Category: Health

Does watching TV kill you or just an indicator for a sedentary life?


QPR fans don’t even get to jump up and celebrate often

People who spend more than 5 hours a day watching television appear to be at an increased risk of suffering fatal pulmonary embolism…

In a study that included more than 86,000 people in Japan who were followed for about 20 years, the risk of pulmonary embolism was 6.49 times higher for people who spent 5 hours or more in front of the tube compared with people who watched TV less than 2.5 hours a day…

In reporting his findings…at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology, Toru Shirakawa said that the greatest risk was observed in people ages 40-59. In the overall population of 40-79 years, however, the risk still was 2.36 times greater for people watching TV for 5 hours or more…

Shirakawa told MedPage Today that people who watch a lot of television fall into the same category as the so-called ‘economy class syndrome’ in which people on long-haul flights who do not move around are at risk of clotting.

“The association between prolonged sitting and pulmonary embolism was first reported among air raid shelter users in London during World War II,” said Shirakawa. “Nowadays, a long haul flight in an economy class seat is a well known cause of pulmonary embolism that is called ‘economy class syndrome’.”

His study was the first attempt to prospectively assess a possible association between prolonged television watching and fatal pulmonary embolism…

Christi Deaton, PhD, RN…Professor of Clinical Nursing at the University of Cambridge, England, agreed that common methods of preventing clotting on airplanes – getting up frequently, keeping hydrated – would apply to people who watch a lot of television.

“That kind of immobility –watching television for long hours – is dangerous,” she told MedPage Today. “It is very consistent with data relating to airplane flights or just our sedentary lifestyles. We need to move around more.”

I agree. You should get up once in a while for another beer. Or a piece of cheese.

How much produce is tossed because it’s not pretty enough?

Nobody’s perfect. So why do we expect our fruit to be?

The old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” So why do we do it when it comes to food?

Have you ever noticed how nearly all the fruits and veggies you see in most grocery stores look kinda … perfect? It turns out that not all produce grows into perfect, uniformly shaped foodstuffs. In fact, a good chunk of produce might be considered downright ugly.

But you know what’s truly ugly? The huge amount of food that gets thrown out simply because grocery stores don’t think it looks good enough for us to buy…

Think about it: 30% to 40% of food is wasted (depending on whether you look at post-farmed or pre-farmed). One tomato packing house can fill dump trucks with 22,000 pounds of rejected tomatoes every 40 minutes. And a citrus-packer estimates that as much as 50% of the produce they handle is unmarketable but totally edible.

Estimates show that 1 in 7 Americans do not have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food…

Let’s be real. When it comes to nutrition, looks don’t really matter — it’s what’s on the inside that counts…

This concept is far from new. In 2013, a supermarket’s Inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign in France proved so successful that the availability of uglies for purchase quickly shot up throughout Europe.

Even before the Inglorious campaign I was part of earlier efforts to defeat marketing standards in Europe that made it illegal to distribute and sell unattractive fruit and veggies. Lobbyists from the largest supermarket chains worked with agribusiness growers who could afford to spoil and waste half of what they produced to offer only the “perfect” plum, the sexiest squash.

And the EU made anything else – not allowed.

Inglorious kicked things over the edge and made the difference. Let’s hope we can have as much success with campaigns like @uglyfruitsand veg.

End of label fables?

Sweet news from the FDA: The government agency is proposing that Nutrition Facts labels also include the “% Daily Value” for added sugar. In 2014, they proposed that Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods list the grams of added sugar in addition to the grams of total sugar, but now they’re taking things a step further.

The Daily Value, or DV, is the amount of an essential nutrient that meets the needs of most people. There are also DVs that indicate upper limits of stuff we shouldn’t get too much of, like sodium and saturated fat. The FDA is taking the recommendation of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) that added sugars not exceed 10% of total calories. Since the feds use a reference diet that contains 2,000 calories daily, that puts the DV for added sugar at about 200 calories, or 50 grams, maximum.

If the proposal goes through, the labels will list grams of added sugar and the %DV they provide per serving.

