Nuts and berries clean up the aging brain

August 31, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING

In Germany, there is a snack called “Studentenfutter” which can be translated into English as “students’ food”. It simply consists of different nuts, raisins and other dried fruit. There are lots of explanation as to how the snack got its name. One is that it is cheap and therefore a favourite among students on a tight budget. Another is that it is a very handy snack – packed in a little plastic bag that can fit in pockets of jeans and jackets– and is therefore ideal for on-the-go students. My favourite explanation, however, is that the snack gives the much needed extra brain power for students during the exams period.

Recent evidence from research studies indicates that there is some truth to the 3rd explanation. It seems that certain compounds found in nuts and berries may have positive effects on the brain. These compounds supposedly “activate the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism that cleans up and recycles toxic proteins.” The result is the slowing down of memory loss and mental decline that comes with aging.

According to Dr. Shibu Poulose, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (source WebMD):

“The good news is that natural compounds called polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables and nuts have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect that may protect against age-associated decline.”

In aging brain tissue, waste products accumulate with time. Due to this build up, the brain cells that are supposed to clean up the waste become overactivated and can cause damage to healthy cells. The polyphenols in the berries, however, come to the rescue and restore normal cleaning up function. Poulose and his team of researchers demonstrated this in a study using mouse brain tissue.

Among the berries, blueberries, strawberries and acai berries are especially rich in polyphenols whereas walnuts are the champions among nuts. This is rather timely considering that it is the season for berries and nuts. The berries season is about to end and the nuts are about to fall.

However, polyphenols can also be found in other fruits and vegetables, especially those with deep red, orange, or blue pigments. Thus, even when the berries go out of season, we still have tomatoes to supply us with polyphenols the whole year round.

As to walnuts, the shelled nut closely resembles the brain, doesn’t it? At any rate, each time I see a walnut, I would remember that this nut is a good brain food and pop it into my mouth. Walnuts keep longer than berries and are available always in the supermarket.

So next time you find yourself forgetting something, maybe your brain just needs some cleaning up. And you know just what foods to eat to get the job done right.

Photo credit: wikicommons

Are there carcinogens in your salami?

August 31, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Nitrates and nitrites have been used for years as preservatives and flavouring for processed meat such as hotdogs, salami and other sausages. But a recent study gives some indications that these food grade chemicals may be partly responsible for increased risk for bladder cancer.

In the US, about 70,000 cases of the cancer of the urinary bladder are diagnosed each year. The most common symptom of the disease is hematuria (blood in the urine), sometimes accompanied by stress incontinence (urine leakage during physical exertion and coughing). However, rare cases of bladder cancer have been diagnosed despite the absence of blood in the urine.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland looked at 300,933 people from all over the US as part of a study that began in 1995. The study participants were followed up for 7 years and within this period, 854 were diagnosed with bladder cancer, an incidence of 0.3%. This may seem low but estimates indicate that longer follow-ups would witness a rise in incidence, with 2% of the population expected to develop bladder cancer in their lifetime.

The incidence of bladder cancer was linked to eating processed meat, with those ranked in the top 5th in terms of processed red meat consumption having a 30% increased risk for bladder cancer than those in the bottom 5th of the of the consumption rankings. But it is not only the processed meat but other food stuffs containing the additives nitrites and nitrates that are linked to bladder cancer risk.

Previous reports have linked processed meat consumption to gastrointestinal cancers. But how do nitrates and nitrites get into the urinary bladder to cause cancer? According to a Reuters report:

“During the cooking process, nitrites and nitrates combine with other chemicals that are naturally present in meat to form potentially cancer-causing N-nitroso compounds [heterocyclic amines or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons], which may then be excreted through the urinary tract where they can contact the lining of the bladder.”

But take note that it is not only these food additives that can increase your risk. There are other carcinogens in our environment as well that may have an additive impact. Besides, red meat processed or not, is linked to a lot of health problems, from cancer to cardiovascular disorders. According to a 2007 World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research report, we should “limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meat (ham, bacon, salami).”

Do contact lenses cause eye ulcers?

