Category: Health

PTSD + Agent Orange = extra risk of Dementia

Exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War doesn’t seem to increase the risk of dementia on its own, but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors like PTSD…

In an analysis of Veterans Affairs data, having been exposed to Agent Orange and having PTSD together was associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia according to Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

They reported their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference…

Some 8% of veterans were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, where it was used as an herbicide to clear dense areas of forest…

Many other studies have looked at the health effects of Agent Orange exposure, and there have been mixed results regarding its neurological effects. Some studies found no adverse neurologic effects, while several recent studies have found worse cognitive function with greater exposure. Other studies have shown that verbal memory is the most affected neurocognitive region among Vietnam veterans.

Yet there haven’t been any studies specifically looking at the relationship between Agent Orange and the risk of dementia among these veterans, Barnes said.

Consequently, she and colleagues accessed VA electronic medical record data on 46,737 Vietnam veterans over age 55 who had at least one baseline visit and one follow-up visit, and who did not have dementia at baseline.

They looked at Agent Orange exposure alone and in combination with PTSD…

Barnes noted that there was a significant difference between the exposed and unexposed populations at baseline. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange were younger and had more comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, depression, and PTSD…

When they looked at PTSD and dementia risk, however, they did find a significant association — and having both Agent Orange exposure and PTSD together was associated with a larger increase in risk of dementia…

“Agent Orange alone doesn’t appear to increase the risk of dementia,” Barnes said, “but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors such as PTSD.”

She cautioned that the findings were limited because the researchers weren’t able to measure the actual exposure to Agent Orange; they had to rely on patients’ own reports of exposure…

Soldiers on the line ain’t about to forget exposure to Agent Orange. Until they get Alzheimer’s, anyway.

And, no, that wasn’t meant to be a joke.

Vietnam War vets still suffering from PTSD

A small, but significant, portion of Vietnam War veterans still experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even 40 years after the war ended, according to the results of a survey-based study.

When examining veterans over the course of a 25-year period, 10.8%, or about 271,000, of male “theater veterans” – those who served in the Vietnam theater of operations – reported experiencing current clinical and subthreshold war-zone PTSD symptoms based on CAPS-5 criteria, said Charles Marmar, MD, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center…

More than a third (36.7%) of all veterans with PTSD directly related to the war also experienced comorbid major depression. In addition, 30.9% met the criteria for current major depressive disorder…

Marmar told MedPage Today that he was surprised at the persistence of symptoms for veterans over the course of time.

“We did know that PTSD symptoms could persist in a minority of war fighters, or civilians for that matter, but it was surprising to find that 11% of those who served in the Vietnam theater had either PTSD or significant symptoms of PTSD that interfered with their functioning,” he said. “So the persistence was an important finding…”

Marmar said he did the study not only to honor the Vietnam generation and answer some questions for them, but to see what the road ahead may look like for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“Nobody has known before this study what the true lifetime effects of military service are on psychological health in an epidemiologically drawn, representative sample,” he said. “People have done studies of longer term effects of war, but not in a proper sampling frame where you’re getting a picture of every man and every woman from all branches of the services in all levels of combat…”

While not involved with the study, Gary J. Kennedy, MD…told MedPage Today…that the results demonstrated the majority of veterans did not suffer from PTSD or depression. However, he pointed out that for those who were impacted, there may be inadequate resources to offer assistance.

“The optimistic finding of rather remarkable resilience is contrasted by the complicated needs of those who do not recover,” he said. “Just as in the post Vietnam era, the VA is not adequately funded to meet the mental health needs of returning service personnel…”

He concluded that similar to World War II veterans, Vietnam war veterans also deserve quality care for their physical and mental well-being, both from clinicians and from the nation itself.

Overdue.

My closest friend till his death was a WW2 vet who still had occasional bouts with PTSD – and little substantive help from the VA. Fortunately, one of his main areas of study – courtesy of the GI Bill – was in psychology and he did a pretty good job of managing things on his own. Still, I’ll never forget a couple of times when he was roused unexpectedly from a sound sleep and thought he was back in Bastogne.

Addicted to soda? You don’t need to be obese to acquire diabetes

Regular consumption of sugary drinks was linked to onset of type 2 diabetes independent of obesity, and fruit juices and no-calorie artificially sweetened drinks didn’t appear to be any healthier, in a new review.

Looking at 17 cohorts and more than 38,000 cases, researchers found that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with an 18% increase in incidence of type 2 diabetes…per one serving a day. And when they adjusted for obesity, there was still a 13% increase…over those who drank no sugary drinks, found the researchers, who were led by Fumiaki Imamura, PhD, at the University of Cambridge in the UK…

There is indeed a wealth of existing evidence that soft drinks can significantly increase risk of diabetes. But Imamura and colleagues wrote that it wasn’t clear if the risk is present independent of obesity status, and in an email to MedPage Today he wrote that this is what spurred him to do the study.

