Category: Health

Tobacco users increase their own marginalization in society

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research shows a new dimension to the marginalization of smokers: people who smoke are less likely to vote than their non-smoking peers.

“On one hand, the result is intuitive. We know from previous research that smokers are an increasingly marginalized population, involved in fewer organizations and activities and with less interpersonal trust than nonsmokers. But what our research suggests is that this marginalization may also extend beyond the interpersonal level to attitudes toward political systems and institutions,” says Karen Albright, PhD…Colorado School of Public Health…

The data comes from the Colorado Tobacco Attitudes and Behaviors Study (C-TABS), a questionnaire administered by Arnold Levinson, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center, director of the University Health Smoking Cessation Program, and the paper’s senior author.

Through random digit dialing, the study reached 11,626 people who completed a telephone survey querying a range of demographic, social, and behavioral factors. Questions included smoking behaviors and whether the respondent had voted in a recent election. Overall, 17 percent of respondents were smokers. Holding all other variables constant (included variables of socioeconomic status that were strongly associated with smoking), daily smokers were 60 percent less likely to vote than nonsmokers.

The study is the first to link a health-risk behavior with electoral participation, building on the work of a previous Swedish study that found an association between smoking and political mistrust. Voting is a direct behavioral measure of civic and political engagement that at least partly reflects trust in formal political institutions.

Albright points out that, like many studies that use statistics to describe the behaviors of a population, the current study creates as many questions as it answers, most notably why smokers are less likely to vote. One possibility is that smokers may view political institutions as oppressors, given widespread enactment of tobacco taxes and clean indoor air laws. Somewhat similarly, the stigma associated with smoking may create social withdrawal or feelings of depression or fatalism among smokers, which could decrease voting.

Or…given the key social question asked most often at this blog, “are they ignorant or stupid?” – the pretty generalized understanding of the dangers of smoking seems to indicate these people are stupid.

Do you risk Mad Cow Disease – from cutting the grass?

Grass plants can bind, uptake and transport infectious prions, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The research was published online in the latest issue of Cell Reports.

Prions are the protein-based infectious agents responsible for a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, which includes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in cattle, scrapie in sheep, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer, elk and moose. All are fatal brain diseases with incubation periods that last years.

CWD, first diagnosed in mule deer in Colorado in the late 1960s, has spread across the country into 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the counties of El Paso and Hudspeth in Texas. In northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, the disease is endemic. Soto’s team sought to find out why…

There is no proof of transmission from wild animals and plants to humans,” said lead author Claudio Soto, Ph.D., professor of neurology at UTHealth Medical School and director of the UTHealth George and Cynthia W. Mitchell Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Brain Related Illnesses. “But it’s a possibility that needs to be explored and people need to be aware of it. Prions have a long incubation period.”

RTFA. It’s a serious study and should be treated as such.

OTOH, any excuse to get out of cutting the grass is OK with me.

A consensus on coffee’s benefits

Coffee has long had a reputation as being unhealthy. But in almost every single respect that reputation is backward. The potential health benefits are surprisingly large…

Just last year, a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies looking at long-term consumption of coffee and the risk of cardiovascular disease was published. The researchers found 36 studies involving more than 1,270,000 participants. The combined data showed that those who consumed a moderate amount of coffee, about three to five cups a day, were at the lowest risk for problems. Those who consumed five or more cups a day had no higher risk than those who consumed none.

Of course, everything I’m saying here concerns coffee — black coffee. I am not talking about the mostly milk and sugar coffee-based beverages that lots of people consume. These could include, but aren’t limited to, things like a McDonald’s large mocha (500 calories, 17 grams of fat, 72 grams of carbohydrates), a Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha (580 calories, 22 grams of fat, 79 grams of carbs), and a Large Dunkin’ Donuts frozen caramel coffee Coolatta (670 calories, 8 grams of fat, 144 grams of carbs).