August 30, 2010 by  
Filed under VISION

I used to wear contact lenses but when I had my kids, it became too tedious to care for the lenses. I used to eyeglasses instead. They may not make me look great or fashionable but I find eyeglasses more practical. Little did I know that the decision to switch from contacts to eyeglasses may have some additional benefits.

The incidence of corneal ulcers may be more than previously thought – up to twice the previous estimates, according to a recent study. Cornea is the transparent white layer covering the front of the eye. Ulcers of the cornea can develop by viral or bacterial infections. It can start as a minor injury such as a small scratch on the cornea that can develop into open infected painful sores. In severe cases, the ulcers can lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss. The researchers attribute the increase in corneal ulcers to increased use of contact lenses.

According to researcher Dr. David Gritz of Montefiore Medical Center in New York:

“As new contact lens innovations become available, and people hear that they can wear these contact lenses for weeks or a month without taking them off, they do just that. They don’t realize the dramatic increase in risk it causes them. Our eyes do need breaks from contact lens wear.”

The research study looked at 1,093,210 patients treated in the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Health Care Program. Data on corneal ulcers, contact lens use, eye trauma or disease, and HIV status were collected. About 0.03% of these patients developed ulcers of the cornea during a 1-year period and more than half of these were contact lens users. The likelihood for corneal ulcers among those who use contact lenses is 9 times higher than those of non-users. Those who are HIV-positive have also a similar elevated risk. Young women seem to be especially susceptible to corneal ulcer – with double the risk compared to their male counterparts of similar age. The reason might be due to common use of cosmetic contact lenses by these women.

The fact that contact lenses are available over-the-counter or on the internet exacerbates the problem according to the researchers.

“People need to get properly fitted for contact lenses, and seek follow-up care by an eye care professional. Contact lenses can even act as a bandage over eye irritation, covering up symptoms. So people need to listen to what their eyes are telling them, and always have a good pair of glasses available as an alternative.”

Your caffeine fix does not hurt your heart (at least for ladies)

August 30, 2010 by  

Over the years, we have attributed our successes and failures partly to caffeine. The energy, the adrenalin and the high that we need to do a great job, sail through that tough exam, or drive hundreds of kilometers non-stop, we owe to it caffeine. But we also blame caffeine for the sleeplessness, the nervousness and the tremors, and the heart palpitations.

Over the years, there have been lots and lots of research about the effect of caffeine on our health. Check out the post Coffee: a health drink or an addictive brew?

A recent study by Swiss researchers based a large group of women who were participants in the Women’s Health Study. The study followed-up more than 30,000 middle-aged women for about 14 years. These women were initially healthy and had no heart problems or any other serious health issues. The participants were monitored for a median of 14.4 years in terms of health as well as their daily caffeine consumption.

The results of the study indicate that caffeine is not to blame for atrial fibrillation, a heart problem due to disruption in the rhythm of the heart beat. According to lead author Dr David Conen of the University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland:

“Increased caffeine consumption is not associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in our population, and this confirms one of the few prior prospective studies on this issue, a Danish study that showed very similar findings.”

The researchers also the report the following as the most common sources of caffeine:

  • 81% coffee
  • 10% tea
  • 7% cola

with the assumption that there are:

  • 137 mg caffeine in a cup of coffee
  • 47 mg caffeine in a cup of tea
  • 46 mg caffeine in a can or bottle of cola
  • 7 mg caffeine per serving of chocolate candy

There is no information about caffeinate energy drinks but this might be because these drinks are basically commonly consumed by a sector of the population younger than the study participants.

This has been the biggest study so far to look at the health effects of caffeine.

“We can now say that there is definitely no large study out there showing that average long-term consumption of caffeine is associated with atrial fibrillation. I think when you drink moderate amounts, or even high amounts, of caffeine on a regular, stable basis, you can be reassured knowing that there is not an association with the arrhythmia.”

