Category: Health

Compare Brazil’s dietary guidelines to the USDA’s

As anyone who has read Marion Nestle’s Food Politics or Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food knows, the US Department of Agriculture’s attempts to issue dietary advice have always been haunted by industry influence and a reductionist vision of nutrition science. The department finally ditched its silly pyramids a few years ago, but its guidelines remain vague and arbitrary (for example, how does dairy merit inclusion as one of five food groups?).

In Brazil, a hotbed of sound progressive nutritional thinking, the Ministry of Health has proven that governmental dietary advice need not be delivered in timid, industry-palatable bureaucratese. Check out its plain-spoken, unimpeachable, and down-right industry-hostile new guidelines (hat tip Marion Nestle):

1. Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet

2. Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations

3. Limit consumption of processed foods

4. Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products

5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company

6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods

7. Develop, exercise and share culinary skills

8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life

9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals

10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing

I’ve survived several generations of the USDA Food Pyramid-scheme mostly by ignoring it. Fortunately, half my cultural heritage is Italian and what folks call the Mediterranean Diet, nowadays is what I was brought up with. Only we called it cooking like Grandma.

Whether it’s Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, examples of the real deal are available from these and many other exponents of Mediterranean food. Try it. And as ever – in moderation.

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FANTASTIC VOYAGE is closer to reality — with scallop microbots

In the 1960s science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, audiences thrilled to the idea of shrinking a submarine and the people inside it to microscopic dimensions and injecting it into a person’s bloodstream. At the time it was just fantasy and as fantastic an idea as its title suggested. Today, however, micro-miniature travelers in your body have come one step closer to reality. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute have been experimenting with real micro-sized robots that literally swim through your bodily fluids and could be used to deliver drugs or other medical relief in a highly-targeted way…

The microrobots being designed by the team literally are swimmers; they are scallop-like devices designed to paddle through non-Newtonian fluids like blood and plasma (even water behaves in this way at a microscopic level). This means that, unlike swimming in water at a macro-level, these microbots need to move through fluid that has a changing viscosity depending on how much force is exerted upon it.

To do this, the microbots need a method of propulsion that can fit in their tiny bodies as well as take advantage of the non-Newtonian fluid in which they are moving. Importantly, the team is using a reciprocal method of movement to propel their microscallops; but generally this doesn’t work in such fluids, which is why organisms that move around in a biological system use non-reciprocating devices like flagella or cilia to get about.

However these robotic microswimmers actually take advantage of this property and use a scallop swimming motion to move around. The researchers call this process “modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate.” In simple terms, the micro scallops open and close their “shells” to compress the fluid and force it out behind them, which then propels them along.

The fact that the microrobot scallop has no motor to drag around contributes to its exceptionally small size – around 800 microns. This makes it miniscule enough to make its way through your bloodstream, around your lymphatic system, or across the slippery goo on the surface of your eyeballs…

The first and most obvious use would be delivery of medication. The authors are otherwise laid back about suggestions for the future. They’re confident today’s medical researchers are technically hip enough that there will be more potential uses for these microbots than any one team might ever invent.

Got Triclosan? Have any idea what else you may get?

Using some antibacterial soaps may promote tumor growth, according to a study just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings add to a body of concerns about triclosan, one of the most common antimicrobial chemicals in consumer products from detergents to cosmetics, including links to allergy development in children, and potentially to breast cancer via disruption of hormone signals that may also cause thyroid dysfunction and weight gain.

Triclosan is regulated in many countries, but the U.S. isn’t among them. In 1974 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a ruling on the safety of triclosan; but, four years later, the agency said that was not possible due to insufficient evidence. In 2010, still with no FDA ruling, the National Resources Defense Council sued the FDA over the matter. Still today there’s no ruling, but the FDA has said that it will commit to something by 2016. The chemical is in an estimated 75 percent of antimicrobial soaps and body washes, though some companies have begun voluntarily phasing it out due to health concerns. Products like Johnson’s baby shampoo and Palmolive no longer contain triclosan.

Still a study in August from the University of California, San Francisco, found that about three-fourths of doctors and nurses had triclosan in their urine, and another study earlier this year found triclosan in the urine of 100 percent of pregnant women tested in Brooklyn. Because triclosan-infused products have been so widely used for many years, exposure to the chemical entirely is unavoidable. It is among the most common chemicals to be detected in streams.