The reason nutritionists don’t like the current Nutrition Facts label is that it seems to confuse consumers by implying there might be added sugar when there isn’t. Look at a label now and you’ll see that it just lists “sugars” under the carbohydrate heading. That’s fine when the only sugar in a product is added sugar, as with soda and most hard candy. But things get more complicated when you look at foods like tomato sauce, pure fruit juice, or even plain milk and yogurt…

Check the labels on those foods and you’ll also find that they have “sugar,” but most of it is simple carbohydrates that are naturally present in the food — what’s generally regarded as “intrinsic” sugar. It’s also why many of your patients may want to know why the orange juice they buy has sugar in it. “It’s supposed to be 100% juice,” they’ll say.

It is, of course, but the label didn’t allow for distinguishing between intrinsic sugar and added sugar. If this proposal goes forward (and I cannot imagine it wouldn’t) then 100% juice will list the grams of total sugar and “0 grams” of added sugar.

Even whole fruit has intrinsic sugar (a reason it tastes good) but the labels on those packages of cut-up fresh fruit you buy still have to list just total sugar. The last thing we should want is a label that scares our patients away from eating whole fresh fruit…

Consumers have already cut their sugar intake during the past decade. Between 1999 and 2008 an analysis of government data on added sugar consumption showed we had decreased our average daily intake of added sugars by nearly 25% — from 100 grams daily to about 77 grams. That’s huge, and most of it was from decreased soda consumption (sugar from “energy drinks” was the only category where added sugar actually increased a bit).

Knocking out sugar-sweetened beverages from diets gets our patients half-way to a better diet because these drinks provide about half of Americans’ added sugar…

An informed consumer…says Dr. Keith Ayoob.

BTW – Acetaminophen toxic at lower levels than thought – Oh!

Researchers have found that far lower levels of acetaminophen can be toxic to humans than previously thought, shedding light on how people can easily overdose on the commonly used over-the-counter painkiller.

…Oren Shibolet, head of the liver unit at Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center said…”This new technology provides exceptional insight into drug toxicity, and could in fact transform current practice.”

Researchers grew liver organs less than a millimeter in diameter which can survive for about a month — normally, human cells cannot survive outside the body for more than a few days. Where this chip technology differs from some others, said Dr. Yaakov Nahmias, a professor at Hebrew University, is the inclusion of nanotechnology-based sensors within in the tissues.

“We realized that because we are building the organs ourselves, we are not limited to biology, and could introduce electronic and optical sensors to the tissue itself. Essentially we are building bionic organs on a chip,” said Nahmias. “Because we placed sensors inside the tissue, we could detect small and fast changes in cellular respiration that nobody else could.”

This allowed the researchers to make the discovery about much lower levels of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, being more toxic than had previously been thought. They were able to detect the drug interfering with cellular respiration, explaining what toxic levels of acetaminophen do to the liver.

One of the better unintended consequences. Research into methods which can replace animal testing of medicines – turns up a danger to human beings that has been long been suspected – and often dismissed.

Egg freezing as the latest choice in family planning

For decades, “family planning” was synonymous with contraception. The Guttmacher Institute — a prominent reproductive health think tank — stated that “controlling family timing and size can be a key to unlocking opportunities for economic success, education, and equality” for women. In fact, their most recent analysis concluded that effective contraception has contributed to increasing women’s earning power and narrowing the gender pay gap.

Whether for these reasons or not, studies have consistently demonstrated that many women are choosing to delay childbearing. The age of first birth for women in developed countries is now approaching 28 and the birth rate in the USA is at an all time low…it is important that more women become aware of the potential benefit of oocyte freezing. In a recent study called “Baby Budgeting,” one research group described this technique of freezing/storing eggs as a “technologic bridge” from a woman’s reproductive prime to her preferred conception age.