“We identified a lack of clear evidence to tell if soft drinks elevate the risk of diabetes, regardless of obesity status,” he wrote. “This lack of evidence attracted us, and we thought the evidence would help further the ongoing policy debate.”

The relative risk of diabetes for artificially sweetened beverage consumption was 1.25…in ten studies. Independent of obesity, the number dropped to 1.08…

And for fruit juice, the risk ratio was 1.05…in 13 studies after adjustment and 1.07…independent of obesity.

Imamura said that it’s natural for people to look for alternatives to sugar sweetened beverages. “Diet drink and fruit juice are possible options, though there was no strong summary evidence for each,” he wrote. “We wanted to address the question of the association of consuming each with diabetes before and after accounting for obesity status.” There was some evidence for publication bias in the fruit juice studies.

Nestle added that there wasn’t enough information here to draw definitive conclusions about fruit juice, and that she’d want to see more information about the amounts consumed. “It doesn’t make sense that small amounts of fruit juice would do much of anything (other than providing vitamins),” she wrote. “It’s the large amounts you have to worry about.”…

None of the studies were industry sponsored. “We did not deliberately exclude industry-funded research,” wrote Imamura, but all of the studies that met the criteria were not sponsored by industry. “We wished to see the quality of evidence from government-funded studies and from industry-funded studies, but we could not,” he wrote…

Imamura and his team concluded that soft drinks may contribute to nearly 2 million diabetes cases in the U.S. and the U.K. over 10 years. “But this estimate is under assumption that everyone had the same weight,” he wrote in the email. “If we consider that soft drink consumption contributes to weight gain, the estimate should be higher.”

Keep those fasting glucose levels down, folks. Taste buds aside – and how they’re conditioned by your family and peers – we don’t need a whole boatload of sugar for any reason whatsoever.

Don’t let Armadillos spit on you in Florida!


Click to enlargeGetty Images

For once…Florida citizens are not the focus of a news story. Instead, Florida armadillos are in the spotlight.

Local health officials are warning Floridians to stay away from the animals after nine people were infected with leprosy after coming into contact with the leathery armored creatures.

Typically, Florida sees just 10 cases of leprosy in a year. The centuries-old bacterial infection, also known as Hansen’s disease, causes nerve damage and disfigurement and was once a considered a sentence to death or life in isolation. Thanks to antibiotics, the disease is now treatable and only rarely spreads from person to person in the U.S., typically via coughing or sneezing.

A 2011 genetic study found that armadillos naturally harbor the bacteria that causes the illness in humans, and they may be responsible for some infections, though it is far less common for leprosy to be spread that way.

But that’s what seems to be happening in Florida.

“New homes are being developed, and we are tearing down armadillos’ homes in the process,” said Dr. Sunil Joshi…of the Duval County Medical Society. “Now these creatures are coming out in the daytime, and the people who are getting exposed are those working outside.”

Armadillos aren’t native to Florida, but the cat-sized mammals are now common throughout the state, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission…“Especially if they’re trying to get out of a cage they can spit on you,” said Florida wildlife trapper Kyle Waltz.

The bacteria that causes leprosy can lie dormant for years, according to the CDC, and it may take up to a decade for symptoms to appear. Most of the human population isn’t susceptible to the disease, and fewer than 300 new cases were reported in the U.S. in 2010…As many as 2 million people have been permanently disabled by the disease worldwide.

One of the instances where you don’t want to be the exception that proves the rule.

A surgical glue that shuts down bleeding wounds in 60 seconds

The ability of mussels to stubbornly bind themselves to underwater surfaces has intrigued scientists for years. If this ability could be recreated in the lab, it could lead to new adhesives for all kinds of applications. A team of Korean scientists has now developed a surgical glue inspired by these natural wonders that’s claimed to be cheaper, more reliable and incur less scarring than existing solutions.

In surgery, stitches and staples are very effective at binding body tissue together, but they can cause scarring and aren’t always appropriate when treating more sensitive flesh and organs. These drawbacks have motivated the development of adhesives that are strong enough to hold tissue together in wet environments, and do so without inciting adverse chemical reactions…

Scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology have a…solution…inspired by intersections of amino acids called tyrosines that can be found in dragonfly wings and insect cuticles. These are created by exposure to visible light, a process that boosts both their strength and stickiness.

