Category Archives: Health

The reason of brain cancer connection

There is no link between long-term use of cell phones and increased risk of brain tumors – at least according to research just published in the British journal BMJ. In what is being described as the “biggest ever” study on the subject, scientists in Denmark reviewed data on the entire Danish population age 30 and older and born in the country after 1925, which included nearly 360,000 cell phone users, over an 18-year period. After comparing rates of cancer of the brain and central nervous system between long-term cell phone users and non-users, they found no evidence of increased cancer risk, even among people who had been using their phones for more than 13 years.

The results are certainly reassuring, but are they right?

The Debate Over Cell Phones and Cancer

This new study is just the latest loop in the cell phone-cancer roller coaster: Previous research on the subject is extensive – and conflicting. In 2006, for example, Swedish scientists announced that an hour of daily cell phone use over the course of a decade could increase a person’s risk for developing brain cancer by as much as 240 percent. But earlier that same year, British researchers who collected data on cell phone users found no such link – to any type of cancer.

That’s just one example of the mixed messages we’re getting from cell phone-cancer research. In the last nine months alone, there have been at least five studies or reports related to the effects of cell radiation on brain tumor growth, each contradicting or complicating the results of a study that came before.

In February, British researchers at the University of Manchester released data that found that mobile phones were not likely to increase the risk of brain tumors, as there had been no significant change in the number of cancer cases diagnosed since cell phones were introduced. Four days later, scientists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that brain activity was higher in the areas closest to a phone’s antenna, although whether the effect was good or bad was unclear.

Then, in May, a World Health Organization (WHO) panel officially classified cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic” – the same category that includes the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust. That announcement was followed by a June report in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which suggested that people who used their phones often and for 10 years or more were at higher risk for developing gliomas (a type of brain tumor). But a month later, in July, Swiss researchers released results of a study that found that cell phone use did not pose a cancer threat to children, who are generally thought to be most at risk.

Confused? You’re not alone.

Cell Phones and Cancer: Should You Be Concerned?

The fact is, even experts can’t seem to come to any definitive conclusions. In each of the aforementioned studies, the authors noted that although their results were accurate, their conclusions were not likely to end the debate over whether cell phones cause brain tumors. In fact, the only thing everyone can agree on is that more research is needed. “[The results] must be put into the context of the 15 or so previous studies on mobile telephones and cancer,” Anders Alhbom, PhD, and Maria Feychting, PhD, MD, professors at the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Sweden, write in an accompanying editorial for the latest Danish study. “Evidence is reassuring, but continued monitoring of health registers is still warranted.”

“You have to look at a wide range of patients and people,” says Rahul Jandial, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif. “When you’re looking at statistics, you don’t always find conclusive results right away.” Complicating matters, he adds, is the fact that a lot of these studies are looking at different types of tumors (not just cancerous growths in the brain), so results are bound to be mixed. His personal belief, however, is that cell phones are safe – an idea which he says science seems increasingly to support.

Really Do Get People Salivating

Move over, gourmet meal. Apparently cold hard cash and a shiny new sports car are drool-worthy, too.

That’s the conclusion of new research that examined how people react when faced with the prospect of non-edible consumption.

The bottom-line: people salivate when they desire material objects, according to the study, published online recently in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“Merely being exposed to the concept of money has been shown to have dramatic effects on behavior, and it has even been argued that money can be conceptualized as a drug,” doing much the same thing as other stimulants in driving human behavior, noted study author David Gal of Northwestern University in a journal press release.

In fact, “in multiple languages, the terms hunger and salivation are used metaphorically to describe desire for non-food items,” he noted.

In the study, Gal first had study participants view photos of money while holding cotton dental rolls in their mouths. While gazing, some of the participants were instructed to “feel” powerful, while others were told to believe that they lacked power.

The result: by weighing the rolls to measure saliva Gal found that only those who perceived themselves as being in a low-power situation had a mouth-watering reaction to money.

“This suggests that people salivate to non-food items when those items are desired to fulfill a highly active goal,” he suggested.