Today egg freezing has made it possible for women to truly “plan their family” by storing eggs for later use. The first successful pregnancy from frozen eggs was reported in 1986. But for decades the process remained very inefficient, requiring about 100 eggs for each successful pregnancy. Therefore, the procedure was considered experimental and primarily offered to women that were faced with chemotherapy, radiation, or other fertility-robbing treatments used to treat serious illnesses. But with the development of more effective techniques for freezing eggs; success rates in many centers using frozen eggs is nearly as good as it is with using fresh eggs.

As a result of this improvement in pregnancy rates, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine lifted the “experimental” label from egg freezing and began supporting its use for social (rather than medical) reasons

For practical reasons, the process of creating a fertility plan should involve consideration of a woman’s current age, how many children she would like to have, and her ovarian reserve. Existing guidelines suggest that if a woman is in good health, younger than 31 with a normal ovarian reserve, she should wait and reevaluate her situation every one to three years. At the other end of the spectrum, if a woman is more than 38, she should consult with a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist to discuss her options.

The wider the range of choices available to a woman, the better. This doesn’t mean choices get easier – but, the ability to choose, to decide when or whether she has a pregnancy, offers a broader look at the life she wants to build.

Americans are finally eating less – Phew!

After decades of worsening diets and sharp increases in obesity, Americans’ eating habits have begun changing for the better.

Calories consumed daily by the typical American adult, which peaked around 2003, are in the midst of their first sustained decline since federal statistics began to track the subject, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average American child takes in daily has fallen even more — by at least 9 percent.

The declines cut across most major demographic groups — including higher- and lower-income families, and blacks and whites — though they vary somewhat by group.

In the most striking shift, the amount of full-calorie soda drunk by the average American has dropped 25 percent since the late 1990s.

As calorie consumption has declined, obesity rates appear to have stopped rising for adults and school-aged children and have come down for the youngest children, suggesting the calorie reductions are making a difference.

The reversal appears to stem from people’s growing realization that they were harming their health by eating and drinking too much. The awareness began to build in the late 1990s, thanks to a burst of scientific research about the costs of obesity, and to public health campaigns in recent years.

The encouraging data does not mean an end to the obesity epidemic: More than a third of American adults are still considered obese, putting them at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Americans are still eating far too few fruits and vegetables and far too much junk food, even if they are eating somewhat less of it, experts say.

But the changes in eating habits suggest that what once seemed an inexorable decline in health may finally be changing course. Since the mid-1970s, when American eating habits began to rapidly change, calorie consumption had been on a near-steady incline.

RTFA for lots more: details, trend, suggestions, analyses, food for thought as well as the foodie in us all. Long, detailed, enjoyable chunk of information.

Of course, if the Koch Bros bought Kraft Foods – instead of Warren Buffett – you could be certain their lobbyists would have Congressional Republicans denying the existence of calories, declaiming any thought of Americans responsible for weight gain under any circumstances. The NRA would require members to increase their uptake of candy bars. Every family values hustle this side of Colorado Springs would add a cooking show to their TV lineup featuring coconut cream frosting on everything from hot dogs to your morning coffee.

Religions still try to impose ideology on employees — courts say NO!

Four Roman Catholic nonprofits in New York must allow employees access to contraception, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday, reversing a decision by a lower court that allowed the organizations to get around a requirement in the Affordable Care Act.

Six other circuit courts around the country deciding on similar arguments involving religious groups have come to similar conclusions, the unanimous three-judge panel noted in its decision, which was written by Judge Rosemary S. Pooler for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York…

Under the Affordable Care Act, religious nonprofits that object on religious grounds to providing contraception can opt out by completing a one-page form. Then, a third party, either an insurance company or a health insurance administrator, takes over providing and coordinating payments for the employees’ contraceptives.

The four New York groups — a Catholic high school in the Bronx and another on Staten Island, as well as two Catholic health care systems — argued that the opt-out sheet imposed a “substantial burden” on their religious freedom. Either they had to offer “access to products and services they find objectionable,” as Judge Pooler summarized it, or they faced high fines…

…Judge Pooler wrote that the opt-out form was, in fact, “a modicum of paperwork” that “relieves, rather than imposes, any substantial burden” on the plaintiffs’ religious freedom.