“The result that it led to liver fibrosis was startling to us,” lead researcher Robert Tukey said. The researchers also noted a similar effect in kidneys. Their findings suggest that triclosan does not cause liver tumors by itself, in that it does not mutate DNA. But it does promote tumor formation once a mutation has occurred. Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, specifically) is the world’s number-three cause of cancer death.

If non-triclosan-containing soaps are available, use the alternative,” said Paul Blanc, a professor of medicine at UCSF, earlier this year in a press statement. “This is based on the precautionary principle–that is, if you don’t know for certain that something is unsafe, it’s better to err on the side of caution.”

No one is saying triclosan causes cancer. It just promotes an environment that aids the growth of tumors. Whoop-de-doo! Not a big difference for ordinary folks who acquire liver cancer.

Americans have a lifetime exposure to propaganda – called commercials – that say there always is a magic ingredient that cures everything wrong in your life. It may be soap, it may be beer. It may be where you bank, it may be which old white guy will guarantee to keep your political life all snug and unchanging. And it’s mostly bullshit!

There are plenty of reasonable if dull sources for information about health. If you can, try to stay away from the quacks. Try to avoid the folks selling you snake oil. I sometimes feel that any solution that sounds extra easy has to be wrong – or at least less reliable. Anti-bacterial soap is one of those.

Designed to kill off critters instead of the awesome labor of scrubbing them away with soap and hot water – doctors and nurses are as guilty of being misled as the rest of us. The medical-industrial complex – predictably – uses their success at selling crap products to the medical community to sell them to us. We get to see pictures of folks in white starched coats smiling while they endorse mutation-enhancing products.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

Thanks, Mike

Marijuana revenue helping schools on projects political hacks won’t fund

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As marijuana revenues trickle into the state, slow to meet projections, a few Colorado school districts are among the first to see some impact from the state’s new funds.

The state Department of Education’s program to fund capital projects — known as Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, grants — had received more than $1.1 million from marijuana taxes in May when it made the annual award recommendations.

The state also is readying another $2.5 million from pot taxes so interested schools can hire health professionals.

The additional capital project money has been welcomed as the state fund for the BEST grants has been declining and the program reached a cap for the financed grants it could issue through bonds…

The marijuana excise tax — which is 15 percent on unprocessed recreational pot sales on its first sale – — netted about $3 million from January through June 30. The education department receives the funds monthly and will dole out the awards recommendations every May.

Next year, officials estimate the pot contribution to the BEST grants will be about $10 million. But some school officials say there’s a misconception about where the pot money is going.

“I feel like the word on the streets is marijuana funding is going to schools, but certainly it’s not going to schools for operating costs,” said Ryan Elarton, director of business services for the Pueblo district. “And not every district gets it.”

Besides the new marijuana funds, BEST grants have been funded by sources including money from the state land trust and spillover from Powerball profits after funding the Great Outdoors Colorado fund…

From other marijuana revenue appropriated by the legislature, $2.5 million has been set aside to increase the presence of health professionals in schools.

Schools that apply for those grants and win could have that money by January.

It’s hilarious that schools may get back some of the necessities cut by conservative politicians — and they’ll be getting it from profits generated by legal ganja.

The sad part remains that folks trapped in the two-party belief system can’t get any results from simply going to the polls on election day. Frankly, issues like school safety, healthcare for the student population, reasonable curricula dedicated to learning and all that entails — are a natural for independent political organizing. Yes, just like legalizing marijuana.

Then, you’re not required to shove a natural local response to problems into a cookie cutter mold designed by seventeen lobbyists employed by a Congressional action committee.

The Impossible Burger interview

Angie Lau & Patrick Brown
Click for the interview [after a brief commercial]

Impossible Foods CEO and Co-Founder Patrick Brown discusses his company’s products which are made entirely from plants, creating a sustainable source of food and why he says his products are made a better way — with Bloomberg’s Angie Lau on “First Up.”

Amazing what computational analysis and genetic engineering are getting ready to make possible. I have a couple of old acquaintances – retired molecular biologists – who probably would like to start all over again.