Romance may be another prime motivator in drooling after expensive goods, the study found.

In a second experiment, Gal confronted a group of men with photos of high-end cars. However, before looking at the cars, some of the men were first shown photos of beautiful women and told to ponder one they would like to date. Others were simply told to think about getting a haircut.

Have a Lip Balm Addiction

lip balm is a fall and winter rite of passage with which many of us are all too familiar. With cold weather comes dry, chapped lips, making that little tube or pot a seasonal staple, whether it’s a newer brand or an old standby like ChapStick (invented in the 1880s) or Carmex (manufactured since 1936). In fact, in 2010, Americans spent about $417 million on lip care (including balms and cold-soreproducts), according to market research firm SymphonyIRI.

But could a lip balm addiction really be driving these blockbuster sales numbers? Many people swear they need to slather their lips with balm many times a day. Referring to themselves as lip balm addicts, these “junkies” gather on Facebook in groups with names like “I forgot my lip balm, my life is over!” There’s even a Web site devoted to helping people break their dependency on balm, called (what else?) LipBalmAnonymous.com. Started in 1995 by “Kevin C.,” a self-described “suffering ChapStick addict,” the site offers tongue-in-cheek information and guidance based on the classic 12-step model of addiction therapy. There’s even a self-evaluation with questions like “Do you feel depressed, guilty, or remorseful after you use lip balm?”

So what’s the real story about lip balm addiction? “The truth is that you cannot get addicted to lip balm in the same way you can get addicted to drugs like alcohol or nicotine,” says Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist and author of the book Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm?

There’s no denying, though, that people feel they can’t do without the stuff, and here’s why: Because your lips have no oil glands, they tend to dry out very easily. As a result, people slather on balm to relieve the dryness, which “makes them feel immediately better,” Romanowski says. But the balm can actually slow down your lips’ production of fresh new skin cells. “So when the lip balm wears off, as it inevitably does, your lips will feel more dry.”

What’s more, some common ingredients found in lip balms (like menthol and salicylic acid) may irritate your lips, leading you to re-apply in an attempt to soothe the irritation. Repeated often enough, this dryness-balm-more dryness cycle becomes a habit, which some describe as a psychological “addiction.” Romanowski notes, “It’s similar to someone biting their nails.”

But the conspiracy theories still linger. In fact, the rumors that lip balm manufacturers put certain ingredients in their wares in a sinister attempt to get people hooked are so pervasive that Carmex and ChapStick even address the issues on their official Web sites. Romanowski says there’s no truth to this, either. There are no physically addictive substances in balms. So if you think you’re addicted to lip balm, you’ve just got a bad habit.

If you want to wean yourself off lip balm, try these other tips from the American Academy of Dermatology to keep chapped, dry lips at bay this winter:

  • Use a humidifier to keep the air moist in your home.
  • Avoid licking your lips.
  • On cold, blustery winter days, cover your mouth with a scarf or face mask.

And if you’re not willing to part with your trusty ChapStick, don’t worry, says Romanowski: “Having a ‘lip balm addiction’ may be annoying, but it isn’t harmful.”

Catch Germs From a Public

There’s no denying that public bathrooms can be germ-ridden places. According to a study presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual meeting, scientists who studied samples taken from a variety of public restrooms found that the sheer number of illness-causing bacteria present was too big to measure in many cases. So it’s only natural to worry about what may be lurking on even the cleanest-looking toilet seats — forget about the ones that appear wet or dirty.

No wonder that 60 percent of Americans say they won’t sit down to use a public toilet, according to the Web site of Sani-Seat, a company that makes those nifty gizmos that automatically wrap the seat in a fresh plastic cover after each use.

But experts say our fear of sitting on the average toilet seat (one that isn’t visibly soiled) is overblown.

There’s no question that germs can inhabit the seat, says Philip Tierno, MD, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The bulk of the organisms found are basically fecal-borne bacteria.” These nasties can include E. coli (which can cause bloody diarrhea or abdominal cramps), streptococcus (the bug behind strep throat), or S. aureus (linked to serious skin problems or pneumonia).