This is indeed good news for coffee lovers who need their daily caffeine fix in order to stay awake during the day. As to the claims that caffeine has actually a protective effect, the authors state this needs to be confirmed by other studies. And what about “binge” caffeine drinking via energy drinks reported in young people to enhance performance? The study only considered the habitual caffeine consumption of people e.g. average daily consumption and did not cover consumption of unusually large amount of caffeine in a short period of time.

Young Buddies: Teaching Peer Support Skills To Children Aged 6 To 11 (

August 29, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Young Buddies: Teaching Peer Support Skills To Children Aged 6 To 11 (

It’s New – The Battling For Health Community

August 27, 2010 by  

Curious? click the “COMMUNITY” button on the top navigation!


Cancer in the headlines, August 27

August 27, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Michael Douglas, Smoking and Throat Cancer
Cancer does not recognize demographic boundaries. It gets everybody, even the rich and the famous. 65-year old Hollywood legend Michael Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer recently. A tumor was detected in his throat and he will undergo aggressive radiation and chemotherapy that will last for about 8 weeks. There are speculations as to the stage of Douglas’ cancer but experts speculate it would be rather advanced – Stage III or IV. It is mostly that his lifestyle – 20 years of heavy smoking and alcohol abuse – is most likely to blame for his cancer.

In an interview in “Good Morning America”, Dr. Kenneth Hu, co-director of the Head and Neck Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York stated:

“That combination is, unfortunately, a recipe for development of a throat cancer. I think the fact that he’s getting radiation means it’s curable.”

However, he has to initiate a complete lifestyle change for the recovery to proceed.

Beauty and the Cancer Beast
Another celebrity who faces the monster cancer speaks out. Patti Hansen, supermodel and wife of Keith Richards, the guitarist of Rolling Stones was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2007. The 54-year old opened up about her disease in the August issue of Vogue magazine. Hansen underwent surgery to remove her bladder, uterus and appendix at the New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering. She underwent several cycles of chemotherapy.

The chemo is really horrible. I don’t know how people get through it. I have friends who are on that wicked stuff for life. It’s so debilitating, so depressing. The first shot just totally ruined my arm. You have to go get yourself plugged in every week, and you sit there and you think, My God, I take such good care of myself.  I’m so organic. I can’t believe I’m putting this poison in me.  But it shrank the tumor.”

Hansen is now cancer-free.

A new ground zero for prostate cancer
Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have identified a “somewhat overlooked” type of prostate basal cell that is actually the “ground zero” of malignant tumors. According to HHMI researcher Dr. Owen N. Witte:

“We’ve defined one cell type as an originator of prostate cancer. Now we can use that knowledge to find genetic pathways that can be attacked therapeutically to control the disease.”

There are 2 types of prostate cells- the luminal cells and the basal cells. Previous research have concentrated on the luminal cells which coat the inner layer of the prostate tubules. However, the new evidence it is the basal cells which are lining the outer layer that get damaged genetically and turn cancerous.

Obesity updates: mostly bad news for anti-obesity drugs

August 27, 2010 by  
Filed under OBESITY

Today, I am bringing you the latest research updates on drugs for obesity. Unfortunately, it is not all good news.

New research finds no evidence that popular slimming supplements facilitate weight loss
German researchers who evaluated the effectiveness of a broad selection of popular slimming supplements arrived at the disappointing conclusion that none of them helps with losing weight any more than placebo. They presented their results at the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm, Sweden last month.

According to study leader Dr. Thomas Ellrott, head of the Institute for Nutrition and Psychology at the University of Göttingen Medical School, Germany:

“There are scores of slimming supplements out there claiming weight-loss effects through all sorts of mechanisms of action. We have so-called fat magnets, mobilizers and dissolvers, as well as appetite tamers, metabolism boosters, carb blockers and so on. The market for these is huge, but unlike for regulated drugs, effectiveness does not have to be proven for these to be sold. Few of these supplements have been submitted to clinical trials and the landscape of products is always changing, so we need to put them through rigorous scientific evaluation to determine whether they have any benefit.”

Anti-obesity drugs unlikely to provide lasting benefit according to scientists
Even clinically tested drugs prescribed for obesity cannot provide long-lasting benefits for those with weight problems, according to British scientists. These drugs “fail to provide lasting benefits for health and wellbeing because they tackle the biological consequences of obesity, and not the important psychological causes of overconsumption and weight gain.”

