oil

 Lard

From the BBC    It's healthier to cook with LARD than sunflower oil

A team from BBC's Trust Me, I'm A Doctor conducted new research that revealed what we thought we knew about cooking oils is plain wrong. Most people had come to the seemingly obvious, conclusion that frying with vegetable oils has to be healthier than cooking with animal fat. But is it?  For the problem is that when fats and oils are heated they change, and as they do so they produce chemicals that may cause heart disease and cancer.

When fats and oils are heated to a high temperature, they undergo what is called oxidation: they react with oxygen in the air to form substances such as aldehydes and lipid peroxides. At room temperature something similar happens, though more slowly. When fats go rancid they have been oxidized, and it results in the same by-products. It is these aldehydes they form that are the problem. Consuming or inhaling them, even in small amounts, has been linked to increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

'We found that oils which were polyunsaturated-rich - corn oil and sunflower oil - generated very high levels of aldehydes,' Professor Grootveld told me….Aldehydes, which are known promoters of cancer, heart disease and dementia when eaten or inhaled, were present in levels up to 20 times higher than recommended by the World Health Organization.

Sunflower and corn oil are fine, but only as long as you don't subject them to heat, such as frying or cooking,' said Professor Grootveld. 'It's a simple chemical fact that something which is thought to be healthy for us is converted into something that is unhealthy at frying temperatures.'

They advise:

• To reduce production of harmful aldehydes, go for a product high in mono or saturated fat (preferably greater than 60 per cent) and low in polyunsaturates (less than 20 per cent).
• The ideal compromise for cooking purposes is olive oil 'because it is about 76 per cent monunsaturates, 14 per cent saturates and 10 per cent polyunsaturates'.
• In view of its high saturate content, coconut oil is also recommended.

Lard vs. Coconut Oil

if you mix 1 part olive oil with 1 part coconut oil, the resulting mixture of fats will match lard’s fat composition numbers almost exactly. Butter and ghee are a little more balanced than olive oil and coconut oil but they have nearly twice the percentage of saturated fat that lard has.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Longevity and Well-being

Want Great Longevity and Health? It Takes a Village in the Wall Street Journal
The secrets of the world’s longest-lived people include community, family, exercise and plenty of beans.

In a string of whitewashed villages in the mountains of the Italian island of Sardinia, there are 21 centenarians in a population of 10,000. Only about four in 10,000 Americans reach the 100-year mark. So what do the Sardinians know that our own diet-and-health obsessed country doesn’t?
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The notion of a genetic advantage has been called into question. According to Dr. Pes, several studies have shown that the genetic markers of the centenarians—including markers associated with cardiovascular mortality, cancer and inflammation—don’t diverge significantly from those of the general population.
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The cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world was the humble bean. One five-country study showed that beans were the only food that predicted a longer life—for each 20-gram serving (about two tablespoons) eaten a day, the chance of dying dropped by 8%. Fava beans in Sardinia, black beans in Costa Rica, lentils in Ikaria, soybeans in Okinawa. Seventh-Day Adventists, America’s longest-lived subculture, eat all kinds of beans, taking their cue from God’s injunction, in the book of Genesis, to eat the fruits of “seed-bearing plants.”
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When it comes to longevity, the long-standing support of a community is significant. In the U.S., you’re likely to die eight years earlier if you’re lonely, compared with people who have strong social networks. In Sardinia, “One hand washes the other, and they both wash the face,” as Mr. Pinna told me, summing up the social symbiosis.
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A fanatic zeal for family has also survived here. Neither work, hobbies, friends nor a sports team would ever divert serious attention away from a spouse or children. In turn, parents and grandparents move serenely into old age, secure in the knowledge that their children will care for them. There are no retirement homes here.
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they lived in cultures that made the right decisions for them. They lived in places where fresh vegetables were cheap and accessible. Their kitchens were set up so that making healthy food was quick and easy. Almost every trip to the store, a friend’s house, work or school occasioned a walk. Their houses didn’t have mechanized conveniences to do house work, kitchen work or yard work; they did it by hand. People in the blue zones were nudged into physical activity every 20 minutes, my team estimated. This activity not only burned 500 to 1,000 calories a day; it also kept their metabolisms humming at a higher rate.

Drink tea.  Warm or iced Two cups of tea a day "dramatically increases longevity in women". It's the flavonoids that seem to protect against the ravages of heart disease and cancer.  Flavonoids are health-boosting plant compounds that are found in chocolate, fruit, red wine and coffee; however, tea made the biggest contribution to the flavonoid count in the 1000 women over 75 studied….Previous research has credited flavonoids a host of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, cutting the risk of dangerous blood clots and strengthening bones. 

Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation 'as bad as smoking'

Prof Russell Foster, a neuroscientist from the University of Oxford, said lack of sleep is damaging the health of the nation, with too many early risers trying to function with brain skills so damaged they could be drunk.
The comments follow studies which suggest that working night shifts speeds up the ageing process, and is linked to increasing risks of cancer, heart disease and type two diabetes.
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“We see this too much with really senior people,” he said. “Lack of sleep damages a whole host of skills - empathy, processing information, ability to handle people, but right at the top of the chain you get overly impulsive, impaired thinking, because of this problem.”
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Last year French research showed the brains of workers who had done night shifts for about 10 years had aged by an extra 6 and a half years…..Lack of sleep has been linked with factors such as disrupted metabolism and raised levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, all of which may lead to higher blood pressure and increased stroke risk.

Shape up .Unhealthy lifestyle can knock 23 years off lifespan

Suffering from heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes could knock 23 years off life and yet they are preventably for eight out of 10 people. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of cases could be prevented by keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking or drinking too much.

For a man in his 40s, suffering from all three conditions reduces life by 23 years. It means that a 40-year-old's life expectancy would drop from 78 to just 55. Likewise someone in their 60s could lose 15 years, meaning a 60-year-old man might have just three years of life left.

Drinking and smoking 'raises dementia risk'
Drinking and smoking may raise the risk of dementia in later life because they shrink key parts of the brain.
Obesity, diabetes, smoking and drinking are each associated with smaller volumes of grey matter in crucial parts of the brain linked to memory, the researchers found.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 PM | Permalink

Medical miracles

Doctors save man's hand by grafting it on to his leg for a month

Chinese surgeons have saved a hand severed in an industrial accident by grafting it on to the man’s ankle for a month before reattaching it to his arm….The surgical team were unable to reattach the hand to Zhou’s arm straight away as the severed nerves and tendons needed time to heal.  So his hand was sewn onto his leg in order to keep it “alive” until the arm was ready.

 Hand-Attached To Leg

Baltimore's Zion Harvey who lost both of his hands at the age of two when an infection turned to gangrene receives  double hand transplant.

An 8-year-old Baltimore boy who lost his limbs to a serious infection has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant, surgeons said Tuesday.  Zion Harvey received the hands earlier this month at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, though doctors did not publicly disclose the 11-hour operation until now.

A 40-person medical team used steel plates and screws to attach the old and new bones. Surgeons then delicately reconnected arteries, veins, muscles, tendons and nerves.

 Zion Harvey Double Hand Transplant

Zion is currently working with occupational therapists several times a day, and is not allowed to move his hands when not in their presence.  Right now they are working on small movements, like picking up light objects.
However, he appears to be transitioning back to life with hands just find, and has started instinctively scratching his nose with his new fingers.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2015

Health Roundup: Heart disease

Good fat Fat 'helps FIGHT heart disease': Discovery could explain why some obese patients live LONGER after a heart attack than their slimmer peers

Certain types of body fat can help a person fight heart disease…..A team at the University of Oxford found the fat surrounding a person's blood vessels can help protect the body, triggering a defense against heart disease.  They discovered how the heart, and the arteries supplying blood to it, send out an SOS to the fat surrounding these tissues.  The result is, that the body stimulates a defense mechanism against the early stages of coronary heart disease.

The study, led by the British Heart Foundation, revealed that during oxidative stress, a process that leads to the furring of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, the fat surrounding the vessels and heart releases chemicals that minimize this oxidative stress and help prevent the development of coronary heart disease.  These chemicals are anti-inflammatory to minimize the inflammation triggered by oxidative stress and anti-oxidant to target the damaging process itself. Researchers are now focusing on how these healthy processes can be weakened if the fat is unhealthy, as can be the case if a person has type 2 diabetes.

Good News   As hospitals get more efficient, heart attack deaths are reduced.

The NYT reports on how U.S. hospitals have dramatically lowered the time it takes to treat a heart attack patient, with lower times contributing to the 38 percent reduction in heart attack deaths we saw between 2003 and 2013. The lower wait times happened “with no new medical discoveries, no new technologies, no payment incentives”—rather, hospitals made a systematic effort to locate places where different stages of care could be undertaken more quickly and efficiently, and acted on that knowledge.

Yes to grapefruit. Daily glass of grapefruit juice 'protects against heart disease',

A daily glass of grapefruit juice keeps blood vessels healthy and could protect against heart disease, a new study shows.
Just half a pint a day was enough to improve circulation.  Scientists have identified that health-boosting chemicals, called flavanones, that are naturally found in citrus fruits are responsible for the benefits.  Flavanones help to improve the structure of blood vessel walls. The more elastic blood vessels are, the better blood flow to the heart is

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest regular grapefruit juice consumption could play a vital part in warding off heart disease.  However, patients with existing heart disease should be careful about drinking grapefruit juice as it can interfere with medication.  Levels of drugs used to treat raised cholesterol or high blood pressure can increase significantly after just one glass of the juice, exposing patients to a greater risk of side-effects.

No to cocaine. How cocaine damages the heart:  

Gruesome video shows barely functioning organ swollen to 3 times its normal size due to drug use…..
Dr Klaus Witte, a consultant cardiologist at Leeds General Infirmary, said cocaine causes changes to the structure of the arteries and the heart - and this, in turn, causes the heart to swell.  Studies have shown cocaine users have higher blood pressure, stiffer arteries and thicker heart muscle walls than non-users – all of which can cause a heart attack.

"Every tablet I use for treating cardiac conditions, cocaine does the opposite,’ Dr Witte continued. ‘Cocaine changes the body’s lipid [fat] profiles, makes the blood sticky, makes the heart work harder and faster, changes the body’s hormonal profile. It leads to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure."  The class A drug is much more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes in terms of toxicity to the heart, he added.
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The American Heart Association warns that cocaine kills 15,000 people each year in the US due to overuse or related accidents.  And many more deaths occur due to heart damage.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:59 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's

Alzheimers Scientists just took a major step forward in understanding Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease that is slowly damaging the brains of an estimated 5.3 million Americans, most of them over age 65, according to the Alzheimer's Association….Many years before any symptoms of Alzheimer's show up, amyloid has already begun to build up in the brain. Progressive brain damage and the various symptoms of the disease only show up after the amount of amyloid in the brain has stabilized.

MIT Technology Review:  The earlier Alzheimer’s disease is treated, the better. Maybe even before symptoms arise. That’s the idea behind experimental drugs designed to remove plaques from the brain and prevent cognitive changes.

Eli Lilly (solanezumab) and Biogen (aducanumab.) presented new data suggesting that antibodies designed to break up or clear the beta-amyloid plaques can slow the advancement of Alzheimer’s, particularly in patients with the mildest form of the disease.  The drugs are based on the “amyloid hypothesis,” that the buildup of starchy amyloid in the brain is the cause of Alzheimer’s.

The brain scans are a key innovation, and a recent one. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a fluorescent imaging dye made by Lilly that sticks to the plaques and makes them light up in a PET scanner (see “Brain Scan for Alzheimer’s”). Before that, Alzheimer’s plaques were usually diagnosed with certainty after death, during an autopsy.

That has meant as many as 25 percent of patients in drug studies haven’t actually had Alzheimer’s, but instead a different form of dementia. What’s more, scientists have discovered that the plaques start building up 10 to 20 years before outward symptoms arise, suggesting that drugs ought to be given much sooner.

Two early detection tests for Alzheimers on the horizon 

New saliva test may catch Alzheimer’s disease early

The saliva test was presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington this week.  Once validated, the saliva test once would be a good screening tool, indicating a patient’s need for further, more invasive testing.

“This is important because the earlier you detect this disease,” said Sherzai, “the more we can have an effect on the outcome.”.  The study was presented at the conference but has not been published or peer-reviewed, which is the gold standard of scientific research. As a result, experts emphasize more research is needed before the saliva test can be used as a detection tool. Alzheimer’s risk reduction and prevention is the new frontier in the disease, according to Isaacson. So the only way to put a dent in the disease is to find some sort of biomarker decades before symptoms start.

15-year-old schoolboy develops test for Alzheimer's disease

A 15-year-old British boy has developed a potential test for Alzheimer’s disease which could allow the condition to be diagnosed 10 years before the first symptoms appear.  Currently Alzheimer’s can only be detected through a series of cognitive tests or by looking at the brain after death.

But Krtin Nithiyanandam, of Epsom, Surrey, has developed a ‘trojan horse’ antibody which can penetrate the brain and attach to neurotoxic proteins which are present in the very first stages of the disease, some of which can occur a decade before symptoms are prevalent.  The antibodies, which would be injected into the bloodstream are also attached to fluorescent particles which can then be picked up on a brain scan.

Krtin submitted his test to the Google Science Fair Prize and learned that he had made it through to the final last week. He will find out next month if he has won a prestigious scholarship and mentoring to take his idea further.

Major Alzheimer's breakthrough as scientists unveil new drug that slows progression of the disease by 30%

Landmark drug to stop Alzheimer's disease has been unveiled today.  Solanezumab has been shown to slow or even halt the illness by tackling beta amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer's, destroying vital connections between cells.  Existing drugs simply address the symptoms - and failure to deal with the underlying causes means they quickly wear off, and the disease soon takes its devastating course.

Patients with mild Alzheimer's disease who took solanezumab early in the course of their disease preserved more of their cognitive and functional ability, the company said. Results suggest that if given to patients early enough, the antibody therapy will be able to slow cognitive decline - by around 30 per cent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2015

Health Roundup: Medical Breakhroughs

5 Exciting Ways Health-Tech Startups Are Improving Lives

1. Expanding access to healthcare knowledge
2. Building communities
3. Increasing accountability
4. Advancing research
5. Driving personalization


HIV / AIDS
Experimental Vaccine 'completely protects against the HIV virus and could have an enormous impact,' say experts

An experimental vaccine completely prevented HIV infection in half of monkeys given the jab, a new study found.
The monkeys were given the vaccine and then exposed to high doses of an aggressive virus that is the equivalent of HIV in humans.The results were so positive they spurred Johnson & Johnson to test the vaccine in people.
The international trial is underway in 400 healthy volunteers in the United States, East Africa, South Africa and Thailand.

Since it began spreading 30 years ago, AIDS has killed 40 million people worldwide.  Today, some 35 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  Despite progress in treatments, experts believe a vaccine is the best hope for eradicating the disease.

Cystic Fibrosis Breakthrough for cystic fibrosis sufferers as scientists use gene therapy to significantly improve the function of patients' lungs

A breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis has offered hope for thousands of patients. A landmark British study showed the gene therapy treatment significantly improved the working of patients’ lungs. The condition, which is caused by the faulty gene CFTR, leads to recurring chest infections and patients have to undergo physiotherapy up to four times a day to clear their lungs.

Scientists from Oxford University and Imperial College London have developed a treatment which repairs the faulty CFTR gene by adding a healthy gene on top, the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal reported.  Patients inhale a virus, delivered via a nebuliser, which contains the healthy gene and ensures it reaches the cells in the lungs where it is needed.
Once inside the cells, the healthy genes help them function properly and clear mucus from the lungs.

The treatment is still in the early stages of development and has been tested on only a few patients. Professor Eric Alton, of Imperial College London, said: ‘Patients who received the gene therapy showed a significant, if modest, benefit. The results are encouraging.’ Current treatments include enzymes, proteins, or salt solutions which are inhaled through nebulisers to help thin and clear mucus from the lungs.

Pancreatic cancer.  Blood Test IDs Pancreatic Cancer in 250 of 250 Patients

“This study creates enthusiasm that early detection of pancreatic cancer, which is incurable unless removed during very early stages, might become a reality.”

Medical advance.  Blood Test The simple blood test that reveals ANY virus you've ever had - and could help doctors diagnose patients with 'mystery illnesses'

A simple test could reveal any viruses a person has ever had - allowing for better diagnosis of disease. The new tool can detect hundreds of viruses at a time from just a single drop of blood.  The test, called VirScan, makes it possible to test for all current and past infections, rather than testing for specific viruses at a time. It also only costs $25 (£16), a fraction of the cost of existing tools, and uses smaller samples of blood, US researchers say. VirScan works by screening the blood for antibodies against any of the 206 species of viruses known to infect humans.

Testing for a wider range of viruses can uncover unexpected factors affecting individual patients' health – and can help doctors make better diagnoses. It also allows researchers to see similarities and differences in large populations. This could be helpful when studying conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is suspected to be caused by viruses, although the link has not been established

Tuberculosis Could a common heartburn drug cure TUBERCULOSIS? Prevacid offers 'excellent' hope of new treatment, say scientists

TB continues to be a global pandemic, second only to Aids as the greatest single-agent killer in the world.
In 2013 alone, the TB bug mychobacterium tuberculosis was responsible for 1.5 million deaths and almost nine million new infections. Resistance to TB drugs is widespread, creating an urgent need for new medicines.
Swiss scientists screened a number of existing drugs in hope of finding new treatments to counter TB, which caused 1.5 million deaths in 2013. Lansoprazole, marketed as Prevacid, is an antacid used to treat heartburn. They say the class of drug offers 'an excellent opportunity to treat TB'

Lansoprazole belongs to a class of drugs known as 'proton-pump inhibitors' that keep the stomach from pumping too much acid, thus preventing heartburn and ulcers.  Professor Stewart Cole, who led the research, said: 'Proton-pump inhibitors are both safe and widely sold around the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 PM | Permalink

July 12, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer Edition: immuno-oncology, skin, breast and lung cancers

The Economist Doctors are trying—with some success—to recruit the immune system to help with the war on cancer .  There are four ways of dealing with cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapies.  Now scientists are adding a fifth: "immuno-oncology" like Bristol Myers' Opdivo or the arthritis vaccine currently in trials.

Like targeted treatments, these new approaches often use antibodies—proteins that match up to other proteins with great specificity. Unlike the targeted therapies, though, the new treatments do not directly attack cancerous cells, but instead unleash the immune system on them.


Skin cancer
Skin cancer jab 'can give TEN more years of life':

Trials have shown that Opdivo boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent.  Doctors said it marked a ‘major milestone’ in the fight against skin cancer. Trials have shown that Opdivo – a brand name for the drug nivolumab – boosts average survival rates by 56 per cent and some patients who had been given months to live have since returned to work.

It is one of a new type of drugs in so-called immunotherapy, which work by teaching the body’s immune system to attack cancerous cells. Experts describe them as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the war against cancer and they are particularly effective against some of the deadliest tumors.

The FDA granted accelerated approval for Skin Cancer Drug Opdivo in Dec 2014

The drug developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb costs about  $12,500 per month, or  $150,000 annually.  Opdivo, is a PD-1 inhibitor. PD-1 helps cancer cells masks their presence in the body, which allows them to grow and metastasize before the immune system can detect and attack them.

Lung cancer  The FDA expanded the approved use of Opdivo (nivolumab) to treat patients with advanced (metastatic) squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with progression on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with an estimated 224,210 new diagnoses and 159,260 deaths in 2014.

Arthritis. Jab that targets agony of arthritis using patient's own cells: Could help hundreds of thousands by preventing painful swelling

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by immune system mistakenly attack joints. The Vaccine 're-educates' the immune system not to attack healthy tissue and the jab is also said to be kinder to the body than existing drugs.  While longer trials of the drug are needed,  experts are so far excited by results.

Breast cancer Fresh doubts over breast cancer tests: Harvard finds routine screening fails to cut deaths

A Harvard study of 16 million women has cast doubt on the benefits of routinely offering breast cancer screening.
The data suggests that routine screening is leading to significant numbers of ‘false positives’ – in which women are wrongly told they might have breast cancer when, in fact, they do not. Other women might undergo grueling chemotherapy to treat small, slow-growing tumors which might never have troubled them if they lived on in ignorance.

Breast cancer Hormone in The Pill 'shrinks tumors in half of cases', say scientists

Progesterone could help treat half of all breast cancer patients, say experts.  The hormone, found in many contraceptive pills, is involved in signals between cell molecules that can hold back tumor growth
Experts reveal progesterone receptor 'talks to' other receptors sensitive to estrogen, which fuels breast cancer in many cases Has the effect of applying a brake on the estrogen receptor's ability to stimulate tumors, research reveals.

Breast Cancer: Eradicating a single protein in the blood could stop breast cancer in its tracks, scientists say

Scientists have identified a key molecule, a single protein which triggers the growth of blood vessels in tumors that have spread to the brain - a common secondary site for breast cancer to spread. By withholding the protein, called DOCK4, a particular part of the blood vessel did not form as quickly, meaning tumors grew at a slower rate, scientists found.
Dr Georgia Mavria, from the University of Leeds, said the discovery could help develop new drugs and identify people at risk of their breast cancer spreading.


Melanoma. Deadly Melanoma May Not Show Up as a Mole

But a new study finds that the sometimes-deadly skin cancer melanoma usually arises in normal skin, where there is no dark spot or sign of cancer until the melanoma suddenly shows up.  Moreover, melanomas that arise in non-mole areas of the skin tend to be more aggressive and deadly than those that do arise from moles, the study found.
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People whose melanomas did not arise from moles (called de novo melanomas) tended to do worse than people with mole-associated melanoma, the researchers said in their findings, presented June 1 at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting…..In general, between 20 and 30 percent of melanomas are mole-associated, but themajority of melanoma cases are de novo cases — they arise in skin that looks normal until the melanoma forms.

How being obese could help you FIGHT cancer 

Overweight patients survive 3 months longer than thinner peers surprising study reveals. While the study does not indicate that being overweight is in any way protective for patients undergoing cancer treatment, Dr Zafar said…. the results suggest that there could be an aspect of biology that could put thinner patients at a higher risk for poor outcomes.. Dr Zafar continued,  'There may be a relationship between having a lower BMI and how much treatment patients can tolerate.'I would hypothesise that the lowest weight patients in our analysis received or tolerated less treatment, or received adequate treatment at first, but became too sick to receive additional therapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2015

Health Roundup: Autism, depression, diabetes, dementia, hospital stays and delirium

Mental Illness: Schizophrenia. Have scientists discovered what causes schizophrenia? Condition may occur because 'gene mutations disrupt chemical balance of the brain'

Autism. People with autism have 'supercharged' brains: Those with the condition are 'over-sensitive to the world - and not impaired'

Scientists found rats reared in a predictable environment were less likely to exhibit some of the symptoms of autism
Findings consistent with the theory that autism is the consequence of supercharged brains that make the world an intensely painful place  Experts hope their findings will help develop new therapies to treat autism.

Can autism be diagnosed by a child's sense of SMELL? Children with the disorder continue to sniff a bad odor for longer than those without

Children without autism have a sniff response in which they try and limit the flow of air through their nose when they smell something bad But children with the disorder continue to smell the odor . New sniff test was accurate in diagnosing autism in 81% of children.  Increasingly abnormal sniff response was associated with more severe symptoms of autism

Depression Depression SHRINKS key part of the brain responsible for creating new memories, scans reveal

The large study of nearly 9000 people compared brain volumes in those with/without depression.
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Those who suffer chronic depression have a significantly smaller hippocampus than healthy individuals, researchers discovered.  The mental illness tends to shrink this area of the brain which is  associated with creating new memories, storing memories and connecting them to our emotions.  The study highlights the need to treat depression in teenagers to stop further bouts.


Diabetes. Is type 2 diabetes caused by BACTERIA in the gut? Toxins trigger insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels, study finds

Bacteria responsible for common skin infections, food poisoning and MRSA could also trigger one of the most prevalent diseases of our time - type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes comprises 90 per cent of all people with diabetes. Scientists at the University of Iowa  discovered exposure to Staphylococcus aureus bacteria causes  insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and systemic inflammation - hallmark symptoms of the disease in rabbits.  Professor Patrick Schlievert, who led the study, said: 'We basically reproduced type 2 diabetes in rabbits simply through chronic exposure to the staph superantigen."

Obesity,  a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, alters a person's microbiome - the ecosystem of bacteria that colonize a person's gut, and affect their health.  Professor Schlievert said: 'What we are finding is that as people gain weight, they are increasingly likely to be colonized by staph bacteria - to have large numbers of these bacteria living on the surface of their skin.  'People who are colonized by staph bacteria are being chronically exposed to the superantigens the bacteria are producing.'  Professor Schlievert's past research has shown that superantigens - the toxins produced by all strains of staph bacteria - disrupt the immune system.

Diabetes and Dementia Could diabetes trigger DEMENTIA? People with type 2 suffer 'memory loss and declining decision-making skills'

People with type 2 diabetes lose brain power as their ability to regulate blood flow drops, research suggests.
A study by experts at Harvard Medical School suggests that the impact can be seen in memory and cognition tests - with the decrease in thinking skills dropping over just two years.  They found a significant decrease in cognitive power, which impacted their ability to cook and bathe themselves.

The study size was small. The US researchers tracked 40 people over two years.  Of those, 19 had type two diabetes and 21 did not have diabetes.Study leader Dr Vera Novak, whose work was published in the journal Neurology, said: ‘Normal blood flow regulation allows the brain to redistribute blood to areas of the brain that have increased activity while performing certain tasks.

Dementia.  Blocking a protein that builds up in the blood 'helps combat memory loss'

A protein that accumulates in the blood as we age may provide the basis for new treatments to reverse dementia, research has shown. The molecule, dubbed B2M, is found in higher concentrations in the blood and cerebral spinal fluid of aging humans, scientists said.  And in mice, inhibiting B2M improved learning and memory in laboratory experiments.  And mice genetically bred not to have B2M did not develop memory decline
'We are very excited about the findings because it indicates that there are two ways to potentially reverse age-related cognitive impairments,' study co-author Dr Saul Villeda of the University of California, San Francisco.

Delirium Delirium: A Surprising Side Effect of Hospital Stays

Often misdiagnosed as dementia, delirium can cause hallucinations and delusions…….Turpin’s experience illustrates the consequences of delirium, a sudden disruption of consciousness and cognition marked by vivid hallucinations, delusions and an inability to focus that affects 7 million hospitalized Americans annually. The disorder can occur at any age — it has been seen in preschoolers — but disproportionately affects people older than 65 and is often misdiagnosed as dementia.

While delirium and dementia can coexist, they are distinctly different illnesses. Dementia develops gradually and worsens progressively, while delirium occurs suddenly and typically fluctuates during the course of a day. Some patients with delirium are agitated and combative, while others are lethargic and inattentive.
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Patients treated in intensive care units who are heavily sedated and on ventilators are particularly likely to become delirious; some studies place the rate as high as 85 percent. But the condition is common among patients recovering from surgery and in those with something as easily treated as a urinary tract infection. Regardless of its cause, delirium can persist for months after discharge.
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A recent meta-analysis led by Harvard researchers found that a variety of non-drug interventions — which included making sure patients’ sleep-wake cycles were preserved, that they had their eyeglasses and hearing aids and that were not dehydrated — reduced delirium by 53 percent. These simple fixes had an added benefit: They cut the rate of falls among hospitalized patients by 62 percent.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer edition

Ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect in the early stages because there are so few symptoms, yet ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer among women and fewer than 50% survive more than 5 years.New ovarian cancer test diagnoses twice as many cases as previous tests.

In the world's largest ovarian cancer screening trial, the new method correctly diagnosed 86 per cent of women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (iEOC). The new technique tracks changing levels of a protein in the blood called CA125 which is linked to ovarian cancer.  It then uses a computer program to interprets the variations, predicting the risk of developing the disease based on factors including age, the original level of the protein and how that changed over time.

Breast Cancer  Cheap osteoporosis drugs could stop breast cancer from spreading to bones.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the UK, with around 50,000 cases a year, and 12,000 deaths. Almost nine in ten deaths occur because disease has spread to the bone.

A study at the Institute of Cancer Research has an identified an enzyme which causes disease to spread to the bone, causing the majority of breast cancer deaths.  The new trials, in mice, identified an enzyme which is triggered by tumours in the breast, causing holes in the bones, which make them susceptible to the spread of disease. Tests found that a cheap class of drugs, already used to prevent osteoporosis, could prevent the changes in the bone, blocking the spread of disease.

The research, conducted at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, found that the enzyme LysYl Oxidase (LOX) released from the primary tumour causes holes in bone and prepares the bone for the future arrival of cancer cells.
Identifying LOX in oestrogen receptor negative (ER negative) breast cancer patients early, could allow doctors to block the enzyme’s activity, preventing bone damage and the spread of tumour cells to the bone (metastasis), halting the progression of the disease.

Prostate Cancer Study finds men with 'untreatable tumors' could be helped by drugs already on hospital shelves

Prostate cancer treatment could be transformed by a landmark study described as the disease’s 'Rosetta Stone'.
The breakthrough in cancer genetics means that many men whose illness was thought untreatable could be given drugs that are already on hospital shelves
. Some patients have already benefited and are alive more than a year on, despite only having been given weeks to live.
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Professor Bono, who led the British team, said: ‘We're describing this study as prostate cancer's Rosetta stone - because of the ability it gives us to decode the complexity of the disease, and to translate the results into personalized treatment plans for patients…..What's hugely encouraging is that many of the key mutations we have identified are ones targeted by existing cancer drugs

Skin Cancer Genetically engineered virus 'cures' patients of skin cancer

Currently most cancers are treated with using invasive chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, all of which carry the risk of further harm.  In a breakthrough which raises hopes of an end to chemotherapy, a genetically engineered virus has ‘cured’ patients of cancer for the first time

In a worldwide study which was led by the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK, scientists showed that the new treatment allowed some patients with skin cancer to live for more than three years – the benchmark many oncologists use to define a cure. The therapy – called T-VEC - works by infecting and killing cancer cells while also sparking the immune system into action against tumors.  T-VEC is a modified form of herpes virus which multiplies inside cancer cells and bursts them from within. It has been genetically engineered to produce a molecule called GM-CSF, which stimulates the immune system to attack and destroy the tumor. The new therapy has far fewer side effects and does not damage healthy tissue or cells.

The clinical trials, which have been ongoing for more than three years, have been conducted in 64 centres across the UK, US, Canada and South Africa. The results show that 163 patients with stage three and early stage four melanoma who were treated with T-VEC lived for an average of 41 months. That was compared with an average survival of 21.5 months for 66 patients who were given the current best immunotherapy drugs.  And the response was most pronounced in patients with less advanced cancers, underlining the potential benefit as a first-line treatment for metastatic cancers which cannot be surgically removed.

Melanoma New Cancer Drug Combination Shrinks Tumors in 60% of Patients with Advanced Melanoma

Two cancer drugs, when taken in concert, can shrink tumors in nearly 60% of people with advanced-stage melanoma, according to a new study.  The trial, which enrolled 945 patients at 137 sites worldwide, found that treating the cancer with medications ipilimumab and nivolumab stopped its advance for almost a year in more than half of cases, the BBC reports.....While the immune system is generally a potent agent in combatting disease, certain built-in “brakes” keep the body from attacking its own tissue — a loophole that cancers can use to continue growing unchecked. But both medications turn those “brakes” off.

Liquid biopsies. New blood tests, liquid biopsies may transform cancer care

A new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care. The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself. A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance that could make personalized medicine possible for far more people.

They give the first noninvasive way to repeatedly sample a cancer so doctors can profile its genes, target drugs to mutations, tell quickly whether treatment is working, and adjust it as the cancer evolves.  Two years ago, these tests were rarely used except in research. Now, several are sold, more than a dozen are in development, and some doctors are using them in routine care.

Chemo brain. Researchers find first evidence cancer treatment can lead to 'chronically wandering mind'

Researchers have found the first clear evidence that 'chemo brain' where patients find it difficult to concentrate after undergoing chemotherapy, is real.  The new research shows that chemotherapy can lead to excessive mind wandering and an inability to concentrate. The negative cognitive effects of the cancer treatment have long been suspected, but the study is the first to explain why patients have difficulty paying attention.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: oral edition

Not brushing your teeth can trigger dementia and heart disease: A unique experiment shows how bad dental hygiene wrecks your entire body’s immune system.  For a two-part BBC series on dental health, Dr Van Tulleken put a gum guard on one side of his mouth whenever he brushed his teeth so that side didn't get cleaned.  When he took it off after two weeks, his gums bled a bit and there was pink, blood- spattered spit in his bathroom washbowl. He had developed mild gum disease.

Tests showed that not brushing his teeth for two weeks had damaged Dr Van Tulleken's immune system ...Lab tests using my white blood cells — the soldiers of the immune system — showed they had become less effective at moving towards an infectious invader when it was introduced to them.  Instead of heading straight towards the invader to attack it, the white cells were heading there slowly in random, inefficient ways.  This result indicated that my whole body had become inflamed as a result of an infection in my gums.

Inflammation is the medical term for our body’s reaction to infection — typically seen on the outside of the body as red, swollen tissue....A swathe of recent science has revealed that if you have chronic inflammation, it will seriously affect the rest of your health and your life.  It is strongly linked with the development of illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer.