…Years earlier, a meta-analysis — a study of studies, in which data are pooled and analyzed together — was published looking at how coffee consumption might be associated with stroke. Eleven studies were found, including almost 480,000 participants. As with the prior studies, consumption of two to six cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of disease, compared with those who drank none. Another meta-analysis published a year later confirmed these findings.

Rounding out concerns about the effect of coffee on your heart, another meta-analysis examined how drinking coffee might be associated with heart failure. Again, moderate consumption was associated with a lower risk, with the lowest risk among those who consumed four servings a day. Consumption had to get up to about 10 cups a day before any bad associations were seen.

No one is suggesting you drink more coffee for your health. But drinking moderate amounts of coffee is linked to lower rates of pretty much all cardiovascular disease, contrary to what many might have heard about the dangers of coffee or caffeine. Even consumers on the very high end of the spectrum appear to have minimal, if any, ill effects.

But let’s not cherry-pick. There are outcomes outside of heart health that matter. Many believe that coffee might be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Certainly, individual studies have found that to be the case, and these are sometimes highlighted by the news media. But in the aggregate, most of these negative outcomes disappear.

Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. He blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist. He carries forward from this point in his article to broaden his search for understanding of the effects of coffee drinking – usually in moderation – on your health.

I suggest you RTFA. It’s even written in human being-English.

How many swimming pools to hold all the excess fat in the United States?

How much energy is there in all the excess human fat in the USA?

This paper, about the amount of energy contained in fat people in the USA, can fuel a new level of contentiousness in the nation’s ongoing, highly opinionated debates about energy policy, and perhaps about other things.

“How much energy is locked in the USA? Alternative metrics…The authors, at Monash University in, Selangor, Malaysia and the Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam, Malaysia, report:

“Methods: Behavioural Risk Factors Surveillance System data were used to estimate the weight the US population needed to lose to achieve a BMI\25. The metrics for population level overweight were total weight, total volume, total energy, and energy value.

“Results: About 144 million people in the US need to lose 2.4 million metric tonnes. The volume of fat is 2.6 billion litres—1,038 Olympic size swimming pools. The energy in the fat would power 90,000 households for a year and is worth around 162 million dollars….

Thinking about this is challenging enough. Certainly the authors have derived a useful figure for American medicine to contemplate, both physiological and psychological.

Or just bloody depressing.

Thanks to improbable Research

Chemical companies force EPA into playing Toxic whack-a-mole!

In 1961, a DuPont toxicologist warned colleagues that exposure to their company’s increasingly popular Teflon chemicals enlarged the livers of rats and rabbits. Studies over the following decades found no safe level of exposure in animals and determined that humans, too, got sick when exposed to the chemicals — which were also seen to build up in the body and resist breakdown in the environment…

By the end of 2015, some of these most notorious polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, will be fully phased out of use in the U.S. But emerging in their place, warn environmental health experts, are another group of PFASs that share many of the same concerning characteristics.

“We know these substitutes are equally persistent. They don’t break down for geologic time,” said Arlene Blum, a chemist at the UC Berkeley and the executive director of the nonprofit Green Science Policy Institute.

…The journal Environmental Health Perspectives published a document known as the Madrid Statement, signed by more than 200 scientists from 38 countries. The statement highlights the potential harm of both old and new PFAS chemicals. You may know them best as the stuff that protects your carpet from stains, keeps your food from sticking to packaging or pans, repels rain from your coat and prevents mascara from running down your cheeks. If you got a pastry with your coffee this morning, a PFAS substance probably even lined the waxy paper it was served on…

In an editorial accompanying the statement, Linda Birnbaum, head of the national toxicology program for the Department of Health and Human Services, and Philippe Grandjean, chair of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark, cite the common industry practice of replacing phased-out chemicals with structurally similar ones, such as the recent swap of bisphenol S for bisphenol A. Other experts have pinned this pattern — what Blum has previously called “toxic whack-a-mole” — on the nation’s outdated toxic chemical legislation, which allows chemicals to remain innocent until proven guilty.