Rise in weight-loss drugs prescribed to combat childhood obesity
The number of young people prescribed anti-obesity drugs has increased 15-fold since 1999, according to a 2009 report. Most of these drugs have not been approved for use in patients under 18, yet are commonly prescribed “off-licence”, according to a British study. Most of these young people, however, stop taking the medications before effects can be measured.

According to study author Dr. Russel Viner of General and Adolescent Paediatrics Unit at University College London:

‘It’s possible that the drugs are being given inappropriately, or that they have excessive side effects that make young people discontinue their use. On the other hand they could be expecting the drugs to deliver a miracle ‘quick fix’ and stop using them when sudden, rapid weight loss does not occur.”

Experimental obesity drug avoids brain effects that troubled predecessors
On a more positive note, Danish researchers report about a promising new obesity drug that seems to have less psychological effects. The anti-obesity drug rimonabant was withdrawn from the market due to strong psychiatric effects that may have been linked to suicide. The new drug is a CB1 receptor blocker like rimonabant but of the second generation and was designed to target peripheral tissues only and thus does not affect the brain. So far, the drug has only been tested in animals but the results show a lot of promise.

Introduction to the Characterization of Residual Stress by Neutron Dif

August 26, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Over the past 25 years the field of neutron diffraction for residual stress characterization has grown tremendously, and has matured from the stage of trial demonstrations to provide a practical tool with widespread applications in materials science and engineering. While the literature on the subject has grown commensurately, it has also remained fragmented and scattered across various journals and conference proceedings. For the first time, this volume presents a comprehensive introduction to stress measurement using neutron diffraction. It discusses all aspects of the technique, from the basic physics, the different neutron sources and instrumentation, to the various strategies for lattice strain measurement and data interpretation. These are illustrated by practical examples. This book represents a coherent unified treatment of the subject, written by well-known experts. It will prepare students, engineers, and other newcomers for their first neutron diffraction experiments and provide experts with a definitive reference work.

Looking forward to old age

August 26, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING

Is there something positive about aging? We have previously tackled the topic of aging being considered a disease to be dreaded that needs treatment. In our current society, youth is revered and staying young as long as possible is the goal of many. But there are some upsides to being old. According to Stanford University researcher Laura Carstensen, there are so many things that older people can do better. They may not be up to running a marathon or taking on the catwalk but they are much, much better in “regulating their feelings and working on their social relationships” than the younger generation. This is despite age-related lapses like mild memory loss and cognitive impairment.

“It seems that wisdom, or being able to solve practical problems of everyday living, improves. So a lot of what we think of as being smart in life involve processes that get better with age, not worse.”

says Dr. Carstensen in a lecture at the National Institutes of Health.

In fact, the escapades and tragedies of young celebrities (Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Murphy, and Tiger Woods) may occupy the headlines but there are those who have survived and transcended the wildness of their youth to become wise. Sir Sean Connery turned 80 this week and Clint Eastwood is still directing The wild rockers of the 60s have mellowed down but still jamming and rocking in their 60s and 70s are Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Mick Jagger and their fans of similar age still rave about them (see NYT article Turn 70. Act Your Grandchild’s Age). But are these guys the exception rather than the rule?

“[The 80s is] …now seen as an active time of life: you’re just past retirement, that’s your time to explore and play mentally”

Experts are concerned that these stories of still active and kicking septuagenarians may give a false picture of old age. They say there the risk “that in celebrating the remarkable stories, we make those not playing Radio City, and certainly those suffering the diseases that often accompany old age, feel inadequate.”

Mindset is important in aging.

One mindset, according to Anne Basting, the director of the Center on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee:

“[The 80s is] …now seen as an active time of life: you’re just past retirement, that’s your time to explore and play mentally

The flipside is, according to S. Jay Olshansky, a demographer at the University of Illinois at Chicago:

“There will be an increase in frailty and disability because people are living longer…[ increased risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s] “is going to be the price they pay for extended longevity.”