Professor Chapple reassured me this inflammation is completely reversible if you induce it for only a couple of weeks.
But if you leave gum disease for significantly longer, you will be doing yourself chronic, irreversible damage. Gum disease isn’t just bad for your teeth, it shortens your life — simple as that. So, looking after your teeth is one of the most important health interventions you can make....Yet, this  crucial connection between the health of your gums and the health of your entire body is relatively neglected by doctors.

New toothbrush technology. Toothbrush that checks your DNA for onset of cancer and Alzheimer's could revolutionise health care  Tiny microchips in toothbrushes could warn us about onset of diseases. Nanopore sequencers analyse DNA as it passes through tiny hole on chip and that decodes it into digital format that can be assessed against genetic markers.

Protect your toothbrush Brush your teeth but never leave your toothbrush in communal bathrooms.  Study discovers toothbrushes in shared bathrooms contain feces other than your own.

A new study held in bathrooms at the Quinnipiac University in Connecticut claims to have found there is a 60 per cent chance your toothbrush is covered in poop.  Even more concerning, the study found people using communal bathrooms with an average of nine people had around an 80 per cent chance that the faeces belonged to another person.

They discovered that these coliforms made contact with toothbrush after spreading through the air as a result of actions such as flushing the toilet. Researcher Lauren Aber said the phenomenon presented a dangerous health risk.
“The main concern is not with the presence of your own fecal matter on your toothbrush, but rather when a toothbrush is contaminated with fecal matter from someone else, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that are not part of your normal flora,"

Regularly rinsing your toothbrush with mouthwash, hot water or cold water had no effectiveness in decontamination, nor did toothbrush covers.

Whether you floss before or after brushing your teeth doesn't matter so long as you floss once a day and brush twice.

From WikiHow, How to Brush Your Teeth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2015

Health Roundup: Asthma, malaria vaccine, Alzheimer's, anorexia and leaky gut

Asthma Asthma could be cured within five years after drug breakthrough

Asthma could cured within five years after scientists discovered what causes the condition and how to switch it off.
In a breakthrough which could change the lives of Britain’s five million sufferers, researchers at Cardiff University and Kings College London identified which cells cause the airways to narrow when triggered by irritants like pollution.
Crucially, drugs already exist which can deactivate the cells. They are known as calcilytics and are used to treat people with osteoporosis.

The scientists are hopeful that in the future asthmatics take the drug to prevent an attack ever happening and ending the need to constantly carry an inhaler."Our findings are incredibly exciting," said Professor Daniela Riccardi, from Cardiff University School of Biosciences.

Scientists knew that asthma was caused by inflammation in the small tubes which carry air and out of the lungs, but did not know what was triggering it. However experiments on mice and human airway tissue found that calcium sensing receptor (CaSR ) cells - which detect changes in the environment - go into overdrive in asthmatics, triggering airway twitching, inflammation, and narrowing.But when calcilytic drugs are inhaled, it deactivates the cells and stops all symptoms.

Vaccine for Malaria. Malaria vaccine that will prevent millions of young children catching disease could be available within months

The vaccine named RTS,S could be available by October.  Designed for use in children in Africa, it can prevent up to half of cases.  Experts hail 'extraordinary achievement' for British firm  - GlaxoSmithKline - that developed it.  Scientists have worked on the vaccine for more than 20 years – at a cost of more than £330million, but experts say there is a long way to go.

The disease is difficult to treat because the malaria parasite has a complicated life cycle and has learned how to evade the human immune system over hundreds of years.  The latest World Health Organisation figures show that of the 198 million cases in 2013, 584,000 people died. Most victims are children in Africa, where one dies every minute.
Currently, the most effective prevention measure is the use of mosquito nets

Among those who had three doses of RTS,S and a booster shot, the number of clinical cases of malaria – those confirmed by a doctor – was reduced by 36 per cent after four years.  But the protection waned over time, boosters worked less well than the initial dose and the vaccine was not as effective in younger children, a report in The Lancet journal says.

Alzheimer's Alzheimer hope in epilepsy drug:

Brivaracetam, an epilepsy drug used to reduce severity of seizures, was found to completely reverse memory loss in rats suffering from Alzheimer's.  Previous trials on rats and humans found the anti-convulsant drug levetiracetam could slow some Alzheimer's symptoms.  Brivaracetam which is still in clinical development for epilepsy is ten times more potent than levetiracetam.  The study, in the journal Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, reinforces a theory that brain hyperexcitability plays an important role in the disease.

Dr Haakon Nygaard, of the University of British Columbia in Canada who tested the effects of brivaracetam said:
"Now we have many different research groups using anti-epileptic drugs that engage the same target, and all point to a therapeutic effect in both Alzheimer's disease models, and patients with the disease. Both of these drugs are likely to be tested in larger clinical trials in Alzheimer's disease over the next five to 10 years."

Anorexia Scientists claim they have discovered the gene responsible for eating disorders

While the Western 'obsession' with thinness plays a role, scientists believe 50 to 70% of the risk of developing anorexia is genetic. Experiments on mice have located the defective gene

High Blood Pressure Scientists discover how the body regulates blood pressure - and say discovery could slash risk of heart attacks and stroke  Scientists found release of protein ERAP1 lowers blood pressure. ERAP1 breaks down a hormone which causes blood vessels to constrict.  Drugs prompting the natural release of ERAP1 could be developed which wil lower blood pressure and thus lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes

Leaky Gut  The Cure for Brain Diseases Is in Your Gut

Researchers are just now starting to link inflammation in your gut with some of the most deadly and debilitating diseases we have...This is beyond groundbreaking, it is iconoclastic in that it represents a break from the long-held mentality that brain disease must arise in the brain.
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Dr. Christopher B. Forsyth and his team have recently demonstrated significant gut permeability, more commonly referred to as “leaky gut” in Parkinson’s patients. Their research has further revealed that this increase in gut leakiness enhances inflammation as well as the production of a unique protein—alpha-synuclein—both of which are characteristic of this disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

April 28, 2015

Treating patients at home

Great idea Admitted to Your Bedroom: Some Hospitals Try Treating Patients at Home

When Martin Fernandez came into Mount Sinai Hospital’s emergency room one recent afternoon, with high fever and excruciating abdominal pain, he and his family were asked an unexpected question. Mr. Fernandez, 82, would have to be officially admitted to receive intravenous antibiotics for his urinary tract infection. But he could stay at Mount Sinai, or he could receive treatment at home.

If he chose to be hospitalized at home, doctors and nurses would visit daily. He would receive lab draws and intravenous medications, even X-rays or ultrasound scans if he needed them. The costs to him would be no greater than if he were physically in the hospital. In three or four days, he would be discharged — and he would not have to go anywhere….He was hospitalized at his daughter’s apartment, just a couple blocks away, a few hours later.

He had a urinary catheter, but Mr. Fernandez could still wear his own clothes during the day and his pajamas at night. His wife and his daughter cooked him meals of arepas, vegetables and black beans, and served them to him in bed.

“Hospitals help you, but there’s so much noise that you can’t sleep and you’re lonely,” said Mr. Fernandez’s daughter, Ana Vanessa Fernandez. “Here, there was no timing for visitors. There was no curfew. It’s like being at home, but the hospital is home with you.”
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Dr. Bruce Leff noticed that back in the late 1980s while making house calls to homebound patients, part of his primary care training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. When some of his patients fell ill, they simply refused to go to a hospital.

He understood why: He had seen firsthand the delirium, infections and deconditioning that too often land older patients in nursing homes after hospitalization. “Being in the hospital could be toxic,” said Dr. Leff, a geriatrician who is now a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.
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Dr. Leff and his colleagues settled on four diagnoses that could be treated without the patient’s being physically in the hospital: heart failure, exacerbations of emphysema, certain types of pneumonia, and a bacterial skin infection called cellulitis.
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The findings, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, were promising. Offered the opportunity, most patients agreed to be treated at home. They were hospitalized for shorter periods, and their treatments cost less. They were less likely to develop delirium or to receive sedative medications, and no more likely to return to the emergency room or be readmitted.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2015

Health roundup: Depression, Alzheimer's, MS, Cancer, Genetic Treatments and Vaccinations

Depression.
Probiotics May Help Ease Pain of Negative Thoughts/Depression.    Linking probiotics and mood
Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, are fundamental in improving digestion and immune function.  A new study found that people focus less on bad feelings and experiences from the past (i.e. rumination) after four weeks of probiotics administration.  The study was published in the journal, Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Mindfulness therapy as good as medication for chronic depression - study
"Whilst this study doesn't show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works any better than maintenance anti-depressant medication in reducing the rate of relapse … these results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions," said Willem Kuyken of Oxford University, who worked with Byng on the research.

Alzheimer's

WSJ A Diet Might Cut the Rick of Developing Alzheimer's. Researchers at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center spent two years developing the MIND diet, which includes many brain-healthy foods like berries and greens.  The MIND diet combines elements of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which aims to reduce high blood pressure. The MIND diet also includes ‘brain-healthy’ foods such as lots of green leafy vegetables, blueberries and nuts. A study found adhering strictly to any of the three diets lowered the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. But only the MIND diet had significant benefits - a 53% reduced risk for developing Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's 'breakthrough': Addenbrooke's Hospital recruits first humans for testing diabetes drug
Patients over 50 with early Alzheimer's recruited for research in Cambridge after study finds drug Liraglutide might reverse some damage caused in later stages of disease.  A landmark study last autumn on mice found that the drug Liraglutide, which is already used in the treatment of diabetes – appeared to reduce the damage caused by dementia and result in memory improvements.  Mice with late-stage Alzheimer's given the drug performed significantly better on an object recognition test and their brains showed a 30 per cent reduction in the build-up of toxic plaques.

If the drug is found to reverse damage to the brain, or to stall disease progression, the drug could be the first treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and offered more widely within five years, scientists said.

MS

Creams used to treat athlete's foot and eczema 'could REVERSE multiple sclerosis'
Active ingredients in creams were found to cure multiple sclerosis (MS). They prompted stem cells to reverse the nerve damage caused by MS
and regenerate myelin, the coating around nerve fibers that MS destroys.

Miconzanole is sold over the counter in most pharmacies as a cream to treat athlete's foot, while clobetasol cream is commonly prescribed to treat eczema.  Although both drugs are widely used, a way must be found to use them safely as internal human treatments rather than creams or ointments before clinical trials can be considered.
The researchers are confident this problem can be solved, but have warned patients not to jump the gun by using the drugs prematurely.

Cancer

Exceeding the recommended daily amount of vitamins can do more harm than good.  Taking too many vitamins 'increases risk of heart disease and cancer', study warns

Compound in the green cruciferous veg broccoli is found to 'stop the growth of tumors'
Broccoli has long been hailed as a superfood, and it could soon protect people from cancer of the mouth, throat, neck and head, a study claims.  Scientists are developing a new treatment known as 'green chemoprevention' in which broccoli and other vegetables are used to prevent the disease. They explained that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and garden cress have a high concentration of sulforaphane – which is why they have a slightly bitter taste. Previous studies, including large-scale trials in China, have shown sulforaphane helps 'undo' the effects of cancer-causing agents in the environment.

Hope for prostate cancer patients as scientists discover breast cancer drug can also prolong the lives of men
Olaparib is the first cancer drug to target inherited genetic mutations. Up to 30 per cent of men with advanced prostate cancer have tumors with genetic defects - and they responded well to olaparib which prolongs the time a sufferer can live without disease getting worse.

Cancer patient's giant tumor is 'completely destroyed' and 'dissolves' after doctors trial pioneering new drugs cocktail to treat melanoma
Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York were trialling a new combination of drugs to treat advanced skin cancer
Combined standard drug ipilimumab with new drug nivolumab
Woman, 49, had one dose of the therapy and within weeks her tumor had completely disappeared, leaving a hole in the skin under her left breast

This is one of the most astonishing responses I have seen,' said medical oncologist Paul Chapman.
'It reminds us of the potential power of the immune system if we can remove the "brakes" that keep it from attacking cancer cells.'

In Wired, The Future of Cancer Treatment is (Almost) Here

One of the newest developments in cancer detection and monitoring is something called a liquid biopsy. It’s a test that can detect tumor DNA circulating in the blood. I think it’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen since I started my career.

Genetic Treatments

New era of medicine begins as first children cured of genetic disorder  The pioneering therapy offers hope to the hundreds thousands of people suffering from inherited conditions.

British doctors have cured youngsters of a deadly inherited disorder using a ground-breaking stem cell treatment which heralds a new dawn for genetic therapies. Patients with the most severe form of the rare blood condition Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome have now been free of the disease for four years.

The treatment works by removing bone marrow stem cells – the type of cells which create new blood cells – and replacing the faulty part of the genetic code with a healthy gene. When the stem cells are replaced in the patient they then begin producing healthy blood cells, free from disease.

Vaccinations

There is NO link between MMR and autism - even in high-risk children, landmark study declares
The findings, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on a study of about 95,000 young people. Some children in the study had elder siblings with autism but researchers found vaccines had no effect on autism risk, whether or not a sibling in the family was diagnosed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2015

Health roundup: Turbo-charging cancer-killing T cells, MS drug repairs myelin, how Alzheimher's is caused, increased risks for dementia, talking therapy and more

New drug could reverse the damage of multiple sclerosis
A new experimental drug, called anti-LINGO-1, has been found to repair myelin, radically improving nerve signalling.

Scientists find key to 'turbo-charging' immune system to kill all cancers
In a breakthrough described as a ‘game-changer’ for cancer treatment, researchers at Imperial College found a previously unknown molecule which boosts the body’s ability to fight off chronic illnesses…..This is a completely unknown protein. Nobody had ever seen it before or was even aware that it existed. It looks and acts like no other protein.”  The protein – named lymphocyte expansion molecule, or LEM, promotes the spread of cancer-killing ‘T cells’ by generating large amounts of energy.

Normally when the immune system detects cancer it goes into overdrive trying to fight the disease, flooding the body with T cells. But it quickly runs out of steam.  However the new protein causes a massive energy boost which makes T cells in such great numbers that the cancer cannot fight them off.  It also causes a boost of immune memory cells which are able to recognize tumors and viruses they have encountered previously so there is less chance that they will return.

Alzheimer's breakthrough as researchers say they may have discovered how disease is caused and say it 'opens new doors' in search for a treatment.  Researchers have made a major breakthrough in discovering how Alzheimer's is caused - and say it could lead to new treatments. The new study shows that our immune system,… plays a part in the debilitating disease.  The Duke University study in mice found that in Alzheimer's disease, certain immune cells that normally protect the brain begin to abnormally consume an important nutrient: arginine.  Blocking this process with a small-molecule drug prevented the characteristic brain plaques and memory loss in a mouse model of the disease.

Having depression or diabetes raises the risk of dementia by up to 80% - and even more if you suffer both
Having diabetes is associated with a 20% greater risk of developing dementia.  A depression diagnosis was associated with an 83% increased risk.  Being diagnosed with both conditions increases the risk by 117%
As many as one in five people with type 2 diabetes also have depression.

Antidepressants? You might be better off TALKING: Psychotherapy can 're-wire' the brain - without the side-effects of drugs
People with depression show hyperactivity in certain areas of the brain. Eight weeks of psychotherapy was shown to correct this hyperactivity . The talking treatment can 're-wire' the brain without drugs, said the researchers, using brain-imaging technology at the University of Kassel in Germany.

Prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than trebled since 1998 in the world’s richest countries, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found.Some 62 per cent of depression sufferers are now treated with drugs. However, many anti-depressants have side effects including nausea, a dry mouth, blurring of vision, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia and sexual dysfunction.

The popular painkiller Tylenol can reduce feelings of sadness AND happiness, claims study
Previous research has shown that when people take acetaminophen for three weeks, their feelings get hurt less when they are socially rejected. That could be because pain is pain; whether it comes from a bump or a break-up, pain seems to travel through the same neurochemical pathways. In another study published in 2013, people who took acetaminophen thought about their own death less negatively than those who weren’t on anything. And a study this year found that when faced with a tough choice, acetaminophen helps dull the discomfort

Contraceptive pill can 'make women more anxious by shrinking part of their brain', study warns
UCLA study found the Pill shrinks two parts of the brain linked to emotion.  Synthetic hormones found in the contraceptive are thought to be at blame. Neuroscientists at UCLA believe it could account for increased anxiety and depressive episodes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2015

Health Roundup: Cancer vaccine, more eggs, cheese and knitting, over-prescription of anti-depressants

Israeli Company's Vaccine Blocks 90% of Cancer Types Vaxil BioTherapeutics's ImMucin trains immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent the disease's return for early stages and remission.

The secret to staving off diabetes? Eat four eggs a week and plenty of cheese and yogurt

Researchers claim eating an egg every other day may keep diabetes at bay. Regular consumption cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by a third, according to a new study. A second study found similar health benefits from eating high fat dairy foods, such as cheese.  Second study found eating high fat cheese and yogurt lowered risk by 25%

French cheese diet 'reduces the risk of a heart attack'.  Experts claim that brie, camembert, roquefort - and any other variety - helps cut the amount of dangerous cholesterol in people's bodies, leading to a reduced risk of suffering a heart attack. The discovery is being hailed a new piece in the 'French paradox' puzzle which already shows that drinking red wine cuts cardiovascular disease rates.  Researchers found that those who consumed cheese had higher levels of butyrate, a compound produced by gut bacteria.  Higher levels of the chemical were linked to a reduction in cholesterol.

A passion for knitting and crocheting could protect against dementia  Arts and crafts enthusiasts are 75% less likely to suffer memory loss…Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota believe the findings highlight the importance of engaging the mind.  They found people who participate in arts and crafts, and those who socialize in middle and old age, were 73 per cent less likely to develop memory loss, which often leads to dementia.  The key, they believe, lies in the fact the activities stimulate the mind and help protect vital neurons - the building blocks of the brain.

So can middle-age spread

While traveling in certain foreign countries, think about a daily handful of peanuts a day. Handful of peanuts a day can shield you from food poisoning: Nuts found to improve health in the gut and body's ability to ward off bugs including E.Coli

Binge drinking as a teenager 'may damage the brain for life': Alcohol puts young people at risk of anxiety disorders and addiction
Binge drinking as a teenager can cause long-lasting damage to the brain well into adulthood, a new study has warned.
This is because drinking excessive amounts of alcohol when young can damage the brain and cause permanent changes to DNA.  This, in turn, can put teenagers at risk of anxiety disorders and alcoholism, researchers found.  Alcohol changes genes in brain cells, which stop the cells developing connections between them, altering behavior.

More than two thirds of people taking antidepressants 'may NOT actually have depression': Doctors discover many do not meet the official criteria

A study analyzed those taking selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and found that  69% did not meet the criteria for clinical depression and 38% did not meet the criteria for other mental conditions like anxiety
Experts: 'Drugs are prescribed without an evidence-based diagnosis'

Commenting on the study, Dr Howard Forman, medical director of the Addiction Consultation Service at Montefiore Medical Center, said clinical depression is distinct from temporary feelings of sadness. 'We all experience periods of stress, periods of sadness, and periods of self-doubt. These don’t make us mentally ill, they define us as human.'

In the U.S., official guidelines say clinical depression should be diagnosed if a person has five or more depressive symptoms over a two week period, most of the day, nearly every day. The symptoms include a depressed mood; a loss of interested or pleasure in activities; weight loss, weight gain or changes in appetite; insomnia or increased desire to sleep.  Other symptoms included restlessness or slowed behavior; fatigue or loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt; difficulty making decisions or trouble concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Prescriptions for anti-depressants have more than trebled since 1998 in the world’s richest countries, a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:06 PM | Permalink

March 31, 2015

Health Roundup: Anger, power naps, milk, spinach, chocolate and a 1000 year old remedy for MRSA

WSJ Angry Outbursts Really Do Hurt Your Health, Doctors Find From heart disease to sleep problems, medical researchers increasingly are finding just how toxic anger can be

New evidence suggests people increase their risk for a heart attack more than eightfold shortly after an intensely angry episode. Anger can also help bring on strokes and irregular heartbeat, other research shows. And it may lead to sleep problems, excess eating and insulin resistance, which can help cause diabetes.
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Over time, chronic anger can cause long-term damage to the heart, according to Dr. Williams of Duke.
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Strong anger releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, which can trigger an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and sugar metabolism. This is useful if the body requires a burst of energy to mount a physical attack…..But too much anger can be harmful, especially for people already at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Cosmic radiation exposure, an atmosphere drier than a desert and the dangers of DVT: The scary ways air travel affects your health

Yes! A power nap of just 45 minutes can boost the memory five-fold, according to new research

The scientists, from Saarland University in Germany, said that during sleep, bursts of brain activity known as sleep spindles play an important role in consolidating newly learned information.

Three glasses of milk a day 'to beat dementia': People who drink large amounts of the white stuff have higher levels of antioxidant that helps protects brain cells

A new US study shows a link between milk consumption and higher levels of a naturally-occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.  The powerful antioxidant may minimize damage to brain cells from free radicals, destructive groups of atoms made as a by-product of metabolism that can damage cells.
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A study from Oxford University suggested milk drinking might mitigate neurological damage leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s due to its vitamin B12 content.  A randomized, controlled trial that seeks to determine the precise effect of milk consumption on the brain is still needed and is a logical next step, the researchers said.

1,000-year-old onion and garlic eye remedy kills MRSA

Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach.
They were "astonished" to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA…..They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.
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"We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,"

Popeye was right. Eat spinach to stay sharp: Two helpings a day knocks 11 YEARS off your brain age

Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger….Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger.
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The researchers, from Rush University in Chicago, quizzed 950 men and women about their diet.  The volunteers, who had an average age of 81, then did a battery of mental tests every year for up to ten years.  The brains of those who ate leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, aged more slowly, the Experimental Biology conference in Boston heard…..It is thought that vitamin K, folate or vitamin B9, and the natural colourings lutein and beta-carotene were behind the effects.

Chocolate is so good and good for you. New study reveals that eating chocolate doesn't affect your Body Mass Index … and can even help you LOSE weight!

This research only adds to the reputation amongst medical studies that now suggest chocolate is good for you in a myriad of ways. It's been found to help your heart by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries), boost your brain power by enhancing blood flow to the brain (associated with enhancing memory) and also reduces stress levels by correcting chemical imbalances related with stress.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: New drugs for cholesterol, heart failure, leukemia and Alzheimer's

NYT Tests of Cholesterol Drugs Offer Hope of Reducing Heart Attacks and Strokes

A new class of experimental cholesterol drugs might sharply reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, researchers reported on Sunday, citing what they described as preliminary evidence.  The drugs, one being developed by Amgen and the other by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, are already known to sharply reduce so-called bad cholesterol, sometimes to levels lower than those achieved by statins like Lipitor, the mainstay lipid-lowering medicines.

How stem cells can fix a broken heart – with just one jab 15-minute procedure could transform lives of patients with heart failure

The 15-minute procedure involves cells taken from a patient’s own body, which are then re-injected into their heart to repair damaged muscle.  It is hoped that the procedure could improve the quality of life for patients suffering from heart failure, the condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly.
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First, bone marrow is removed from the patient – via a needle inserted into the hip bone – from which it is possible to separate stem cells. These cells have the unique ability to change into different cell types. The cells are processed in a laboratory before being injected back into the patient’s heart to repair the damaged tissue. The procedure is carried out under general anesthetic.

Alzheimer's Drug Shows Startling Promise

Biogen Idec's drug aducanumab has been shown to slow mental decline in patients with early or mild Alzheimer's disease in a small drug trial…the drug proved to be the first to both ease plaque and slow cognitive decline.

Pill Used To Treat Parkinson's Disease Makes People More Empathetic

Researchers at UC Berkley and UCSF say Tolcapone prolongs the effects of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with reward and motivation in the prefrontal cortex

A miracle cancer vaccine? Scientists hail breakthrough cancer treatment as a 'game changer'

Scientists have worked out how to teach the body’s immune system to identify cancer cells, allowing patients to be primed to destroy cancer.  In one case an American woman given just weeks to live  was cleared of advanced blood cancer. She is still alive three years later, and her doctor says she is not a one-off.

British and American researchers are working on two related approaches …Both methods involve taking T-cells, which fight infection, and giving them the ability to recognize a special tag on the surface of cancer cells, called the WT1 protein. ..
The research is being carried out on patients with leukemia.

Doctors hail drug that can 'turn off cancer' : Once-a-day tablet could spare blood cancer patients effects of traditional chemotherapy

Ibrutinib has shown to be 'extremely effective' in treating mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia after 2 trials in 28 British hospitals.  Professor Stephen Devereux, consultant hematologist at King’s College Hospital in London, says it is a new class of targeted medications, known as a Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It works by targeting and switching off a protein in the cancer cells.

‘Chemotherapy kills cancer cells but it also kills normal cells and therefore has lots of side effects,’ he says.
‘As this drug is targeted at the B-cells, the side effects are minor. In addition, patients don’t have to go into hospital to have it administered.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:48 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2015

Roundup of Alzheimer's news

Unconscionable. Most Alzheimer's patients not given diagnosis by their doctors say 55% of patients and their caregivers.

The reasons doctors give range from diagnostic uncertainty and fear of causing emotional distress to time constraints, lack of support, and stigma…

Alzheimer's advocates stress the importance of giving a patient all the facts, as early as possible, so they can work with their family to organize legal and health directives and have time to fulfill life-long desires. It's just as important for the caregiver…. "Right now, the big studies that are underway in prevention are really looking at people in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so by waiting, they can lose out on clinical trials as well."

 Alzheimer's

A large Mayo Clinic study has found that when it comes to what causes Alzheimer’s disease, researchers may have been barking up the wrong tree.

Every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s, and it remains an elusive, incurable disease for now. However, a new breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research may make the path clearer for diagnosing and even preventing the disease one day. 

Amyloid – a sticky, toxic protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients — has been the focus of research and diagnosis for decades. But a new Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Brain shows that another toxic protein, called tau, may be a bigger culprit in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s over the lifetime of the disease.  Researchers say the discovery could lead to better diagnosis, treatments, and prevention tools.

Biogen's Alzheimer's drug slows mental decline in early study

An experimental drug from Biogen Idec Inc became the first Alzheimer's treatment to significantly slow cognitive decline and reduce what is believed to be brain-destroying plaque in patients with early and mild forms of the disease, according to a small study likely to reignite hopes of a treatment…..
…"It's a bigger treatment effect than we had hoped for,"  said Alfred Sandrock, Biogen's chief medical officer
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The Biogen treatment led to reductions in brain amyloid and the plaque reduction was more pronounced as the dose of the drug increased and over time.

Biogen will begin enrolling patients later this year for a large Phase III trial, whose results could be used to seek approval of its drug.  The Biogen drug faces years of testing and would not reach the market much before 2020, even if all goes well, analysts said.

More on that new treatment - New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function Of the mice that received the treatment, 75 percent got their memories back.

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.

Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they’re caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, which disrupts the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them, just like when you twist up the vacuum cleaner tube.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue.  By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours.

The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognize new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2015

Cheap, mobile and drug-free way to treat Alzheimer's in the works

Let's hope this works.  Hope for Alzheimer's sufferers with scientists developing a treatment to RESTORE memory loss

Australian scientists have made a major breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's with a new drug-free method that can restore memory loss.  Researchers at the University of Queensland's Brain Institute hope to be able to trial their new 'cheap and mobile' ultrasound device within two years on humans.

The treatment attacks the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that cause memory loss and cognitive failure with ultrasound waves.

Research director Professor Jürgen Götz hopes the new method will revolutionize Alzheimer's treatment by restoring memory for sufferers.

'We're extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer's without using drug therapeutics,' Professor Götz said, according to The Australian. 'The word 'breakthrough' is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2015

Health roundup: Double chins, classical music, IGT, the Pill+Crohn's, brain cancer+tetanus, HIV+cellular scissors

New drug that gets rid of double chins WITHOUT surgery receives unanimous recommendation for FDA approval
ATX-101 is a noninvasive, in-office procedure that takes five minutes and patients heal in 2-3 days and can walk out without wearing a bandage.  The  drug is injected in grid of tiny dots where 'max amount of fat' under chin is
destroying membranes of fat cells, causing them to burst and permanently disappear. Side effects include short-term swelling, bruising and numbness. The drug now just needs final FDA approval 

Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia say researchers after discovering Mozart excerpts enhanced gene activity in patients
Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia, new research has found.  Scientists discovered that patients who listened to experts of Mozart had enhanced gene activity in the brain in areas including memory and learning. The music also affected the activity of a risk gene connected to Parkinson's disease.

The Finnish researchers found the changed activity was only present in 'musically-experienced' patients, who listened to music regularly, suggesting the importance of familiarity with music.

A new class of drugs will dramatically slow the aging process
The new medicines, known as senolytics, have been shown to alleviate symptoms of frailty, improve heart function and extend a healthy life. …Senior author and Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland:  "It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time."

The problem they faced was how to identify these cells without harming other healthy cells.  They discovered that like cancer cells, senescent cells have increased expression of "pro-survival networks" that help them resist apoptosis or programmed cell death. So they used a cancer drug dasatanib and an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory known as quercetin to target senescent cells.The combination wiped out these cells, leaving the healthy ones untouched.

High cholesterol LOWERS the risk of diabetes: New study reveals why taking statins may be harmful
A study of 25,000 found that patients with hypercholesterolemia were half as likely to have diabetes.

New York Times: Protection Without a Vaccine

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute said they had developed an artificial antibody that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inactivated it. The molecule can eliminate H.I.V. from infected monkeys and protect them from future infections.  But this treatment is not a vaccine, not in any ordinary sense. By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease. Researchers are testing this novel approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebola, malaria, influenza and hepatitis.

….The first human trial based on this strategy — called immunoprophylaxis by gene transfer, or I.G.T. — is underway, and several new ones are planned. I.G.T. is altogether different from traditional vaccination. It is instead a form of gene therapy. Scientists isolate the genes that produce powerful antibodies against certain diseases and then synthesize artificial versions. The genes are placed into viruses and injected into human tissue, usually muscles…..The viruses invade human cells with their DNA payloads, and the synthetic gene is incorporated into the recipient’s own DNA. If all goes well, the new genes instruct the cells to begin manufacturing powerful antibodies.

Women on the Pill face increased risk of Crohn's disease
New study of 230,000 women suggests women may be three times as likely to develop the bowel condition if they are on the Pill and have high-risk genetics

Woman with brain cancer who was given just two months to live has survived for NINE years and seen five grandchildren born after being given experimental vaccine      Sandra Hillburn, 68, was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma in April 2006.  She was offered to be in a experimental 12-patient study at Duke University

The patients were treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and tetanus-diphtheria shot 
Study found that patients who got the tetanus shot lived years longer than those who didn't

Scientists find a way to cut out the HIV virus from infected areas with ‘cellular scissors’
Scientists claim they are one step closer to creating a drug that can cure HIV. A team of researchers has been customizing a defense system used by bacteria and training this scissor-like machinery to recognize the HIV virus.  In their tests, they found that the technique could completely remove up to 72 per cent of cells that had been infected with HIV.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

March 10, 2015

Health roundup; Everyday pills, game-changing drugs, peanuts and nuts

The professor who 'cured' his cancer with a cocktail of everyday pills. 20 years on, he remains disease-free
Ben Williams' aggressive brain tumor was treated with conventional therapies - and with a mix of common drugs, including those for acne, insomnia and high blood pressure, as revealed in a new documentary. Could this approach work for others?

Pancreatic disease successfully targeted with 'game-changing' drugs
Treatment of the most deadly type of cancer could be revolutionized after scientists achieved ‘exceptional’ results with a platinum-based therapy.  Currently just 1 per cent of all people with pancreatic cancer survive for ten years after diagnosis. Most die within weeks or months because symptoms haven’t shown until the disease is well-advanced.

But researchers say they have now discovered what makes pancreatic cancer ‘tick’ by looking at the DNA of its tumors. They found these can be classified into four types, and the 15 per cent of patients with one of these types could be helped with platinum-based drugs that are already used to treat ovarian and testicular cancer.
Scientists said the results of early trials had been so dramatic that they had never expected to see them ‘in their lifetimes’.

Anti-depressant can also help repair failing hearts: Widely-used pill found to work 'far better' than standard treatments
Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia gave the widely-used anti-depressant Seroxat to mice that had suffered heart attacks. Tests showed it to be far superior to beta-blockers, the drugs routinely used to treat heart failure.The damaged heart started to heal itself – and continued to improve after the Seroxat was stopped.
Experiments showed that the benefits had nothing to do with the pills’ effect on the brain chemicals involved in mood. Instead, they are due to a fortuitous side-effect of the drug, in which it happens to block a protein that weakens already-damaged hearts.  The effects were seen at doses similar to those used to treat depression in people, although the researchers caution there is no guarantee that Seroxat, which is also known as paroxetine, will work as well on human hearts.

In the WSJ  About-Face on Preventing Peanut Allergies
Study finds introducing peanuts in many infants’ diets could help avoid the allergies later in childhood. A diet that includes peanuts in the first year of life may greatly reduce the chance of developing peanut allergies in children at risk for getting them, according to a highly anticipated new study.

The findings appear to be the most definitive evidence yet to discount the medical community’s longtime recommendation that parents avoid giving peanut products to young children. That practice has failed to stem the growing rate of peanut allergies. Some doctors now suggest that not eating peanuts may actually have helped spur more allergies.

