Forty-five slides on how to evaluate medical/health news articles.
By Gary Schwitzer, Publisher, HealthNewsReview.org at HealthNewsReview.org on Apr 01, 2014
From the Director’s comments
Jerome Groopman, M.D., Harvard University Medical School, notes there is recent clinical evidence regarding marijuana’s health risks, benefits, tradeoffs, as well as uncertainties. Dr. Groopman, who often writes about biology, health, and medicine for lay audiences, adds the supporting evidence on all sides is important in view of current efforts to make marijuana legal for medicinal and/or recreational use across the U.S.
Currently, marijuana is available for medicinal use in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Colorado now permits the sale of marijuana for recreational use (in small quantities). The state of Washington also will permit the sale of marijuana (or cannabis) for recreational use (also in small quantities) for the first time this spring.
Dr. Groopman, an internist, reports two systematic reviews (involving about 6,100 patients with a variety of medical conditions) suggest marijuana is useful to treat a number of diseases and conditions including: anorexia, nausea and vomiting, glaucoma, and irritable bowel disease. Marijuana also is clinically useful to treat: muscle spasticity, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, and symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
However, Dr. Groopman emphasizes there is a tradeoff of health risks versus benefits from marijuana use — similar to other medical drugs and procedures. For example, he notes current evidence suggests marijuana’s clinical risks include: decreased reaction time, reduced attention and concentration, a decline in short term memory, and an ability to assess external risks.
Dr. Groopman, who is a member of the Institute of Medicine, adds one study found marijuana impaired the performance of pilots on a flight simulator for as much as 24 hours. Similarly, Dr. Groopman notes studies on drivers suggest a strong association between cannabis and collisions. He adds research suggests drivers who use marijuana are two to seven times more likely to be responsible for accidents compared to motorists who do not use drugs or alcohol.
In addition, Dr. Groopman reports some evidence suggests a statistical association between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia and other psychosis later in life. Dr. Groopman reports these findings are based on meta-analyses (from studies of the health records of young persons in Sweden, New Zealand, and Holland, who did and did not smoke marijuana).
Dr. Groopman explains the latter research does not suggest there is a causal link between marijuana use and psychosis’ development. Dr. Groopman, who has published five books about health and medicine, argues the state of current evidence suggests a need for more definitive research (via double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled approaches) to better assess the possible relationship between marijuana and psychosis’ development.
Moreover, Dr. Groopman notes there is some evidence that marijuana is associated with possible addiction and compulsive cravings that foster user dependence. Nevertheless, he reports other street drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, seem to retain comparatively higher risks of user addiction and dependence than marijuana.
Dr. Groopman continues the current evidence is somewhat equivocal about marijuana’s impact on pain reduction. He writes (and we quote): “While chronic pain seems amenable to amelioration by marijuana, its impact on reducing acute pain, such as after surgery, is minimal’ (end of quote).
Overall, Dr. Groopman explains if the arguments of marijuana’s critics and supporters are assessed through a clinical research perspective, some positions may not be supported by a robust evidence-base, some positions may be one-dimensional, and others might or might not be sustained. He concludes (and we quote): ‘.. as more studies are conducted on marijuana for medical or recreational uses, opponents and enthusiasts may both discover that they were neither entirely right nor entirely wrong’ (end of quote).
The essay, which includes a review of recent books about marijuana’s health risks and benefits, can be found at: nybooks.com.
Meanwhile, a website (from the National Institute on Drug Abuse) devoted to the topic whether marijuana is or is not medicine is available in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana health topic page. Some tips for parents about teen and adult marijuana use (also from the National Institute on Drug Abuse) are found in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about marijuana and health as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s marijuana topic page type ‘marijuana’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘marijuana (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has health topic pages on drug abuse and substance abuse problems.
Turns out, it wasn’t the devil that made you do it. It was your “hidden brain.” That’s what Shankar Vedantam suggested at a recent lecture on unconscious bias at work, part of the 2013-2014 Deputy Director for Management Seminar Series. Vedantam said he “coined the term ‘hidden brain’ to describe mental activities that happen outside our conscious awareness.
“Is it possible,” he wondered, “that some of the [health] disparities we’re seeing are not the result of bad people behaving badly, but of well-intentioned people who are unintentionally doing the wrong thing? Is it possible that unconscious biases of well-intentioned people are responsible for these disparities that we observe?”
A science correspondent with National Public Radio whose reporting focuses on human behavior and the sciences, Vedantam suggested that sometimes the snap judgments or preconceived notions we exhibit turn out to be wrong not because we’re evil people but because we’re not concentrating on what we’re doing. Our brains are, in a sense, functioning on autopilot.
To illustrate false moves we make automatically, Vedantam showed several optical illusions that indicated how unconscious bias doesn’t just distort perception, but often alters the way things really are.
“Our minds change reality to reflect the biases that we have inside our own heads,” he explained.
Reading, Vedantam said, is a perfect example of the hidden brain at work. Once you learn to read and are accustomed to reading, he said, your mind takes shortcuts. You naturally skip or fill in, without consciously thinking about it. Unlike a new reader, then, you don’t register every single word on a page. Otherwise, you’d spend all day reading just one page.
In the same way, Vedantam argues, your mind in many cases anticipates—pre-judges—situations throughout daily life.