But just because they’re on the seat doesn’t mean they’ll make you sick. That’s because your skin acts as a very effective barrier to keep germs out (unless you have an open wound or lesion on your behind).

What about the herpes virus, HIV, or other sexually transmitted diseases? These organisms don’t survive for long outside the human body, especially not on a cold, hard toilet seat. And to infect you, they need to enter either through an open cut or sore or via a mucous membrane (your mouth or rectum, for example), which wouldn’t normally come into contact with the seat. All this makes the odds of infection from just sitting down miniscule.

Are you safer if you use those paper seat protectors? Dr. Tierno isn’t a fan: “They’re too thin, they rip and fall apart.” If you want to use them, he says, you can double-fold them, or place double-folded toilet paper on the seat. The automatically replaced plastic covers are better, he says, but such barriers on the seat act more as psychological than physical protection.

Skip Black Friday Shopping

unduhan-15This year Black Friday is more than a one-day affair, thanks to a few choice retailers like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us, who are opening their doors late Thursday night.

While the temptation to wake up early, join the masses, and shop till you drop may be too hard to resist, skipping the madness may be better for you and your health. Here, the top reasons why you should forego Black Friday and take part in Buy Nothing Day. (It’s really a thing: The anti-consumerism day was started by artist Ted Dave and promoted by the not-for-profit AdBusters magazine.) Plus, some survival tips for those who just can’t. Stay. Away.

  1. Sleeplessness can cause reckless spending. Black Friday starts early, really early — and a 4 or 5 a.m. wakeup call means you’re probably getting far fewer than the recommended seven to nine hours of zzz’s. And while the effects of chronic sleep-skimping are well documented, even one night of too little sleep can throw off your brain.Pulling an all-nighter can cause short-term euphoria, which could lead to poor judgment, according to research from University of California, Berkeley, published in The Journal of Neuroscience. That’s not exactly great news given the fact you’ll be smack-dab in the middle of a shopping store, surrounded by deals that entice you and your wallet to make spontaneous purchases you may regret later. (Two deep fryers for the price of one? Yes, please! The complete DVD series of Grace Under Fire? Why not!)

    Missing sleep can decrease your ability to pay attention and react to signals, even leading to an increased risk of car accidents, says the National Sleep Foundation. You’re also more likely to be cranky and moody (not exactly embodying the holiday spirit).

  2. Shopping is stressful. While getting a head start on holiday shopping sounds like a good idea in theory, the stress of just fighting for a parking spot may be enough to impact your brain. Short bouts of stress can impair brain-cell communication in the learning and memory areas of the brain, a study in The Journal of Neuroscience found. That means you’re more likely to be forgetful (Where’d I park again?) and unable to retain new pieces of information (Did I already buy Uncle Allan a new tie?)

How to help the People of Somalia

In the midst of one of the most brutal civil conflicts the world has ever witnessed, the people of Somalia are starving. The worst drought in 60 years has decimated livestock and crops. More than 70 percent of the population is in crisis. More than 30 percent of the children are suffering from acute malnutrition. Those who can are fleeing the country, often walking hundreds of miles across the parched desert into Kenya and Ethiopia.

“To offer some perspective, the Kenyan refugee camps are located more than 50 miles from the Somalian border,” explains Ella Gudwin, vice president of emergency response for AmeriCares, one of the few relief organizations able to mobilize in the devastated region. “What breaks my heart are the not-uncommon stories of people leaving their dying children and elderly parents behind as they push forward in the crushing heat to save the rest of their families.”

In August, AmeriCares landed its first of several emergency aid air shipments to Mogadishu, the war-torn capital. These desperately needed airlifts are supplying nutritional supplements, basic medicines and medical supplies to the health clinics and mobile medical teams that have scrambled to treat the swelling refugee population in and around the capital. Your donation will help keep the food and medicine flowing to those who need them.