“We have had a whole ethos within the practice of pediatrics and pediatric allergy that the way to avoid any allergy was avoidance,” said Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London and senior author of the study, which was published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine. “At least with respect to peanuts, avoidance may actually worsen the problem.”

How NUTS could be nature's statin: Even peanuts reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and early death
Eating nuts and peanuts reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a new study claims.  Researchers found they were linked with a reduced risk of death from heart disease across different ethnic groups and among people on low incomes. They said their findings suggest peanuts may be a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health because they are so cheap.

The study, led by Dr Xiao-Ou Shu, of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Tennessee, analyzed various groups of people. One involved 72,000 low-income black and white men and women living in the US, the other 134,000 men and women living in Shanghai, China.  In the US, the highest consumption resulted in a risk reduction of 21 per cent - in the Chinese group, 17 per cent. The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Nuts are rich in nutrients and peanuts, although classified as legumes, have nutrients similar to tree nuts.  They add to the diet a valuable source of protein, dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins B1, B6, folic acid, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.

Early signs of Alzheimer's disease found in patients as young as 20: 'Unprecedented' findings say disease eats away at cells 50 years before symptoms develop
Researchers, from Northwestern University in Chicago, examined the brains of elderly people with and without Alzheimer’s, as well as samples taken from 13 people aged between 20 and 66. These younger people were free of memory problems when they died.  Tests showed that beta-amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs up the brain in Alzheimer’s, had started building up in people as young as 20. Lead researcher Professor Changiz Geula said: ‘Discovering that amyloid begins to accumulate so early in life is unprecedented.’

I'm fitter at 70 than I was at 25
Age is no barrier to exercise, as Liz Hodgkinson shows - even if you don't need to go to the gym at 6.30am every morning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

For men only: Off-label uses for pregnancy tests

Teenager diagnosed with testicular cancer after pregnancy test

A teenager was diagnosed with testicular cancer after taking a pregnancy test that came back positive. Byron Geldard, then 18, had finished school and had just returned from a summer holiday with friends when he received the diagnosis the day before he was due to get his A’ Level results.

Pregnancy tests are increasingly used to diagnose, or rule out, testicular cancer as the illness produces the same hCG hormone that is produced by the developing placenta.
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The Teenage Cancer Trust said pregnancy tests had been used to diagnose testicular cancer for around six years.  A spokeswoman said they were considered reliable as the same proteins are detected in the urine of testicular cancer patients and of pregnant women. “It is relatively unknown as patients don’t really talk about it,” she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

March 6, 2015

Who do you depend on for nutrition advice?

NYT Op Ed by Nina Teicholz The Government’s Bad Diet Advice

First, last fall, experts on the committee that develops the country’s dietary guidelines acknowledged that they had ditched the low-fat diet. On Thursday, that committee’s report was released, with an even bigger change: It lifted the longstanding caps on dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Americans, it seems, had needlessly been avoiding egg yolks, liver and shellfish for decades.

How did experts get it so wrong? Certainly, the food industry has muddied the waters through its lobbying. But the primary problem is that nutrition policy has long relied on a very weak kind of science: epidemiological, or “observational,” studies in which researchers follow large groups of people over many years. But even the most rigorous epidemiological studies suffer from a fundamental limitation. At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.
Instead of accepting that this evidence was inadequate to give sound advice, strong-willed scientists overstated the significance of their studies.
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In 2013, government advice to reduce salt intake (which remains in the current report) was contradicted by an authoritative Institute of Medicine study. And several recent meta-analyses have cast serious doubt on whether saturated fats are linked to heart disease, as the dietary guidelines continue to assert.

Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy. Indeed, cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat, eggs and cheese (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates).
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Since the very first nutritional guidelines to restrict saturated fat and cholesterol were released by the American Heart Association in 1961, Americans have been the subjects of a vast, uncontrolled diet experiment with disastrous consequences. We have to start looking more skeptically at epidemiological studies and rethinking nutrition policy from the ground up.

Until then, we would be wise to return to what worked better for previous generations: a diet that included fewer grains, less sugar and more animal foods like meat, full-fat dairy and eggs. That would be a decent start.

What you can - and can't - eat  We speak to experts to consider the latest findings that flip our food wisdom on its head

Butter can be good for you in small amounts.
Full-fat milk is fine to drink. It is still less than four per cent fat and contains some healthy fats
• Dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol levels. Eggs are full of all sorts of nutrients and vitamins, and are very good for you. They are rich in protein, so may also keep you fuller for longer and help with appetite control.”
Olive oil  Olive oil is fine on salads but not necessarily for frying. “Olive oil is very good for you but some olive oils have a very low smoke point, and produce small amounts of carcinogens when heated,”
Yoghurt. Switch to full-fat.  When you get rid of the fat, you lose a lot of the fat-soluble vitamins, so you lose the goodness,

Red cabbage is the new health craze: Sales soar 50% as consumers seek to benefit from ten times more vitamin A than its green counterpart and twice the iron

Study says salt may not be all bad for you  Sodium fights infections; health drawbacks exaggerated.

I depend on Authority Nutrition and its evidence-based approach where I learned today that the Healthiest Oil for Deep Frying is Coconut Oil. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

February 25, 2015

Recent advances in medical and health technology

Apple's Health Kit Apple is taking over healthcare: Firm's HealthKit tracking system now being trialled in more than HALF of top US hospitals

Apple's HealthKit which acts as a repository for patient-generated data Health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate stored

Printing prosthetic hands. Hand of a Superhero  3-D Printing Prosthetic Hands That Are Anything but Ordinary
The proliferation of 3-D printers has had an unexpected benefit: The devices, it turns out, are perfect for creating cheap prosthetics. Surprising numbers of children need them: One in 1,000 infants is born with missing fingers, and others lose fingers and hands to injury. Each year, about 450 children receive amputations as a result of lawn mower accidents, according to a study in Pedatrics..

E-nable, an online volunteer organization, aims to change that. Founded in 2013 by Jon Schull, the group matches children like Dawson in need of prosthetic hands and fingers with volunteers able to make them on 3-D printers. Designs may be downloaded into the machines at no charge, and members who create new models share their software plans freely with others.  The materials for a 3-D-printed prosthetic hand can cost as little as $20 to $50, and some experts say they work just as well, if not better, than much costlier devices. Best of all, boys and girls usually love their D.I.Y. prosthetics.

Thought-controlled robotic hands  Researchers Find Way to Harness Brain to Control Bionic Hands

Fitted With Robotic Hands, Three Austrian Men Are Able to Perform Tasks Such as Buttoning a Coat

Man-made blood?  A major component of blood has been grown in the laboratory by scientists, bringing man-made blood transfusions a step closer.
Biomedical engineers have for the first time produced functional blood platelets - the cells that cause clots to form - from human bone marrow grown in the laboratory.
The achievement raises hopes that it will soon be possible to produce fully functional blood in a similar way.

Scientists hope that by using a patient's stem cells, it should be possible to grow blood that is a perfect match.  The new research demonstrates that it is possible to use human stem cells to grow bone marrow on a matrix of porous silk, which then create blood cells.  The scientists from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and the University of Pavia in Italy were able to produce millions of human platelets.

New chocolate reduces wrinkles. Anti-aging chocolate which reduces wrinkles developed by Cambridge University spin-off
A daily 7.5g bar of the chocolate can change the underlying skin structure of a 50 year old to that of someone in their 30s, say developers

Map of human epigenomes. Recipe for the human body revealed could lead to personalized medicine
Epigenome differentiates cells, telling heart muscle cells to not make brain chemicals, for instance.  The human genome is the blueprint for building an individual person.
The epigenome can be thought of as the cross-outs and underlinings of that blueprint: if someone's genome contains DNA associated with cancer but that DNA is 'crossed out' by molecules in the epigenome, for instance, the DNA is unlikely to lead to cancer.

Scientists have for the first time mapped out the molecular 'switches' that can turn on or silence individual genes in the DNA in more than 100 types of human cells.  The groundbreaking accomplishment,  that reveals the complexity of genetic information and the challenges of interpreting it . Researchers unveiled the map of the 'epigenome' in the journal Nature, alongside nearly two dozen related papers. The mapping effort is being carried out under a 10-year, $240 million U.S. government research program, the Roadmap Epigenomics Program, which was launched in 2008.

'The only way you can deliver on the promise of precision medicine is by including the epigenome,' said Manolis Kellis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the mapping that involved scientists in labs from Croatia to Canada and the United States.

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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2015

Health Roundup: Coffee, slumping, saunas, Vit D + diabetes, statins, anti-depressants, donating eggs risky, new anti-HIV drug

Britain's National Health Service is rationing hearing aids. - To save money, patients are getting only one device to to be worn on left OR right ear.

Government panel recommends FIVE CUPS of coffee a day to ward off heart disease, liver cancer and Parkinson's
A panel of experts from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, did a detailed assessment of the caffeinated beverage for the first time. They recommend drinking three to five cups a day or 400 mg.For pregnant women, the report suggests limiting coffee consumption to two cups a day

SLUMPING could be causing your headaches: Increased pressure on the neck not stress or dehydration is to blame, experts say
But experts suggest most headaches are actually caused increased pressure on the neck, made worse by bad posture.  Experts say 80 per cent of all tension-type headaches - the most common type of headache - are caused by muscles in the neck.

Regular SAUNAS could save your life: Getting sweaty even once a week halves the risk of dying from heart disease
Regular sessions appear to protect against early deaths from any cause and those who visit saunas most often get the greatest benefit.
Study: 'Time spent in the sauna is time well spent, but it's not clear why'

The vanishing cream for TATTOOS: Lotion offers pain-free alternative to laser removal by targeting pigmented blood cells  created by a Alec Falkenham, a PhD student in Pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Lack of sunshine increases the risk of diabetes MORE than being obese
The new Spanish study, published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found it was a deficiency in vitamin D - dubbed the 'sunshine vitamin' - rather than what a person weighs that increased their risk of diabetes.  This is because there was a direct link between low vitamin D levels and how the body metabolized glucose.  Dr Manuel Macías-González, of the University of Malaga, Spain, said: 'Our findings indicate that vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than obesity.

Pill that could help tell if you have CANCER: Scientists hope drug will allow blood tests to replace painful biopsies
The latest research by John Ronald and Sanjiv Gambhir is to be published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences……The Stanford team’s approach involves giving people a drug containing circular pieces of DNA which are to break into tumor cells.  The DNA - called minicircles - prompts the cancerous cells to secrete a specific protein into the bloodstream.

The benefits of taking statins have been exaggerated, two leading experts claim.
Although they can dramatically cut cholesterol levels, they have ‘failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes’, says an analysis of data in clinical trials….The two authors say in the analysis, published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology: ‘The adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences…‘Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment.’…Statin advocates have used statistical deception to create the illusion that statins are “wonder drugs,” when the reality is that their modest benefits are more than offset by their adverse effects’, they claim.

The science behind commonly used anti-depressants appears to be backwards, researchers say

The authors of the paper, published by the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, combed existing research for evidence to support the theory that has dominated nearly 50 years of depression research: that depression is related to low levels of serotonin in the gaps between cells in the brain.

The low-serotonin theory is the basis for commonly prescribed serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant medications which keep the neurotransmitter's levels high by blocking its re-absorption into the cells that release it.  Those serotonin-boosting medications actually make it harder for patients to recover, especially in the short term

Young women Don’t donate your eggs for research. The risks are too great
Young women are being exploited. Clinics are offering hefty compensation to donors despite the fact that donating for mitochondrial research offers NO medical benefit to the donor.  Even the tiniest risk of complication needs to be taken seriously especially when dealing with perfectly healthy young women, who have no need to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure. Procedures with risk are performed on sick patients with the understanding that the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks or the consequences of doing nothing. But in egg donation for mitochondrial research there is no medical benefit, only risk.
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In the U.S. Dr Suzanne Parisian, former Chief Medical Officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warns, in this short, two minute video, about the harms, risk and lack of studies done on egg donors, from both the drugs and the procedures to get the eggs: ‘There are no numbers. [The donor] doesn’t appear anywhere, in the medial literature, tracking or Government oversight…The studies have never been done.’
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In England The Government admits that there is no definitive data on the number of women who have been hospitalized for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) after egg donation. But we do know that just under half of 864 reported clinical incidents between 2010-2012 were due to OHSS. And: ‘Each year approximately 60 instances of severe OHSS and 150 cases of moderate OHSS are reported to the HFEA.’

Scientists say they have created an anti-HIV drug so powerful that it could work as a vaccine.
Macaque monkeys given the drug were able to fend off high, repeated doses of the simian version of the disease.
The protein-based drug (ECD4-LG} has been 'astonishingly effective' at blocking every major strain of HIV tested, marking a major step towards a cure for AIDS, the researchers claim.  The technique works by using gene therapy to introduce a new section of DNA inside healthy cells.  How the ECD4-LG Drug Works

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2015

Nevermind

Our government has been wrong about cholesterol for 40 years and is finally admitting it. The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol

The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption.

The glorious return of the egg: Why Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist

The story of the changing American diet over the last 60 years is a story of junk science funded by both government and corporate interests, as well as a cascade of health panics and regulations aimed at one "demon" ingredient after another. The result is an unhealthier, more obese population than the one that ate more dairy and nearly three times as much red meat a century ago.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2015

Health Roundup: probiotics, drinking, chronic fatigue now SEID, best yoga post, and pot

What friendly bacteria really CAN do for you… but probiotic makers are banned from telling us about -easing IBS, improving mood, soothing eczema, boosting immunity and more. 

We're taking much better care of ourselves and it shows.  Turning 60 no longer means that you're getting old: Number being affected by age-related illnesses almost halves in a decade

Drinking is only good for you if you are a woman over 65: Sobering study finds medicinal qualities of a daily tipple have been overstated - except in older females and then only a small glass of wine each day.

Chronic fatigue IS 'a real and serious disease': Doctors draw up new guidelines on how to diagnose the condition

A panel from the U.S. Institute of Medicine. panel sought to redefine chronic fatigue syndrome, setting five main symptoms as simple criteria for doctors to use in making a diagnosis.  Experts also called for a new name for the condition, ... they argue it should be called Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease, or SEID, to reflect that symptoms worsen after exertion.

Its hallmark is persistent and profound fatigue where, on a bad day, a simple activity like grocery shopping can put someone to bed.
It is often accompanied by memory problems or other symptoms. These include joint and muscle pain, incapacitating headaches, food intolerance, a sore throat or enlarged lymph nodes and sensitivity to light.  However there is no specific treatment and the IOM found less than a third of medical schools teach about the disease.
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Last year Stanford University researchers revealed the brains of those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome are distinctly different to those of healthy people.  First, an MRI scan showed that overall white matter content of CFS patients' brains was reduced compared to that of healthy participants' brains.  Using advanced imaging techniques, they identified a consistent abnormality in a particular part of a nerve tract in the right hemisphere of CFS patients' brains.  The tract, which connects the frontal lobe with the temporal lobe, assumed an abnormal appearance in CFS patients.  Furthermore, the study identified a strong link between the degree of abnormality in the patient's tract and the severity of their CFS.

The NEW health rules: Get your hands dirty, be unproductive and do something you love for 10 minutes every day

The New Health Rules is a new wellness book offering 175 tips to readers covering eating habits, healing, energizing the body and getting active.  Dr Frank Lipman, co-author, said the aim is to help people improve their health and wellbeing in small, easily achievable steps with bite-size nuggets of information designed to be adopted gradually .

Like this one: IF YOU ONLY LEARN ONE YOGA POSE…. . . let it be supta baddha konasana.
It’s a heart-opening, lung-stretching, deeply restorative posture you can do with or without props - a chance to get a sense of the magic of yoga without straining yourself.  Whether you spend your days at a computer, or working with your hands, or on the floor playing with kids, you’re likely to be closed and tight in the front of your body (most of us are).  This pose helps.
 Yoga Restorative Pose
With a bolster under your shoulder blades, and your choice of folded blankets, firm pillows, or yoga blocks supporting knees, spine, and head, you’ll feel a gentle (and gradually deepening) release in your hips, chest, shoulders, and throat.
Stay for five minutes; it’s an amazing way to start or end your day.

'This pose to me, is like the best chill out pill you can ever get,' Dr Lipman told MailOnline.
'It is better than any drugs. Whenever I am stressed I will take myself off and go into supta baddha konasana. 'There is something amazing about opening up your chest and hips completely at the same time, while being supported.
'If you can lie there for five to 10 minutes in the pose, it is truly incredible. 'It is another of those things, that once you have tried it for yourself, you will understand.'

Study Shows Heavy Adolescent Pot Use Permanently Lowers IQ.

A study more than thirty years in the making found that smoking marijuana permanently lowers intelligence, or IQ.  Frequent pot smokers (even those who had given up marijuana) tended to have deficits in memory, concentration, and overall IQ. The reduction in IQ for those who smoked pot heavily prior to age 18 was most pronounced: an average of eight points.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2015

"This is a once-in-a-generation advance in stroke care"

Brain Stents Show Big Promise for Certain Stroke Patients

Stroke experts are reporting a major advance: Stents similar to the ones used to open clogged heart arteries also can be used to clear a blood clot in the brain, greatly lowering the risk a patient will end up disabled.

Patients treated with these brain stents were far more likely to be alive and able to live independently three months after their stroke, doctors said Wednesday at an American Stroke Association conference in Nashville. The treatment was so successful that three studies testing it were stopped early, so it could be offered to more patients. One study also found the death rate was cut almost in half for those given the treatment.

"This is a once-in-a-generation advance in stroke care," said the head of one study, Dr. Jeffrey Saver, stroke chief at the University of California, Los Angeles.

An independent expert, Dr. Lee Schwamm of Massachusetts General Hospital, called it "a real turning point in the field." For many patients, "this is the difference between returning home and not returning home," although only certain types of patients can be offered it, he said.

Stroke care "needs to be completely changed" to make the treatment more widely available, said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, acting director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "This has taken stroke therapy to the same place that heart attack therapy is now," he said.
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Most of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year are caused by a blood clot lodged in the brain. The usual treatment is clot-dissolving medicine called tPA. When that doesn't work, doctors sometimes try devices pushed through blood vessels to pluck out the clot, but several studies found they didn't help.

However, newer devices — metal mesh cages called stent retrievers — open an artery much faster and with less damage to the blood vessel. Unlike heart stents, which stay in place to prop the artery open, the brain stents flatten the clot, trap it and are removed with it.
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 Stroke Survivor Don Sadoway in foreground

Don Sadoway, 64, a chemistry professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was having a holiday lunch on Dec. 23, 2012, at a Boston restaurant when he suddenly found he couldn't lift his wine glass for a toast. His wife was perplexed.

"I said something unintelligible to her and all of a sudden my right side collapsed," he said.

Doctors at Massachusetts General gave him tPA but it didn't work, so they tried a Solitaire stent.

"Two hours later I was sitting up, talking to my kids," said Sadoway, who is fine now except for small problems with memory and fine motor skills.
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The warning signs of a stroke are sudden onset of any of these: numbness or weakness on one side, severe headache with no known cause, confusion, and trouble walking, speaking or seeing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2015

How secure is your personal information with your medical insurer?

Health insurer Anthem hit by massive cybersecurity breach

Health insurer Anthem Inc , which has nearly 40 million U.S. customers, said late on Wednesday that hackers had breached one of its IT systems and stolen personal information relating to current and former consumers and employees.
The No. 2 health insurer in the United States said the breach did not appear to involve medical information or financial details such as credit card or bank account numbers.

The information accessed during the "very sophisticated attack" did include names, birthdays, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data, the company said.
Anthem said that it immediately made every effort to close the security vulnerability and reported the attack to the FBI. Cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc said it had been hired to help Anthem investigate the attack.
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Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by patients or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected.

Anthem didn't encrypt data stolen in hack

Health insurer Anthem Inc. did not encrypt the 80 million Social Security numbers stolen by hackers last week, but that's probably more common than you think….The Wall Street Journal explained, and though it appears Anthem  encrypted data moving out of its database, it didn't do so for information simply being stored.  Instead, a spokesperson told the WSJ, the company used other security measures to protect that information.

Security experts say cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, which has many companies still reliant on aging computer systems that do not use the latest security features. 

Anthem said it would send a letter and email to everyone whose information was stored in the hacked database. It also set up an informational website, www.anthemfacts.com, and will offer to provide a credit-monitoring service.  The company said on the website's FAQ page that 'The impacted (plan/brand) include Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare.' 

New York Times. What Anthem Customers Should Do Next After Data Breach

Although Anthem says the attackers did not get any medical records, they did get access to medical identification numbers found on insurance cards. ….. “You don’t need a complete medical record to commit medical identity theft if you have the correct name and Social Security number,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum. “The chief harm for medical identity theft is that your medical record will change without your knowledge.”

THEFT TYPES In large-scale breaches like the one at Anthem, experts said the criminals could pose as medical billers and fraudulently charge consumers’ insurance companies for medical services and drugs. Not only is your insurer paying for something that you didn’t ask for, but the fraudsters can also alter your medical record, Ms. Dixon said.
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WHAT TO DO Consumers should try to create their own copy of their medical file so they have an accurate version of their history should a fraudster make any changes, said Ms. Dixon, who has worked with many medical identity theft victims. Think about any significant or chronic medical conditions, surgeries or accidents — particularly for the last few years — and get a record from your doctors’ offices, hospital or other provider. Also get a record of your blood type and any drug allergies. If you have access to an online patient portal, try to print out or save a copy of those files elsewhere.

“You want to print a baseline record so that if it is altered without your knowledge by fraudulent activity,” Ms Dixon said, “you have something that is really clean.” That will help prove your case, she said, and rebuild an accurate history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

Health Diagnostic Dongle on a Smartphone

A remarkable advance in medical technology.

Now HIV and syphilis can be diagnosed in just 15 minutes: Revolutionary smartphone app 'could save millions of lives'

A new smartphone app that tests blood samples for HIV and syphilis in just 15 minutes could save millions of lives across the world, scientists claim.  The software, developed by biomedical experts at Columbia University, analyses blood samples taken with a finger-prick dongle.  The kit, which attaches to any smartphone or computer, replicates a lab test and can give a diagnosis in the field in just 15 minutes. The device is nearly 540 times cheaper than current lab testing machines, and has already been tested on patients in Rwanda during a pilot study.

How Science magazine explains it.  Lab on a chip turns smart phones into mobile disease clinics

Researchers have designed a cheap, easy-to-use smart phone attachment (shown above) that can test patients for multiple deadly infectious diseases in 15 minutes. All it takes is a drop of blood from a finger prick. Pressing the device’s big black button creates a vacuum that sucks the blood into a maze of tiny channels within its disposable credit card–sized cartridge. There, several detection zones snag any antibodies in the blood that reveal the presence of a particular disease. It only takes a tiny bit of power from the smart phone to detect and display the results: A fourth-generation iPod Touch could screen 41 patients on a single charge, the team says.

The researchers conducted a field test of the device at three Rwandan community clinics, where health care workers rapidly screened 96 patients for HIV and active and latent forms of syphilis. Compared with gold standard laboratory tests, the dongle was 96% as accurate in detecting infections, missing just one case of latent syphilis, the team reports online today in Science Translational Medicine. Despite a 14% false alarm rate, the researchers say the device’s high sensitivity and ease of use make it a powerful tool for diagnosing these deadly diseases in the field, particularly among pregnant women. The researchers are now preparing a larger scale trial for the $34 device, which they hope will let mobile clinics and health workers provide rapid and reliable disease screening in the remotest areas of the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2015

Health Roundup: fizzy drinks bad, grow your own bones, probiotic pill for diabetes, green tea, 'Ow'

Why fizzy drinks (and even sparkling water) are WORSE than you thought They speed up aging, trigger sugar cravings, may damage bones, cause bloating, attack your teeth, increase cancer risk and more.

Goodbye hip replacements… hello grow-your-own bones: Doctors claim jab can regenerate damaged tissue after one injection  A pioneering stem cell treatment could avoid thousands of hip replacements – by helping patients 'regrow' damaged bone. Avascular Necrosis (AVN) is a joint condition where bone tissue dies and collapses due to loss of blood.  The cause is unknown but triggers include injury and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be a side effect of treatments such as steroids, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Five NHS hospitals will trial the jabs, which doctors claim can regenerate damaged tissue after just one injection.  Bone marrow is extracted from the patient.  Stem cells are cultivated from it and injected back into the patient at the site of the AVN such as the hip.  Damaged bone tissue in the joint 'regrows', meaning the patient does not need invasive surgery.
And a leading specialist says it has the potential to be 'life-changing' for those with bone disease avascular necrosis (AVN). Patients often face years of pain before being considered for a hip replacement.

Both types of diabetes could be CURED by a daily probiotic pill that 'rewires' the body, scientists claim
Researchers at Cornell University discovered a probiotic, commonly found in the human gut, can 'rewire' the body to help combat diabetes. It shifted control of blood sugar levels from pancreas to the upper intestine.  The pancreas controls glucose levels by secreting insulin in healthy people; in diabetics the organ produces no insulin or not enough of the hormone.  The treatment lowered diabetic rats' blood glucose levels by up to 30%.  Scientists say higher doses could reverse both type 1 and 2 diabetes

How saying 'ow' can ease your pain by interfering with signals to the brain
Vocalizing in and of itself is potentially analgesic. We found that a simple vocal act such as saying "ow" helps individuals cope with pain.' Exactly how the process works is not clear, but they think the automatic messages traveling to the vocal part of the brain interfere with the pain messages.

How green tea can KILL cancer cells: Compound destroys disease while leaving healthy cells unscathed
Compound EGCG kills mouth cancer cells leaving healthy ones alone . Past studies revealed the drink could help fight the disease
Scientists at Penn State University explored the specific mechanism by which the green tea compound is able to target the diseased cells.

Is depression caused by inflammation in the brain? Findings could reveal why sufferers experience physical symptoms
Canadian psychiatrists took brain scans from 20 patients and 20 controls.  Depressed patients showed a third more brain inflammation than controls.  Those with the most severe forms of depression also had the most inflammation.
The finding may help to explain why depression can cause physical symptoms such as loss of appetite and poor sleep.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 PM | Permalink

February 3, 2015

Health Roundup: To reduce the risk of Alzheimer's avoid hay-fever pills and drink beer. Fight Parkinson's with exercise.

Hay-fever pills in Alzheimer's link Over-the-counter sleeping aids and hay-fever treatments can increase the risk of Alzheimer's, a study has found.

The sleeping aid Nytol and anti-allergy pills Benadryl and Piriton all belong to a class of medication highlighted in a warning from researchers.
Each of these drugs has "anticholinergic" blocking effects on the nervous system that are said to raise the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia significantly at higher doses over several years. Other drugs on the risk-list include older "tricyclic" antidepressants such as doxepin, and the bladder control treatment Ditropan.

Anticholinergic drugs block a nervous system chemical transmitter called acetylcholine, leading to side effects that may include drowsiness, blurred vision and poor memory. People with Alzheimer's disease are known to lack acetylcholine.

US study leader Professor Shelly Gray, director of the geriatric pharmacy program at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, said: "Older adults should be aware that many medications - including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids - have strong anticholinergic effects. And they should tell their health-care providers about all their over-the-counter use.

The scientists tracked the health of 3,434 men and women aged 65 and over for around seven years while monitoring their use of anticholinergic drugs. For those taking the highest doses of anticholinergic drugs over the study period, the relative risk of dementia was increased by a statistically significant 54% compared with no use. The risk of Alzheimer's alone was raised by 63%.

To fight Parkinson's, Exercise May Be the Best Therapy

Dr. Daniel Tarsy, director of the Parkinson's disease program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston sees meaningful change in a lot of patients who go into these exercise program.  "I'm a believer," Tarsy says. "Patients look a lot different walking out an hour later than they did walking in. They literally have a bounce to their step."  Tarsy says patients often report that their movements become more fluid. That's the opposite of the rigid, jerky movements typical of Parkinson's…..

Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination.",,,Among more than 43,000 Swedes followed for nearly 13 years, the risk of Parkinson's was almost cut in half for those who engaged in moderate levels of exercise.  One clue is that animals with a form of the disease have higher levels of dopamine — the brain chemical deficient in Parkinson's — if they're made to exercise.

Beer could help 'protect brain against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's'  Researchers in China have found that a compound in hops could help fight off degenerative brain diseases.

A team of researchers at Lanzhou University have published a study which claims that xanthohumol, a type of flavonoid found in hops, could help protect the brain against the onset of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia.  According to Jianguo Fang, who led the research, xanthohumol [Xn], known for its antioxidant properties, helps guard the brain against oxidative stress, an imbalance that occurs as the body metabolises oxygyen, which is believed to be a contributing factor in the development of neurodegenerative conditions…..

"In traditional Chinese medicine, hops have been used to treat a variety of ailments for centuries," said Dr Fang.  "Xn has attracted considerable interest because of its multiple pharmacological functions, including anti-oxidation, cardiovascular protection, anti-cancer and cancer chemoprevention, antivirus, anti-obesity, and anti-inflammation," he added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

January 23, 2015

Health roundup: Coffee, nuts, brain food, a drink a day, a lunch hour walk and chilly feet

From Well at the New York Times

The Benefits of a Lunch Hour Walk - even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.

A Drink a Day to Lower Heart Failure Risk - A new study, in the European Heart Journal, followed 14,629 people for 24 years, starting at an average age of 54. It found that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of heart failure than either heavy drinkers or abstainers.  Compared with abstainers, men who drank up to a drink a day — a glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or a shot of liquor — had a 20 percent reduced risk, and women a 16 percent reduced risk, of heart failure. The advantage gradually declined with heavier drinking.

Coffee May Cut Melanoma Risk -  slightly.  Drinking four or more cups of coffee was associated with a 20 percent risk reduction compared with those who drank none.

Eating nuts may be better for you than taking statins

London Telegraph. Brain food: 6 snacks that are good for the mind  .Blueberries, salmon, avocado, whole grains, broccoli, dark chocolate.

Chewing gum for 10 minutes can be just as effective as flossing

Salt 'is less of a health threat the older we get': Study finds there is no link between consumption in over-70s and mortality

Why juicing might not be so healthy after all…experts have warned of its dangers labelling it ‘as bad as Coca-Cola’ They claim juice is to blame for weight gain, diabetes and dental problems.  Whole fruit is better.

Chilly feet CAN increase the risk of catching colds and flu, leading expert warns 
Many people carry the bugs which cause colds and flu in their nose already, without it causing symptoms that make them ill.  But if the temperature of their feet drops, it causes a change in the whole body which leads to their nose becoming cold, he explained. …and the blood vessels in the nose to constrict,' ....
‘Your skin goes white, the inside of your nose and throat goes white and blood flow to the nose is reduced.
‘The white cells that fight infection are found in the blood, so then there are fewer white cells to fight the virus.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

January 9, 2015

Health Roundup: From Stanford's possible cure to porridge and an imaginary meal pill

Has Stanford University found a cure for Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's could be prevented and even cured by boosting the brain's own immune response, scientists at Stanford University believe.  Researchers discovered that nerve cells die because cells which are supposed to clear the brain of bacteria, viruses and dangerous deposits, stop working.  These cells, called 'microglia' function well when people are young, but when they age, a single protein called EP2 stops them operating efficiently. 

Now scientists have shown that blocking the protein allows the microglia to function normally again so they can hoover up the dangerous sticky amyloid-beta plaques which damage nerve cells in Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers found that, in mice, blocking EP2 with a drug reversed memory loss and myriad other Alzheimer’s-like features in the animals.

A step closer to developing a pill to cure dementia  A common form of dementia is 'frontotemporal dementia' which occurs as neurons become damaged.  It runs in families and there is no cure.  A team in Belgium  were able to repair diseased brain cells after identifying  a gene variant that prevents neurons from forming properly and correcting it through genetic engineering.  They found a gene variant that prevents neurons from forming normally and used  a compound that inhibited a chemical causing the gene mutation

A new Harvard study has found that weight training is a better way of keeping the middle-aged spread at bay than aerobic activity, Why weight training is better for your waistline than running

The key to a long and healthy life? A bowl of porridge every day, say scientists. A Harvard study of more than 100,000 people for more than 14 years found that whole grains reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.  A daily one ounce serving of whole grains is associated with a 5% lower mortality and also cut deaths from cardiovascular disease by 9%.  Whole grains are whole because they contain the 'germ', or seed embryo, which is packed with nutrients.    Here are 10 Oatmeal Recipe Ideas for Breakfast

Vision problems. Joint pain. Dementia… Is there anything fish oils can't beat?
The current medical advice is to eat two portions of fish a week.  Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, proven to help with many conditions

Revolutionary new drug could help patients with advanced skin cancer and resistant to standard treatments  Skin cancer patients can become resistant to standard drugs within a year.  A new drug called a panRAF inhibitor could help advanced skin cancer patients  The new drugs hit several cancer cell survival routes at once and suppress tumous without any significant side-effects. Clinical trials focusing on safety and dosage will begin next year

Safe and effective testing must be done, so it's still several years away from the market, but a real breakthrough in fighting obesity.  'Imaginary meal' pill of fexaramine tricks the body into feeling full - AND lowers cholesterol and blood sugar

Researcher Ronald Evans of the Salk Institute in California, said: 'This pill is like an imaginary meal.
'It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite.' When the drug hits the stomach, it kick-starts digestion. Fexaramine also spurs the body into burning off fat to create space to store the incoming nutrients. The medicine doesn't pass into the bloodstream and circulate round the body but stays in the stomach, which should cut the risk of side-effects.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 AM | Permalink

January 8, 2015

From a grassy field in Maine, a new super-antibiotic

Just when it looked like we were heading into a apocalyptic post-antibiotic era,  a new super-antibiotic was found lurking in the soil of a grassy field in Maine.  Super-antibiotic that could wipe out diseases from MRSA to TB is hailed as a 'game-changer' by scientists

A super-antibiotic capable of wiping out everything from MRSA to TB has been found lurking in soil.  In tests, the new medicine rapidly cured infections that should have been fatal.  The drug also worked ‘exquisitely’ well against hard-to-treat bugs that damage the heart.