Your choice?

I’d say, let us be pragmatic and take all these with a grain of salt. I remember a couple of years back when England’s queen mother turned 100, my husband’s grandma commented: “If she had cleaned all the windows in her house all by herself, she wouldn’t have lived this long.” Well, our beloved grandma will be celebrating her 90th birthday in a couple of weeks and she is still cleaning her windows all by herself.

Check your child’s BMI!

August 26, 2010 by  
Filed under OBESITY

Have you ever calculated your child’s body mass index (BMI)? I mean, we do check our children’s weight from time to time – that is what the bathroom scales are for. We also measure their heights regularly – look at those markings on the wall.  We need to in order to buy the the right clothes size. Right from the start, my husband had an Excel sheet where he entered our kids’ measurements and can even generate graphs with the data. But BMI? Well, BMI is calculated from the weight and height data. Simply divide the body weight by the square of height. I know, it is not as easy as it looks. That is why I checked out on the Internet the sites that give the best tools for calculating BMI.

But wait, why do we have to check our children’s BMI?

Because studies have shown that parents tend to misjudge their children’s weight, thus, probably overlooking their children’s risk for obesity. What we might dismiss as “baby fat” are the beginnings of excess weight that might not be easy to shed off as time goes by. The thing that makes our cherubic baby so cute may be detrimental to his/her health.

So when do we start to closely monitor our children’s weight?

Right from the start! Okay, in the first months of a baby’s life, we regularly go to the paediatrician where we get introduced to the growth curves. But as our kids grow older, the visits to the doctor become less frequent and of course, we lose sight of the growth curve. So did I, despite the Excel sheet.

But why do we have to worry so early?

A recent report in the New York Times says:

But new research suggests that interventions aimed at school-aged children may be, if not too little, too late.

More and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life — during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the womb — that can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they’re in kindergarten. The evidence is not ironclad, but it suggests that prevention efforts should start very early.

How to I check?

Now back to BMI. Here are the sites I found most user-friendly and easy to use, yet give clear and reliable information. You see, it is not just the calculations but also the units of measure, the sex and the age of the child that should be taken into consideration.

The NHS healthy weight calculator can calculate BMI with English or metric units of measure and gives a nice graph that shows exactly where your BMI stand (underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese).

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH also has a tool for both units of measure.

Please check your child’s BMI. You might be surprised at the results. Or relieved!

The calculators are not only for kids. They are for everybody!

There are others out there. If you find one you like, please share it with us!

Are your calcium supplements actually useless?

August 25, 2010 by  

Many of us swallow vitamin supplement pills each day, including calcium for bone health. Clinical guidelines on osteoporosis recommend supplementation with calcium especially for those who are at high risk for bone loss and fractures.

But the truth is, the benefits of calcium supplements are rather unclear, not to mention contradictory. Previous studies have shown that:

  • Calcium can protect against vascular disease.
  • Calcium can cause vascular disease by hastening vascular calcification.

So what now?

A group of researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted a systematic search of electronic databases and conducted a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials of calcium supplements compared to placebo. The results of the meta-analysis might have answered the calcium supplement question once and for all and can be summarized below:

  • Calcium supplements were associated with a significant increase (about 30%) in incidence of heart attacks.
  • Calcium supplements were also associated with trend of increased risk of stroke and mortality, although the increase is much smaller and not statistically significant.

These findings were consistent in all 5 trials included in the analysis and the increase of MI risk due to the supplements also increased with higher dietary calcium intake. Age, gender and type of supplement did not influence the results.

What is even more disappointing is the finding that calcium supplements have very little benefits when it comes to preventing fractures.

How reliable are the current results?

Some experts speculate that misdiagnosis of heart burns caused by the supplements as cardiac chest pains may have given erroneous results. This is based on the fact that many of the heart attack reported occurred within an average of 3.6 years after calcium supplementation was started. However, calcification of the blood vessels should take longer than that.