AmeriCares is unique in its ability to aid the Somali relief network. Hampered by ground violence, piracy and diplomatic red tape, the vast majority of non-governmental relief organizations have been limited in their efforts to deliver food and supplies. But thanks to a long-cultivated partnership network of established clinics and medical organizations, AmeriCares has been able to sidestep these obstacles and mobilize effectively.

Indeed, for the past three decades, AmeriCares has donated more than $11.5 million in aid to local partner organizations in Somalia, including more than $3 million in medicines, nutritional supplements and vitamins during the last major drought and food crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Follow-up shipments containing additional nutritional supplements, water purification kits and targeted medicines and supplies is already on track to depart within the next month.

Healthy trip advice

You’ve been looking forward to this vacation for months. You started packing weeks ago, spent days mapping out family activities, and arrived at the airport hours before departure. So now that you’re finally en route, why does it feel like you’ll never get there?

According to researchers (as well as frequent business travelers and wanderlusters), your reason for traveling doesn’t matter: The outward journey always seems to take longer than the trek back home.

What’s going on? A recent study from Tilburg University in the Netherlands found this “return trip effect” all boils down to our expectations. Before you head out on that initial voyage (Paris, here we come!), you tend to underestimate the time it will take, says researcher Niels van de Ven, PhD, an assistant professor of social psychology. Chalk it up to pre-trip excitement, but when you lowball your travel time, the journey ends up feeling a whole lot longer.

And it has an effect on the trip home, too. “Based on that feeling, the traveller expects the return journey to be long as well, and this then turns out to be shorter than expected,” van de Ven said in a press release. About 17 to 22 percent shorter, to be precise.

To determine this, the researchers tested a few different “return trip effect” theories. About 350 participants were questioned during a bus trip to a theme park, a bike trip, or while watching a video of someone riding a bike to and from a destination. In all scenarios, it was clear that the phenomenon existed — participants said that the initial trip felt longer than the return trip (even though the trips were of the same time and length). When the researchers dug deeper to understand why, signs pointed to this “violation of expectations.”

This research sheds new light on the phenomenon, which was previously thought to be related to route familiarity — a trip home would feel shorter because the course was better known and more predictable. But in this study, researchers found that the “return trip effect” persisted even when respondents took a different (but equal-length) path home.

Largely Rooted in the Genes

New research indicates that up to half of human intelligence can be explained by genetics, but this involves small contributions by many different genes and not one overarching “smart” gene.

“We found that approximately half of individual differences … in intelligence can be explained by genetics and across a great variety of genes,” said Peter Visscher, co-author of a paper appearing in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry. “[And] this is likely to be an underestimate because we could only detect variation that is correlated with common DNA markers.”

“There are huge numbers of genetic differences that make a difference to human intelligence,” added study co-author Dr. Ian Deary, a professor of differential psychology at University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “It’s like, along those huge stretches of DNA, there are many thousands of locations where there is a signal saying, ‘some genetic difference near me makes a small contribution to people’s thinking skills’.”

Scientists have known that intelligence (or lack thereof) tends to run in families but it hasn’t been clear how much of a role genetics plays. Nor has any single gene been strongly associated with “brains.”

These authors did a genome-wide analysis on 3,511 unrelated adults which involved scanning data on about 550,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.

According to the Human Genome Project, SNPs are one-letter changes in a DNA sequence and account for 90 percent of all genetic variations among humans.

After testing participants’ skill on two types of intelligence — knowledge and problem-solving — researchers determined that 40 percent to 50 percent of the variation came from differences in genetic differences.

“This tells us that both genetic and environmental factors explain individual differences in intelligence, and roughly in equal quantities,” said Visscher, who is a professor of statistical genetics at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia.

Deary is also looking at how people’s intelligence stays the same or varies across the life span, from age 11 to 80.

“A lot of the research my team is devoted to is looking for the things that make people’s intelligence age better or worse over their life course and one of those things is genetics,” Deary said. “Genetic differences can be a cause of people’s different malleability in their thinking skills.”