Crucially, it could be a powerful weapon in the war against antibiotic resistance, in which once easy-to-treat infections become deadly after finding sneaky ways of evading powerful drugs.  With no new type of antibiotic hitting the market for almost 30 years and bacteria becoming harder to treat by the day, experts have warned medical treatment could soon be dragged back the 19th century.
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The new drug, which has been named teixobactin, was discovered after British, German and US scientists went back to basics and studied bacteria from a grassy field in Maine in the US.  Many bacteria and fungi naturally make antibiotics to keep themselves safe and kill competitors for food and space and most of the antibiotics we use today have their roots in nature.

Convinced that the soil held more secrets, researchers from Northeastern University in Boston devised a gadget that allowed them to grow and study the bugs in their native earth. Of the 10,000 sorts of bacteria that grew, 25 pumped out substances that could potentially be used as antibiotics.  And of these, teixobactin was the most promising.

The researchers… are particularly excited about the fact that they couldn’t produce any bacteria that were resistant to the drug, no matter how hard they tried.  They say the way teixobactin works will make it exceptionally hard for bacteria to find a way of evading it and predict it will take at least 30 years for resistance to develop.  They are refining the recipe and hope to start testing the drug on people in two years.
If all goes well, teixobactin, which would be an injection rather than a pill, could be on the market by 2019.

And then there's Viagra  A pill containing Viagra could cure illnesses from Ebola to brain cancer, hepatitis to MRSA 

Scientists have identified a protein GRP78 key to treating a range of illnesses including Ebola, brain cancer, hepatitis, MRSA and influenza.  By attacking the protein,  cancer cells are killed, viruses are prevented from infecting and reproducing and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are killed
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 PM | Permalink

January 6, 2015

Keep your nose warm. Always wear a scarf in winter

-Smoking-Bird Byianplant

You ARE more likely to get a cold in winter - but keeping your nose warm may be the secret to avoiding it

The key to avoiding a cold could be as simple as keeping your nose warm with a scarf when you venture outside in winter.Research shows that low temperatures make it harder for the body to fight off the bug that causes half of colds in adults and almost all colds in children.  The finding backs up the popular idea that people are more likely to come down with a cold if they get chilly, perhaps by not putting on a coat in winter or going out with wet hair.  Many people carry this rhinovirus bug in their nose at all times.  The virus multiplies more quickly in the nose than the body as it's colder

Yale University has found that when core body temperature inside the nose falls by five degrees the immune system does not work as well to fight the cold virus.

One in five people carry the rhinovirus – the most frequent cause of the common cold – in their nasal passages at any one time. Mostly the immune system stops the virus taking hold, but as the temperature drops, so does the body’s ability to fight off the intruder.  So wearing a warm scarf over the nose may not stop the virus entering in the first place, but could boost the ability to tackle it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 PM | Permalink

December 31, 2014

Easy resolutions you can keep for your health

From the UK comes The 25 easy resolutions to transform your health:

Put your toothbrush in the dishwasher
Toothbrushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Scientists at Manchester University found that the average toothbrush contains ten million germs, including a high percentage of potentially dangerous bacteria such as E. coli.

Stop using armrests to get out of a chair
This will strengthen your muscles and help protect you against falls in later years. Place your feet firmly on the floor, tighten your stomach muscles, clench your buttocks and ease yourself slowly up to a standing position without using your hands for support.Each lift equates to a squat - the perfect exercise to tone the major muscles in the thighs and buttocks. Double the effect by also lowering yourself into every chair without using your hands

Drink cocoa at bedtime
The antioxidants in cocoa can improve memory in older people by improving blood flow to certain parts of the brain.

Turn the heating down by a degree
Being slightly chilly has been shown to increase levels of 'healthy' brown fat, a form of body fat that burns up calories and fat reserves, and helps keeps blood sugar levels stable.

Blow one nostril at a time.
Continually blowing your nose through both nostrils can push mucus back into your sinuses, triggering the possibility of a secondary infection.

Get regular kicks with a coffee
Drink up to four cups of coffee a day. Whether it's instant, espresso or decaffeinated, experts believe the phytochemicals - or antioxidants - in coffee offer some protection against diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
It also appears to improve cognitive function. The stimulating effect of caffeine can increase neuronal firing in the brain, improving reaction time, memory, mood and brain power.

Eat a portion of leafy veg A day
Eating just one daily serving (around two tablespoons) of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or broccoli could be enough to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 per cent….Increase that to one and a half servings per day and studies show you can double that reduction to 30 per cent. One theory is that green vegetables are a rich source of magnesium (along with some beans, peas, nuts and seeds), which appears to help regulate blood sugar.

Keep your eye out for Celtuce ., a new vegetable to try

An obscure Chinese vegetable that is as of yet hard to come by may well become the new kale in the months to come. The celtuce - which is known as wosun in China, where it is a popular ingredient in many dishes - is a translucent green type of lettuce that can be sliced, roasted, pickled, pureed for sauces or used as a garnish, among many other uses.

All About The Cool Obscure Veggie Of The Moment

One bite told me I'd never eaten anything quite like it either. The texture of the vegetable -- and the waiter assured me it was a vegetable -- reminded me of cooked leek. But it also had the homogeneity of a noodle and some of the crunch of shaved jicama. Its bright flavor was a little like a mix between bok choy, celery root and water chestnut, but was far milder than any of those. By the end of the plate, I was a celtuce fan.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2014

Health Roundup: Ibuprofen, breakthroughs, depression and more

Surgical Tool Gets Strongest Warning    Morcellator Used in Hysterectomies Can Spread Undetected Cancer, FDA Says.

Is Ibuprofen the key to a longer life? Study finds ibuprofen may provide 12 extra years of good health

To those with a headache, it already works miracles. But ibuprofen could also hold the key to a long and healthy life. In a series of experiments, the popular painkiller extended the life of yeast, worms and flies by around 15 per cent. What is more, the extra years were healthy ones.  In human terms, this would equate to an extra 12 years of good quality life. Put another way, people would be in good health for longer.

It is not clear exactly how the drug slowed down aging, but it appears to be something to do with it stopping cells taking up tryptophan, a compound found in eggs and chocolate and turkey.

Other studies have shown that ibuprofen can make your lungs feel younger and keep skin cancer at bay.

Major breakthrough for paralyzed people after drug that restores movement shows 'extraordinary promise'

New drug, known as intracellular sigma peptide, or ISP, helps damaged nerve cells regenerate, allowing vital messages to be passed to muscles….

Rats with badly damaged spinal cords given drug daily for seven weeks while their ability to walk, balance and control their bladder muscles were monitored. The vast majority of rats got something back in terms of function. Some went from barely moving to being able to walk like healthy creatures.  Overall, 21 of the 26 animals improved on the drug – an unparalleled success rate.

'Off switch' for pain discovered: Brain receptor could hold key to alleviating suffering in cancer patients

Researchers from Saint Louis University in Missouri managed to block a pain pathway in rodents with chronic neuropathic pain. They did this by turning on a receptor, known as A3, in an animal’s brain and spinal cord to counteract intense feelings of discomfort.The technique could one day be used to alleviate suffering of cancer patients.  It would be better than current medication because it doesn't have side effects like addiction and increasing tolerance to drugs

What Does It Cost to Develop a New Drug? Latest Study Says $2.6 Billion

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, a nonprofit think tank that maintains nearly $2.6 billion is needed to get a new drug from the lab to the launchpad.

'My teeth were turning to mush':

Bleaching your teeth more often than is recommended can erode tooth enamel permanently.  It can also lead to receding gums,  painful hypersensitivity and mushy teeth.

Could depression be an INFECTIOUS DISEASE?

Depression should be re-defined as an infectious disease rather than an emotional disorder, argues one scientist, Dr. Turhan Canli, of Stony Brook University. 'It is time for an entirely different approach," he writes in the journal Biology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

The condition could result from a parasitic, bacterial or viral infection and future research into the condition should search for these micro-organisms, he argues  If his theory is true, he hopes a vaccination to protect against depression could be developed in future.

The relationship between the sun and melanoma is unclear, despite what dermatologists tell us

There is a link between excessive sun exposure and melanoma, the form of skin cancer that carries a high risk of death.  But the link is not clear cut. Melanoma occurs in the mouth, the anus and on the soles of the feet, areas that get little or no sun, as well as on the face, which may get a lot. So the relationship with the sun is not obvious. And despite what dermatologists tell us, the evidence shows that in the UK people are less likely to get melanoma if they spend weekends mostly outdoors, where they inevitably get more sun exposure.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Food and Diet Edition

Why Exercise.  Could you BREATHE away those excess pounds? 80% of fat leaves the body via the lungs, say experts (so the more you exercise the better)

More than 80% of body fat leaves the body through breathing out.  Human fat cells store triglyceride, made up of three atoms: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen  To shed fat, you have to break down the atoms in triglyceride via oxidation.  When 10kg of fat is oxidized, 8.4kg leaves the body as CO2 via the lungs

Overweight  A Lack of Bacteria Can Make You Overweight  Genetics and Microbes in Your Gastrointestinal Tract Offer Clues to Metabolism and Obesity.  Researchers at Cornell University have identified a family of microbes called Christensenellaceae that appear to help people stay lean—and having an abundance of them, or not, is strongly genetic.

Eat Potatoes How a chemical compound found in spuds is shown to prevent weight gain

Don't bother counting calories… it's the type of food that matters: Items high in fat may actually be good at keeping the weight off  High-fat nuts, olive oil, fish and full-fat milk could help keep you slim. And supposedly healthy low-fat foods may be the real diet villains.  Expert says focusing on calories may 'mislead and harm public health'

Authority Nutrition 9 Lies About Fat That Destroyed The World's Health

1. Back in 60s and 70s, many prominent scientists believed that saturated fat was the main cause of heart disease, by raising the "bad" cholesterol in the blood. This idea was the cornerstone of the low-fat diet. Because of a few bad studies and misguided political decisions, this diet was recommended to all Americans in the year 1977.  However, there wasn't a single study on this diet at the time. The American public became participants in the largest uncontrolled experiment in history.

This experiment didn't turn out very well and we are still suffering the consequences. This graph (at link ) shows how the obesity epidemic started at almost the exact same time the low-fat guidelines came out.

A low carb/high fat diet  might be better for diabetics

A few years ago, Dr Unwin began to suspect that the advice favoring complex "high–carbohydrate foods" such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice might have the reverse effect to that intended, by acting to increase the blood sugar level in those with diabetes. Accordingly, he proposed that all the patients in his practice who had been newly identified as having type 2, or "pre–", diabetes should adopt a high–fat diet.

The results, published in the journal Practical Diabetes, are truly astonishing – an average weight loss of 9kg with a reduction in waist circumference from 120cm to 105cm. There was also a striking improvement in both their blood sugar levels, with only two still in the abnormal range. Seven patients were able to come off their medication.Their blood pressure also improved and the average cholesterol reading fell from 5.5 to 4.7 – seeming to disprove the persistent rhetoric of the past 20 years implicating "high–fat" foods as a cause of raised cholesterol.

The obesity pill that could replace exercise by turning 'bad' fat to 'good'

Harvard Stem Cell Institute at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified two compounds that can turn white or 'bad' fat cells into brown 'good' fat cells in the body.  They believe they have made a breakthrough in the battle against the bulge.  They said the discovery could be 'the first step towards a pill that can replace the treadmill'.
When a person eats too many calories without burning them off, they are stored as white fat cells by adult stem cells. That is what causes people to pile on the pounds.  The new study found two small molecules that convert fat stem cells, which would normally produce white fat, into brown-like fat cells.  These brown fat cells burn excess energy and subsequently reduce the size and numbers of white fat cells.

One of the two molecules is already approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but scientists warned a pill is some way off.  They warned the compounds could damage the immune system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2014

Elizabeth Holmes, America's youngest billionaire

America's Youngest Female Billionaire Explains Where Her Transformative Idea Came From

She spent a lot of time with her uncle when she was a kid.  But one day he was diagnosed with skin cancer, and doctors soon realized the cancer had already spread.  That illness "all of a sudden was brain cancer and in his bones," she said. "He didn't live to see his son grow up and I never got to say goodbye."

Elizabeth Holmes uses what happened to her uncle as a way of explaining why she started Theranos, a company valued at $9 billion that's transforming medicine by re-inventing the blood test.

 Elizabeth- Holmes
Holmes says she wants to offer individuals an easier, faster, cheaper way of getting access to their own health information, allowing them to transform their own behavior or to get treatment for serious health conditions earlier, giving them more time to get help.
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"I believe the individual is the answer to the challenges of healthcare but we can't engage the individual in changing outcomes unless the individual has access to the information they need to do so,"
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Theranos has partnered with Walgreens, so that anyone who needs (or just wants) a blood test can walk into a drug store — and not just during working hours. After submitting to a painless fingerprick, Theranos can run over 70 tests on a tiny sample of blood, checking for anything from blood sugar abnormalities to sexually transmitted infections, all for 50-90% cheaper than Medicare reimbursement rates.

You can watch her TEDMED talk at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2014

Health Roundup: MRSA breakthrough, Vit D and asthma, curing leukemia with HIV, reversing Type I diabetes and more

Scientists develop antibiotic-free drug for MRSA  Scientists have developed the first effective alternative to antibiotics in what is being described as a major development in the battle against superbugs.  A patient trial showed the drug was effective at eradicating the MRSA superbug. Scientists say it is unlikely the infection could develop resistance against the new treatment which is already available as a cream for skin infections.

The new treatment attacks infections in an entirely different way from conventional drugs and exclusively targets the Staphylococcus bacteria responsible for MRSA and leaves other microbes unaffected.  The treatment relies on naturally occurring viruses that attack bacteria using enzymes called endolysins. It uses a “designer” endolysin, Staphefekt, which the scientists engineered to latch on to the surface of bacteria cells and destroy them.

Conventional antibiotics target the inside of the cell to work, and part of the reason they are becoming less effective is that certain strains of bacteria, such as MRSA, have evolved impenetrable membranes. However, endolysins target basic building blocks on the outside of bacterial cells that are unlikely to change as infections genetically mutate over time.

Vitamin D Deficiency Aggravates Asthma  For the study, Dr. Confino-Cohen and her team of researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 307,900 patients between 2008 and 2012, taking into account key predictors of asthma, such as smoking and obesity. Of the roughly 21,000 patients with physician-diagnosed asthma, those with a vitamin D deficiency were 25% more likely than other asthmatics to have experienced at least 1 acute attack in the recent past and were at a higher risk for an asthma attack. -

Have researchers found a way to REVERSE type 1 diabetes? Common heart drug found to work in mice and set for human trial  A common blood pressure drug could be the key to reversing diabetes, researchers have said. Called verapamil, it is widely diagnosed to treat blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraines. Researchers were stunned to find that in mice, it completely reversed the effects of the disease.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has now been given a three-year, $2.1 million grant to begin human trials of the drug.  ...Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes.  Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease, when the body does not produce insulin.

5 ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer  New research has shown that 15 minutes of exercise every day could cut the risk of developing breast cancer.

Doctors cure father, 30, of leukemia by injecting him with HIV in experimental trial  Marshall Jensen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012 and has spent the last two years searching for an effective treatment
He found a solution at Penn Medicine, where he was accepted into a trial to receive an experimental new gene therapy
The treatment involved implanting white blood cells with deactivated HIV and injecting them back in the body to fight off cancer . Of the 30 patients involved in the trial, 23 are still alive and 19 are in remission - like Jensen

The drug that could give elderly people the immune system of a 20-year-old and dramatically reduce deaths from flu
Once injected with the new chemical, the elderly and vulnerable will have a much for effective immune system, British scientists say.  The compound, called spermidine, has been shown to have a significant impact in tests on mice - and scientists have already patented it as a potential treatment for humans….The research, published yesterday in the journal eLife, showed that the compound restores the immune system’s inbuilt ‘memory’ enabling it to mount a more powerful protective response following vaccination.
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Scientists think vaccines lose effectiveness in older people because as we age, our immune system loses its ‘memory’.
It becomes less effective at recognizing infections, including those we have had in the past and those we have been vaccinated against….A key factor is that the white blood cells that coordinate the response to an infection – called T cells – lose the ability to form a ‘memory’ of the infection….By targeting this process with spermidine, the scientists managed to restore immune memory, boosting the effectiveness of a vaccine….Spermidine works by enhancing a normal cellular process called autophagy, where parts of the cell that have become defective or damaged are broken down and destroyed within cells.
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Daniel Puleston, who co-authored the research, said of the drug: ‘It’s the equivalent of a 90 year old responding to a vaccine better than a 20 year old'"….. However, we expect it to be at least five to ten years before a drug reaches the clinic.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

November 11, 2014

What we are learning about marijuana

Smoking cannabis every day 'warps your brain and shrinks grey matter', scientists warn

Smoking cannabis every day warps key structures of the brain, a scientific study suggests.  Regular use of the drug seems to shrink the brain’s ‘grey matter’ - the cells that crunch information - according to head scans of heavy drug users.

The wiring of the brain – the ‘white matter’ that connects different parts - grows to compensate for the loss of the vital cells, scientists found.  But eventually that also breaks down, impairing a drug users’ ability to use and react to information.

The brain scan study is one of the first to investigate the drug’s long-term neurological impact in living people.  The findings add to a growing weight of evidence that suggests cannabis is more harmful than legalization campaigners would have us believe.

It comes after a review of 20 years of cannabis research, published last month by a professor at King’s College London, revealed that one in six teenagers who use cannabis become dependent on the drug, as do one in 10 adults.

Examining brain scans, the scientists found that chronic marijuana users - who smoked an average of three times a day - had smaller average volumes of grey matter in the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in mental processing and decision making.

The cannabis users were also seen to have more ‘white matter’ - the connections between cells which affect how the brain learns and functions.  The researchers suspect that those extra connections are forged as the brain tries to compensate for the lack of crucial grey matter.  But even those extra connections were seen to break up within six to eight years under prolonged cannabis abuse, they found.

The team studied MRI scans of the brains of 48 adult cannabis users aged 20 to 36 who were compared with a group of 62 non-users.  That review also suggested that cannabis use in teenagers doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders including schizophrenia.

The authors of the new study, from the universities of Texas and New Mexico, warn that people who take the drug in heavy quantities for prolonged periods are likely to suffer damaging effects.

The orbitofrontal cortex region of the brain, where the biggest differences in cannabis users’ brains was seen, is strongly linked to empathy - the ability to sense other people’s feelings.  Neuroscientists believe damage to the orbitofrontal cortex may underpin many cases of personality disorder and psychopathy.

The researchers found that the effect differed markedly depending on the age they started smoking and the number of years they continued to abuse the drug.
The earlier someone started smoking cannabis, the greater the structural change to the brain and the larger the growth in white matter connections.

But after six to eight years of continually taking cannabis the increases in structural wiring declined, they found.
The scientists said that because their study represented a simple snapshot of users’ brains, and did not monitor them over time, they could not be certain that the damage was directly caused by the drug.
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A definitive 20-year study into the effects of long-term cannabis use has demolished the argument that the drug is safe.  Cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and opens the door to hard drugs, the study found.

The paper by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organization, builds a compelling case against those who deny the devastation cannabis wreaks on the brain.

Professor Hall found:
• One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it
Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
• Cannabis users do worse at school. Heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development
• One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs
• Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink
• Smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby's birth weight
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2014

The "Stupid" Virus explains a lot

Virus that 'makes humans more stupid' discovered

A virus that infects human brains and makes us more stupid has been discovered, according to scientists in the US.  The algae virus, never before observed in healthy people, was found to affect cognitive functions including visual processing and spatial awareness.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska stumbled upon the discovery when they were undertaking an unrelated study into throat microbes.

Found: The viral infection that makes nearly HALF of us more stupid (and it lasts for YEARS)

Nearly half of us could be infected with a virus which makes us more stupid, scientists have found.  The startling discovery suggests that millions may be carrying a long-lasting infection which dulls the brain.  Scientists found the virus living in the throats of 44 per cent of patients tested in a small US study.

Those who were carrying the infection performed worse in intelligence tests, even when education and age were taken into account.  The virus - called chlorovirus ATCV-1 - was previously only known to appear in green algae in freshwater lakes.
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The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the ATCV-1 virus alters the genes in the brain.

The team found the virus in throat swabs from 40 out of 92 volunteers, and discovered those with the virus performed measurably worse in cognitive testing.  They then confirmed their findings in tests on mice. Giving the virus to mice resulted in a decrease in recognition memory and other brain functions, they found.

Tests showed the virus had broken through the barrier between blood and tissue, altering the activity of genes in the brains of the mice.  The genes affected including those producing dopamine - a vital hormone which influences memory, spatial awareness, emotion and pleasure.

Instead it could be that humans have long carried the virus, but it had not previously been looked for by doctors. Study author Professor Robert Yolken, of Johns Hopkins medical school, said the millions of viruses living in the human body are being investigated by experts for the first time.
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Professor James Van Etten, a biologist from the University of Nebraska who first identified the virus in algae 30 years ago, said: ‘There’s more and more studies showing that microorganisms in your body have a bigger influence than anything anyone would have predicted, and this could be something along those lines.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

No medicine approved for potentially fatal Chagas, the "kissing bug disease" affecting 300,000 Americans

'Kissing bug' disease (Chagas) infects OVER 300,000 people in the US…most of whom don't know they have the parasite referred to as 'the new AIDS'

Over 300,000 Americans have already been infected with the potentially fatal 'kissing bug disease' called Chagas but U.S. healthcare workers lack of knowledge about the illness is letting many cases of the parasite unnoticed. Some doctors are calling it the 'new AIDS' because of the way it develops.

Researchers who gathered on Tuesday at the annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in New Orleans said that if caught early the disease can be cured however sometimes the disease can be asymptomatic and there is a dearth in medication for the condition.

The CDC reports that the initial symptoms of the disease caused by a parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, which is spread through the feces of kissing bugs includes fever, fatigue, body aches, rash, diarrhea and vomiting. One of the first visual signs can be a skin lesion or a purplish swelling of the lid of one eye.

 Swelling Eyelid Chagas

The disease can develop in the body causing eventual heart failure and other deadly complications that by the time they are realized cannot be helped with medicine. Chagas is being called the new AIDS because of its asymptomatic beginnings that can turn to a fatal end if the disease progresses.

'We were astonished to not only find such a high rate of individuals testing positive for Chagas in their blood, but also high rates of heart disease that appear to be Chagas-related,' said Nolan Garcia, an epidemiologist at the Baylor College of Medicine.

The CDC has said that they believe most of the people infected with Chagas got the parasite in Mexico or South America before coming to the U.S.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2014

"Today is epic. I got my life back. I can hear nearly normally for the first time in decades" "

If you know of anyone with profound hearing loss, this is a must-read piece.

Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That in a very personal and moving note writes How I got my life back – my hearing has been restored to near-normal

[H]earing loss is a terrible social isolation. People that are blind actually do better socially than people with severe hearing loss.  And many people who have severe hearing loss such as myself get symptoms that further exacerbates the social isolation. Much of my life over the past 40 years has been a great deal of social isolation. But it has gotten worse lately as my hearing deteriorated further in 2008 and it was about that time that I discovered that blogging opened a whole new world for me and allowed me to form friendships with people around the world something I’ve never experienced before. Even though I was no longer on television, blogging became my social outlet while my hearing suffered further.
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I credit my wife for giving me the “giant kick in the ass” that led to the transformation that I experienced a week ago in Minneapolis Minnesota at a company called Starkey laboratories and their hearing foundation which serves people worldwide. Without her, I would have given up on myself.

He credits the Center of Excellence at the Starkey Laboratories "where miracles are performed every day by a staff of caring and talented people that exist nowhere else in the world."

The walls are lined with photographs, autographs, and letters from heads of state, celebrities, astronauts, the Pope, and even a letter from Mother Teresa thanking the man that formed this company and the miracle that it produces for restoring their hearing. That  man’s name is Bill Austin….There are also dozens of photographs, no make that hundreds, of children around the world that have been helped by this man and the foundation he has started to spread goodness and the American initiative throughout the world.

Bill wasn’t in that day, he was off in Afghanistan fitting children who had their hearing damaged by the ravages of war with new hearing aids to help them in their own social isolations.

In very short order and with customization right on the spot, his hearing approached the normal level.  He was able to converse with a bartender, listen to a waiter explain the specials, carry on a conversation on an airplane and on his cellphone.   

So he posted on Facebook, "Today is epic.  I got my life back.  I can hear nearly normally for the first time in decades"

And to my amazement dozens and then hundreds of accolades and comment started pouring in while I was sitting there at the bar. I began to cry and tears were streaming down my face. I was so happy and I couldn’t stop it because the weight and pain of the last 40 years were suddenly lifted from me. It truly was epic.

There were two people sitting at the end corner of the bar who looked at me and asked with concern, “Sir, are you okay?”  I proceeded to tell them what happened and I had a glorious conversation with two people who I had never met and I understood every word. They were thrilled for me.

And so am I.    And my hat goes off to Bill Austin, the man that made the company that "spread goodness and the American initiative throughout the world."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 PM | Permalink

October 29, 2014

Flu Shots Not Effective for the Elderly

Govt. Researchers: Flu Shots Not Effective in Elderly, After All  Sharyl Attkinson

An important and definitive “mainstream” government study done nearly a decade ago got little attention because the science came down on the wrong side. It found that after decades and billions of dollars spent promoting flu shots for the elderly, the mass vaccination program did not result in saving lives. In fact, the death rate among the elderly increased substantially.

So the NIH launched an effort to do “the” definitive study that would actually prove, for the first time, once and for all, that flu shots were beneficial to the elderly. The government would gather some of the brightest scientific minds for the research, and adjust for all kinds of factors that could be masking that presumed benefit.

But when they finished, no matter how they crunched the numbers, the data kept telling the same story: flu shots were of no benefit to the elderly. Quite the opposite. The death rate had increased markedly since widespread flu vaccination among older Americans. The scientists finally had to acknowledge that decades of public health thought had been mistaken.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:13 PM | Permalink

A glass of win, a cup of cocoa will help your memory

Daily glass of wine aids memory (if you're over 60)

Older people who consume between one and six alcoholic drinks a week have a 'significantly' better ability to recall memories    Moderate alcohol consumption - up to two alcohol beverages a day – amongst the over 60s was found to preserve the region of the brain responsible for memory and cognition.

Cocoa could be the secret to good memory in old age

Scientists find that elderly people who had consumed higher volumes of cocoa bean flavanols performed better in a cognitive task
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Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre in the United States, who conducted the new study, said it provided the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention.

Scott A. Small, one of the paper’s authors, said: "If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30 or 40-year-old."

The findings still needed to be replicated in a larger study, he added. Dementia charities offered a cautious welcome to the results, which were published in Nature Neuroscience, but agreed more research was needed.

Scientists discover blood test that may predict Alzheimer's 20 YEARS before the disease starts

A blood test being developed by a group of Australian scientists could predict Alzheimer's disease two decades before patients show signs of the illness.  University of Melbourne researchers, who discovered the test, previously helped identify changes in the brain happened 20 years before people started presenting symptoms of the disease, which can be detected by performing brain-imaging procedures.

The blood test would have a 91 per cent rate of accuracy in predicting Alzheimer's and could be available within five years as further testing is yet to be carried out.

Initial research carried out on a trial group resulted in one of five participants positive for the disease despite having no memory loss.  Further tests carried out using brain-imaging procedures showed these patients had signs of degeneration associated with Alzheimer's.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2014

Bringing House Calls Back with UberHEALTH

From AEI ideas, a recurring feature called Markets in Everything

Now there’s an Uber for flu shots. Today the ride-sharing service announced a one-day UberHEALTH pilot program in partnership with Harvard Medical School to deliver free flu shots on-demand. From 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. today Uber drivers delivered a registered nurse to customers anywhere within the three test cities of New York, Boston, and Washington.

This is one more reason Big Taxi is doomed — Uber is running circles around them with cutting-edge innovation and the constant introduction of new services – services that Big Taxi, which has been around for more than half a century, would never in a million years think of offering!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2014

Health Roundup: Paralysis and stem cells, pill for alcoholics, Parkinson's drugs side effects, Ketamine for depression or eat 8 a day

Paralyzed man walks again after cell transplant

The pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord. The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.

Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralyzed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack. He said walking again - with the support of a frame - was "an incredible feeling", adding: "When you can't feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it's like you were born again."

Prof Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London's Institute of Neurology, led the UK research team.  He said what had been achieved was "more impressive than man walking on the moon".

A Pill Could Help Alcoholics, and Let Them Drink in Moderation

The key, says Wim van den Brink,a spirited Dutch psychiatrist  who co-founded the Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research, is a pill to curb drinking. The drug, nalmefene, acts as an alcohol antagonist; it binds to opiate receptors in the brain and reduces the rush of pleasure associated with alcohol. (It has also been tested, with less success, to treat compulsive gambling.) In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, sponsored by Lundbeck A/S, a Danish pharmaceutical company that manufacturers nalmafene, van den Brink and his colleagues studied 604 people who took the drug.

Over six months, they found that those taking the drug reduced the number of heavy drinking days from 19 to eight per month, and effectively cut overall drinking by two-thirds. Van den Brink admits there was also a profound reduction in consumption in the placebo group, which nearly halved daily drinking—but the effects were amplified with the nalmefene tablet, to the equivalent of drinking a large glass of wine instead of an entire bottle. ….The drug, sold as Selincro, is available in Europe. In August, a clinical trial began enrolling patients for a U.S. study.
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Nalmefene (Selincro) is the first drug approved anywhere for the reduction of alcohol consumption. It’s also taken “as needed,” so it puts the patient in control.

Pay close attention if someone you know and love is taking drugs for Parkinson's.  Drugs for Parkinson's disease can turn patients into gamblers, sex addicts and compulsive shoppers

Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition that occurs when nerve cells in the brain die, causing a lack of the chemical dopamine.  This, in turn, interferes with movement and co-ordination.

The disease is incurable - the aim of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms. There are two types of medication: ‘levodopa’ drugs, used since the Sixties, and ‘dopamine agonists’, introduced 12 years ago.
Both attempt to replace the missing dopamine, but the levodopa group restores it artificially, while dopamine agonists mimic its role by stimulating nerve cells.
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The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation says in one earlier study, dopamine agonists were linked with compulsive behaviours in up to 14 percent of patients….Dopamine agonist drugs were 277 times more likely to result in a report of specific impulse control symptoms than other drugs

Eat your greens to fight the blues: Scientists say eating large amounts of fruit and vegetables can make you happy

A study by The University of Queensland found that eight or more portions of fruit and vegetables drastically improves mental wellbeing. Dr Redzo Mujcic collected data from 12,000 Australians.
It found that eight fruits and vegetables each a day is ideal. Less than 10 per cent of Australians are eating this amount. The study found that fruit has a larger impact on mental health than vegetables and women experience the benefit more than men.

Ketamine Restores Ability to Experience Pleasure in Depressed Patients Within Minutes

There are many faces to depression: sadness, hopelessness, trouble sleeping, lack of motivation, an inability to experience pleasure. That last one has a medical name—anhedonia—and people experiencing it often no longer enjoy activities that used to bring happiness. Anhedonia is not found just in depression; it can be an important part of other disorders, including schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction.

In a study published this month in Translational Psychiatry, researchers have found that a drug called ketamine can help quickly reverse anhedonia in patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression (also known as manic-depression or bipolar disorder).
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Ketamine has previously been shown to help rapidly reverse other aspects of depression in a number of studies; doctors use the drug to treat patients at several hospitals around the country, although it remains illegal to possess without a prescription and hasn’t yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for psychiatric purposes. On the party drug circuit it’s sometimes called “Special K” and is abused for its anaesthetic and hallucinogenic effects.

The researchers found that a single injection of ketamine led to a significant improvement in normal pleasure-seeking behavior in as little as 40 minutes, and this dramatic improvement lasted as long as two weeks for some of the 36 participants.

The Internet of Things Can Lower Cost of Eldercare The Silver Economy in the Financial Times:

Lively, a US-based company, sticks sensors on everything from medications to food and drink to learn an older person’s routine, sending alerts at any abnormalities to an app on the carer or child’s phone.
As the cost of care rises, Lively is being used by some care companies as a “last mile solution”, charging $40-$45 a week to wrap services and monitoring around the system, on top of the $25 a month Lively costs, he said.

“It is about a tenth of the price of full home care, “ Mr Fanlo said. “Care providers can look after many many more families than they did before by using technology. It is a smart and intelligent way to use human resources.”