In addition, the studies analyzed were only those that did not include vitamin supplementation. It is common clinical practice, however, that calcium and vitamin D supplements are coadministered for osteoporosis. It is not clear whether vitamin D, which supposedly has cardiovascular protective properties, combined with calcium would give the same results.

However, the majority of experts agree is the fact that calcium supplements do not seem to prevent fracture indicates it is practically useless to take them even if the supplements as such are safe and do not cause heart problems.

According to senior author Dr Ian R Reid:

“Clinicians should tell their patients that, for most older people, the risks of calcium supplements outweigh the benefits. Changing to calcium-rich foods may be appropriate.”

According to independent expert Dr John Schindler (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania:

“I think the safest thing to tell your patients right now is if you can get your dietary calcium from good dietary sources, such as yogurt, sardines, and skim milk, that potentially might be all you need to ward off the risk of osteoporosis. Then we don’t have to deal with this increased cardiovascular risk.”

Atrazine – the nasty stuff in your herbicide

August 25, 2010 by  

I have been lately struggling with our backyard, which although just a little bigger than a postage stamp, nevertheless is too much work, what with the dandelions, clovers and other weeds sprouting up all over. Add to this the fact the neighbors’ backyards, simply separated by low bushes, are neat and trim – weedless. My neighbor to the left was kind enough to give me a tip on how to fight the weeds – mainly of out fear that the undesirables make their way from my green to patch to hers – use herbicide. My first reaction was of course “No way will I use herbicides and other chemicals in my backyard!”. But then I realized the necessity (if only to avoid suburbia war) and so I decided to do some research on how to tackle the problem the safest and the most environmentally feasible way. I learned that there are organic alternatives to conventional herbicides, mainly consisting of biodegradable, naturally occurring compounds. I also learned that several compounds used in conventional herbicides are really nasty. And one of them is atrazine.

A recent study funded by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) investigated the effect of atrazine in animals. When pregnant rats were exposed to atrazine, the following were observed:

  • Atrazine causes prostate inflammation in young male rats
  • Atrazine-exposed young animals experienced delayed puberty that non-exposed animals.

What is concerning is the fact that the effects were observable even at low levels and increased with increasing doses of exposure.

Atrazine is a herbicide predominantly used to control weeds and grasses in crop plants such as corn and sugar cane. Atrazine may be good for the crops and food production but it is definitely not good for the environment and the people around. Long after the crops have been harvested, the herbicide and its byproducts persist in the environment and eventually find their way into the water supplies – and the water we drink.

We may not be aware of the exposure and its effects but it seems that, as the study suggests, exposure starts even at the womb and the tissues most especially targeted are the prostate and mammary (breast) tissues. The long-terms effects are not fully known but we can speculate about cancer and infertility.

It is not only atrazine that we should we should be wary of. Herbicides may contain other similar compounds belonging to the chlorotriazine family, such as propazine and simazine. And many more.

So next time you reach for that bottle of herbicide in your garden shed, read the label and what is written there. Watch out for the nasties.

The big egg recall: how to avoid salmonellosis

August 24, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

There is something foul in your egg (at least in the US) and it is called Salmonella. The current figures indicated that half a billion eggs – yes, that is 500 million have been recalled due to fears of salmonellosis.

But what is Salmonella and what can it do?

Salmonella is a bacterial genus that causes the food-borne illness called salmonellosis which has the following symptoms:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Abdominal pain due cramping
  • Fever (eventually typhoid fever)

Salmonellosis occurs when a person ingests Salmonella-contaminated food. The most common sources of Salmonella are raw eggs, raw meat, and fresh fruit vegetables and nuts.

There are strict regulations in farm operations to avoid Salmonella contamination and in the US, federal inspectors make sure that the regulations are observed.

The US FDA announced the outbreak of salmonellosis that resulted in the illness of more than 1000 people in the US. The pathogen has been identified as Salmonella enteritidis. The contaminated eggs have been traced to several Iowa chicken farms.

The recalled eggs were from the following companies (source US FDA):

  • Luberski Inc
  • Hillandale Farms of Iowa
  • Country Eggs, Inc.
  • Wright County Egg
  • NuCal Foods

The specific brands and instructions on how to identify the eggs being recalled from their packaging are given on the FDA site.