From the pages of IMPROBABLE RESEARCH

$_12

Dr. Pravin Jaiprakash Gupta, MS, FICS, FAIS, FASCRS, FACS of the Fine Morning Hospital and Research Center, Laxminagar, Nagpur, India, presents, in the journal Digestive Surgery, Vol. 24, No. 5, 2007, a paper entitled : Red Hot Chilli Consumption Is Harmful in Patients Operated for Anal Fissure – A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Study.

“Patients were randomly assigned to receive analgesics and fiber supplement alone (control patients) or consumption of 1.5 g chilli powder twice daily along with identical fiber and analgesics (chilli group). “

“Conclusion: This study shows that consumption of red chillies after anal fissure surgery should be forbidden to avoid postoperative symptoms.”

Note: Dr. Gupta is also known for his invention — “A surgical device which is called as radiowave gun handle was named after him as ‘Pravin Gupta Procto Gun’ by the famous USA company Ellman International Inc.”

Anyone living where the state question is “red or green?” knows the answer to this study well in advance. You only have to make a mistake like this once to remember the result for the rest of your life.

Note: Everyone in New Mexico has their personal favorites. The illustration at right is mine. Try it on a sandwich of leftover roast pork for a breakfast treat.

Thyroid drug tied to birth defects — once again

Another study has linked the Graves’ disease treatment methimazole with birth defects, Japanese researchers reported…

In an interim analysis of the prospective POEM study, there was a far higher incidence of methimazole embryopathy in women who took the drug during their first trimester than would be expected in the general population…according to Naoko Arata, PhD, of the National Center for Child Health and Development in Tokyo.

Women shouldn’t use the drug in those early stages of pregnancy when the fetus is developing organs, she said at the American Thyroid Association meeting.

Most recommendations instruct clinicians to stop methimazole during pregnancy because of earlier associations with birth defects. These women should instead be treated with propylthiouracil (PTU), the guidelines state.

But PTU has been associated with liver injury to the mother and more recent research suggests that it may also carry risk of birth defects.

Indeed, at last year’s ATA meeting, Danish researchers reported that both drugs carried a higher risk of birth defects: 50% higher for PTU and 75% higher for methimazole compared with the general population…

When the fifth case of methimazole-related anomalies was reported in 2011 — out of a total of 85 live births — the researchers decided to conduct an interim analysis.

Arata said these five cases had exposure to methimazole during the whole pregnancy…

She said she strongly recommends not using methimazole during the organogenesis period in women with Graves’ disease, adding that preconception counseling is extremely important.

I hope enough doctors read about questions raised by studies like this. Even though I have a young, sharp, physician as my GP – I always make it a practice when in his office for a checkup to waylay him with a couple of the medical questions, procedures, studies and discoveries I’ve covered for one or another blog – just to see if he’s staying broadly up-to-date.

I would hate to know more than he does, even if it concerns a very small area of interest. I already qualify as a world-class hypochondriac. :)

Stem cell treatment for Parkinson’s moves closer to reality

Click on the graphic
for true size

In a major breakthrough for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, researchers working with laboratory rats show it is possible to make dopamine cells from embryonic stem cells and transplant them into the brain, replacing the cells lost to the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the gradual loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical that, among other things, helps regulate movement and emotional responses.

There are no cures for Parkinson’s disease; there are drugs that ease symptoms, but none that slow it down. Deep brain stimulation can alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s in certain patients.

Human embryonic stem cells – precursor cells that have the potential to become any cell of the body – are a promising source of new dopamine cells, but they have proved difficult to harness for this purpose.

Now, a breakthrough study from Lund University in Sweden shows it is possible to get human embryonic stem cells to produce a new generation of dopamine cells that behave like native dopamine cells when transplanted into the brains of rats…

The team says the new cells show all the properties and functions of the dopamine neurons that are lost in Parkinson’s disease, and the potentially unlimited supply sourced from stem cell lines opens the door to clinical application…

Study leader Malin Parmar says – “These cells have the same ability as the brain’s normal dopamine cells to not only reach, but also to connect to their target area over longer distances. This has been our goal for some time, and the next step is to produce the same cells under the necessary regulations for human use.”