And it mentions Jibo, the first family robot developed at MIT and now being crowdfunded as a device to care for the elderly.

 Jibo Black White- Video of the cute robot

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:13 PM | Permalink

October 16, 2014

Health Roundup: Poop pills, cancer blood test, fruit juice, 5 a day, broccoli, ibuprofen

Fecal transplants made easier with A Promising Pill, Not So Hard to Swallow developed at MGH.  Already called the 'poop pill'.

Their study was small and preliminary, but results were striking: 19 of 20 patients with C. difficile infections were cured of diarrhea and related symptoms. Most saw improvements after one two-day round of pills, the rest after two or three rounds, said Dr. Ilan Youngster, the lead investigator….
The patients, 11 to 89 years old, had each experienced at least two episodes of C. difficile that antibiotics had failed to control. After one round of dosing (two days, 15 capsules per day), diarrhea cleared up in 14 patients. Five others, sicker than the rest beforehand, responded after a second two-day dosing about a week later.

New startup Miroculus could make regular cancer screenings as simple as a getting blood drawn

The Miroculus technology is based on microRNA, a class of small molecules that can act as a type of biological warning sign, appearing and disappearing based on what is happening in our bodies at that moment. As a result, they’ve become effective indicators of diseases—including cancer—ever since they were first discovered in 1993. They can reveal not just whether a person may have cancer, but what specific type of cancer that person might have.

A daily glass of fruit juice leads to people having significantly higher central blood pressure - which can increase the risk of problems such as a heart attack or angina as Australian scientists have discovered….

Study author, Dr Matthew Pase said their findings were important because 'there is a common perception that fruit juice is healthy. Although juices may have essential vitamins, they commonly contain high amounts of sugar with negligible fibre.  …..An 8 oz glass of fruit juice contains 7 tsp of sugar.  The WHO recommends people have no more that 6 tsp a day.

On the other hand, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables will not only enhance your mental well-being, it will enhance your creative brain power. Fruit, the thinking man's food.

Could symptoms of autism be improved by eating broccoli? Chemical which gives veg its bitter taste 'helps autistic teens become calmer and more sociable'

The chemical - suforaphane- that gives broccoli its distinctive bitter taste made teenagers and young men with autism calmer and more sociable, a study found.

‘Remarkable’ improvements were seen in as little as four weeks and by the end of the study, some of those given a capsule a day felt able to look the researchers in the eye and shake their hand. The finding suggests it may be possible to create a pill that gets to the root of autism for the first time.

Existing drugs simply control symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity or sleep problems, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition.  Researcher Dr Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology in the US who has spent the last 25 years researching nature’s medicine cabinet, said:It was a small study but the effects were very, very large.
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We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some underlying cellular mechanisms.’British experts described the research as ‘intriguing’ but said it is simply too early to say if broccoli is beneficial in autism.

The research, from the respected MassGen Hospital for Children and Johns Hopkins University, both in Boston, comes amid concern about rising rates of autism.

Ibuprofen can make your lungs look younger and could help fight Tuberculosis

Research has already established that the inevitable inflammation that comes with aging is linked to such conditions as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Researchers found lungs become more inflammatory with age and that Ibuprofen can lower that inflammation.Old mice on ibuprofen were able to fight the disease like young mice
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2014

The Unpreparedness of the CDC and NIH and Ebola Czar

16 Members of Doctors Without Borders Infected with Ebola, Nine Dead

Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?" said Ekambaram who worked in Sierra Leone from August to September. "We've all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground."

Ebola cases could hit 10,000 a week by December, WHO states, fatality rate now estimated at 70 per cent

Ebola Preparation ‘Will bankrupt my hospital!’ Director Reacts to CDC Prep Call

“Treating one Ebola patient requires, full time, 20 medical staff. Mostly ICU (intensive care unit) people. So that would wipe out an ICU in an average-sized hospital….doctors and nurses are not ready for the challenge of using this personal protective equipment even if you see them with the helmet, the respirator, the full suits, as the CDC said on the call today, even all that equipment is not enough to guarantee the safety of health care workers because it is so perilous to put it on and particularly to remove it once it’s become contaminated.”

Embattled Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director, Dr. Tom Frieden, laid out a new game plan to counter further contamination of health care workers dealing with Ebola patients – including sending rapid response teams to any hospital where a new case is confirmed.  >

Where is Dr. Nicole Lure, Obama's Ebola Czar?   

the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.

In Wired, What Would Keep Ebola from Spreading in the US? Investing in Simple Research Years Ago Instead.The CDC's emergency preparedness budget has fallen by half since 2006 from $1091 million in 2007 to $585 million in 2013. None of the money spent for pandemic preparedness involved investing in health systems at the front line of epidemics: hospitals.

Dr Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health  decried the budget 'cuts' over the past 10 years ' which he said  prevented the development of an Ebola vaccine.  But that's not true.

According to data compiled by the Cato Institute from the non-partisan Office of Management and Budget, the NIH’s inflation-adjusted outlays skyrocketed between 1996 and 2005, more than doubling from $14.8 to $32.4 billion while the CDC's budget " catapulting from $3.1 billion in 1996 to $5.8 billion in 2003. From there the budget kept rising, soaring to $7.5 billion in 2010 before gently declining to $6.8 billion in 2014."

So what did they spend all this money on?

Well, first a fancy new headquarters and fitness center for their employees at a cost of $110 million, including $10 million for new furniture (about $12,000 per employee).
$517.3 million on "community transformation" -better sidewalks, more bike lanes and farmers' markets.
* $1.7 million on a Hollywood liaison to make sure medical portrayals in TV shows were accurate
$386,000 to study the appropriate length of massage sessions for rabbits,
$2.4 million for a new origami condom design whose inventor is now being investigated for fraud
$592,000 to determine that chimpanzees with the best poop-flinging skills are also the best communicators, and another $117,000 to learn that most chimps are right-handed
$257,000 went to create a companion website for first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden
$939,000 to find out that male fruit flies prefer to romance younger females because the girl-flies' hormone levels drop over time.
• Part of a $666,000 NIH grant supported a University of Buffalo researcher who determined that watching sitcom reruns like 'Seinfeld' or re-watching old movies helps older people feel re-connected with pseudo-friends from their past.
$181,000 went to University of Kentucky researchers who studied how cocaine use 'enhanced' the sex drive of the Japanese quail
$548,000 to a University of Missouri team to find out if 30-something partiers feel immature after they binge drink while people in their mid-20s don't.
$832,000 went to learn if it was possible to get uncircumcised South African tribesmen into the habit of washing their genitals after having sex.
$1.1 million funded research into how athletes perceive their in-game surroundings,
•  $484,000 for a study to determine if hypnosis can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women
• a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
• $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
$509,840  to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads.
•  NIH has spent about $3 million to date to study why lesbians are fatter than straight women or gay men
* $385,005 to survey what bus riders thought of HIV videos

Apparently, there is a $12.5 billion slush fund created by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores.  Surely, that could be used to better effect.

Ebola and the great forgetting: the best of times, the worst of times

WHO director Margaret Chan said yesterday that the current ebola epidemic is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”….But if Chan actually considers “modern times” to include the WWI era, and is ignorant of the scope and course of the great flu pandemic towards the end of that war, it would be exceptionally troubling, since she is speaking in her role as director of one of the most influential worldwide institutions tasked with dealing with epidemics.
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Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The epidemic killed, at a very, very conservative estimate, 550,000 Americans in 10 months, that’s more Americans than died in combat in all the wars of this century, and the epidemic killed at least 30 million in the world and infected the majority of the human species.

Was Ebola Behind the Black Death?

Controversial new research suggests that contrary to the history books, the "Black Death" that devastated medieval Europe was not the bubonic plague, but rather an Ebola-like virus.

History books have long taught the Black Death, which wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was caused by bubonic plague, spread by infected fleas that lived on black rats. But new research in England suggests the killer was actually an Ebola-like virus transmitted directly from person to person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 AM | Permalink

October 9, 2014

Health Roundup: Breakthroughs in Type 1 diabetes, arthritis, brain scans for early warning of Alzheimer's and peanuts

Cure for Type 1 diabetes imminent after Harvard stem-cell breakthrough

A cure for diabetes could be imminent after scientists discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as significant as antibiotics.  Harvard University has, for the first time, managed to manufacture the millions of beta cells required for transplantation.

It could mean the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain living with Type 1 diabetes.
And it marks the culmination of 23-years of research for Harvard professor Doug Melton who has been trying to find a cure for the disease since his son Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a baby.

Arthritis breakthrough could end agony for millions of sufferers

They have developed a pioneering simple new technique to generate cells which can go on to re-grow damaged cartilage and even bone. The process offers major hope for people suffering in daily pain from the degenerative joint condition. It paves the way for a quick treatment - possible as a single injection of the stem cells - directly into the effected joint to end the agony.
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Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Centre in the US, have used a combination of small molecules to generate mouse cells that can form bone and cartilage.  They say the new method could allow them to re-grow broken bones and mend cartilage damage to back discs and joints. …. It would revolutionize treatment for the condition because it would not have the side effects of many of the current drug-based treatments for the condition.
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The research team, led by Dr Naoki Nakayama, created special stem cells known as pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryos. This type of stem cell has the ability to become any cell type in the body. The team then used small molecules to persuade them to turn into cells that can form cartilage, called chondrocytes.

Scan to give warning of Alzheimer's: Five minute test will spot differences in the brain that allow a patient to take preventative measures

A five-minute brain scan could give healthy people early warning of dementia, scientists believe. They found that by measuring blood flow in the brain, it is possible to distinguish healthy people whose memory will decline from those who stay mentally sharp.In other words, tell-tale signs are present in the brain long before the memory fades.

Those given warning of the disease could take preventative measures such as changing their diet and taking more exercise.
Quicker detection would allow earlier treatment and, with the help of new drugs, some who test positive might never develop the disease.

Memory loss is reversed in Alzheimer's patients for the first time, scientists claim

A small study of 10 patients found nine showed improvements in their memories within three to six months of treatment.
The findings, from the University of California, Los Angeles, are the first to suggest that memory loss in patients can be reversed.
Six patients taking part had stopped working, or been struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study. All have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working, with improved performance.

The patients all suffered memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease. One, who had been diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer's did not improve.  The treatment involved a complex, 36-point therapeutic programme, combining comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimisation, specific drugs and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry.

Dr Bredesen said the findings are 'very encouraging', but added the results are anecdotal, and a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is needed. No single drug has been found to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's, and drugs have only had modest effects of symptoms.

Could UV light eradicate peanut allergies?  Pulses eliminate 80% of allergens without ruining flavor or texture?

A University of Florida scientist has used pulses of UV light to remove 80 per cent of allergens from peanuts.  Dr Yang says it could one day be used to remove 99 per cent of allergens.  In the research he used concentrated bursts of light to modify the peanut allergenic proteins. By doing this human antibodies can't recognize them as allergens.  And the method does not ruin the flavor or texture of the peanuts

Using Google, a 47-year-old woman came up with the proper diagnosis that her doctors over 7 years couldn't

Sallie Powell was so bloated she looked nine months pregnant and the excruciating pains in her joints and overwhelming tiredness had forced her to give up work as a wedding photographer.  Despite seeing several doctors - and even undergoing major surgery - her crippling symptoms continued.

In desperation, she turned to the internet - and just moments later found the answer that would change her life. The search results indicated she was suffering from a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Here, tiny parathyroid glands in the neck which control calcium levels malfunction, causing an excess of calcium in the blood. This, in turn, was causing her symptoms such as memory loss, depression, extreme tiredness and bloating.
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Shocked, Ms Powell printed off her findings and took them to her GP - only to be proved right…..Ms Powell was told she would require surgery to remove the affected parathyroid gland…..'I went into surgery feeling 95, but after the operation I  woke up feeling 35.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2014

"Total pandemonium" in upstate New York nursing home, "The lights turned back on in people' eyes"

A wonderful article by Atul Gawande.  Can life in a nursing home be made uplifting and purposeful?

One young doctor in upstate New York thought so and he came up with a highly eccentric way of demonstrating it. In this extract from his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tells the story of Bill Thomas and his miraculous menagerie.

In 1991, in the tiny town of New Berlin, in upstate New York, a young physician named Bill Thomas performed an experiment. He didn’t really know what he was doing. He was 31 years old, less than two years out of family residency, and he had just taken a new job as medical director of Chase Memorial Nursing Home, a facility with 80 severely disabled elderly residents. About half of them were physically disabled; four out of five had Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of cognitive disability.

Up until then Thomas had worked as an emergency physician at a nearby hospital, the near opposite of a nursing home. People arrived in the emergency room with discrete, reparable problems – a broken leg, say, or a cranberry up the nose. If a patient had larger, underlying issues – if, for instance, the broken leg had been caused by dementia – his job was to ignore the issues or send the person somewhere else to deal with them, such as a nursing home. He took this new medical director job as a chance to do something different.

The staff at Chase saw nothing especially problematic about the place, but Thomas with his newcomer’s eyes saw despair in every room. The nursing home depressed him. He wanted to fix it. …

He didn’t give up, though. He came to think the missing ingredient in this nursing home was life itself, and he decided to try an experiment to inject some. The idea he came up with was as mad and naive as it was brilliant. That he got the residents and nursing home staff to go along with it was a minor miracle.

He brought in a dog, four cats, live plants and a bird in every room, children in the afternoon, and a big garden in back.

It was ‘total pandemonium,’ Thomas said. The memory of it still puts a grin on his face. He is that sort of person. He, his wife, Jude, the nursing director, Greising, and a handful of others spent hours assembling the cages, chasing the parakeets through a cloud of feathers around the salon and delivering birds to every resident’s room. The elders gathered outside the salon windows to watch.
‘They laughed their butts off,’ Thomas said. He marvels now at the team’s incompetence.

‘We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. Did, Not, Know what we were doing.’ Which was the beauty of it. They were so patently incompetent that almost everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included. Whoever could do it helped line the cages with newspaper, got the dogs and the cats settled, got the children to help out. It was a kind of glorious chaos – or, in the diplomatic words of Greising, ‘a heightened environment’.
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‘People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,’ Thomas said. ‘People who had been completely withdrawn and nonambulatory started coming to the nurses’ station and saying, “I’ll take the dog for a walk.” ’ All the parakeets were adopted and named by the residents. The lights turned back on in people’s eyes. In a book he wrote about the experience, Thomas quoted from journals that the staff kept, and they described how irreplaceable the animals had become in the daily lives of residents, even ones with advanced dementia.
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The most important finding of Thomas’s experiment wasn’t that having a reason to live could reduce death rates for the disabled elderly. The most important finding was that it is possible to provide them with reasons to live, period. Even residents with dementia so severe that they had lost the ability to grasp much of what was going on could experience a life with greater meaning and pleasure and satisfaction. It is much harder to measure how much more worth people find in being alive than how many fewer drugs they depend on or how much longer they can live. But could anything matter more?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Marijuana, Statins, Mental well-being, Multi-tasking, and Happiness at 70

Marijuana, the terrible truth: Expert's devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that smoking pot is harmless

Cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and opens the door to hard drugs, the study found.
The paper by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organisation, builds a compelling case against those who deny the devastation cannabis wreaks on the brain. Professor Hall found:

• One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it,
• Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia,
• Cannabis users do worse at school. Heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development
• One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs,
• Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink,
• Smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby’s birth weight.

Statin users more at risk of piling on the pounds:

People who take statins are more likely to gain weight, researchers say. British scientists have warned that the millions who are given the cholesterol-busting drugs should also be advised to do more exercise in a bid to counter the unwanted side effect.

Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is also good for the BRAIN and helps prevent depression

Five daily portions of fruit and vegetables won't just help stave off disease - they could also keep the blues away. A new study has found a person's mental wellbeing may be closely linked to how much fresh produce they eat.  Mental wellbeing was was defined as a state in which people feel good and function well, the researchers said.

Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state, they added.
More than a third of people with good mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 per cent who ate less than one portion.  A further 31 per cent of those with high mental wellbeing ate three to four portions and 28 per cent ate one to two portions.

Previous research has shown that eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables helps prevent people from developing more than one chronic disease such as high blood pressure, very high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis, heart disease, asthma, stroke and cancer.

The study - carried out by Warwick University's medical school - used figures from the Health Survey for England. It found the effect on mental wellbeing from eating more fruit and vegetables was found in both men and women. Dr Saverio Stranges, who led the study, said: 'Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing.

Multi-tasking makes your brain smaller: Grey matter shrinks if we do too much at once

People who multitask with multiple media devices have less grey matter, that part of the brain that processes information
Older studies found multitasking on media devices led to poor attention and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety

Happiness index: life begins at 70

Forget the idea that school days are the best days of our lives, a happiness study suggests that turning 70 marks the start of a golden decade.  New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, far from preparing to take life more slowly, people turning 70 are just embarking on a golden decade.  The main indicators used to measure the nation’s “well-being” show that general contentment and having a sense of worth peak when people are in their early 70s.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2014

What is the origin of the enterovirus that's killing our children?

Polio-like illness claims fifth life in U.S. by Sharyl Atkinson

At least five children infected with the respiratory illness known enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have died in the U.S. in the past month.
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The CDC reports that in the past month and a half, at least 538 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia have become ill with EV-D68. Most of them are children and some developed limb paralysis. Polio, which can cause paralysis and death, is a type of enterovirus. EV-D68 is one of more than a hundred “non-polio” enteroviruses.

The actual number of EV-D68 infections is likely significantly higher than reported since some state health officials are not testing every suspected case.
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The CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin. Without that answer, some question whether the disease is being spread by the presence of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children from Central America admitted to the U.S. in the past year.

The origin could be entirely unrelated.

However, a study published in Virology Journal, found EV-D68 among some of the 3,375 young, ill people tested in eight Latin American countries, including the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in 2013.  (See Fig. 3)

Though the U.S. government is keeping secret the locations of the illegal immigrant children, there are significant numbers of them in both cities in which the current outbreak was first identified, Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois, according to local advocates and press reports.

Eileen F. Toplansky writes though he has been repeatedly warned by credible sources of the health risks of illegal immigration, Barack Hussein Obama refuses to use the legal power within his authority to "seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States."

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And still the stream of illegal immigrants not only continues, but is actively pursued by the Department of Justice, which mandates that unaccompanied minors be sent to various U.S. locations to live with relatives or, in some cases, to live as foster wards.  The children would be allowed to enroll in local, taxpayer-funded public schools with no questions asked – by law.  Clearly "[t]he Obama administration is fully aware of the health risks presented by its policy of forcing potentially unvaccinated, diseased immigrants into public schools."

Moreover, school districts have been ordered to "accept illegal immigrant children even if they have no home and no documentation concerning their health or immunization status."  In fact, local schools "cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students.”
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Obama's ongoing disregard of federal law on immigration has been the cause of this now emerging potential for a pandemic in this country.  But when this is pointed out, charges of racism completely subvert the conversation.  That protecting all Americans is racist belies logic, since germs do not select black, brown, or white Americans to sicken. 

IBD. A New Border Surge Opens Us To Surge Of Epidemics

The next wave may be worse than the first, however, because monsoon conditions, a harsh drought and the globalization of transport are ensuring that the 50,000 or so unscreened new entrants will be bringing a raft of new diseases with them.

In throwing open our border for political purposes, the U.S. is exposing itself to a host of nasty diseases and epidemics, among them

chikungunya, known as "the virus of pain." Its Tanzanian-origin Bantu name means "to contort," describing the agony it leaves in joints for years.

Some 183,000 cases were detected in the region this year as it spreads from the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and yellow fever. Central America, according to a report in El Pais, is the epicenter. Puerto Rico has reported 2,000 cases and three deaths.
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there's also a monster dengue fever epidemic raging through Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala right now, with 120,000 cases, 60 deaths and public health emergencies declared in those countries, also a result of the rainy season.
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There's tuberculosis, which has infection rates in Central America roughly 10 times that of the U.S.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2014

Health roundup: Viagra & blindness, losing sense of smell, bowel cancer breakthrough, new breast cancer drug cocktail, on-off switch for aging cells

A lot of men are going to be unhappy about this. Viagra 'may cause blindness': Ingredient in the drug can permanently affect sight, doctors warn

One theory is that erectile dysfunction drugs may obstruct an enzyme which is important for transmitting light signals from the retina to the brain.  It is already known that sildenafil, the active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction medication, can cause temporary vision problems in some healthy people.

Doctors have now warned it could also cause permanent damage to the eyes of people with retinitis pigmentosa.  People with normal sight that carry the gene for the condition may also be at risk, experts warn.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare hereditary condition that causes the cells in the retina - the area of the back of the eye which detects light - to degenerate and die.  This can lead to difficulty seeing in dim light, loss of peripheral vision, and sometimes blindness.
About one in 50 people are likely to be carriers of genes which lead to the degeneration of cells in the retina.
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Previous studies have linked Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs to side effects such as deafness.  American researchers also found that men who used Viagra increased their risk of developing skin cancer.

Your nose knows death is imminent

Losing the sense of smell predicts death within five years, according to new research…. the sense of smell is the canary in the coal mine of human health. A study published today in the open access journal PLOS ONE, shows that losing one’s sense of smell strongly predicts death within five years, suggesting that the nose knows when death is imminent, and that smell may serve as a bellwether for the overall state of the body, or as a marker for exposure to environmental toxins.

The study involved more than 3,000 participants, all of them between 57 and 85 years old, from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), a longitudinal study of factors affecting the well-being of older people living in America.

In 2005-6, Jayant Pinto of the University of Chicago and his colleagues asked all the participants to perform a simple test that involved identifying five common odors (rose, leather, fish, orange, and peppermint), using the number of incorrectly identified odours as a score of the severity of smell loss.
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Loss of the sense of smell predicted death more accurately than did a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure or lung disease, the only other common cause of predicting it more accurately being severe liver damage. But the researchers stress that it is unlikely to be a cause of death itself, arguing only that it is a harbinger for what is to come, and suggesting two possible reasons why this might be so.

Scientists make bowel cancer breakthrough that targets 80 PER CENT of tumours… using existing arthritis drugs

Dr Toby Phesse, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, said early data showed medication currently used to treat psoriasis, arthritis and minor fibrosis could help in the fight against the country's second deadliest form of cancer.  He said the lab's focus was directed in signaling pathways and finding how to locate the pathways that stop tumors from growing.

'We identified a weak pathway that we found had a certain mutation in 80 per cent of tumous but there was a considerable risk since the pathway requires normal cells of the intestine. If the pathway is targeted directly you could be affecting normal cells of the intestine.We had to come up with a new method and target a parallel pathway.'

This is what brought scientists to the existing medicines, JAK inhibitors. The scientific breakthrough found 'JAK inhibitors' responded to 80 per cent of the colon tumors that possess the certain mutation.The treatment has caused excitement because the drug only targeted cancer cells, leaving normal cells unharmed, leaving no side effects.
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Dr Phesse said this is an exciting breakthrough that will help thousands of people who have colon cancer or face risk of developing tumors.  'The main point is that the inhibitors already exist and have been approved,' he said.

New breast cancer drug cocktail shows 'unprecedented' boost to patient's lifespan

A new breast cancer drug from Roche has shown 'unprecedented' benefits in extending lives in a clinical trial….Experts urged its widespread use for women with an aggressive form of the disease. 
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Patients with a type of breast cancer known as HER2 positive, which makes up about a quarter of all breast cancers, who were given Perjeta on top of older medicine Herceptin and chemotherapy lived 15.7 months longer than those on Herceptin and chemotherapy alone.    That is the longest extension to survival ever seen for a drug studied in metastatic breast cancer and also an unusually good result for any type of metastatic cancer, where disease has spread to other parts of the body.

Scientists discover an on/off switch for aging cells

The switch controls the growth of telomeres, the timekeepers of cells…In a new study published September 19th in the journal Genes and Development, scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered that telomerase, even when present, can be turned off.
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Understanding how this “off” switch can be manipulated–thereby slowing down the telomere shortening process–could lead to treatments for diseases of aging (for example, regenerating vital organs later in life).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:07 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2014

Health roundup: Sweeteners, depression, wine and junk food

Low-calorie sweeteners found in diet drinks RAISE the risk of obesity and diabetes by affecting how the body processes sugar

The sweeteners under the microscope are saccharin, which is found in Sweet’N Low, sucralose, which is found in Splenda, and aspartame, which is found in many diet drinks.
The Israeli researchers that ‘today’s massive, unsupervised consumption’ of artificial sweeteners needs to be reassessed.

The researchers, from the Weizmann Institute of Science, first showed that all three sweeteners made it more difficult for mice to process sugar. This is known as glucose intolerance and is important because it raises risk of developing diabetes and obesity.


In a study of almost 400 people, the researchers linked artificial sweetener with being fatter and glucose intolerance.And, worryingly, volunteers who didn’t normally eat or drink artificially-sweetened foods began to become glucose intolerant after just four days of consumption. The numbers affected were small – just four out of seven men and women in the trial – but the research overall was judged significant enough to be published in Nature one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals.

Blood test for depression developed after scientists discover the condition causes a spike in certain chemicals

At present, clinical depression can take several months to diagnose as doctors try to decide whether the patient has the condition or whether they are simply experiencing natural feelings of sadness caused by an event or tragedy.
But scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago say they have identified nine chemicals in the blood which are raised during depression.  They have devised a blood test which measures three of these chemicals to diagnose depression.

Antidepressants can affect the brain in just three HOURS - not weeks, as previously thought

A single dose of antidepressant medication is enough to produce dramatic changes in the brain within three hours, a study has found. Volunteers had their brains scanned after taking the widely-prescribed drug escitalopram, marketed in the UK as Cipralex and Lexapro in the U.S.  The drug is a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) and aims to boost the level of this ‘feel-good’ chemical in the brain.  SSRIs are believed to change brain connectivity in important ways, but the effects had generally been thought to take place over a period of weeks, not hours.

Exercising during chemotherapy can 'dramatically help shrink tumors', scientists find

Combining exercise with chemotherapy boosts the cancer-fighting effects of the drugs more than the treatment alone.
U.S. researchers discovered those who exercised while receiving chemotherapy had 'significantly smaller' tumors after two weeks than those that had only received common chemotherapy drug 'doxorubicin'.
They believe this could be because exercise increases blood flow to the tumor, bringing with it more of the drug in the bloodstream.

A lot of people are going to use this as an excuse.  Is Drinking Wine Better Than Going To The Gym? According To Scientists, Yes!

Jason Dyck and other science researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they’re improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient’s heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.

I Had a Stroke at 33.  A stroke that saved her life because they found a hole in her heart.

For a month, every moment of the day was like the moment upon wakening before you figure out where you are, what time it is. I was not completely aware of what had happened to me. I was not completely aware of my deficits, in an ignorance-is-bliss sort of way. I was unable to fret about the past, or the uncertainty of the future.
The sun is bright. The leaves rustle. This is the wind on my face. I am alive.
This is the thing: People pay a lot of money to live like that. To live in the present tense.

10 Similarities Between Sugar, Junk Food and Abusive Drugs

1. Junk Foods Flood The Brain With Dopamine…stimulating the same areas as drugs of abuse like cocaine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:57 AM | Permalink

September 17, 2014

Health roundup: MS, Breast cancer, healthy drinking, bottled water and hold the sugar

MS. Breakthrough hope for MS treatment as scientists discover how to 'switch off' autoimmune diseases

A team at Bristol University have described their work as a 'breakthrough' after discovering a way  to stop cells from attacking healthy body tissue

In the study, scientists were able to selectively target the cells that cause autoimmune disease by dampening down their aggression against the body's own tissue, while converting them into cells capable of protecting against disease.
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The researchers have now revealed how the administration of fragments of the proteins that are normally the target for the attack leads to correction of the autoimmune response.
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The outcome is to reinstate self-tolerance, where an individual's immune system ignores its own tissues while remaining fully armed to protect against infection.  Researchers say that by specifically targeting the cells at fault, the immunotherapeutic approach avoids the need for immune suppressive drugs.

Alzheimer's Examining the evidence that sleeping pills increase the risk for Alzheimer's

There’s a whole generation of people now hitting old age who were put on drugs such as Valium and temazepam years ago and I’d argue we’re now beginning to see the long-term impact of those drugs on the brain,’ says Mr Haslam.

‘Maybe now this increased risk of Alzheimer’s associated with the drugs will finally persuade GPs to think twice before prescribing them as a long-term treatment.’

Breast cancer. Double mastectomy doesn't boost survival for most, study says

Removing both breasts to treat cancer affecting only one side doesn't boost survival chances for most women, compared with surgery that removes just the tumor, a large study suggests. The results raise concerns about riskier, potentially unnecessary operations that increasing numbers of women are choosing.

The study involved nearly 200,000 California women treated for cancer in one breast and followed for several years afterward.  Ten-year survival rates were nearly identical - roughly 82 percent - for women who had lumpectomies to remove the tumor plus radiation, and for those who had double mastectomies. Women who had a single mastectomy, removal of just the cancerous breast, fared slightly worse.

Drinking Is Healthy The decisive benefits of moderate drinking

In 2006, the Archives of Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association journal, published an analysis based on 34 well-designed prospective studies—that is, research which follows subjects for years, even decades. This meta-analysis, incorporating a million subjects, found that “1 to 2 drinks per day for women and 2 to 4 drinks per day for men are inversely associated with total mortality.”

The more alcohol a society consumes, the fewer alcohol-related problems and alcohol-related deaths (including cirrhosis) it has.  So the more you drink—up to two drinks a day for woman, and four for men—the less likely you are to die. You may have heard that before, and you may have heard it doubted. But the consensus of the science is overwhelming: It is true.

Obviously, if you are an alcoholic, you will live longer by not drinking.

Bottled water and magnesium. Unlike tap water, bottled water has little magnesium.  Drinking only bottled water can make you ill and that may be making you ill.

Nausea, bloating, exhaustion and osteoporosis can be caused by a deficiency in magnesium

This little-heard-of deficiency is surprisingly common among women — one survey found one in ten suffers from it, but some experts cite figures as high as seven in ten — and the effects can be devastating. From maintaining energy levels to steadying heart rhythm, regulating blood pressure and keeping bones strong, magnesium is vital for the body. Magnesium deficiency is hard to diagnose, so many people don’t know they have it.’

Ironically, calcium is useless without magnesium, which is why a deficiency is implicated in osteoporosis.  So experts argue that many typical manifestations of aging — loss of muscle mass, rising blood pressure and diminished nervous system function — are because the body’s ability to metabolize magnesium may decrease with age.
Dr Ferguson uses magnesium to treat migraines as it has a relaxing and calming effect on the body. A German study found a 41.6 per cent drop in migraine frequency among sufferers who were given a supplement, and it can also treat asthma by suppressing histamine production.

Hold the sugar, not the salt. Sugar could be worse for your blood pressure than salt, shock new research reveals

…. in an article in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers led by Dr James DiNicolantonio state ‘It is sugar not the salt that may be the actual causative factor for high blood pressure.
‘This notion is supported by meta analyses of randomised control trials (large-scale studies) suggesting that sugar is more strongly related to blood pressure in humans than sodium.

‘Encouraging consumers to hold the sugar, not the salt, may be the better dietary strategy to achieve blood pressure control
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 AM | Permalink

September 10, 2014

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's and Dementia

Take your vitamin DNew Study Supports Links Between Dementia And Vitamin D Deficiency

Adding to an ever-growing body of evidence, a new study has found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. While previous studies have drawn similar conclusions, this is the largest, most robust study carried out to date. The results have been published in the journal Neurology.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is produced by the body upon exposure of the skin to sunlight, but it can also be found in small amounts in certain foods such as oily fish. It plays a variety of roles in the body and over recent years our understanding of how it helps to maintain optimum health has dramatically increased. For example, it’s thought to reduce the risk of certain bone diseases, bacterial and viral infections and autoimmune diseases.
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The researchers discovered that participants with a moderate vitamin D deficiency had a 53% increased risk of developing any form of dementia, and those with a severe deficiency had a 125% increased risk. Similar results were also found for the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia. Interestingly, they found that there was a threshold level of 50nmol/L vitamin D in the serum, below which the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s was markedly increased.

“We expected to find an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising- we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” lead researcher Dr David Llewellyn said in a news-release.

Eat pomegranates.  Chemical compound in pomegranates prevents inflammation of the brain cells

Pomegranates may help stop the spread of Alzheimer’s disease, claim scientists.
An ingredient called punicalagin helps prevent the inflammation that destroys brain cells known as micrologia, according to a team at the University of Huddersfield.  It is hoped the findings may also potentially benefit sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease by reducing painful inflammation from these conditions.

Transfusion of young blood.  Alzheimer’s patients to be treated with the blood of under-30s

This October, people with mild to moderate levels of Alzheimer’s disease will receive a transfusion of blood plasma from donors aged under 30.  The trial, run by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine in the US, follows their revolutionary study involving lab mice, where the blood plasma of young mice was injected into old mice, resulting in a marked improvement in their physical endurance and cognitive function. Completed earlier this year, their research, combined with independent studies by a handful of research teams around the world, pin-pointed a plasma-borne protein called growth differentiation factor 11 - or GDF11 - as a key factor in the young blood’s powers of rejuvenation.

"We saw these astounding effects,” lead researcher and professor of neurology at Stanford, Tony Wyss-Coray, told Helen Thomson at New Scientist. "The human blood had beneficial effects on every organ we've studied so far."