To reduce the risk for salmonellosis, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) gives the following advice:

Nature Talks Back: Pathways To Survival In The Nuclear Age

August 24, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Nature Talks Back: Pathways To Survival In The Nuclear Age

Love, obsession, and addiction: it’s all neurochemistry

August 24, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Everything may be explained by chemistry nowadays. Stress is due to cortisol. Intense spiritual experience is linked to low serotonin. Benevolence is linked to oxytocin. What about love? Researchers at the University of Toronto report that neurochemicals, too, are involved in emotions like attraction, love, and lovesickness. Professor Jose Lanca of the Department of Pharmacology explains:

“When we talk about love, there are different concepts involved, for example, romantic love versus maternal love. These are two completely different situations even from a biochemical point of view. However, there is something absolutely in common in both these situations. When someone is very much attached to another person, their feelings trigger motivation and positive feedback. All of this relates to the limbic system – the area of the brain that mediates our reward mechanisms. This system plays a key role in the mechanisms responsible for the survival of the individual – meaning the ‘fight or flight’ response – and preservation of the species – specifically reproduction. Its actions result from the interplay among various neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and neuropeptides such as oxytocin and opioids.”

In fact, love has some similarities to drug addiction. Addictive drugs also target dopamine but instead of releasing the neurochemical within normal levels, drugs overstimulate the limbic system leading to dopamine being released beyond normal limits. The result is dependences and addiction. In the same way, love can become addictive and turn into an unhealthy obsession. Obsession with somebody results in overstimulation, too much dopamine and ultimate dependence on that person. The film “Fatal Attraction” brings this to mind.

But how does love develop into obsession? Prof Lanca continues to explain:

“In science we have very good questions but not enough good answers. What we do know is that in the case of obsession there is a decrease in serotonin. This neurotransmitter can be regulated using medications, such as anti-depressants. However, overuse of anti-depressants can lead to higher tolerance and consequently the need for an increased dosage. If this becomes the case, anti-depressants can very easily become drugs of addiction.
In humans the complexity of love goes well beyond the simple limbic activity and involves cognitive and intense emotional behaviours. The diagnostic might be easy, but the treatment is ineffective. To quote one of my favourite poet songwriters, Leonard Cohen, “There is no cure for love.”

Alone and unaccounted: Japan’s missing centenarians

August 23, 2010 by  
Filed under AGING

Japan is supposedly the country with the highest number of centenarians and also with one of the highest life expectancy. The headlines below during the past decade attested to this.

Records show that one in every 3522 people in Japan was aged over 100 and this extraordinary longevity has been credit to healthy diet and lifestyle. 87% of the centenarians were women. The actual Japanese centenarian count last year was 40,399. Last month, Japan’s average life expectancy is a world-best 86.44 years for women, while men are fifth globally at 79.59 years.

The latest scandal about missing senior citizens and the possibility of large-scale pension fraud, however, may put the above mentioned figures in question.

It all started with the discovery of 30-year-old corpse of a man registered as aged 111. He has been receiving pension all this time. The incident opened a can of worms as more and more 100 plus years could not be found. As of August 13, 2010, almost 200 centenarians still on social benefits could not be located. This could just be the tip of an iceberg of pension fraud. However, these incidences also highlight some problems that are not unique to Japan.

More and more elderly people live alone and die alone. The old family tradition of older parents living with their children does not hold true anymore. According to an editorial in the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun:

“The families who are supposed to be closest to these elderly people don’t know where they are and, in many cases, have not even taken the trouble to ask the police to search for them. The situation shows the existence of lonely people who have no family to turn to and whose ties with those around them have been severed.”

There are disadvantages to too much respect for privacy. It seems that infringement on people’s privacy is a big issue in Japan, thus making it difficult to keep track or track down the missing centenarians unless family members declare them missing and ask the authorities for assistance. The authorities cannot do anything if the families refuse to cooperate.