While the research shows genes influence intelligence, genetic influence isn’t always “stable and determined,” Deary cautioned.

That leaves open the question of how much of a role educational opportunities and other environmental factors, such as parenting and teachers, may play in achievement, both in school and in life.

Drug Reactions on the Rise

unduhan-17If you’ve ever gotten a rash from taking an antibiotic or gained weight on an antidepressant, you know that taking medicine means balancing the benefit of the drug against the possible risk of unpleasant, and sometimes even dangerous, side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calls these unwanted consequences “adverse events,” and once a drug is on the market, watches closely to see if it needs to reevaluate a drug’s safety. FDA does this in part through their MedWatch program, where health professionals and the general public can report any reactions or problems they suspect may have been caused by a medication. Medwatch reports and those submitted by drug manufacturers are combined into a single database for drug safety evaluation, the Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS).

According to a study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the reporting of serious adverse events through AERS (those that can lead to hospitalization, significant health problems, or even death) has increased dramatically in recent years — a 2.6-fold increase in serious events and a 2.7-fold increase in deaths reported between 1998 and 2005 (the last year for which data was available for the study).

In fact, half of the 2.2 million total reports in the database since its inception in 1969 were received in just the past 10 years, the study found, increasing at a rate of more than 11 percent per year. Slightly more women than men had adverse events (55 percent compared to 45 percent).

Does This Mean Our Medicines Have Become More Dangerous?

Not necessarily, says the study’s lead author, Sheila Weiss Smith, PhD, director of the Center for Drug Safety at the University of Maryland. The spike could be due to several factors:

  • Greater awareness of the reporting system
  • Access to the Internet, making it easier for people to report problems than the old system (in which you had to call, fax, or mail a report to FDA)
  • The fact that people are taking more drugs for longer periods of time (thus increasing the potential for side effects, as well as interactions between drugs)
  • The aging of the U.S. population (older people often experience more problems with drugs)

Fight for Healthier Food

charming, witty, hyper, personable, emotional, talented are all words that come to mind at the mention of his name. I am a fan and have been for some time, so when tossing around names for my next celeb interview he was on the top of my list. I respect his dedication to health and his heartfelt attempts to improve the quality of our children’s lives. So, I reached out to his “people” and requested an interview. Here’s the conversation that transpired:

Jillian Michaels: First, I want you to know that I am a huge fan and have been for years! Literally since I discovered you while Bob and I were living in Australia — a mad fan.

Jamie Oliver: Thanks so much, it’s still funny to think that I’ve been doing this now for 12 years. The Aussies have always been very good to me. I try and get there every other year.

JM: I really appreciate your taking the time out of your schedule to answer these questions. I wish it was over cocktails. Not so sure what this is about, but I imagine you’d be a fun guy to grab a beer with — make that a light beer. All in moderation, right?

JO: I’m English, so we don’t drink light beer — lagers, ales, stouts — and usually in moderation. It’s a funny thing now that Americans put me with healthy food. I’m not the food police or a diet guy. I am trying to teach people about cooking skills and choosing fresh food over processed. Eat a wide variety of things, in reasonable portions. As a chef, it’s the only way that makes sense.

JM: I appreciate your perspective as one of not only health, but common sense. So that said, let’s get down to business. I loved Food Revolution. How did you originally come up with this concept, and why are you so passionate about fighting childhood obesity? Is there a personal connection to this cause of any kind?

JO: Food is personal. What we choose to eat or feed our families every day is the most personal choice we can make. Next to the mortgage, the food bill is going to be a large investment. When I started looking at school lunches (what we call dinners in England) I was disgusted by what I saw: Turkey Twizzlers, no real food or cooking, just processed crap and reheating. And the more people I talked to — teachers, school cooks, students — I realized how much they wanted to change the system and return to cooking and eating real food. I also saw many studies that showed the correlation between the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes with the increase in processed food. So I wanted to try and figure it all out, and the best way I know how to do that is film it and give people watching TV more knowledge so they can make different choices. It’s sort of grown from England to America and around the world.