Curtail benzies. Chronic use of benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness, linked to greater risk of Alzheimer's

Researchers in France and Canada, using a health insurance database in Quebec, identified 1,796 people with Alzheimer's whose health had been monitored for at least six years before the disease was diagnosed.  They compared each individual against three times as many healthy counterparts, matched for age and gender, to see if anything unusual emerged.

They found that patients who had extensively used benzodiazepines for at least three months in the past, were up to 51 percent more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The risk rose the longer the patient had used the drug. The investigators admitted the picture was foggy.  Benzodiazepines are used to treat sleeplessness and anxiety -- symptoms that are also common among people just before an Alzheimer's diagnosis.


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
is in your future.  Electric currents applied to the brain can boost our memory and treat strokes and Alzheimer's - and might even stop forgetfulness in old age

Applying electric shocks to the brain can improve memory, researchers have found.  They say the discovery could open new avenues for treating strokes, early-stage Alzheimer's and even the normal effects of aging on the brain.  They used a non-invasive technique of delivering electrical current using magnetic pulses, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
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It isn't possible to directly stimulate the hippocampus with TMS because it's too deep in the brain for the magnetic fields to penetrate. So, using an MRI scan, Voss and colleagues identified a superficial brain region a mere centimeter from the surface of the skull with high connectivity to the hippocampus.  He wanted to see if directing the stimulation to this spot would in turn stimulate the hippocampus. It did.
'I was astonished to see that it worked so specifically,' Voss said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

September 2, 2014

Health Roundup: New drugs, less sugar, more fruit, exercise and coffee

New drug: Heart failure. The WSJ on the yet unnamed drug, Novartis Study Shows New Heart Drug Cuts Cardiovascular Deaths
Treatment Also Reduces Risk of Hospitalization for Patients With Chronic Heart Failure


New heart failure drug shows big promise

Doctors say the Novartis drug - which doesn’t have a name yet - seems like one of those rare, breakthrough therapies that could quickly change care for more than half of the 6 million Americans and 24 million people worldwide with heart failure.

“This is a new day” for patients, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiology chief at Northwestern University in Chicago and a former American Heart Association president.  “It’s been at least a decade since we’ve had a breakthrough of this magnitude,” said Yancy, who had no role in the study.

New drug:  Crohn's disease  Drug hope for Crohn's patients: New treatment is first to work in the gut to target symptoms on the disease

Vedolizumab is the first to work directly in the gut lining, targeting the inflammation that causes chronic symptoms such as diarrhoea, bleeding and fatigue.  In trials, 40 per cent of patients were free of symptoms for at least a year – with healing of the gut lining in some cases.

Two pieces of fruit a day.  An apple and a half a day could reduce your chance of suffering a heart attack by 40%

New study finds the more fruit you eat, the lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Eating the equivalent of an apple and half a banana everyday slashes risk by up to 40%.  The findings comes from a huge study of half a million Chinese whose heart health was tracked for seven years by Oxford University researchers.

It is thought that eating fruit and vegetables and fruit helps the heart through their antioxidant effects, combating harmful naturally occurring chemicals in the body.

Reduce the sugar you eat. Sugar substance 'kills' good cholesterol raising the risk of heart disease

A substance derived from sugar has been found to 'kill' good cholesterol, turning it 'bad', scientists have discovered.
Researchers from the University of Warwick found methylglyoxal (MG), which is formed from glucose in the body, damages 'good' High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which removes excess levels of 'bad' cholesterol from the body.
LDL cholesterol is considered the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it contributes to plaque: a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries.
If an artery is narrowed by plaque and a clot forms, it can become blocked and the person can suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Another reason to drink coffee.Drinking coffee can help you keep your teeth: Researchers say a cup of Joe can ward off gum disease

Coffee could not only perk you up in the morning but could also help protect you from gum disease, researchers have found.
They found that those who drank coffee were protected against gum disease.
They believe the antioxidants could play a role - but admit they are not quite sure what is happening.

Exercise is a wonder drug. Walking a mile each day 'cuts cancer death risk by half': Physical activity described as 'wonder drug' for breast and prostate patients

Cancer patients can cut their risk of dying by up to half – simply by walking just one mile a day, according to experts.
A study revealed physical activity as a ‘wonder drug’, with those diagnosed with breast and prostate cancers able to cut their risk of death by up to 40 per cent.  And for bowel cancer patients, doubling the walking distance was found to halve the risk of dying.
The calculations are based on walking one mile at a moderate pace of 3mph, which would take just 20 minutes a day.

Too many connections. Scientists discover people with autism have too many brain 'connections'

Scientists say they have discovered the reason why some people suffer from autism.  Those with the condition have too many synapses in their brains - places where where neurons connect and communicate, a new study has found.
Scientists at Columbia University in New York believe that the surplus synapses are created because of a lack of ‘pruning’ that normally occurs early in life.  The discovery is a huge leap in understanding of the complex condition and creates hope of a possible treatment, researchers said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

August 25, 2014

Health roundup: Salt, aspirin and new hope for the paralyzed

No need to cut back on salt: New study claims most people don't need to lower amount they eat

A large international study questions the conventional wisdom that most people should cut back on salt, suggesting that the amount most folks consume is OK for heart health — and too little may be as bad as too much. The findings came under immediate attack by other scientists.

Limiting salt is still important for people with high blood pressure — and in fact, a second study estimates that too much sodium contributes to up to 1.65 million deaths each year  The first study's leader, Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University's Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, urged keeping an open mind….Yusuf's study is observational, rather than a strict experiment, and has big limitations in its methods. But its size lends strength — more than 100,000 people in 17 countries, the largest on this topic. It's also from a general population, not just people at high risk of heart disease, as many past studies have been.

Everyday drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen could help treat depression after scientists found inflammation may influence mental illness.

A study at Cambridge University suggest that the immune system plays an important role in mental health by ‘cranking’ up the body’s responses and increasing the risk of subsequent mental illness.  But inflammation-fighting drugs could provide a readily-available, safe and affordable alternative treatment.

Overweight women with breast cancer 'could halve the risk of the disease coming back' by taking aspirin regularly

Scientists hailed the study as encouraging because overweight women are more at risk of breast cancer coming back than those of a healthy weight.  Their research suggests the humble painkiller may cut by 50 per cent the chances of recurrence and also leads to a ‘sizable delay’ of two years before it does.

Diabetes drug that could help us all live longer: Doctors say it could also stave off cancer

A drug widely prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes could help us all live longer, a study says.  Research suggests metformin, which controls glucose levels, may also stave off cardiovascular disease and cancer – whether someone has diabetes or not.
Scientists who studied more than 180,000 people found a ‘small but statistically significant improvement in survival’ in those taking metformin, compared with those given older anti-diabetic drugs and a group without diabetes.

New hope for the paralyzed.  Hope for stroke victims after radical stem cell treatment enables patients to move and talk again

Stroke patients have shown remarkable signs of recovery after they were given a radical new treatment.  Five people who had suffered severe strokes regained the power of speech, use of their arms and legs and improved cognition after just six months, according to British research published today.

The three men and two women, aged between 45 and 75, were treated with stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow in the first experiment of its kind.  The treatment, developed by scientists at Imperial College in London, is thought to be so effective because it triggers the rapid regeneration of brain cells that are damaged during a stroke.

Scientists cautioned that the new treatment is at a very early stage, and said it needs to be tested on thousands more people before it can be declared a complete success, but they said the results show great potential to revolutionize life for stroke patients.

New hope for paralyzed patients: Scientists grow links between spinal cord and the brain for the first time

Spinal injury victims left paralyzed have been offered new hope of walking again thanks to a breakthrough in stem cell science.
U.S. scientists have regrown spinal cord neurons from a patient’s own cells for the first time.
Implanting the cells in rats, they found that the neurons caused the animals’ nervous systems to rewire the spinal cord and brain.
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Currently, there is no way to treat spinal injuries once connections between the neurons are lost, resulting in connections between the brain and the body being cut off.

Professor Tuszynski said : ‘Earlier work has shown that grafted stem cells reprogrammed to become neurons can, in fact, form new, functional circuits across an injury site, with the treated animals experiencing some restored ability to move affected limbs.’
However, he warned that further tests to find out how best to graft stem cells and cure paralysis could take ‘months to years’.
He also said that experts should be cautious when conducting a human trial in the future.
‘The enormous outgrowth of axons [verve fibres] to many regions of the spinal cord and even deeply into the brain raises questions of possible harmful side effects if axons are mistargeted.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2014

Ebola: "Everybody left with their own thing. What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

Ebola is running away from us and we do not know the true scale of deaths

International doctors have admitted they don't know the true scale of deaths from the deadly Ebola virus warning the disease is spreading faster than the response.
The group Doctors Without Borders (Medecin Sans Frontieres) have likened the outbreak in west Africa to a state of war and said that the epidemic could last another six months.
Meanwhile, a medical worker on the frontline of tackling the disease in Liberia says response teams are unable to document all the cases erupting as many of the sick are being hidden at home rather than taken to Ebola treatment centres.

Tarnue Karbbar, who works for the aid group Plan International in northern Liberia says in the last several days, up to 75 new cases a day are emerging in single districts.
He also added that those who have succumbed to the deadly virus are buried before teams can get to the area.  He said: 'Our challenge now is to quarantine the area to successfully break the transmission.'  It comes as Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders told reporters in Geneva on Friday that there is no sign of stopping the disease.  She said: 'We're running behind a train that is going forward. 'And it literally is faster than what we're bringing in terms of a response.'
The doctors' warnings come as a World Health Organisation official claimed that Ebola treatment centres are filling up faster than they can be provided in west Africa.
WHO spokesman in Geneva Gregory Hartl said: 'The flood of patients into every newly opened treatment center is evidence that the numbers aren't keeping up.'…..

Earlier the UN organisation had said the epidemic had been 'vastly' underestimated and that extraordinary measures are needed to contain the disease.
The Geneva-based organisation said in a statement that it was co-ordinating a 'massive scale-up of the international response' in a bid to tackle the spread of the Ebola.

So far, 2,127 cases of the disease and 1,145 deaths have been reported in four nations — Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone — the W.H.O announced Friday

NY Times With Aid Doctors Gone, Ebola Fight Grows Harder

The departure of many Western development workers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries hit hardest by Ebola, has further weakened the region’s understaffed health systems at the very moment they are facing one of the most volatile public health crises ever. Liberia, population four million, has fewer than 250 doctors left in the entire country, according to the Liberia Medical and Dental Council. Seven doctors there have contracted Ebola, and two of them have died.

“The locals’ seeing this mass exodus of expatriates has contributed to the sense that there’s an apocalypse happening and they’re in it on their own,”
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On Saturday afternoon, several hundred people in an area of Monrovia known as the West Point slum broke through the gates of a former school that had been converted days earlier into a holding center for people with suspected Ebola.

Samuel Tarplah, 48, a nurse running the center, said Saturday evening that the protesters wanted to shut it down. “They told us that we don’t want an Ebola holding center in our community.” He said the intruders stole mattresses, personal protective equipment, even buckets of chlorine that had just been delivered. “They took everything.”

Fear is complicating the huge increase in aid that is needed: food for people in areas that have been cordoned off; laboratory supplies to test for the disease; gloves, face masks and gowns to protect health workers; body bags for the dead; bedsheets to replace those that must be burned. Airlines have canceled flights that could have carried in such supplies, despite assurances from the W.H.O. that properly screened passengers pose little risk. Positions on aid teams remain unfilled.

Mob Destroys Ebola Center In Liberia Two Days After It Opens  Fear and denial of the deadly virus are pervasive in Liberia. The mob exponentially increased the risk in one of the country’s biggest Ebola hot spots.

A mob descended on the center at around 5:30 p.m., chanting, “No Ebola in West Point! No Ebola in West Point!” They stormed the front gate and pushed into the holding center. They stole the few gloves someone had donated this morning, and the chlorine sprayers used to disinfect the bodies of those who die here, all the while hollering that Ebola is a hoax.

They ransacked the protective suits, the goggles, the masks. They destroyed part of Tarplah’s car as he was fleeing the crowd.    Jemimah Kargbo, a health care worker at a clinic next door, said they took mattresses and bedding, utensils and plastic chairs. Everybody left with their own thing,” she said. “What are they carrying to their homes? They are carrying their deaths.”

She said the police showed up but the crowd intimidated them. “The police were there but they couldn’t contain them. They started threatening the police, so the police just looked at them,” she said.
And then mob left with all of the patients.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:36 PM | Permalink

August 4, 2014

Health Roundup: The Pill, chemo while pregnant, breastfeeding, aspirin, ibuprofen and blood test for cancer

Breastfeeding 'beats statins' to curb risk of heart disease: Babies given mother's milk for at least three months less likely to suffer from clogged arteries later in life

Being breastfed as a baby might be better than statins in staving off heart disease in later life, according to new research. Babies given mother’s milk for three months or more have a much lower risk of the chronic inflammation that can also lead to diabetes and other metabolic illnesses, US researchers say.  Suckling lowers the amounts of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood that is linked to clogged arteries and damage to blood vessels.

Professor Molly Metzger, of Washington University, said: ‘We are looking at the effects of these early factors on later levels of CRP, a biomarker associated with risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Comparing the long-term effects of breastfeeding to the effects of clinical trials of statin therapy, we find breastfeeding to exert effects that are as large or larger."

Her findings – published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences – indicate breastfeeding has implications for children’s health decades later, she said. The researchers used data from the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, including parent surveys, and blood samples providing measurements of CRP.


Taking the Pill 'raises the risk of breast cancer by 50 per cent'

Women taking contraceptive pills have a 50 per cent higher overall risk of developing breast cancer, a study has found.  Some pills with high levels of oestrogen can raise the risk threefold, compared with that of women who have never taken the Pill or who have stopped using it, US scientists found. Pills containing low-dose hormones carried no extra risk.

The study – published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research – involved 23,000 women and claims to be the first to look at up-to-date formulations of oral contraceptives used in the 1990s and 2000s. Pills containing high-dose estrogen increased breast cancer risk 2.7-fold, or 170 per cent, while those with moderate-dose estrogen increased the risk 1.6-fold.  Pills containing low-dose estrogen did not increase breast cancer risk.  Across recent use of all pills, breast cancer risk increased by 50 per cent, compared with never or former use.

Chemo While Pregnant? L'Chaim!

Some chemotherapy drugs are thought to be harmful to a fetus during every stage of pregnancy, but many are not.  Pregnant women have been successfully treating their cancer in the second and third trimesters without harming their babies for over twenty years -- and yet this fact is far from common knowledge. 

How one-minute bursts of exercise can boost health for over-60s in just six weeks

Short, sharp bursts of exercise could transform the lives of the over-60s, research suggests.  Just two one-minute sessions a week for six weeks dramatically improved the health and physical fitness of men and women in this age group….Dr Babraj said: ‘What we found with this study, which involves doing just one minute of exercise twice a week, is that it not only improved the participants’ physical health and ability to do these things, but also their perceptions of their own ability to engage in physical activity.
‘They enjoyed it, were delighted with the effects it had on their health and, on top of that, felt they could fit it into their lives, which is something they aren’t able to do with current exercise recommendations.

Could aspirin give you a heart attack? Gene found which doubles the risk for millions who take painkiller thinking it will ward off cardiac problems

Nearly a quarter of adults - 23% - have been found to carry particular gene.  When combined with aspirin, it nearly doubles risk of suffering heart attack.  U.S. study is the first to link dangers from the painkiller with gene variations
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While past studies have shown taking aspirin can increase the risk of potentially life-threatening internal bleeding, this study, by scientists at Harvard University in the US, is the first to link dangers from the drug with gene variations.
Dr Kathryn Hall, the report’s lead author, said, ‘We need to look at ourselves as individuals, a certain constellation of genes, and to take that into consideration. If the research is validated in further study, it would be the logical next step to test everyone for these genes before giving them aspirin."

The latest study involved nearly 40,000 women over a ten-year period. Of those, 23 per cent carried a variation of the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene, which helps the body process stress hormones, linked to heart problems and stroke.  The research found that those who had the gene were naturally protected and were 34 per cent less likely to have heart attacks. However, taking aspirin removed this protection and increased their risk of heart problems by 85 per cent – and, in some cases, by as much as three times.

Ibuprofen affects men and women very differently.when it comes to emotional distress. 

Men who take the drug report harsher feelings of rejection, and women report feeling better, researchers found. They say the discovery could shed new light on how men and women deal with emotional problems - and how best to treat them.

A revolutionary blood test that could detect any type of cancer has been developed by British scientists.
It is hoped the breakthrough will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms - saving time and preventing costly and unnecessary invasive procedures and biopsies.  Early results have shown the simple test can diagnose cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer with a high degree of accuracy.

The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) assesses white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of ultraviolet light (UVA), which is known to damage DNA. The Bradford scientists say there is a 'clear distinction between the damage to the white blood cells from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients'.

Another blood test appears to predict suicide risk through a particular gene - SKA2 - report researchers at John Hopkins after a small study.  More research is needed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2014

Health Roundup: Drugs repurposed, dogs, discoveries and warnings

The asthma drug that is being used to beat paralysis: How one patient went from using a wheelchair to walk unaided

A type of medication that  is normally used by asthma sufferers has been proving stunningly effective in treating a form or paralysis – and has even allowed a wheelchair-bound teenager to walk unaided for the first time in seven years.  Jimmy Webster, 18, took salbutamol to treat congenital myasthenia. He had been so disabled he sometimes needed an oxygen-mask to breathe.  But he says: ‘Within three days I could stand and within a week I could walk.’ Now he is about to go camping and adds: ‘I wouldn’t have contemplated this last year.’
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Salbutamol is prescribed to asthmatics in inhaler form under the brand name Ventolin. It is now proving a remarkable treatment for myasthenia….Myasthenia is either congenital – due to a genetic mutation – or caused by the immune system turning inward and attacking the body, developing later in life…..Studies had shown widespread benefits, with another teenage patient going from needing crutches to walk, to jogging and doing sit-ups.

Do Parkinson's drugs make people more CREATIVE? Pills that increase dopamine levels may improve artistic abilities

Parkinson's experts have been noticing a remarkable phenomenon – some of their patients have developed impressive creative talents.
The link between Parkinson’s and artistic abilities was brought to the attention of the world two years ago by Professor Rivka Inzelberg of Tel Aviv University in Israel.  Now she has completed the first empirical study to verify a link between Parkinson’s disease and creativity, which the study suggests may be down to drugs used to treat the disease.

Professor Inzelberg first noticed the trend in her own Sheba Medical Centre clinic when the usual holiday presents from patients - typically chocolates or similar gifts took a surprising turn.  ‘Instead, patients starting bringing us art they had made themselves,’ she said.  Bringing together case studies from around the world, Professor Inzelberg examined the details of each patient to uncover a common underlying factor – all were being treated by similar drugs.

Arthritis drug could also halt Alzheimer's: Treatment found to stop progression of memory loss and poor mood

A safe and widely-used arthritis drug stops Alzheimer’s in its tracks, a British study has found.  The 20 men and women who were given Etanercept did not descend further into the disease – unlike those who were given a dummy treatment. Memory, mood and the ability to carry out vital everyday tasks such as washing and dressing were all, on average, stopped from getting worse.  The results, revealed at a major Alzheimer’s conference and dubbed ‘quite amazing’, are comparable with those for Aricept, one of the few existing Alzheimer’s treatments.
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Professor Holmes cautioned that only a small number of patients were treated – but described the results as ‘quite amazing’.He said: ‘Our results are better than we expected. ‘It is the first drug in a long time that has shown such promise.’

The easy way to feel ten years younger…get a dog: Pets not only keep you active they also make you mentally fitter

Dog owners act ten years younger than their age, a study found.  The St Andrews University research showed that they not only more active, they are also mentally fitter.  Researcher Dr Zhiqiang Feng said: ‘It is well known that pet ownership may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression in older people, but one area that has received little attention is the effect of dog ownership on the physical activity levels of the elderly.

The rate of Alzheimer's disease is DECLINING in the U.S. as people take better care of their health - but it continues to grow in poorer countries

The rate of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is falling in the United States and some other rich countries, new  research shows.
An American over age 60 today has a 44 percent lower chance of developing dementia than a similar-aged person did roughly 30 years ago, the longest study of these trends in the U.S. concluded.  Dementia rates also are down in Germany, a study there found.  However, the epidemic is still growing simply because more people are living to an old age.

Protein discovery that could reverse the damage of diabetes: Breakthrough could lead to cheap drug that would halt disease

Scientists have discovered a treatment for type 2 diabetes which could reverse the disease. The researchers found that a protein which is already naturally produced in the body cured the disease in mice and they are confident that it could be easily replicated in humans.  The breakthrough raises hope of a cheap drug which could effectively halt one of the world’s fastest growing diseases.

The protein, called FGF1, already plays a natural role in human cell growth and tissue repair - but it never usually enters the blood stream.  Diabetes experts found that when the protein was injected into a muscle and interacted with the blood, it dramatically reduced blood sugar levels.  Crucially, the protein also seems to reverse the root cause of type 2 diabetes - making the metabolic system react to insulin when it had been failing to do so.
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Professor Ronald Evans, of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, said: ‘This is a big deal - this treatment is very simple to make. We are at a very early stage but we know all about this protein already so we have a head start.

Cancer cells may guide treatment

A Boston-based team published proof Thursday that one of the most alluring ideas in cancer care can work: Exceedingly rare tumor cells can be filtered from a patient’s blood sample and used to noninvasively monitor the evolution of cancer and identify the most promising treatments.

The scientists drew blood from women with one type of breast cancer, isolated the rare cancer cells, and then experimented with those cells in a laboratory dish to find drugs that might effectively halt the spreading cancer.

The work demonstrates a powerful way to track and personalize cancer treatment with a simple blood draw. The technique, described in the journal Science, could enable doctors to frequently check for genetic changes that allow tumors to develop resistance to medications and to fine-tune therapy.

Arsenic warning over rice milk: Parents warned not to give drink to children because it can contain harmful levels of the chemical

Niacin – Also Known As Vitamin B3 — Supplements Can Be Deadly

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is too dangerous and should not be used routinely by people looking to control their cholesterol levels or prevent heart disease, doctors say.
The warning comes following recent evidence showing the vitamin does not reduce heart attacks or strokes, and instead is linked to an increased risk of bleeding, diabetes and death.

Niacin has long been used to increase people's levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or the "good" cholesterol, and has been a major focus of research into heart disease prevention for several decades. However, clinical trials have not shown that taking niacin in any form actually prevents heart problems. Considering the alarming side effects of niacin, researchers now say the vitamin shouldn't even be prescribed anymore.

"There might be one excess death for every 200 people we put on niacin," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "With that kind of signal, this is an unacceptable therapy for the vast majority of patients."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

July 18, 2014

Good and bad marriages

From Science Daily, Marriage and healthy hearts: Correlation between unhappy marital interactions, cardiovascular disease risk

The affairs of the heart may actually affect the affairs of the heart in ways previously not understood.”Growing evidence suggests that the quality and patterns of one’s social relationships may be linked with a variety of health outcomes, including heart disease,” says Thomas Kamarck, professor of psychology and Biological and Health Program Chair in the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

He is an author of a new study that correlates unhappy marital interaction with thicker carotid arteries and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. “The contribution of this study is in showing that these sorts of links may be observed even during the earliest stages of plaque development [in the carotid artery],” Kamarck continues, “and that these observations may be rooted not just in the way that we evaluate our relationships in general but in the quality of specific social interactions with our partners as they unfold during our daily lives.” Nataria Joseph, who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship under Kamarck, is the lead author of the paper, published this month in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Given the size of the effect in the study and the relationship between carotid artery plaque and disease, Joseph’s findings, made at Pitt, indicate that those with marital interactions light on the positive may have an 8.5 percent greater risk of suffering heart attack or stroke than those with a surfeit of good feelings. 

Dr Greg comments in   Can A Bad Marriage Kill You? Study Says, “Yes, and A Good Marriage May Heal.”

More and more, research is showing that the quality of our relationships has tremendous impact on our physical and emotional health.  I think this is another area where there is increasing agreement between psychology and theology.  For instance, Dr. Dan Siegel– a founder of the developing field of Interpersonal Neurobiology which looks at how relationships affect health and neurological functioning–argues that it is foolish to think of an individual as apart from his relationships.

He argues that, in a sense, there is a flow of energy within the relationships between people that interacts with and impacts the functioning of the mind and body of each individual in the relationship on an atomic level.  The effects of this interaction can be observed–if not the process itself–in the way different relational and environmental states have been shown to impact gene expression and the development of new neural connections throughout the brain and nervous system.  When I read his work, I am often reminded of Pope St. John Paul the Great’s argument in his Theology of the Body that just as the Trinity is a communion of three distinct but united persons, the human beings made in the image and likeness of that Communion are also, at their most basic level, best understood to be inseparable from the communion of persons in which they participate. The Takeaway I realize that’s all rather thick language and if I lost you, it doesn’t really matter because the larger point is still clear enough.  Namely, that the well-being of each human person is intimately tied to the quality of his or her relationship with others and that is exactly as God intended it to be. The takeaway is that taking care of your relationships may be just as important as diet and exercise for longevity and health.   Even if you don’t feel like working on your marriage for the sake of your partner, for instance, you may want to work on it out of a commitment to your own well-being because avoiding the work isn’t punishing your partner as much as it may be punishing yourself. If you fail to do the work that your intimate relationships require, you may literally be breaking your own heart.

As Charles Murray said in Advice for a Happy Life

A good marriage is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Above all else, realize that this cliché is true. The downside risks of marrying—and they are real—are nothing compared with what you will gain from a good one.

Consider Marrying Young.  You've got to wait until the right person comes along. I'm just pointing out that you shouldn't exclude the possibility. If you wait until your 30s, your marriage is likely to be a merger. If you get married in your 20s, it is likely to be a startup.  …What are the advantages of a startup marriage? For one thing, you will both have memories of your life together when it was all still up in the air. You'll have fun remembering the years when you went from being scared newcomers to the point at which you realized you were going to make it.

Even more important, you and your spouse will have made your way together. Whatever happens, you will have shared the experience. And each of you will know that you wouldn't have become the person you are without the other.

Many merger marriages are happy, but a certain kind of symbiosis, where two people become more than the sum of the individuals, is perhaps more common in startups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 AM | Permalink

The cancer death-panel app

Wesley Smith writes Obamacare Opens Door to Death Panel App

Obamacare’s emphasis on cost-benefit has apparently granted permission for the medical technocrats to conjure all kinds of healthcare rationing schemes.  And the Medical Establishment is apparently playing along.

From, “The Cancer Death-Panel App,” by Robert Goldberg in the NY Post:

The latest innovation in cancer care isn’t a medical breakthrough but an app to ration new drugs. It’ll measure care in terms of what it costs health plans, instead of what it means for patients’ lives. That it’s being developed under the auspices of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, the world’s leading oncology association, is a grim warning about the state of organized medicine.

The app will use an algorithm like those many health plans apply to limit access to innovative treatments. Wellpoint Inc., for one, measures cost-effectiveness by comparing the benefits, side effects and costs of various treatments for specific types of cancer. The ASCO app uses the same benchmarks.

That’s no coincidence. At ASCO’s national conference, Dr. Lee Newcomer, United Healthcare’s medical director, said the “motives [of insurers] are viewed with suspicion when it comes to deciding whether a treatment is cost-effective. So having ASCO play a key role in establishing such guidelines would be crucial to their implementation.”

Translation: Patients are more likely to accept rationing if it comes with a “medical seal of approval.”

Dr. Lowell Schnipper, who heads ASCO’s Value in Cancer Care Task Force, which is building the app, parrots the claim made by Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP (the health-insurance lobby), that new cancer drugs are bankrupting the health system.

That’s not true. Yes, spending on cancer treatments has climbed from $24 billion in 2004 to about $37 billion today. But that’s less than a half a percent of total US health-care spending.

More important: While expensive, since 2004 such innovations were largely responsible for a 40 percent increase in living cancer survivors, from 9.8 million to 13.6 million. The new therapies also saved $188 billion on hospitalizations.

In fact, a new study by Dr. Newcomer himself confirms this result: United Healthcare’s cancer costs dropped as spending on new cancer drugs increased.

Finally, new drugs help people go back to work. The value of the increase in ability to work is 2.5 times what we spend on new therapies.

The app’s biggest problem, though, is that it’s one-size-fits-all: It treats all patients as the same, ignoring the genetic variation in patient response that a new class of “targeted” cancer drugs will soon address.
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Dig a bit deeper, and it’s clear that Schnipper and his allies have a more ideological motivation. He talks of limiting spending on new treatments as a way to make “the health-care system, not just the cancer system, more rational and just.”

And this line of thinking does away with the Hippocratic Oath. No longer is the doctor’s first obligation “to apply for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required.” Instead, Schnipper believes three months of added life “is not a large enough benefit to trump the greater benefits to many that would have to be foregone to provide it.”

In fact, he regards the premium that Americans place on life as a character defect, observing, “Other cultures do not seem to view the postponement of death by a few months” the same way we do…….
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2014

Health Roundup: Cinnamon for Parkinson, contact lenses, exercise and new test for Alzheimers, cooling babies

Cinnamon could fight Parkinson's: Spice found to be source of chemical that can help protect the brain

Cinnamon could be a secret weapon in the battle against Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have found that the spice is the source of a chemical that can protect the brain.  Our liver converts cinnamon into sodium benzoate, an approved drug used in the treatment for neural disorders.

In a study of mice at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago, a team of researchers found that the chemical then enters the brain, stops the loss of proteins that help protect cells, protects neurons and improves motor functions.

Lead researcher Professor Kalipada Pahan told the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology: ‘Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries. 'This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.’Professor Pahan said tests had shown that Ceylon cinnamon is better at halting Parkinson's as it is more pure.  He said the next step is testing cinnamon on patients with the disease.

Check your cynicism. Stress, depression and 'hostility' put older people at greater risk of suffering a stroke, research has revealed

Hostility alone more than doubled the likelihood of having a full-blown or 'mini' stroke, also known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), a study claims.
Chronic stress increased stroke and TIA risk by 59 per cent, and depressive symptoms by 86 per cent….The researchers defined hostility as a 'negative way of viewing the world' and measured it by assessing participants’ cynicism.

Clean your contact lenses or else.  Student goes blind after keeping her contact lenses in for six months and microscopic bug EATS her eyeballs

A student in Taiwan who kept a pair of disposable contact lenses in her eyes for six months has been left blinded after a microscopic bug devoured her eyeballs. The tiny single-cell amoeba ate away at undergraduate Lian Kao's sight because she didn't take out and clean the contacts once during that time.

As well as being regularly cleaned, contact lenses should also be removed when swimming and washing.  The general advice is to avoid wearing contacts for more than eight hours a day. Yet apparently 23-year-old Kao had even kept her contact lenses in at all times, even at the swimming pool. Medics were horrified when they removed the contact lenses to find that the surface of the girl's eyes had literally been eaten by the amoeba that had been able to breed in the perfect conditions that existed between the contact lens and the eye.

Coming soon. Eye tests 'could spot' early Alzheimer's disease

Simple regular eye tests could be used to identify Alzheimer's disease at a very early stage, new research suggests.
Early trials of two different techniques show that a key biomarker for the disease can be identified in the retina and lens of the eye.

Both methods were able to distinguish between healthy volunteers and those likely to be suffering from Alzheimer's patients with a high level of accuracy.
Experts said the findings could be
a “game changer” in treatment of the condition.  So far attempts to find drugs to halt progression of Alzheimer’s disease have failed because patients receiving treatment already suffered too much damage to the brain.

Cut Alzheimer's risk by walking: It only takes 20 minutes, 3 times a week, say Cambridge scientists

Scientists say inactivity is most important lifestyle factor for Alzheimer's.  Believed exercise keeps blood flowing to brain reducing build-up of plaque
Just 20 minutes of physical activity three times a week could cut risk….researchers …. suspect that it keeps the heart and blood vessels strong, which maintains a steady flow of blood to the brain. This may prevent the build-up of plaques, protein deposits in the brain which are thought to trigger Alzheimer’s

Cooling babies deprived of oxygen at birth improves their chances of growing up without disabilities such as cerebral palsy, research suggests.

The New England Journal of Medicine study showed newborns given the treatment were more likely to have higher IQs at school age.  Experts say the study confirms the therapy has long-lasting effects…..Around one in 500 newborns in the UK suffer from asphyxia - a lack of oxygen around the time of birth.  But a 2009 study of more than 300 newborns showed cooling treatment - known as therapeutic hypothermia - could help reduce brain damage at 18 months.  Babies were placed on a special mat and cooled at 33C for three days to help reduce brain injury    Researchers think the therapy works by slowing the production of harmful substances in the brain and the rate of brain cell death. But how long these improvements may last has been unclear.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink

July 7, 2014

Beer is a health food

That beer has many health benefits was known to the ancient Greeks:

Sophocles on his philosophy of a moderate diet,  “[I recommend]… bread, meat, vegetables and beer.”
Plato, "He was a wise man who invented beer. "
Paracelsus, Greek physician, “A little bit of beer is divine medicine.”