“Eligible organizations are provided the opportunity to freely express their religious objection to such coverage as well as to extricate themselves from its provision,” she wrote. “At the same time, insured individuals are not deprived of the benefits of contraceptive coverage.”

As an alternative to the opt-out form, which is sent to the federal Labor Department, religious groups may send a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services “detailing their religious objections in their own words,” and the government would then notify insurance administrators…

Brigitte Amiri, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief in the case, said: “It’s a huge victory for all the female employees who work at the organizations. The scorecard is really 7-0 in the Courts of Appeals on this issue.”

It’s also another victory for Americans who believe that our Constitution even in early days was a document that guaranteed freedom from religions interfering with civil rights, individually and collectively. Although a few generations of cowards and opportunist politicians in Congress and the White House have diminished the strength of those freedoms – obviously, there are individuals with integrity still within the judicial portion of our government.

Certainly, we run the continued risk of conservative ideologues – and demagogues – trying to defeat that protection through political maneuvering. Again, via Congress and the White House. As limited as we may be by the device of an institutionalized 2-party political system, the electoral college and state-based limitations on voting rights, we must utilize every avenue available to us to protect our rights.

Fortunately, my personal convictions do not include treating my right to vote as a religion. I need not and do not limit that activity to standards of purity. It’s as limited as so many aspects of our life by the choices we have available. That includes the limits of an ignorant, lazy-ass body politic.

Oral contraceptives prevented 400K endometrial cancers

Medium- to long-term use of oral contraceptives “confers long-term protection against endometrial cancer” that appears to last for 30 years or more, long after the use of contraception has stopped, authors of a meta-analysis asserted.

“The present results, taken together with what what is known about past patterns of use, suggest that in high-income countries oral contraceptives have, over the past 50 years (1965–2014), already prevented a total of about 400,000 endometrial cancers before the age of 75 years, including 200,000 in the past decade (2005–14),” according to members of the Collaborative Group on Epidemiological Studies on Endometrial Cancer…

Although the meta-analysis was based on association studies that, strictly speaking, cannot demonstrate a causative effect, the researchers argued that the strength and consistency of the associations warranted the conclusion that oral contraceptives protect against endometrial cancer.

On the other hand, they acknowledged that the mechanisms of such a protective effect — especially one lasting long after use of the agents had stopped — remained unknown…

In the study, individual participant datasets were provided for 27,276 women with endometrial cancer and 115,743 controls without endometrial cancer from 36 epidemiological studies…

A diagram summarizing results of the individual studies showed that every one of them had found a trend toward lower rates of endometrial cancer in ever-users of oral contraceptives, although in many cases the trend was not statistically significant.

But in the meta-analysis the association was highly significant: every 5 years of use was associated with a risk ratio of 0.76 (95% CI 0.73-0.78; P<0.0001).

The magnitude of this proportional reduction is similar to that seen for ovarian cancer, the study team pointed out, and continued to be seen in middle-aged participants who had stopped using oral contraceptives decades earlier…

Although the oral contraceptives of the 1960s would generally have contained much higher doses of estrogen that those in the 1980s, there was no apparent decrease between them in terms of the relative risk associated with a given duration of use, the authors indicated. “These results show that the amount of estrogen in the lower-dose pills is still sufficient to reduce the incidence of endometrial cancer“…

Although oral contraceptives are known to reduce the incidence rate of endometrial cancer, until now it was not known with certainty how long this effect lasts after use ceases. Similarly, it has not been clear whether or not this is modified by other factors.

Obviously, discovering the mechanism of this unintended consequence is going to prompt more and deeper investigation. Quantifying a benefit which already entered the consciousness of many physicians carries an important message throughout the whole class of women in societies with ready access to contraception.

Yes, computational analysis rocks!

Bees naturally vaccinate their babies

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don’t have a choice — they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee babies protection against disease…

“The process by which bees transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it’s as simple as eating,” said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. “Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off.”