The Madrid Statement cites data that links exposures to PFASs with certain cancers, delayed puberty, decreased fertility, reduced immune response in children and elevated cholesterol, among other health problems. A Danish study published in April adds to the concerns, linking blood levels of PFASs, including the new short-chain versions, with up to a sixteenfold increase in the risk of miscarriage…

A decade ago, in 2005, the EPA assessed a $16.5 million fine, its largest ever, to DuPont, saying the company had withheld decades of information concerning the hazardous health effects of PFASs. That’s according to a helpful reminder from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group in a separate report also published on Friday. They note that internal documents revealed DuPont had long known the chemicals “caused cancer, had poisoned drinking water in the mid-Ohio River Valley and polluted the blood of people and animals worldwide.”…

In the end, none of the alternatives may end up quite as effective as today’s synthetics. But, as Blum noted, that might be good enough, at least in some cases.

And that’s a relevant point. This ain’t rocket science. If it were, some of this crap might be mission critical. Mostly, we’re discussing water repellent jackets and how to cook supper.

Truly dumb, truly serious, self-medication

Global police forces are working together to try to prevent the supply of so-called “diet pills” which can be deadly.

In April 21-year-old Eloise Aimee Parry, from Shrewsbury, died in hospital on 12 April after becoming unwell after she took a substance she had bought on the internet.

An inquest found that she had consumed four times the fatal amount of Dinitrophenol, known as DNP, which is a toxic pesticide…

The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has now raised an alert with forces in 190 countries…They declared an “imminent threat” to consumers of DNP, which has also been used in explosives…

Interpol said that some online distributors have tried to mask its supply from customs and police officers by labelling it as the yellow spice, turmeric.

A study last year warned the drug, sometimes used as a weight-loss or bodybuilding aid, could be linked to five more deaths in the UK between 2007 and 2013…It also warned that it could cause breathing difficulties, fast heart rates, fever, nausea and vomiting.

RTFA for anecdotal info. I realize there continues to be no patch for stupid. Still, people – do some research beyond reading reviews at the site trying to sell you self-medicating crap.

Sleazy hospital of the week


They haven’t a leg to stand on in their defense. Har!

A south Florida man is suing a hospital for emotional distress, saying his leg was amputated and thrown in the garbage with his name tag still on it.

John Timiriasieff, 56, had his right leg amputated below the knee in October at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables.

“Rather than properly disposing of the plaintiff’s limb as expected and as required by Florida law, Doctors Hospital threw the Plaintiff’s amputated limb into the garbage, with tags indicating it belonged to the Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit filed…in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

A month later, Timiriasieff said his family was contacted by homicide detectives investigating if he had been the victim of foul play…

Doctors Hospital Inc, part of the Baptist Health South Florida Inc, said it could not discuss the incident in detail because of patient privacy considerations…

Normally, amputated limbs are incinerated by hospitals, said Clay Roberts, a lawyer for Timiriasieff…

The leg was discovered at a waste management facility and reported to police.

The medical-industrial complex has attitudes as disgusting and anti-human as the military-industrial complex.

Does the risk of e-cigarettes exceed potential benefits? You betcha!

The use of e-cigarettes continues to dramatically increase, and the debate over their safety and appropriate use has heated up, in parallel. We as pulmonary clinicians are called upon to advise our patients and others about e-cigarettes, which presents challenges given the current limitations of the data upon which our advice should be based. What do we say?

At first glance the use of e-cigarettes appears to be an attractive option. Evaluation of the ingredients and particulates associated with e-cigarette vapors has demonstrated a substantial decrease in carcinogens compared with the traditional cigarette…E-cigarettes can deliver nicotine in a form that is familiar to the traditional smoker, yet lacks many of the harmful constituents of cigarette smoke. The optimist envisions a cohort of multi-pack year smokers switching to the e-cigarette with a resultant rapid decrease in risks of heart disease, chronic lung disease, and cancer. But is this optimism justified by empiric evidence of safety, and favorable data on patterns of use, or is this simply wishful thinking?…