And to our founding fathers:

Thomas Jefferson,  “Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health.”
Benjamin Franklin,  "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. "  

Now science is touting the benefits of beer: Full of vitamins, high in fibre, low on sugar and good for your hair

If you analysed beer you would  be amazed at how many super-nutrients there are in it,’ says Dr Stephan Domenig, medical director of The Original F.X. Mayr Health Centre in Austria. ‘Beer contains  all of the essential – and many of the non-essential – amino acids.’
As well as these protein-building blocks and minerals including phosphorus, iodine, magnesium and potassium, beer is rich in calcium  so could benefit your bones. 
A study by Tufts University in the United States in 2009 found that moderate beer consumption can protect bone mineral density.

For years Guinness was even prescribed to pregnant women due to its high Vitamin B content. ‘It’s  now recommended that pregnant women avoid alcohol but other  people could benefit,’ says nutritionist Vicki Edgson.

While high in vitamins, beer is actually low in sugar, high levels of which have been linked to diabetes and obesity. ...
‘Compared with soft drinks, it  will give less of a blood sugar  spike,’ says nutritionist Dr Kathryn O’Sullivan, who last year carried  out a scientific review of beer. ‘Beer is about 93 per cent water so it’s quite hydrating.’

In fact, moderate beer consumption may even help prevent diabetes. A 2010 study of more than 38,000 men in the US found that when men who rarely drank beer increased their consumption to one or two glasses a day, after four years their risk of type 2 diabetes fell by 25 per cent.

And despite the threat of a so-called ‘beer belly’, a study of nearly 2,000 regular beer drinkers by the University of London concluded it’s unlikely that moderate intake is associated with large weight gain.
Drinking beer increases the production of bile, which helps us to digest fatty food,’ says Dr Domenig. Beer is a rich source of fibre – two glasses provide between ten and  30 per cent of our recommended requirement. Fibre is known to help keep us full and ward off hunger.

Although beer drinking is usually associated with brain fog, research suggests it might help prevent Alzheimer’s. The disease, which affects almost 500,000 people in the UK, has been linked to high levels  of aluminium, but the silicon in beer may offset the damage.
A 2008 study published in the journal Food And Chemical Toxicology found the silicon was able to reduce aluminium uptake in the digestive tract and slow the accumulation of the metal in the body and brain tissue. But beware of overdoing it:  a University College London study warned that men drinking more than two pints a day could suffer memory loss.

Beer could also help heart health. A 2013 study at Harokopio University in Athens found it boosted the flexibility of the arteries. Scientists measured the cardiovascular health of non-smoking men under 35 two hours after drinking 400ml of beer and compared that with drinking vodka or alcohol-free beer. While all three drinks had some beneficial effect on the stiffness of arteries, beer had the greatest benefit.

Beer can raise good cholesterol too. ‘The main component that helps protect the heart is alcohol, which raises “good” HDL-cholesterol and has other benefits,’ says Dr R. Curtis Ellison, professor of medicine and public health at the Boston University School of Medicine.

 Toasting-With-Beer-Mugs-With-Sky-In-Background

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:13 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2014

We went through all of that for this?

The numbers are in.

Obamacare Exchanges Are ‘Disappointing’ With Fewer Than 4 Million Newly Insured. The Government Hoped for 26 Million.

 Bl-Obamacare-Enrollment-Attkisson-1
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 43 percent of those who purchased insurance through the marketplace already had insurance; 57 percent are newly insured.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:20 PM | Permalink

June 19, 2014

Health roundup: Rapeseed oil, autism reversed in mice, Alzheimers and 'natural cannabis', stress and synapses, selfie diagnosis

RAPESEED oil could be even more effective than statins in helping to lower cholesterol and protect the heart.

The oil – extracted from the bright yellow crop which covers much of the British countryside – has also proved to be particularly effective against type 2 diabetes.  It has the same cholesterol reducing effect as 20mg of statins, double a standard daily dose, and cuts the risk of heart problems by seven per cent, scientists say…..The researchers were led by Professor Dr David Jenkins of St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the man who created the now famous glycaemic index, a scale showing which foods raise or lower blood sugar levels.

Century-old drug reverses signs of autism in mice

A single dose of a century-old drug has eliminated autism symptoms in adult mice with an experimental form of the disorder. Originally developed to treat African sleeping sickness, the compound, called suramin, quells a heightened stress response in neurons that researchers believe may underlie some traits of autism. The finding raises the hope that some hallmarks of the disorder may not be permanent, but could be correctable even in adulthood.

That hope is bolstered by reports from parents who describe their autistic children as being caught behind a veil. "Sometimes the veil parts, and the children are able to speak and play more normally and use words that didn't seem to be there before, if only for a short time during a fever or other stress" says Robert Naviaux, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, who specializes in metabolic disorders.
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Naviaux cautions that mice aren’t people, and therapies that are promising in rodents have a track record of not panning out in humans. He also says that prolonged treatment with suramin is not an option for children, because it can have side effects such as anemia with long-term use. He notes that there are 19 different kinds of purinergic receptors; if suramin does prove to be helpful in humans, newer drugs could be developed that would target only one or a few key receptors. The researchers are beginning a small clinical trial in humans of a single dose of suramin that they hope will be completed by the end of the year.

Could a loss of 'natural cannabis' in the brain be the reason we get Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer’s disease might partly develop because of the suppression of ‘natural cannabis’ molecules in the brain, scientists believe.
U.S. researchers linked early symptoms of the disease to losing the beneficial effects of these molecules, which are called endocannabinoids. These signalling molecules are natural versions of psychoactive chemicals in cannabis.

A rogue protein called amyloid-beta, suspected of playing a key role in Alzheimer’s, is believed to block endocannabinoids in the brain in the earliest stages of the disease. Endocannabinoids are part of the process that allows important signals in the brain to shine through while unwanted signals are shut out. Blocking them results in the brain becoming too inhibited, leading to impaired learning and memory loss.

The scientists from Stanford University in California, who reported their findings in the journal Neuron, warned that simply smoking marijuana was not a solution to Alzheimer’s. Senior author Dr Daniel Madison said: ‘Endocannabinoids in the brain are very transient and act only when important inputs come in. Exposure to marijuana over minutes or hours is different - more like enhancing everything indiscriminately, so you lose the filtering effect…It’s like listening to five radio stations at once.’ Flooding the brain with external cannabinoids also ran the risk of inducing tolerance and impeding the ability of natural endocannabinoids to do their job, he said.

Always stressed? Beware - it’ll affect your short-term memory in old age

A study at the University of Iowa found link between high levels of stress hormone cortisol and lapses in short-term memory in old age.  Jason Radley, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Iowa, said: 'Stress hormones are one mechanism that we believe leads to weathering of the brain.

Scientists linked the raised levels of cortisol to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that houses short-term memory. Synapses are the connections that help the brain process, store and recall information. As a person ages, repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol, can cause synapses to shrink and disappear.

But researchers warned that it is important to remember that stress hormones are only one of a host of factors which affect mental decline and memory loss as a person ages.

Du'h Don't lie to your kids! Children are more likely to be dishonest if they discover their parents don't tell the truth 
Children who are lied to are more likely to lie themselves, research claims in study  carried out at the UCal San Diego. 

In the U.K. Crohn’s disease in teens jumps 300 per cent in 10 years
Four times as many teenagers being treated for Crohn's disease compared to 10 years ago with experts blaming increased use of antibiotics and junk food.

 Stroke Selfie Woman diagnosed with stroke from 'selfie' video after doctors claimed she was just stressed

Stacey Yepes, 49, couldn't believe it when doctors said her numbness and facial paralysis was due to stress.  So when it happened again, she took out her camera to record the proof.  Doctors at a different hospital agreed she had suffered a series of mini strokes and learned that she had a blood clot. She is now undergoing treatment and is being monitored by doctors
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2014

Miscellany of links

Why I am very wary of the Internet of Things  The Nightmare on Connected Home Street  in Wired.

If you don't get Why Benghazi Matters, Bill Whittle explains in 10 minutes.

At Demilked 17 Flowers Masterfully Disguised As Something Else

Flowers-Look-Like-Something-Else-Orchids-Pareidolia-Thumb640

Meet the 11-year-old inventor of the 'unbreakable cup'

When Parkinson's caused her grandfather to spill his drinks, Lily Born decided to do something about it. So she came up with the revolutionary 3-legged Kangaroo Cup and raised money via Kickstarter.
 Kangaroo Cup Proto

Flight of the tiny robo-fly: World's smallest drone weighs less than a gram and navigates using light-sensitive 'eyes'

 RoboflyThe Robo-fly has a carbon fibre body weighing 106mg - a fraction of a gram; Its pair of flapping wings is powered by electronic ‘muscles’ and it balances thanks to a pyramid shaped light sensor on top of its ‘head .  The drone is powered and controlled through a lightweight tether wire and can perform the agile maneuvres of the ubiquitous insects. The robofly could be used in search and rescue operations, to squeeze through collapsed rubble, monitor environmental conditions, and pollinate crops

Now they tell us Don't wash raw chicken, health experts warn

Washing chicken can spread a type of bacteria around the kitchen through the splashing of water droplets which causes food poisoning

A better way to cut cake revealed by London mathematician who explains it all in a YouTube video

The method involves cutting parallel lines rather than wedges.  This allows the cake to be sealed with icing around it, keeping it fresh

Want whiter teeth? Munch on dark chocolate, cheese and strawberries, says leading dentist

Dr Harold Katz says dark chocolate helps harden the enamel surface of teeth.  He says green tea contains tannins which stop bacteria sticking to teeth.  And, he says strawberries contain malic acid which removes stains. Cheese, he says, makes the mouth less acidic so tooth erosion is reduced.

Can music lessons as a child boost your brainpower for life? Researchers find young musicians develop better problem solving skills

Could boost calls for more music training in schools and help the elderly or those with ADHD.  The research team  defined musically trained children as having played an instrument for at least two years.

The controlled study using functional MRI brain imaging was undertaken by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital.
'Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications,' said Nadine Gaab, who led the research.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

June 9, 2014

Health roundup: 'Jaw-dropping' melanoma breakthrough, regenerating liver, new leukemia drug, colon cancer, COPD, red wine and fasting

Skin cancer drug 'cures' man given months to live: Doctors hail results of 'astonishing' medical trial that could give hope to millions

They say the results of medical trials are ‘jaw-dropping’ and offer hope for victims of other forms of cancer.
The medicine, pembrolizumab, is the latest in a new generation of ‘immunotherapy’ treatments that prevent cancers from shielding themselves from the immune system. Instead it lets the immune system attack the disease, often in conjunction with other conventional drugs.

“Pembrolizumab looks like it has potential to be a paradigm shift for cancer therapy" said Dr David Chao, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust

Advanced skin cancer, which has spread to other parts of the body, has a poor prognosis and currently only one in ten people live for a year after diagnosis…..However some people have lived for two years while receiving the new treatment. The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO 2014), showed three quarters of patients responded to the drug. 

Hopes rise for new cure for liver disease after researchers make cells 'go back in time'

Researchers say it is possible to repair a chronically diseased liver by forcing mature liver cells to 'go back in time' to a stem cell-like state.  Switching off a liver-growth pathway in mature cells generates high levels of dedifferentiation, which means the cells can revert back to an unspecialized state and regenerate a diseased liver.  The breakthrough, published in the journal Cell, could pave the way for liver cell transplants to cure genetic liver disorders. Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists at Boston Children's Hospital made the discovery while investigating whether a biochemical cascade called Hippo, which controls how big the liver grows, also affects cell fate.

Widespread colon cancer screening has saved an estimated 500,000 lives since the mid-70s reports a new study from the Yale School of Medicine using data from the National Cancer Institute.

New leukemia drug boosts survival rate to 90% and could eventually replace invasive chemical treatment

Ibrutinib drug trial showed better rates of survival than chemotherapy. Trial showed higher rate of people entered remission than chemotherapy. Breakthrough alternative for people with resistance to chemotherapy

If you or someone in your family has COPD, try eating grapefruit and bananas.  Could grapefruit beat lung disease? Eating fruit and other foods including cheese and bananas found to help patients suffering one of most common variants

Eating grapefruit, bananas, fish and cheese could help patients suffering one of the most common lung conditions in Britain, say scientists.  Research showed a direct link between the foods and improvements in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Scientists from the US and Europe used diet records for 2,167 COPD sufferers over a three-year period.
Those who had eaten the products within 24 hours showed improvement in a range of measures such as lung function, fitness scores and white blood cell count.  Lead study author Dr Corrine Hanson said patients should now be offered dietary and nutritional counseling as part of their treatment.

Think of it as a reward for flossing.  Red wine is good for your teeth 

New research has revealed that red wine could protect against cavities. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed grape seed extract also prevents cavities.
Researchers say the discovery could lead to the development of natural products to ward off dental diseases.

By all means be skeptical and consider the source of the information you are asked to accept.  Cynicism, however, carries risks.  Cynics 'face far higher risk of Alzheimer's': Those who mistrust others at greater risk of mental illness, doctors warn

Cynics could be three times more likely to develop dementia, doctors have warned.  The trait has already been linked to heart disease and heart attacks – but now a study suggests that those who mistrust others are at far greater risk of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.

How a flash of light can delete bad memories: Breakthrough may help dementia patients

The discovery, which has been shown to work in rats, may have huge potential for curing phobia sufferers of their fears, helping soldiers to recover from the horrors of battle or allow accident victims to put their trauma behind them. It might also be used for boosting memories in dementia patients.
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Roberto Malinow, professor of neurosciences, said: ‘We can form a memory, erase that memory and we can reactivate it, at will, by applying a stimulus that selectively strengthens or weakens synaptic connections.’….Professor Malinow added:  ‘We have shown that the damaging products that build up in  the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients can weaken synapses in the same way that we weakened synapses to remove a memory. ‘This research could suggest ways to intervene in the process.’

Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study from the University of Southern California  that starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells which fight off infection.

The researchers say fasting "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.
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Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California said, “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."
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Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to aging and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumor growth.
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Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:38 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2014

Catching up on the ongoing disaster of Obamacare

More than two million people who signed up for ObamaCare are in limbo due to data discrepancies

In nearly one million of these cases, the discrepancy is related to immigration or citizenship status.
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“[T]he inconsistencies point to the possibility that many enrollees obtained coverage or subsidies without being eligible,”
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Nearly three million people are still waiting to have their applications processed.

But that's not all.  There is a separate mountain of unprocessed paperwork at Medicaid

At least 2.9 million Americans who signed up for Medicaid coverage as part of the health care overhaul have not had their applications processed, with some paperwork sitting in queues since last fall, according to a 50-state survey by CQ Roll Call.

Those delays — due to technological snags with enrollment websites, bureaucratic tangles at state Medicaid programs and a surge of applicants — betray Barack Obama’s promise to expand access to health care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

Walter Russell Mead CBO: We Can’t Score Obamacare Anymore

A translation for non-bureaucrats: We’re flying blind here.

The ACA is more than just an insurance expansion program; it also contains provisions that affect hospitals, the tax code, and other federal programs. In this footnote, the CBO is now saying that it cannot figure out how those other parts of the law affect the budget—and thus that we don’t know how the law as a whole does either.

Even more importantly, some of the CBO’s uncertainty is caused by Obama Administration decisions to change, delay, or abandon parts of the law during implementation. First came the news that census questions were altered, making it far more difficult for us to determine whether the ACA has reduced the numbers of the uninsured, and now there’s this. As time goes on, we’re becoming less and less capable of answering basic questions about whether the ACA is working.

The Economist on Health Care Fraud -That's Where the Money Is

In America the scale of medical embezzlement is extraordinary. According to Donald Berwick, the ex-boss of Medicare and Medicaid (the public health schemes for the old and poor), America lost between $82 billion and $272 billion in 2011 to medical fraud and abuse (see article). The higher figure is 10% of medical spending and a whopping 1.7% of GDP—as if robbers had made off with the entire output of Tennessee or nearly twice the budget of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

Crooks love American health care for two reasons. First, as Willie Sutton said of banks, it’s where the money is—no other country spends nearly as much on pills and procedures. Second, unlike a bank, it is barely guarded.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2014

The Government's Experiment in Manipulating Oxygen to Preemies

Sharyl Attkinson, an Emmy-award winning investigative reporter with CBS news until she resigned in March citing the network's liberal bias and lack of dedication to investigative reporter, is now reporting for a recently-launched news site The Daily Signal.  She starts off with a bang.

The question is whether  parents have to know that a government-funded study would randomly manipulate the oxygen delivered to their extremely pre-mature babies before they consent to a research study?

Did Government’s Experiment on Preemies Hide Risks?    A government-funded experiment put the lives of premature babies at further risk, and some parents say they didn’t know.

It was a national, government-funded experiment on 1,316 extremely premature infants in which their fate may as well have rested with the flip of a coin.
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The government-backed study is called SUPPORT, which stands for “Surfactant, Positive Airway Pressure, and Pulse Oximetry Randomized Trial.” The experiment was conducted at 23 academic institutions from 2005 through 2009 under the National Institutes of Health, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

All three women now say they never would have agreed to take part if they had known the NIH-funded study’s true nature—to randomly manipulate preemie oxygen levels. They discovered that just last year.
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The word ‘unethical’ doesn’t even begin to describe the egregious and shocking deficiencies in the informed-consent process for this study,” says Dr. Michael Carome, an internationally recognized expert on research ethics with the Washington, D.C.-based consumer watchdog group Public Citizen.

“Parents of the infants who were enrolled in this study were misled about its purpose,” Carome says. “They were misled to believe everything being done was in the ‘standard of care’ and therefore posed no predictable risk to the babies.”
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In some instances, the results proved both disturbing and tragic.

More of the high-oxygen babies ended up with serious vision disorders. The low-oxygen preemies were more likely to die. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2010, sparked ethical questions and complaints. Companion studies being conducted in other countries were halted.

Of learning her baby had been part of an oxygen experiment, Sharrissa Cook says: “That’s more like playing Russian roulette to me. There’s no way I would say you could give my baby whatever you want him to have as opposed to what he needs.”

‘Input’ Stalls Agency’s Ethics Probe in Baby Oxygen Trials

The view of the HHS ethics office, directed by Dr. Jerry Menikoff, is that although medical doctors act in the best interest of individual patients, researchers do not.  Rather, researchers focus on what they consider the greater good. But as a trade-off, researchers must tell study participants about all the risks.
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The entire dispute might be little more than an academic debate if it weren’t for one crucial factor: The Office for Human Research Protections, the ethics body within HHS, ruled that the consent process for the study violated federal regulations designed to protect human research subjects.  “The consent was significantly deficient,” Menikoff, director of the ethics office, says.

His office sent a stern letter to SUPPORT researchers on March 7, 2013 stating consent forms signed by parents of the preemies “failed to describe the reasonably foreseeable risks of blindness, neurological damage and death.”

It was a bombshell. One agency within HHS, the ethics office, had slapped another, NIH, with a formal ethics violation. This unleashed a torrent of pushback.  Little more than three months later, the ethics office appeared to back down.  In a follow-up letter, it formally suspended corrective action or punishment.
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Lessons of Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Modern rules for research on humans were forged after the U.S. government’s Tuskegee syphilis experiment on black men in 1932 entitled, “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” For 40 years, test subjects weren’t told they were part of a study, nor were they treated for their syphilis even after penicillin was determined to be a cure in 1947.

When a series of Associated Press reports exposed the study in 1972, an outcry led to new rules intended to prevent a repeat of the Tuskegee mistakes. Those rules mandate voluntary, informed consent from all human test subjects.

Parents Fault Medical Research Study for Putting Preemies in Harm’s Way

The discussion was academic until the Pratts took the stage—carrying pretty, 6-year-old Dagen, who was wearing a sundress and ponytails but looked fragile and thin in leg braces.

“We were guaranteed that the study wouldn’t hurt Dagen in any way, that it was just gathering information,” Shawn Pratt told the audience academics and research scientists, “and were shocked to learn the care she received was based not on what she needed, but on some protocol.”

Dagen’s father continued: “We want to know, as information comes in, why the risks and intent of the study were not clear. If it were clear, we wouldn’t have taken part in the study.”
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At least one of three HHS panelists who moderated the meeting appeared dumbfounded by the Pratts’ personal story after lofty discussions about the greater good.

Attkinson on Preemie Study:' Government Made a Mistake'

According to Attkisson’s report, this resulted in a “government vs. government” dispute. “The federal government funded the study, basically approved the study, [and] oversaw the study,” she said in the interview. “I think it’s clear that the federal government, at the very least, made a mistake.”

The HHS ethics body’s attempts to enforce what it found to be violations of the parental consent process stalled because of “pressure by the research community and by senior officials in the federal government who really didn’t want this to go much further,” Attkisson said. Going forward, she argues, “There needs to be something that’s said at the end of all this. What did the researchers do wrong, what do they need to do to correct this and make sure the same type of thing doesn’t happen again?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:51 PM | Permalink

May 29, 2014

The VA scandal is systemic and for some, horrifyingly personal

The VA's problems are systemic says its own Inspector General, Delayed care is everywhere

Late-night testimony Wednesday by a top VA official before Congress amounted to a confession that the agency had lost its focus over the years, paying more attention to meeting performance standards than treating patients.
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The Inspector General appeared to draw a direct link between delays in health care and the bonuses of about $9,000 and salary increases that hospital officials receive as a result of their performance appraisal.
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The inspector general probe released Wednesday found that 1,700 veterans who are patients at the Phoenix hospital are not on any official list awaiting appointments, even though they need to see doctors. Some 1,138 veterans in Phoenix had been waiting longer than six months just to get an appointment to see their primary doctors, investigators found.
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Investigators said they are now looking into 42 medical facilities in connection with health care delays, the number rising sharply from 26 last week and 10 the week before that.

Dr. Hal Scherz tells War Stories from VA Hospitals in the Wall St Journal including the fact that Administrators limited operating time so that work stopped by 3 pm.

The federal government runs two giant health-care programs—Medicare and the VA system. Medicare is provided by private physicians and other providers. Its finances are a mess, but the care that seniors receive is by and large outstanding. The VA health-care system is run by a centrally controlled federal bureaucracy. Ultimately, that is the source of the poor care veterans receive.
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The best solution for veterans would be to wind down the VA hospitals. The men and women who have served in our armed forces should be supplied with a federally issued insurance card allowing them to receive their care in the community where it can be delivered better and more efficiently.

Whistleblower says Texas VA is run like a 'crime syndicate' as wait times averaged 115 DAYS and Republicans push for private-care vouchers

'For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,' a Texas VA whistle-blower told the website's reporter. 'People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”
'I see it in the executives' eyes,' the whistle-blower added. 'They are worried.'
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Congressional Republicans have responded to the crisis by demanding that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki allow veterans to seek private medical care – with full reimbursement – if they wait more 30 days or more for treatment.  House Veterans Affairs Committee chair Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, said Tuesday that he would soon introduce a bill to cement that demand into policy.'We simply can't afford to wait for the results of another investigation into a problem we already know exists,' Miller said in a statement.
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The VA's health care division could have trouble explaining its failures since records show it is flush with cash it hasn't been spending.  The Daily Caller reported Tuesday that the VA will 'carry over' about $450 million in medical care funding from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015.  Shinseki was given $54.6 billion to work with overall this year – an annual allocation $10 billion higher than in the first full-year Obama budget.

But the scandal is very personal for the families involved.

He Turned to His Local VA for Help, but They Allegedly Turned Him Away. Roughly One Week Later, He Was Dead

When Sgt. Isaac Shawn Sims, 26, an Iraq veteran, turned to the Kansas City VA Medical Center for help, he was allegedly turned away. His mother, Patricia, says her son badly needed treatment for traumas suffered in combat.  On Sunday, Sims was shot and killed by police officers following a tense standoff.

Sims had his eardrum blown out and has “80 percent disability from brain injuries,” his mother told KCTV. But his injuries are not just physical. Patricia Sims said her son suffered from severe depression, migraines and PTSD as a result of watching his friends die in combat.  “He had to pick up body parts, he had to move forward as if nothing happened,” the mother recalled.

Patricia said she knew her son badly needed help after she witnessed her son driving around in his Hummer like he was back in a war zone. He reportedly told his mom, “this is how we look for IEDs mama.”

Frightened and worried, they asked the VA for help. They didn’t expect to receive the response that they claim they did.
They said ‘we don’t have room for you.’ ‘Your problem is not big enough.’ ‘You’ll have to wait.’ ‘Get in line.’ ‘We’ll give him treatment in 30 days if a bed comes available,’” Patricia Sims said.

Family: V.A. Cops Stomped On Veteran’s Head, Killing Him

The family of a 65 year-old veteran claims that VA police stomped on the veterans head and neck, causing him to suffer a stroke and die several weeks later, a new lawsuit alleges.

On May 25, 2011, Jonathan Montano was waiting several hours to undergo dialysis treatment at the Loma Linda VA facility when he grew frustrated, reports Courthouse News Service.  With an IV still in his arm, Montano made his way towards the hospital exit, saying that he would get treatment at the Long Beach VA facility instead.

Norma Montano, the veteran’s wife of 44 years, left the hospital to retrieve the couple’s car.  But VA police wouldn’t let Montano leave, the lawsuit alleges.

“The summoned VA Police Department police officers then stopped Jonathan Montano from leaving the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, by tackling him to the floor, slamming his head on the floor, and kneeing and stomping on his neck, and otherwise brutalizing and restraining him,” reads the lawsuit, according to Courthouse News.  “This kneeing and stomping on his neck by the VA Police Department police officers caused the dissection of his carotid artery, that resulted in immediate (or very soon thereafter) blood clotting, which resulted in [his] suffering a stroke

But, she claims, hospital staff initially said Montano suffered the stroke after a fall — an “untrue statement,” the suit alleges.

“Later on, one of the nurses at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda took Norma Montano aside, and told her that her husband didn’t fall, but was slammed to the ground by the VA Police, that Norma Montano was being lied to, and that it wasn’t right what the VA Police did to Jonathan Montano,” the suit alleges.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2014

A Wonder of Modern Medicine

From Cancer Treatment: Before and After

 Noah Cancer Beforeandafter

This inspiring photo is part of a brochure from the Children's Cancer Center of the University of Mississippi Health Care system. When he was 4 years old, Noah was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. His odds of surviving were about 50/50. As part of his treatment, he underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow treatment.

As you can see from this split photo, Noah is now a healthy, happy 7-year old.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2014

What Will the Post-Antibiotics Future Look Like?

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

After 85 years, antibiotics are growing impotent. So what will medicine, agriculture and everyday life look like if we lose these drugs entirely?

Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, warned in 1945 as he accepted the Nobel Prize in Medicine,
“It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them… There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” ….
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What worried him was the possibility that misuse would speed the process up. Every inappropriate prescription and insufficient dose given in medicine would kill weak bacteria but let the strong survive. ... Bacteria can produce another generation in as little as twenty minutes; with tens of thousands of generations a year working out survival strategies, the organisms would soon overwhelm the potent new drugs.
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With antibiotics losing usefulness so quickly — and thus not making back the estimated $1 billion per drug it costs to create them — the pharmaceutical industry lost enthusiasm for making more. In 2004, there were only five new antibiotics in development, compared to more than 500 chronic-disease drugs for which resistance is not an issue — and which, unlike antibiotics, are taken for years, not days.
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So what would a post-antibiotic era look like?  It isn't hard to imagine what would happen first.  Infected patients would die.  In fact, they already do.

What else?    Well, getting a tattoo, botox or liposuction would be far more fraught with danger.

Those calculations of risk extend far beyond admitting possibly contaminated patients from a nursing home. Without the protection offered by antibiotics, entire categories of medical practice would be rethought.
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"A post-antibiotic world means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it.  Things as common as a strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill." Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organization.
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Dr. Louis Rice, chair of the department of medicine at Brown University’s medical school. “Plus, right now healthcare is a reasonably free-market, fee-for-service system; people are interested in doing procedures because they make money. But five or ten years from now, we’ll probably be in an environment where we get a flat sum of money to take care of patients. And we may decide that some of these procedures aren’t worth the risk.”
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Out of all the antibiotics sold in the United States each year, 80 percent by weight are used in agriculture, primarily to fatten animals and protect them from the conditions in which they are raised…..

A growing body of scientific research links antibiotic use in animals to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: in the animals’ own guts, in the manure that farmers use on crops or store on their land, and in human illnesses as well. Resistant bacteria move from animals to humans in groundwater and dust, on flies, and via the meat those animals get turned into.

In the Kenyon Review, Jacob Appel writes in Sudden Death: A Eulogy, "Sudden death is a conclusion. Too often, I fear, the long goodbye devolves into a negation." 

The lingering long goodbye is how death is experienced today when every effort is made to prolong life using all the medical technology and modern medicines at the doctor's command.

In a post-antibiotic world, death will come much earlier and more quickly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:00 PM | Permalink

May 20, 2014

Health Roundup: New pills for lung cancer, Alzheimer's, drinkable sunscreen, killer pimple, no link between autism and vaccines

A cure for lung cancer? Doctors hail incredible breakthrough with new drugs

Next week ‘stellar’ trial results for the antibody drug will be presented at the world’s biggest cancer conference, for the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in Chicago.

Doctors will reveal that a quarter of 129 US patients with advanced lung cancer have survived at least two years after starting nivolumab. ...Nivolumab is one of a new class of drug, called anti-PD1s and anti-PDL1s, which help the immune system ‘see’ that tumors are deadly foes. Explaining how the drugs work Dr Peake said: ‘Tumors develop a ‘cloak’, like a Star Wars force field, around themselves. This stops the immune system attacking them.  These drugs take that force field away and allow the body’s immune response to fight the tumor. The beauty is we do not have the adverse side effects of conventional treatment.’

Professor Dean Fennell, who has been treating British patients with a similar drug, MK3475, said: ‘This is an enormous deal. There are patients on treatment who’ve been going an incredibly long time.’ He added it was ‘not inconceivable’ that they could be an ‘effective cure’ for some – allowing patients to live virtually disease-free for years.

Happy pill 'wards off Alzheimer's': Widely used anti-depressant can help reduce formation of plaque on the brain
A widely-used antidepressant could help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have found.

Scientists say citalopram can significantly reduce the formation of plaques in the brain, which could go some way to warding off the disease.The U.S. academics admit it is too early to recommend the drug to Alzheimer’s patients, but dementia charities last night welcomed the ‘promising’ findings as providing ‘vital new clues’ about the disease.

Plaque deposits are closely associated with declining memory and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s, so anything that can stop their build-up in the brain is likely to help ward off the condition.  The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that a single dose of the antidepressant citalopram lowered production of the plaque protein amyloid beta by 37 per cent.

Statins are safe as research claiming adverse side effects proved wrong

Oxford academic says patients may have been at risk after they stopped taking statins because they believed flawed research published in the British Medical Journal, which he had warned months before was wrong

The killer pimple: Doctors warn of aggressive form of skin cancer which is six times more likely to kill if it is not removed within two months

Nodular melanomas usually appear on the skin as a red nodule rather than an ugly dark mole, leading doctors to mistake them for relatively harmless forms of skin cancer or even pimples.  But the key difference is that these melanomas are firm to touch, and will not feel soft like a pimple or a mole.
 Nodular Melanoma

World's first DRINKABLE sun cream goes on sale - and just a teaspoon will offer three hours' protection

Harmonised H20 UV claims to provide holiday makers with up to factor 30 protection, meaning sunbathers could be able to soak up the rays for longer without fear of getting burned.
Once ingested, the product's liquid molecules vibrate on the skin, cancelling out 97 per cent of UVA and UVB rays, according to US company Osmosis Skincare.

Dr Ben Johnson, who founded the company, adds in his blog: 'If 2 mls are ingested an hour before sun exposure, the frequencies that have been imprinted on water will vibrate on your skin in such a way as to cancel approximately 97% of the UVA and UVB rays before they even hit your skin. This results in coverage for approximately three hours. 

There is NO link between autism and childhood vaccines, a major new study finds

There is no connection between the development of autism with childhood vaccinations, University of Sydney researchers recently found. The first systematic international review was conducted for the research involved more than 1.25 million children for five cohort studies and a further 9920 for five case-controlled studies.
Results from both showed that there was no statistical data to support a link between commonly-used vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough and the development of autism or autism spectrum disorders.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2014

The VA scandal is a national disgrace

Will anyone be held accountable?  Will anyone go to jail?  I doubt it.

The VA's own Office of Medical Inspector finds that VA treatment records were falsified and clerks were instructed on how to do so.  They gamed the system to deliberately obscure how long veterans had to wait to get medical care. 

The VA is our best example of government-run health care and it's riddled with corruption and coverups.  The NYT reports that the House Committee has issued a subpoena demanding all email records after the chairman said the VA had been stonewalling requests to provide more information about claims that the off-the books wait list had been destroyed.

A single, secret wait list contributed to the deaths of dozens of veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital. Insiders say there could be many, many more such lists.

A new whistleblower report claims that as many as 15,000 patients treated at the Harlingen, Texas, VA health center were either reportedly denied care or forced to undergo extended delays for cancer treatments in an attempt to cut costs. Plus, about 1,800 records were reportedly purged at the one VA center alone to give the appearance of eliminating a backlog.

Obama has increased the VA budget each year but an analysis shows VA Spends Close to $500 Million on Conference Room, Office Makeovers Under Obama

Amid calls to resign which have so far been resisted by the Administration, Secretary Shineski will testify at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today

Kay Daly tells us what her brother went through The Veterans Administration Scandal Hits Home.