Co-author Dalial Freitak, a postdoctoral researcher with University of Helsinki adds: “I have been working on bee immune priming since the start of my doctoral studies. Now almost 10 years later, I feel like I’ve solved an important part of the puzzle. It’s a wonderful and very rewarding feeling!”

In a honey bee colony, the queen rarely leaves the nest, so worker bees must bring food to her. Forager bees can pick up pathogens in the environment while gathering pollen and nectar. Back in the hive, worker bees use this same pollen to create “royal jelly” — a food made just for the queen that incidentally contains bacteria from the outside environment.

After eating these bacteria, the pathogens are digested in the gut and transferred to the body cavity; there they are stored in the queen’s “fat body” — an organ similar to a liver. Pieces of the bacteria are then bound to vitellogenin — a protein — and carried via blood to the developing eggs. Because of this, bee babies are “vaccinated” and their immune systems better prepared to fight diseases found in their environment once they are born.

Vitellogenin is the carrier of these immune-priming signals, something researchers did not know until now…

While bees vaccinate their babies against some diseases, many pathogens are deadly and the insects are unable to fight them.

But now that Amdam and Freitak understand how bees vaccinate their babies, this opens the door to creating the first edible and natural vaccine for insects…

All egg-laying species have vitellogenin

This discovery could have far-reaching benefits for other species, as well as substantial, positive impacts on food production. All egg-laying species, including fish, poultry, reptiles, amphibians and insects, have vitellogenin in their bodies.

The food industry could implement the use of natural vaccines that would not only be inexpensive to produce, they could easily be used in developing countries.

“Because this vaccination process is naturally occurring, this process would be cheap and ultimately simple to implement. It has the potential to both improve and secure food production for humans,” said Amdam.

Then, someone will want a law passed requiring special labels on food produced with the aid of vaccinated insects.

Eat that hot stuff — live longer!


Spicy chicken curryFotolia

Regular consumption of spicy foods linked to lower risk of early death: Data suggest most benefit from eating spices regularly throughout the week…

Previous research has suggested that beneficial effects of spices and their bioactive ingredient, capsaicin, include anti-obesity, antioxidant, anti-inflammation and anticancer properties.

So an international team led by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences examined the association between consumption of spicy foods as part of a daily diet and the total risk and causes of death.

They undertook a prospective study of 487,375 participants, aged 30-79 years, from the China Kadoorie Biobank. Participants were enrolled between 2004-2008 and followed up for morbidities and mortality.

All participants completed a questionnaire about their general health, physical measurements, and consumption of spicy foods, and red meat, vegetable and alcohol.

Participants with a history of cancer, heart disease, and stroke were excluded from the study, and factors such as age, marital status, level of education, and physical activity were accounted for…

Compared with participants who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods 1 or 2 days a week were at a 10% reduced risk of death (hazard ratios for death was 0.90). And those who ate spicy foods 3 to 5 and 6 or 7 days a week were at a 14% reduced risk of death (hazard ratios for death 0.86, and 0.86 respectively).*

In other words, participants who ate spicy foods almost every day had a relative 14% lower risk of death compared to those who consumed spicy foods less than once a week.

The association was similar in both men and women, and was stronger in those who did not consume alcohol.

Frequent consumption of spicy foods was also linked to a lower risk of death from cancer, and ischaemic heart and respiratory system diseases, and this was more evident in women than men.

Fresh and dried chilli peppers were the most commonly used spices in those who reported eating spicy foods weekly, and further analysis showed those who consumed fresh chilli tended to have a lower risk of death from cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and diabetes.

Of course, the first [small] point of correction/disagreement is spelling. In New Mexico, the word is “chile”. Aside from that, as a science geek, I understand more study is needed before correlation becomes causation. Still I’m pretty happy that one of the main condimentos in my version of Mediterranean cuisine stretches East to Vietnamese-style garlic-chile sauce. My fave being Tuong Ot Toi Viet Nam from Huy Fong Foods.


The big jar is the 8.5 lb. size — woo-hoo!