The team found that when they took mussel proteins chock-full of tyrosines and exposed them to blue visible light, the photochemical reaction saw them instantly pair up to form these tyrosine intersections. The result was a material with better structural stability and adhesive properties. They have dubbed it light-activated, mussel protein-based adhesive (LAMBA) and claim to have proven its superiority to existing surgical glues. In testing the glue in animals, the scientist say it was able to close bleeding wounds in less than 60 seconds and healed them without inflammation or scarring.

Sounds good to me. Can’t wait till there’s an over-the-counter version. Hopefully, affordable.

Fewer than 15% of US adults eat enough fruits and vegetables

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that most adults in the US consume fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended by the federal government…According to the report, less than 15% of US citizens met their recommended fruit intake, and 8.9% met vegetable recommendations in 2013.

Adults who engage in less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day should consume between 1.5 and two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables daily, according to federal recommendations.

Fruit and vegetable intake was lowest in the south. In Tennessee, just 7.5% of citizens met the fruit intake recommendation, and in Mississippi, 5.5% of adults ate the recommended portion of vegetables. The highest percentages were in California, where 17.7% of adults consumed the recommended portion of fruit.

The study’s lead author, Latetia V Moore of the…CDC, said the low numbers were tied to socioeconomic factors, as well as convenience…“It has to do with convenience, affordability, palatability,” Moore said. “It’s making sure fruits and vegetables are conveniently priced and convenient to access.”

How about intellectual laziness?

Moore and the report’s co-authors studied data from the…survey of 373,580 people across all 50 states and Washington DC. The survey asked people about the frequency of their fruit and vegetable intake, and took personal characteristics such as ethnicity, age and income into account.

Researchers compared survey results with recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which measured intake by number of cups rather than frequency…

Fruit and vegetable intake can be tied to heart disease and stroke. The study was focused on American adults, but Moore said she is starting to see a shift toward incorporating healthier foods into children’s diets.

I don’t care what the motivation may be. Changing your diet, upgrading to thoughtful, up-to-date nutritional standards ain’t expensive or difficult. Costs increase if you try to move to a completely organic diet plus availability is more likely to be a problem in some communities. But, do some reading online, folks. There’s a great deal of commercially-produced fruit and veggies that haven’t any notable risk associated with “conventional” foodstuffs.

My experience is that many thoughtful market chains that carry both also take a great deal of care with the quality and safety of that so-called conventional food.

Vampire healthcare helps our species at the expense of another

harvesting crab blood

It fuels the journeys of shorebirds along the Eastern Seaboard and feeds some loggerhead sea turtles and sharks. The horseshoe crab is intricately woven into the web of life. Yet this harmless and primitive sea creature not only plays a key role in nature, it occupies a crucial place in the human world as well.

Over three decades ago, medicine claimed this ancient animal as a new life-saving tool. In 1971 researchers discovered that when they exposed the horseshoe crab to E. coli bacteria, the crab’s blood clotted. The clotting indicated the presence of endotoxins, toxic substances released by E. coli and other gram-negative bacteria that could produce severe symptoms in exposed humans such as fever or hemorrhagic stroke.

The simplicity of its immune system is actually what makes the crab’s blood useful to our biomedical industry. Horseshoe crabs live under the constant threat of infection in a habitat that can easily contain billions of bacteria per milliliter. To fight off infection, the horseshoe crab has a compound in its blood — LAL, or Limulus Amebocyte Lysate — which immediately binds and clots around fungi, viruses, and bacterial endotoxins.
LAL’s endotoxin binding and clotting ability is what makes it so invaluable to our own pharmaceutical industry. Once the LAL test was recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an alternative to then current methods of testing for endotoxins, the pharmaceutical industry tapped in. Horseshoe crabs were abundant, their blood easy to harvest and the test took only one hour.

Today, LAL has become the worldwide standard screening test for bacterial contamination. Every drug certified by the FDA must be tested using LAL, as do surgical implants such as pacemakers and prosthetic devices.

Horseshoe crab blood has not only become a key weapon in our medical arsenal, it has also become big business. On the world market, a quart of horseshoe crab blood has a price tag of an estimated $15,000, leading to overall revenues from the LAL industry estimated at U.S. $50 million per year. But that pales in comparison to its value to the pharmaceutical industry.

Of course, to obtain LAL you need horseshoe crabs — and lots of them. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, that $50 million dollar industry requires the blood of approximately 250,000 horseshoe crabs.