The team hopes the new cells will be ready for testing in human trials in about 3 years.

Fortunately these researchers don’t have to worry about the direction of their research being interrupted by elections. Scandinavia has their share of idjit parties; but, so far none of those espousing government by Christian Sharia has shown any sign of coming close to legislative dominance.

Anyone who has provided care for someone close, a family member, knows what a debilitating disease Parkinson’s becomes. We can only hope this will be one of those breakthroughs that provides a solid medical answer to despair.

Thanks, Mike

Safe sex in the slammer

“Do you guys want condoms?” Deputy Javier Machado, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, asks a dormitory full of prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail. “If you want condoms you need to get in line. If not, I need you on your bunk.”

A worker with the county’s Public Health Department places a box full of brightly colored condoms on a table and begins to hand them out, three at a time. Waiting in line, one prisoner loudly declares that he’s getting the condoms “for someone else,” drawing laughter from the others. The distribution takes only a matter of minutes, but the weekly act is hardly typical.

While Los Angeles has been handing out condoms in the county jail for more than a decade, it remains one of just a handful of jail and prison systems that do so. In September, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown took a step toward making condoms more widely available, signing a bill that will introduce them at the state’s 34 adult prisons. As in most states, the jails in California are short-term facilities run by county sheriffs, while the prison system, which holds prisoners after they’ve been sentenced, is managed by the state government.

With its new law, California is only the second state, after Vermont, to distribute condoms to inmates in state prisons…

Providing condoms to prisoners is controversial because many state laws prohibit sex between inmates…But some prisons and jails have decided to allow prisoners to have condoms as a way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

“It definitely is a balance,” says Capt. Joseph Dempsey at the Men’s Central Jail. “The Sheriff’s Department has taken the position that public health outweighs the concerns about sex in jail.” According to Dempsey, if prisoners are caught having sex, a criminal report will still be filed. But if the sex is consensual, he says, it is “not very likely” the district attorney will prosecute the inmates involved.

If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.’

I’m not close enough to California to know if good sense will prevail. The Morality Police are certainly active on the Left Coast even if they don’t rule as much as they might, say, in Texas or Mississippi.

But, like Captain Dempsey said, “If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.”

Feel better about your healthcare provider – the number of serial killers is down!


I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why – I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

The number of serial killings committed by healthcare providers has leveled off in the U.S. in recent decades, although it is rising internationally, Eindra Khin Khin, MD, said here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

According to the literature, the number of cases of healthcare serial killings overall rose from 10 in the 1970s to 21 in the 1980s, 23 in the 1990s, and then to 40 in the years 2000 to 2006, said Khin Khin, who along with her colleagues presented a poster on the topic.

One reason the rates of healthcare serial murders are rising internationally, but not in the U.S., is electronic medical records (EMR), Khin Khin, of George Washington University in Washington, told MedPage Today in a phone interview. She noted that several serial killers, including physician Michael Swango, first got into trouble in the U.S. and then went overseas…

“At least in the [United] States, because of incidents in 1990s and 2000s, we’ve really beefed up on the credentialing system, and institutions have started to communicate with each other better,” she continued. “People are not shedding enough light on the international phenomenon, and the global community has a little bit to catch up on in implementing guidelines and regulatory measures.”

In terms of the site, the vast majority of killings (72%) occurred in a hospital, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes (20%), patients’ homes (6%) and outpatient settings (2%)…

As to the method used, the majority of killings — 52% — were done via lethal injection, followed by unknown methods (25%), suffocation (11%), and water in the lungs (4%). Air embolus and oral medications were each used in another 3%, while equipment tampering and poisoning accounted for 1% each.

Followed by an entertaining segment describing motivation and telltale signs you may have a serial killer onboard.

The researchers recommended several steps for preventing healthcare serial killings, such as educating staff members on the issue, designating a national or international regulation and monitoring body, routine institutional monitoring of high-alert medication use and monthly mortality/cardiac arrest rates, and consensus guidelines for managing suspicious situations.

I imagine that the Feds can data mine the ACA digital record-keeping protocols for serial killers just as they now do for rip-off artists hustling Medicare. Every little bit helps, eh?