For anyone laboring under the assumption that the scandal that plagues the VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona must be anomalous, think again.  Without even delving into the medical malpractice testimonials of my three relatives who work at a VA Medical Center on the East coast, the recent near-death experience of my brother confirms our worst fears: the culture of corruption and indifference that afflicts the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is systemic.
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When Richard walked into the VA in Big Spring, Texas three years ago, he complained of a sore foot and minor pain in one hip.  After three years of never-ending delays, lost files, stunning incompetence, bureaucratic bumbling, self-wrapping red tape, countless broken promises, and blatant cruelty (that would have formed the basis for a meritorious medical malpractice lawsuit in the private sector), this veteran became a completely disabled invalid.  He was unable to walk or care for himself and grew concerned he might not wake up some morning.  Only the calendar-based happenstance of turning 65 years old saved his life.
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He finally qualified for Medicare and purchased supplemental insurance and we immediately got him to a private doctor who was shocked at his condition.

What the Big Spring, Texas VA couldn't do in three years, a private doctor did in five days.  Put another way, the duration of VA indifference was as long as the period Richard's grandfather was held captive in a Japanese POW camp!

Richard had the first of two hip transplants at a Lubbock hospital and is now recovering in a nursing facility.  The doctor said the hips were in such bad shape that he was essentially walking on two very badly broken hips for three years.  The doctor also said Richard would not have survived through the summer.

VA Health Scandals Foreshadow Life Under ObamaCare

Rationing: Government-run VA health clinics have been caught falsifying records to hide obscenely long and sometimes deadly delays in treating veterans. Welcome to the future of health care under ObamaCare.

The VA recently decided to investigate one of its Colorado outpatient clinics to see how it handled patient delays. What it found was shocking, but not surprising.

While delays for many of the 6,300 veterans treated at the clinic stretched out for months, clerks there were told to falsify dates so it appeared that everyone was being seen in a timely fashion. Those who didn't play along ended up on a "bad boy list," according to USA Today, which obtained a copy of the report.

This follows a report that 23 veterans relying on the VA died due to delayed cancer screenings. At least 40 others died waiting for appointments at a VA system in Phoenix. A retired VA doctor said many were on a "secret waiting list" designed to hide treatment delays.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

May 7, 2014

The medical treatments experts refuse to have for themselves and why

From the psychiatrist who'd never take anti-depressants, to the heart doctor who steers clear of statins,  Revealed the medical treatments the experts REFUSE to have themselves

Psychiatrist who'd never take anti-depressants
Weight-loss GP who wouldn't go on a diet
Heart doctor who refuses to have statins
Prostate expert who won't have PSA test
Orthopedic surgeon who'd avoid X-rays
Hip specialist who says forget mid-life marathons
Dietitian who won't eat reduced-fat food
Asthma professor who wants to cut inhaler use
Obstetrician who would not give birth at home
Sport scientist who thinks long workouts are pointless
Sleep specialist who won't take sleeping pills
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2014

Vampire Therapy

'Vampire therapy' could reverse aging, scientists find

It may seem the stuff of gothic horror novels, but transfusions of young blood could reverse the aging process and even cure Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists believe.

Throughout history, cultures across the globe have extolled the properties of youthful blood, with children sacrificed and the blood of young warriors drunk by the victors.

It was even rumored that the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il injected himself with blood from healthy young virgins to slow the aging process.

Now scientists have found that young blood actually ‘recharges’ the brain, forms new blood vessels and improves memory and learning.

In parallel research, scientists at Harvard University also discovered that a ‘youth protein’ which circulates in the blood is responsible for keeping the brain and muscles young and strong.

The protein, known as ‘GDF11’, is present in the bloodstream in large quantities when we are young but peters out as we age.
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“There seems to be little question that, GDF11 has an amazing capacity to restore aging muscle and brain function.”

Last year the team discovered that the protein could repair damaged hearts. But the new study showed that that raising the levels of the GDF11 protein in older mice improved the function of every organ in the body. Harvard stem cell biologist Prof Lee Rubin added: “We do think that, at least in principal, there will be a way to reverse some of the decline of aging with a single protein.

"It isn't out of question that GDF11, or a drug developed from it, might be worthwhile in Alzheimer's Disease.”

It is likely that the protein is at least partly responsible for the parallel finding by Stanford University that young blood can reverse the signs of aging.

Let's hope that this is not a way that the old can feed on the young

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:39 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2014

Health Roundup: Apples, almonds, second opinion, sleep, exercise and glucosamine

APPLESApples Reduce Cardiovascular Deaths Nearly as Well as Statins Do—Without the Drugs' Dangerous Side Effects

Apples (and other fruits) contain heart-healthy antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Apples also are rich in pectin, a dietary fiber that reduces cholesterol.

SNACK ON ALMONDSSeveral studies hail health benefits of almonds

IF IT'S SERIOUS, GET A SECOND OPINION. TWELVE MILLION Americans receive the wrong medical diagnosis every year

About five per cent of all medical diagnoses in the U.S. are erroneous, the study found and these errors kill as many as 98,000 people per year.

EXERCISE WARDS OFF DEMENTIA Regular exercise can keep dementia at bay - even if it's in your genes: Being active three times a week stops the brain from shrinking

A study of men and women in their 60s, 70s and 80s found that being active at least three times a week stopped the brain from shrinking. Strikingly, even those with a common gene called APOE-e4 were protected by brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling. Strenuous household chores also helped.
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Kirk Erickson, an expert in the ageing brain, said: ‘This is the first study look at how physical activity might impact the loss of hippocampal volume in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

‘There are no other treatments shown to preserve hippocampal volume in those that may develop Alzheimer’s disease. This study has tremendous implications for how we might intervene, prior to the development of any dementia symptoms, in older adults who are at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
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The APOE-e4 gene is carried by up to 30 per cent of the population. It increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in old age but not everyone with the suspect DNA will develop the disease.The latest finding suggests the exercise may be one of the factors that decides if a brain is able to overcome its genetic inheritance.

IF YOU'RE SICK, SLEEP AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.  A good night's sleep really CAN make you feel better: Researchers say long naps can boost immune system and help fight infection

It has long been said that a good night's sleep can make you feel better, and researchers have finally found it to be true. They say sleep gives our immune systems a major boost, particularly if we are fighting off an infection.  Experiments in flies found that in the case of major infection, sleep can even save lives.
Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that in fruitflies sleep enhances immune system response and recovery to infection.

'It's an intuitive response to want to sleep when you get sick,' said Julie Williams, who led the study.
'These studies provide new evidence of the direct and functional effects of sleep on immune response and of the underlying mechanisms at work.
'The take-home message from these papers is that when you get sick, you should sleep as much as you can -- we now have the data that supports this idea.'

GLUCOSAMINE BOOSTS AUTOPHAGY FOR A LONGER LIFE  Is a pill made from lobsters the secret to a longer life? Glucosamine can make mice live nearly 10  per cent longer

Last week, in the highly respected journal Nature Communications, scientists reported how the food supplement glucosamine, often made from shellfish, can make mice live nearly 10  per cent longer. That would add an average eight years to human lifespans

The researcher, Dr Michael Ristow, a biochemist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, gave the supplement to ageing mice in addition to their usual diet and compared them with similar mice not given the supplement. He believes the benefits are down to glucosamine making the body think it's on a low-carb, high-protein diet. It does this by creating amino acids that the body mistakes for proteins.  In response, our bodies start burning more protein. This can keep weight down and, as a result, may also fend off problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes…The body itself produces glucosamine but the amount starts to dwindle after the age of 45.
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There may, however, be another explanation. Glucosamine has been found to boost a process in the human body called autophagy, according to a 2013 report in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.Autophagy is a system in which cells get rid of their toxic waste. If this process fails, the cell dies,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2014

Medical breakthroughs roundup: paralysis, obesity, cholesterol, cancer, anorexia and editing DNA

Stimulation restores some function for 4 paralyzed men

Paralysis may not last forever anymore. In an experiment hailed as "staggering," a team of researchers at the University of Louisville and the University of California-Los Angeles restored some voluntary movement to four men who were told they would never move their legs again.
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By coursing an electrical current through the four men's spines, the research team, which included scientists from the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in Russia, appears to have "dialed up" signals between the brain and legs that were believed to have been completely lost.

Researchers at Beth Israel claim  a major breakthrough in the fight against obesity - and say they have found a genetic switch that controls our metabolism.

Researchers have identified a protein that controls metabolism - and used it to dramatically reduce the development of obesity and diabetes in mice.  Investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) published their research in the April 10 issue of the journal Nature.

The new findings show that reducing the amount of nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT) protein in fat and liver dramatically reduces the development of obesity and diabetes in mice.
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NNMT is an enzyme that processes vitamin B3 and has been linked to certain types of cancer, as well as Alzheimer's disease, said co-corresponding author Qin Yang, MD, PhD, a Klarman Scholar in the Kahn laboratory at BIDMC and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.Now we have identified an entirely new role for this enzyme in fat tissue, and that is to regulate energy metabolism,' he said.

Groundbreaking experiment stops the buildup of cholesterol inside blood vessels

Scientists successfully prevented the development of atherosclerosis. Team identified and halted the action of a single molecular culprit responsible for excess cholesterol forming.
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The offender, the researchers say, is a fat-and-sugar molecule called glycosphingolipid, or GSL, which resides in the membranes of all cells, and is mostly known for regulating cell growth.
Results of the experiments, the scientists say, reveal that this very same molecule also regulates the way the body handles cholesterol.
The Johns Hopkins team used an existing man-made compound called D-PDMP to block the synthesis of the GSL molecule, and by doing so, prevented the development of heart disease in mice and rabbits fed a high-fat, cholesterol-laden diet.

Cancer breakthrough as scientists successfully target cells resistant to chemotherapy

Findings could pave way for drugs to target these 'resilient' cells
Scientists made the discovery while investigating why certain drugs, such as those often used to treat breast and colon cancer, hindered chemo

Could these 'smart scales' cure anorexia? 75% of patients who used device were free of symptoms a year later
Swedish invention used to re-train the brain on how to eat normally

The Mandometer is a scale for your plate, connected to a computer.  It registers how much food is on the plate and how fast you eat.  It also asks you to register how full you feel, to encourage normal satiation

DNA is 'edited' to cure liver disease for first time - and the technique could someday be used to prevent Down's Syndrome

Named Crispr, technique can correct a single ‘letter’ of the genetic alphabet. It does this by using enzymes to target specific parts of the DNA database.

It could treat disorders like sickle-cell anaemia and Huntington’s disease Crispr might also be used to correct gene defects in human IVF embryos, allowing disorders to be ‘ironed out’ before a baby is born
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

April 14, 2014

Visual aids for the "Catastrophe Like No Other"

Peggy Noonan wrote that Obamacare is A Catastrophe Like No Other ….

You cannot look at ObamaCare and call it anything but a huge, historic mess. It is also utterly unique in the annals of American lawmaking and government administration.
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What the bill declared it would do—insure tens of millions of uninsured Americans—it has not done. There are still tens of millions uninsured Americans. On the other hand, it has terrorized millions who did have insurance and lost it, or who still have insurance and may lose it.

The program is unique in that it touches on an intimate and very human part of life, the health of one's body, and yet normal people have been almost wholly excluded from the debate. This surely was not a bug but a feature….

She didn't have any visual aids, so here are some:

 Obamacare-Higher Premiums

 Obamacare Higher-Deductibles

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2014

Health Roundup: Ibuprofen, junk food, good food, exercise, Viagra and Glucosamine to extend life

Ibuprofen. Painkillers linked to higher risk of stroke: Alert over prescription medicines used by millions

Painkillers may raise risk of irregular heartbeat that could trigger stroke.  The extra chance of developing atrial fibrilliation as high as 84%, says Dutch researchers  The condition – a leading cause of first-time strokes – means the upper chambers of the heart are out of rhythm and beat much faster than normal, which allows blood to pool and clot.

Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which work by blocking the COX-2 enzyme which reduces pain and inflammation, but is also important in regulating heart function.

Ibuprofen Can Triple Stroke Risk; Painkillers Can Double Heart Attack Chances

The medical scientists performed an analysis of all randomized controlled trials comparing any NSAID with other NSAIDs or placebo. Thirty one trials were completed in 116,429 patients.

Junk Food:  Junk food is so bad for asthmatics it can make inhalers 'useless', doctors warn

Dr Samantha Walker, Deputy Chief Executive of Asthma UK, says: 'Asthma is a very complex condition which is why continued research is so crucial.
'These studies provide the first evidence that ‘bad’ saturated fats, such as those found in butter, can adversely affect the way in which the active ingredients in salbutamol inhalers work. Interestingly this study has also demonstrated that ‘good’ fats, such as those found in oily fish, may enable salbutamol to work more effectively.

Junk food MAKES you lazy and sedentary

‘Overweight people often get stigmatized as lazy and lacking discipline,’ says Blaisdell, a professor of psychology at UCLA and author of the research which will be published in the journal Physiology and Behavior.
‘We interpret our results as suggesting that the idea commonly portrayed in the media that people become fat because they are lazy is wrong. Our data suggest that diet-induced obesity is a cause, rather than an effect, of laziness. Either the highly processed diet causes fatigue or the diet causes obesity, which causes fatigue.’

Good FoodGreen tea improves memory and could help treat dementia   Green tea extract increases the brain's effective connectivity, study says

Beans can significantly reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart diseases, according to a study by Canadian researchers.  A daily portion of pulses which include most varieties of beans as well as peas, lentils and chickpeas,
can reduce LDL by 5 percent.

A glass of milk a day 'keeps arthritis at bay' - but only if you are a woman  A glass of milk a day could help stop women's knees from creaking, claim US researchers who found that women who frequently drink fat-free or low-fat milk have less osteoarthritis in the knee, but eating cheese increased the problem.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain and swelling of joints in the hand, hips, or knee.  Lead author Dr Bing Lu, from Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, said 'Milk consumption plays an important role in bone health. Drinking milk made little difference in men, and eating yogurt did not affect progression in men or women.

Drinking 2 cups of coffee a day may cut risk of colon cancer.   After examining coffee consumption among 8500 Israelis, researchers found the odds of having colorectal cancer were about 30 percent lower for coffee drinkers…

Other studies have linked coffee consumption with a lower risk of certain types of skin and breast cancers, as well as a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Exercise. A brisk walk boosts a woman's brain: Aerobic exercise can increase size of area involved in learning and memory
Brisk walking for two hours a week may help boost brainpower in women at risk of dementia. After a  six-month study in women aged 70-80 with early memory problems, researchers found aerobic activity increased the size of the hippocampus - an area of the brain involved in learning and memory.  The Canadian researchers claim it's never too late to undertake regular physical activity based on increasing evidence that it promotes brain health.

Viagra. Viagra increases the risk of skin cancer: Men who used the drug were 84% more likely to get melanoma, study claims  It is thought the impotence drug may affect the same genetic mechanism that enables skin cancer to become more invasive….However the researchers add that because the study is preliminary, it is too early to advise men to stop taking the little blue pill if prescribed for erectile dysfunction.

Glucosamine. The popular arthritis supplement Glucosamine could extend life 'by 8 years

A popular food supplement made from crab shells may hold the key to long life.Researchers are recommending that people start taking glucosamine, after tests on aging mice showed it to extend lifespan by almost ten per cent, the equivalent to an extra eight years in human terms.  It is thought that the sugar-like supplement, which is has long been used to keep the joints healthy and ease the pain of arthritis, extends life by altering metabolism.

Dr Michael Ristow, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said, ‘There is no definite proof of the effectiveness of glucosamine in humans.  But the chances are good and since unlike most other potentially lifespan-extending drugs there are no known relevant side-effects of glucosamine supplementation, I would tend to recommend this supplement.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

April 7, 2014

Health Roundup: Sleep, diesel, morning light, watermelon, jogging, cancer test and dogs

SLEEP. How a bad night's sleep could age your brain by five YEARS: Poor quality slumber causes loss of memory and concentration

Just three years of poor sleep could cause a decline in mental faculties. Poor sleep is linked to a 50% increase in risk of a decline in faculties. Sleep quality is more important than quantity in determining brain aging.

CHILDREN: Circumcision should be offered 'like vaccines' to the parents of baby boys, study claims
The health benefits of male circumcision 'outweigh the risks 100 to one'  Half of uncircumcised men develop a health problem as a result, it is claimed. It would be 'unethical' not to offer it to the parents of all baby boys, the researchers state

Emissions from diesel can damage children's brains and increase the risk of autism and schizophrenia, scientists warn.  Nitrogen dioxide, a chemical present in diesel emissions, causes eye, nose and throat irritation and is said to cause breathing problems in young children.  But scientists have warned that as well as damaging the lungs, the fumes could cause autism and schizophrenia to develop within children living near busy roads. Long-term exposure to the fumes changes the way that a child's brain develops, it has been revealed.  The danger of the fumes has been compared to the effect of lead in petrol.

WEIGHT.  Get up earlier.  Morning Light Exposure Linked to Lower Weight  In the study, participants who were normally exposed to at least 500 lux of light (about the brightest level you'd find in homes and offices) starting at 8 a.m. had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than those who usually got that much light exposure later in the day, the researchers found.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.  Eat more watermelon and exercise in warm water.
Watermelon could slash the risk of heart attacks in obese people
The study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, revealed that eating watermelon is good for heart health and can reduce the risk of heart problems in cold conditions. Professor Arturo Figueroa, from Florida State University, said: ‘The pressure on the aorta and on the heart decreased after consuming watermelon extract."

Research suggests that exercising in warm water could help people with high blood pressure, even those who don't respond to drugs. Hot aquarobics takes place in water heated to 90F. The temperature of the water dilates blood vessels improving the flow of blood which reduces blood pressure and slashes heart attack and stroke risk.

EXERCISE:  Jogging could actually be BAD for you: Too much running increases risk of early death
People who do a moderate amount of exercise live the longest.  Those who do none at all, or too much, have shorter lifespans. Experts recommend running for two to three hours per week

CANCER. Simple blood test could soon diagnose if patient has cancer and how far advanced the disease it is, scientists say.  A quick and simple blood test could soon diagnose which cancer a patient has and how advanced the disease is, scientists said….But researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a test which can quickly tell doctors how large the tumor is, how it is responding to treatment and how it has evolved over time…..According to the medics, the new test works for the most common types of cancer, including breast, lung and prostate. It could even be used to screen healthy or at-risk patients for signs of the illness.
Cancer cells continuously divide and die, as they do so they release DNA into the bloodstream, which can be screened for using blood tests.

DOGS CAN SMELL CANCER.  BBC Video. Dogs watch us all the time and read our body language like a sixth sense. They also smell our bodies for changes. Max smelt cancer in Maureen before any medical scans could pick it up. Dogs do this naturally and can be trained to pick up on tiny volatile chemicals given off by cancerous tumors. They can even be taught to alert diabetics to low blood sugar levels.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 AM | Permalink

April 3, 2014

Just how successful as the deadline for enrolling in Obamacare reached

President Obama claims 7 million signed up for Obamacare but a secret  Study shows just 858,000 newly insured Americans have paid up!

Numbers from a RAND Corporation study that has been kept under wraps suggest that barely 858,000 previously uninsured Americans – nowhere near 7.1 million – have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured by Monday night. Others were already insured, including millions who lost coverage when their existing policies were suddenly cancelled because they didn't meet Obamacare's strict minimum requirements.
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The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up.  And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month's premiums.  If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.

And for that the health care industry, one-seventh of our national economy was totally upended.  The result: higher premiums, higher deductibles, fewer doctors to choose from and even fewer hospitals and a totally unnecessary attack on religious non profits that have caused the greatest rift between the Catholic Church and the United States government in the nation’s history

Premiums rising faster than eight years before Obamacare COMBINED

The individual market for health insurance has seen premiums rise by 39 percent since February 2013, eHealth reports…..Between 2005 and 2013, average premiums for individual plans increased 37 percent and average family premiums were upped 31 percent .  An important caveat is that eHealth’s prices don’t include subsidies, so the prices for anyone earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will be lower.

He enrolled in Obamacare through the Nevada exchange, paid his premium and even called to get assurance that he was in fact enrolled, then he had a heart attack.  After a triple bypass operation, he learned he was not insured and now that Obamacare disaster left him on the hook for $400k+ in medical bills.

Obama told Hispanics he won’t deport their relatives if they sign up for Obamacare…

NR Editorial A Season of Obamacare

While successfully urging Congress to pass a sweeping health-care law in 2009 and early 2010, President Obama and his allies made three main promises. The law would reduce premiums, dramatically expand coverage, and leave people who liked their insurance plans and doctors undisturbed. With the official sign-up period for Obamacare’s exchanges now over, we can say that none of those promises have been kept.

We have, it is true, gotten a modest increase in insurance coverage…..That benefit could have been won more cheaply, and for more people, by modifying public policy to make catastrophic insurance more affordable. The federal government would not have had to mandate essential benefits for everyone, and trample on consciences in the process, or to create a constitutionally suspect board to try to centralize medical practice, or to tax medical devices, or subsidize abortion, or make an ongoing mockery of the rule of law by executing it with an editor’s pen. There were better alternatives. There still are.

Doctor Deficit Will Devastate US Health Care

A disaster looms for U.S. health care: WaPo reports that an alarming number of doctors say they are fed-up, stressed out, overworked, and micro-managed in their primary care practices. The result? By 2020 the U.S. medical system will have 45,000 fewer primary-care doctors than we need, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:50 PM | Permalink

April 2, 2014

Health Roundup: Atkins diet for depression, vegetarians less healthy, Earl Grey, Donepezil

Can an Atkins-style diet really fight depression? Research suggests low-carb, high-fat foods can drastically improve mental health

'It's a very new field; the first papers only came out a few years ago,' Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine in Australia tells The Washington Post.  'But the results are unusually consistent, and they show a link between diet quality and mental health.
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Jodi Corbit, a 47-year-old mother from Catonsville, Maryland, had been battling depression for decades before adopting the Ketogenic diet in a bid to lose weight. To her surprise, she not only shifted several pounds, but also her lifelong depression.
'It was like a veil lifted and I could see life more clearly,' she explains. 'It changed everything.'
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The Ketogenic diet has long been used, as far back as 500 BC in fact, to treat seizures, and widely-published research has shown that it can result in an up to 90 per cent decrease in seizures for patients with epilepsy.  It's also been shown to help with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even cancer. Scientists admit they aren't entirely sure why this is, and it's still more of an association  than a direct cause and effect.

The Spray-On Surgical Film That Could Make Sutures Redundant

Vegetarians are less healthy and have a worse quality of life than meat eaters, according to a study by the University of Graz, Austria.

According to the study, those who abstain from meat are "less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment." Vegetarians were twice as likely to have atopy (allergies), a 50 percent increase in cancer and a 50 percent increase in heart attacks. They also drank less alcohol.

Getting married is good for your heart, say scientists. 

People who are married are 5% less likely to have diseased arteries. They are also 19% less likely to have peripheral arterial disease.  The link between artery health and marriage particularly clear in under 50s

A cup of Earl Grey 'as good as statins' at fighting heart disease, study finds

Scientists believe bergamot, a key ingredient in Earl Grey tea, can significantly lower cholesterol

Drug helps adults learn as fast as children by making the brain more 'elastic'

Donepezil is used to improve memory function in Alzheimer’s patients. Children learn skills quickly as their brains go through 'critical periods. Researchers found donepezil can revert adult brains to these periods. It increases the 'elasticity' of the brain making it capable of learning rapidly. Researchers rewired a visually impaired patient’s brain to process images. The drug works by boosting chemicals in the brain that reduce with age

Researchers have discovered a pill that helps adults learn new skills as quickly as children.

A professor at Harvard rewired the brain of a visually impaired women to process images by giving her Alzheimer’s drug donepezil.  The pill boosts chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and acetylcholine, which are both found in high concentrations in the brains of young children.

Health Care Among the Disaffiliated Digital Natives

Millennials seem to trust depersonalized, national institutions more than voluntary communities or local institutions. One way to summarize all of the data unearthed by Pew is to say that social capital is lower among Millennials than it was even for Boomers, and it is getting lower.

But one very immediate reason for concern is the relationship between strong social capital and effective health care. A large number of studies have found that marriage, kinship networks and other forms of and social support correlate with good health, and are crucial for surviving major illnesses and even economizing on care costs. Moreover, the cultural and financial challenges eldercare presents become more acute the more socially isolated people become. These powerful but non-political factors, unfortunately, tend to be overlooked in a national health care debate that is overwhelmingly focused on policies and mechanics.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

March 25, 2014

Health Round-up: 'Astonishing" cancer drug, statins and MS, protective brain molecule against Alzheimer's, why dark chocolate is good for you

'Astonishing' new cancer drug could extend the lives of terminally-ill patients and eliminate their symptoms overnight….with virtually no side effects

The world-first project is being led by Professor Simon Rule, a globally-renowned expert in haematology and researcher at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.  He says the new pill has the potential to transform the lives of desperately ill patients and eliminate the need for costly, gruelling bouts of chemotherapy.

Professor Rule said: ‘The astonishing thing about these drugs is that they have virtually no side effects, which is unprecedented from my experience. In some patients the effects are immediate.
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‘This is not a cure for cancer but it will mean we are significantly improving our patients' life expectancy and quality of life; similar to managing a chronic condition.

‘I have yet to come across another class of drugs in my career that has been so successful for leukemia or lymphoma. I have done a lot of drug trials in my career, this drug and its predecessor, which I was fortunate to be the first person in Europe to use - they are transformational as far as I am concerned.

A daily statin tablet could slow march of MS: Regular dose found to almost halve brain shrinkage suffered by patients

British researchers randomly assigned 140 patients with secondary progressive MS to recieve either 80mg of simvastatin or a placebo.  Small but significant improvements in disability were noted by doctors

Study leader Dr Jeremy Chataway of University College London Hospitals, said ‘In the progressive stage of MS the brain shrinks by about 0.6 per cent a year

Protective Brain Molecule May Stave Off Alzheimer's

Studies have shown that a third of people have the brain pathology of Alzheimer's at autopsy, yet never experienced symptoms of cognitive decline during their lifetime. Therefore, scientists say, something must be protecting their brains from succumbing to the toxins.

Yankner and colleagues found that the protein known as REST (short for "repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor") turns off genes involved in cell death and resistance to cellular toxins. REST, which is normally produced during brain development, is very active in aging brains, but appears to be missing in the brains of people with cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease.
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Yanker's team also studied the effects of stress in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. They found that worms that lacked proteins similar to REST became more vulnerable to stress and had shorter life spans than normal worms. This suggests the protective function has been conserved by evolution.

The researchers found that the protein isn't actually gone from brains of people with Alzheimer's. Instead, their brain cells continue to produce REST proteins, but cellular machinery called autophagosomes engulf the proteins and degrade them.

Consequently, it may be possible to intervene and prevent the degradation of these proteins, bringing scientists closer to diagnosing or preventing Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Why dark chocolate is good for you

Dark chocolate might pack a double positive punch for our health—thanks to the microbes that live in our gut. New research suggests that beneficial bacteria that reside toward the end of our digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fiber in cocoa.

In their deep-gut alchemy these microbes create anti-inflammatory compounds that have been linked to the cardiovascular and other benefits from dark chocolate consumption. The findings were presented March 18 at the American Chemical Society meeting in Dallas.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:35 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2014

Health Roundup: Autism and pollution, hospital infections, shadow diseases, saturated fat, food sensors, controversial medical questions

Growing evidence that autism is linked to pollution with babies 283% more likely to suffer from the condition compared to other birth defects

Exposure to traffic fumes, industrial air pollution and other environmental toxins can dramatically increase a mother's chances of having a child with autism. Researchers studied insurance claims from around 100 million people in the U.S., and used congenital malformations in boys as an indicator for parental exposure to environmental toxins.
Several studies have already shown a link between air pollution and autism, but this latest study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology is one of the largest to put the two together.
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The report looked at birth defects associated with parental exposure to pollution and found a 1% increase in the defects corresponded to a 283% increase in autism.
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Essentially what happens is during pregnancy there are certain sensitive periods where the fetus is very vulnerable to a range of small molecules – from things like plasticizers, prescription drugs, environmental pesticides and other things,’ said study author Andrey Rzhetsky.
‘Some of these small molecules essentially alter normal development,’ the University of Chicago professor of genetic medicine and human genetics continued. ‘It’s not really well known why, but it’s an experimental observation.’ The defects were especially noticeable in boys’ reproductive systems, Rzhetsky noted.

One of the worst places to be sick is in a hospital because about 5% of patients acquire an infection such as  MRSA, C. difficile and E. coli which is why this is such good news.  Canadian invention to clean hospital rooms may save 10,000 lives a year.  It's a machine called AsepticSure  that mists a a hospital room and everything in it with a vapor solution of ozone and low dose peroxide.  With a 100 per cent kill rate in tests. 

We don't know why but there are shadow diseases that seem to strike together

1. Migraine.  Its shadow: Stroke or heart attack
2. Endometriosis. Its shadow: melanoma
3. High blood pressure. Its shadow: diabetes
4. Psoriasis. Its shadow: heart attack
5. Metabolic syndrome. Its shadow: kidney stones
6. Asthma.  Its shadow: depression and anxiety disorders

Another major study shows Saturated fat 'ISN'T bad for your heart'    Lead researcher Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, from Cambridge University and his team conducted a ‘meta-analysis’ of data from 72 studies involving 600,000 participants in 18 countries, the results of which are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Guidelines urging people to avoid fat to stave off heart disease 'are wrong'. There is no evidence of a link between saturated fat and heart disease. Healthy polyunsaturated fats also do not reduce heart disease risk. A dairy fat 'significantly reduces' heart disease risk

Coming soon to your grocery store, Tiny patch that sticks to food packaging will give you a warning when products are about to go off.  Inventor, Chao Zhang of Peking University in Beijing unveiled the sensors at the conference of the American Chemical Society.

Use-by dates are replaced using gold patches that change color. Sensors in the patches detect changes in temperature, for example. Patches are smaller than a fingernail and cost a fraction of a penny.  Inventor said the tags can be customized for different perishable products

10 Controversial Medical Questions Answered by Dr. Dalrymple

1. Is obesity a disease or a moral failing?
2. Should an alcoholic be allowed a second liver transplant?
3. Are psychiatric disorders the same as physical diseases?
4. Do doctors turn their patients into drug addicts?
5. As life expectancy increases will the elderly become too much of a burden on society?
6. Is marijuana a medicine?
7. Is nutrition really that important for good health?
8. Is drug addiction really just like any other illness?
9. Are obese children victims of child abuse?
10. Should you vaccinate your kids?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:03 PM | Permalink

March 11, 2014

Health round-up: Anti-depressants, sitting, high protein diets, pill to slow aging, new risk for MS and smoking

Psychological side-effects of anti-depressants worse than thought

Thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties and emotional numbness as a result of anti-depressants may be more widespread than previously thought, a researcher has found. In a survey of 1,829 people who had been prescribed anti-depressants, the researchers found large numbers of people -- over half in some cases -- reporting on psychological problems due to their medication, which has led to growing concerns about the scale of the problem of over-prescription of these drugs.

Dr Greg Antidepressants Have More Side Effects than Previously Thought

Over half of people aged 18 to 25 in the study reported suicidal feelings and in the total sample there were large percentages of people suffering from ‘sexual difficulties’ (62%) and ‘feeling emotionally numb’ (60%). Percentages for other effects included: ‘feeling not like myself’ (52%), ‘reduction in positive feelings’ (42%), ‘caring less about others’ (39%) and ‘withdrawal effects’ (55%). However, 82% reported that the drugs had helped alleviate their depression….

Professor Read concluded: “While the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, psychological and interpersonal issues have been largely ignored or denied. They appear to be alarmingly common.”
“Effects such as feeling emotionally numb and caring less about other people are of major concern. Our study also found that people are not being told about this when prescribed the drugs. “Our finding that over a third of respondents reported suicidality ‘as a result of taking the antidepressants’ suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated the problem.”
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But there is good news for those suffering with depression, therapy is a VERY effective treatment for depression with no side effects.  Often, combined medication/psychotherapy treatment is recommended for severe depression, but for mild to moderate depression and other emotional problems, psychotherapy remains the most effective  treatment of choice.

Sitting comfortably? You won't be after reading this:   Cankles, constipation and even 'brain fog' - why we should all try to spend a lot less time on our bottoms

High-protein diets: Bad for the middle-aged, good for the elderly (over 65)  Consuming high levels of protein — particularly animal protein — is a bad strategy if you’re at midlife and aiming to live into old age, new research finds. But a study out Tuesday reveals that in older age, fortifying one’s diet with more protein-rich foods appears to be a formula for extending life.

New Blood Test Could Tell You How Likely You Are to Die in Next Five Years  The new research could also potentially help identify people who have underlying illnesses, but otherwise appear healthy. However, the findings are not quite ready for clinical use as more studies and research is needed.

The pill that could slow aging: Researchers reveal groundbreaking study to extend lifespan and improve health of the elderly  SIRT1 protein delays onset of aging and improved general health.  Supplement extended the average lifespan of mice by 8.8%

Multiple sclerosis linked to contraceptive pill: Risk could be up to 50% higher in women who take it

Starting smoking as a teenager not only makes it harder to quit, it THINS the brain  People who start smoking when they are very young have less grey matter in the brain region involved in making decisions and gut feelings

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2014

Blood test for Alzheimers

Just