There are loopholes in the social system. The social systems of developed countries spend a lot of money on health insurance and pension for the elderly. However, it is easy to exploit or even cheat the system. The Asahi editorial continues:

Unless death notifications are filed, payments usually do not stop. Even when the beneficiary is no longer present, families who manage an old person’s account could intentionally not file death notices so they can keep spending the pension…”

Our society is aging with low birth rate and like Japan, the social welfare system of most countries is not designed for this. The problems discussed here are just a few of what we are facing in the coming years.

Your choice: chocolate bar vs lycopene capsule for your BP

August 23, 2010 by  

What about a daily dose of chocolate for your hypertension? Sounds like a dream, right?

When I was growing up in a third world country, chocolates were only available as treats for special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays. As a child, I always dreamed of one day eating as much chocolate as I could. Decades later, I found myself living in a country famous for its chocolates – Belgium – and now in another country equally as famous for the same reason – Switzerland. Theoretically, I can now have all the chocolates I want. But you know what? Chocolate lost its appeal – not to mention mystic – as soon as I started seeing it every day.

In recent years, chocolate has reinvented itself from a high-sugar, high-fat, and high-calorie junk food to a healthy gourmet snack. The junk food versions are still around but there are now the dark (70% cacao or more) low-sugar types that even those with diabetes can enjoy. Studies have shown dark chocolate is beneficial to cardiovascular health especially in lowering blood pressure.

So you’d think it is a dream come true for those with hypertension to be prescribed with a daily portion of chocolate to keep their blood pressure under control. Well, an Australian study reported some surprising results. The study participants with prephypertension were assigned to take either a lycopene-rich tomato extract capsule or 50 g (about half a bar) of dark chocolate each day for hypertension for 12 weeks. Surprisingly enough, half of those assigned to eat chocolate found the treatment not so palatable. All participants found it easier to take the lycopene capsule each day than eat dark chocolate.

The authors speculate as to the reasons why and author Dr. Karin Ried of the University of Adelaide states:

there is a difference between “consuming a food item voluntarily or having to eat it on a daily basis for 12 weeks.”

…[the chocolate group] reported strong taste and concerns about fat/sugar content as reasons for unacceptability of chocolate as a long-term treatment option.”

The study results indicate a lack of preference for chocolate. On the other hand, is it really the chocolate itself that is not acceptable or is it the mode of delivery? What if the tomato extract were to be taken fresh each day (and not in a capsule)? Would the participants still prefer tomato juice to chocolate?

People always try to take the easy way and swallowing multivitamin pills and supplements each day are usually preferable to shopping, preparing and eating fresh produce. It is called convenience.

I am not saying that chocolate is the answer to your blood pressure problems. Despite the research studies on this topic, experts think that it is “too soon yet to advocate chocolate as a treatment for high BP.”

According to Dr Brent M Egan (Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston:

“Clearly more research is needed; we don’t think the state of the art is there yet. The number of studies is relatively small, few people have been studied, and the number of products that have been investigated is also too small to be making general health recommendations for the world.”

Allergy Cuisine: Step by Step

August 21, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Allergy Cuisine: Step by Step

Finding Time for the Old Stone Age: A History of Palaeolithic Archaeol

August 21, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Finding Time for the Old Stone Age explores a century of colorful debate over the age of our earliest ancestors. In the mid nineteenth century curious stone implements were found alongside the bones of extinct animals. Humans were evidently more ancient than had been supposed–but just how old were they? There were several clocks for Stone-Age (or Palaeolithic) time, and it would prove difficult to synchronize them. Conflicting timescales were drawn from the fields of geology, palaeontology, anthropology, and archaeology. Anne O’Connor draws on a wealth of lively, personal correspondence to explain the nature of these arguments. The trail leads from Britain to Continental Europe, Africa, and Asia, and extends beyond the world of professors, museum keepers, and officers of the Geological Survey: wine sellers, diamond merchants, papermakers, and clerks also proposed timescales for the Palaeolithic. This book brings their stories to light for the first time–stories that offer an intriguing insight into how knowledge was built up about the ancient British past.brAnne O’Connor was formerly a Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology, Durham

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