While the blood of a horseshoe crab can be extracted without killing the animal, there is some question of how harmful bleeding is to the animals. The LAL industry says the bleeding causes no long-term injury…

LAL manufacturers have measured mortality rates of less then 3%. Yet two recent studies estimate that between 10% and 15% of crabs do not survive the bleeding procedure, which accounts for the mortality of 20,000 to 37,500 horseshoe crabs per year. Another concern is that it takes the crab a few months to rebuild its blood cell count level back up after a bleeding. Horseshoe crabs could be bled up to three or four times a year, which would take a toll on the health of the animals. But LAL manufacturers claim they only bleed them once a year.

Humane researchers are concentrating on synthesizing LAL. If they can come up with a lower-cost version of the same substance that will resolve the whole question.

Pharmaceutical industrialists continues along their usual path for now. How to make the most profit for the least effort. To the average American, horseshoe crabs ain’t as cute as kittens. Humanity be damned.

Freight train only missed him by this much!

State police say a man escaped injury after being run over by a freight train while sleeping in the middle of railroad tracks in an upstate New York town.

Troopers say 38-year-old Aaron Collins of Stillwater was highly intoxicated when he went to sleep Wednesday night on tracks in the Rensselaer County town of Schaghticoke, 20 miles north of Albany.

…A Pan Am freight train more than a mile long approached around 10:30 p.m. The conductor spotted Collins on the tracks and stopped the train, but not before the first two engines passed over him.

Troopers say the engines were separated and the first engine was moved forward to free Collins, who was uninjured but still drunk.

He was taken to an Albany hospital for evaluation.

Actually, not too unusual in our neck of the prairie. But, then, it’s no surprise for part of the country that leads everyplace in DWI to also lead the pack in every other kind of drunken strupidity.

Yes, drunks sleeping on railroad tracks usually die.

Further examination of the neonicotinoid threat to honey bees

The decline of honey bees has been a major concern globally for the past decade. One of the factors that could be contributing to the decline is the use of insecticides — specifically neonicotinoids — that persist in rivers and streams. Researchers now report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters that although sunlight plays an important role in degrading pollutants, its effects on neonicotinoids can diminish dramatically even in shallow water.

Neonicotinoids protect crops from pests, such as whiteflies, beetles and termites. They are a popular tool in a farmer’s arsenal, but they end up washing into surface waters and soil. Some research has suggested the insecticides play a role in the disappearance of bees, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. But scientists didn’t fully understand the fate of neonicotinoids in the environment, an important factor in determining how they might contribute to the disorder. Charles S. Wong and colleagues wanted to investigate sunlight’s effects on these insecticides in water.

Out of five neonicotinoids the researchers tested in water under simulated sunny conditions, three degraded considerably within minutes.

Two took a few days to break down. But a depth of just 3 inches of water was enough to shield at least one, thiamethoxam, from the degrading effects of the sun. The researchers say that this persistence at shallow depths could increase the chances aquatic life and other wildlife, including bees, could get exposed to the insecticide.

How many agribusiness/farm lobbies did you ever hear of that spend time lobbying for clean water – after it’s outbound from the fields just irrigated?

Cancer Doctor gets 45 years in prison for healthcare fraud

A Michigan oncologist who gave $35 million in needless chemotherapy to patients — some of whom didn’t even have cancer — will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

After an emotional week of testimony from 22 of his victims, a federal judge sentenced physician Farid Fata to 45 years in prison, NBC News reported. He’ll also give up $17.6 million in cash, according to The Detroit News. Various sources put his full scam around $35 million.

Fata scammed more than 500 of his patients, according to court papers cited by NBC, either by misdiagnosing them just so he could bill healthcare companies or giving chemo to end-of-life patients who wouldn’t benefit and had to endure the treatment’s nasty side effects during their final days.

“They came to me seeking compassion and care. I failed them,” Fata told US District Judge Paul Borman, during his sentencing…Fata pleaded guilty in September to 16 counts, including fraud and money laundering…

The FBI also alleges that after one patient fell and hit his head in Fata’s office, the doctor told him he should complete chemo before going to the hospital, according to the AP. The patient reportedly died from his head injury.

US Attorney Barbara McQuade described Fata’s behavior as “the most serious fraud case in the history of the country,” while Judge Borman described his crime as “huge” and “horrific,”…

Maybe the most serious individual doctor-perpetrated fraud. We are, after all, a nation awash in fraud. Even fraudulent cases of accusations of fraud – as witness the Republican Party’s policy of preventing seniors, students and minority citizens from voting in the name of fraud prevention where fraud hasn’t been proven to exist.

The rare prosecution of thugs like Bernie Madoff illustrates that serious financial fraud is still profitable enough to be a national industry. Further validated by the lack of prosecution of mortgage fraudsters who kicked off the Great Recession.

Still, it warms the cockles of my heart to see a creep like Fata get what essentially is a death sentence. Let him die in prison instead of falling over from a heart attack at his favorite country club.