Most defenders of e-cigarette use base their perspective on the concept of harm-reduction, and the assumption that the only users of e-cigarettes are or will be current tobacco smokers looking for a safer cigarette. One of the early concerns with the e-cigarette, however, was that it might introduce young, nontobacco users to nicotine addiction, and there is recent evidence to support the validity of that concern. A recent cross-sectional survey-based study reported on trends of e-cigarette use from 2010 through 2013. E-cigarette use increased dramatically over this interval. The highest prevalence of use was among very young adults, ages 18-25. A third of current e-cigarette users were nonsmokers and 1.4% were never-smokers…

The trend toward younger groups being aware of and using e-cigarettes is also on the rise. A survey of 4,780 middle school and high school students from Connecticut identified a high rate of awareness, as well current and lifetime use, of e-cigarettes among those students…Additionally, a study that sought to gauge “openness” to starting tobacco products identified the use of e-cigarettes as a significant factor in being likely to try tobacco products in the future…

What all of these studies tell us collectively is that the cohort of e-cigarette users is growing, young, and open to using both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products — not a group of seasoned smokers trying to quit or looking for an alternative to the traditional cigarette. The e-cigarette may well contribute to an overall increase in nicotine addiction.

E-cigarettes have not been marketed as cessation aids (as doing so would have implications for FDA regulation) but have been advocated for this purpose, and many smokers have purchased these products as a way to stop smoking. Despite anecdotal reports that suggest effectiveness, there is not good evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are superior to traditional, FDA-approved approaches to smoking cessation…

Multiple studies have reported on the toxicities that are associated with e-cigarette use. These studies have established that e-cigarettes are associated with increased nausea, vomiting, headache, choking, and upper airway irritation…One study demonstrated that after only 5 minutes of smoking an e-cigarette, subjects’ airway resistance significantly increased from baseline. In these same individuals exhaled FeNO was also decreased indicating that after only 5 minutes of exposure there was a significant change in the biologic function of the lung.

In other words, don’t believe the bullshit and quit smoking via reliable, proven means and methods. And don’t let your kids feed you a snowjob about e-cigarettes being a truly safe alternative to regular cigarettes. You lose. They lose.

My Apple Watch after 5 days! – Living with Usher Syndrome by Molly Watt

I don’t especially do reviews of hardware or software. Folks who know me well know I spent 22 years in the IBM/Microsoft environment and then walked away [happily] into the Apple world in 2005 with the advent of the Mac Mini. As Steve Jobs expected, many folks like me became a switcher.

This blog post from Molly Watt was suggested by my friend Om Malik and deserves attention because of Molly’s special needs – and uses of the Apple watch. Interesting, useful, a worthwhile read.

Having known about the Apple Watch for some time and knowing lots of my friends were planning to buy one, I was sceptical as my needs are quite different to that of those of the sighted and hearing.

I have to rely on specific accessible features.

However, I was curious as Apple products have been more than just up market gadgets to me, they really have been my access to the many things most take for granted but that those of us with deafblindness, particularly struggle with.

I was born deaf and registered blind when I was 14. The condition I have is Usher Syndrome Type 2a. I am severely deaf and have only a very small tunnel of vision in my right eye now so I was concerned not just about the face size but how busy it would appear to me and also if there would be an uncomfortable glare…

I should explain that I wear two digital hearing aids and communicate orally – not everybody with usher syndrome communicates orally and there are not two people with the condition the same, but there are similarities.

I had been wearing a Bradley Timepiece since last summer and love both the retro look and the practicality of a completely tactile watch brilliant and stylish, quite a rarity when it comes to anything designed specifically for people with disabilities.

I can read the time by touch completely independently with my Bradley and I still love it…

I decided to order the Apple Watch Sport 42mm (the bigger face size) with white strap so I’d not lose it quite so easily…

I was surprised to receive an email the day before launch date to say my Apple Watch had been dispatched and you guessed it “I was excited!”

I was delighted when the long white box arrived on Friday morning as I was heading into London that afternoon.

Please read on.