So, how do we overcome the effects that unconscious biases have on us? Vedantam says we can pay closer attention to our decision-making in certain situations, recognize the way we’re leaning and simply tug our minds in the opposite direction. In addition, since our environment shapes our mind, we can surround ourselves with experiences and friendships outside our comfort zone. If you broaden what goes into your thinking, then you broaden what comes out of it.
[Podcast] Early Stress Gets Under the Skin: Promising Initiatives to Help Children Facing Chronic Adversity
Disadvantaged children who often experience deep poverty, violence, and neglect simultaneously are particularly vulnerable to the pernicious effects of chronic stress. New research reveals that chronic stress alters childrens’ rapidly developing biological systems in ways that undermine their ability to succeed in school and in life. But there is good evidence that specialized programs can help caretakers learn to be more supportive and responsive. High-quality childcare can offer a safe, warm, and predictable environment amid otherwise chaotic lives, and home visiting programs can help both parents and foster parents learn to provide an environment of greatly reduced stress for their children.
On May 7, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the Spring 2014 volume and accompanying policy brief of the Future of Children. The release event featured researchers and policy experts who explained how chronic stress “gets under the skin” to disrupt normal development and how programs can provide the support so urgently needed by children who face chronic stress.
From the 6 May 2014 EurkAlert
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 — Pregnant women go through a lot to bring a baby into this world: 2 a.m. food cravings, hypersensitivity to certain smells and morning sickness, not to mention labor and delivery. In honor of Mother’s Day, the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) newest Reactions video highlights the chemistry behind a pregnant woman’s altered sense of taste and smell, how mom’s diet influences baby’s favorite foods and other pregnancy phenomena. The video is available at http://youtu.be/Gnqjh-L4e9g
And because moms always deserve more, we’ve created a bonus video on what scientists believe causes dreaded morning sickness in pregnant women. The bonus video can be seen here: http://youtu.be/09bCTERVrms
Negative emotions people may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age, research demonstrates. The study followed 341 people for 25 years, and found that negative emotions they may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age. The fact that depression and anger experienced during the teen years clung to people, even through major life events such as child-rearing, marriages and careers was surprising, researchers note.
mHealth still untapped resource for docs
People cite privacy concerns for lack of adoption
For the most part, providers are still wary over the mHealth movement. And this caution just might be preventing them from big care improvement opportunities, say the findings of a new study.
The study, commissioned by mobile professional services firm Mobiquity, finds some 70 percent of consumers use mobile apps every day to track physical activity and calorie intake, but only 40 percent share that information with their doctor.
[See also: mHealth market scales to new heights.]
Privacy concerns and the need for a doctor’s recommendation are the two factors hindering the use of mobile and fitness apps for mHealth reasons, say officials with the Boston-based Mobiquity, which produced “Get Mobile, Get Healthy: The Appification of Health and Fitness.”
That, officials said, means the healthcare community has to take a more active role in promoting these types of apps and uses.
“Our study shows there’s a huge opportunity for medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies and health organizations to use mobile to drive positive behavior change and, as a result, better patient outcomes,” said Scott Snyder, Mobiquity’s president and chief strategy officer, in a press release. “The gap will be closed by those who design mobile health solutions that are indispensable and laser-focused on users’ goals, and that carefully balance data collection with user control and privacy.”
[See also: FCC creates mHealth task force.]
The study, conducted between March 5 and 11, focused on 1,000 consumers who use or plan to use health and fitness mobile apps.
According to the study:
- 34 percent of mobile health and fitness app users say they would use their apps more often if their doctor recommended it
- 61 percent say privacy concerns are hindering their adoption of mobile apps. Other concerns include time investment (24 percent), uncertainty on how to start (9 percent) and not wanting to know about health issues (6 percent).
- 73 percent said they are more healthy because they use a smartphone and apps to track health and fitness
- 53 percent discovered, through an app, that they were eating more calories than they realized
- 63 percent intend to continue or increase their mobile health tracking over the next five years
- 55 percent plan to try wearable devices like pedometers, wristbands or smartwatches
- Using a smartphone to track health and fitness is more important than using the phone for social networking (69 percent), shopping (68 percent), listening to music (60 percent) or even making/receiving phone calls (30 percent).
“We believe 2014 is the year that mobile health will make the leap from early adopters to mainstream,” Mobiquity officials said in their introduction to the survey. “The writing is on the wall: from early rumors about a native health-tracking app in the next version of Apple’s iPhone operating system to speculation that Apple will finally launch the much-anticipated iWatch, joining Google, Samsung and Pebble in the race to own the emerging wearables market.”
[See also: Realizing the mHealth promise.]
From the Krafty Librarian blog (May 2014)
Engage with McGovern Lecturer Prior to MLA 14
It is crunch time and I know everybody going to MLA 14 in Chicago is scrambling to tie up lose ends at work or for Chicago. But as you go over your schedule for MLA you might want to check out the McGovern Lecturer, Dr. Aaron Carroll’s blog or his Facebook page. Dr. Carroll has invited MLA members and attendees to begin a conversation with him in advance of the annual meeting on topics of interest by posting on his blog, friending him on Facebook, following him on Twitter, or emailing him.
For his lecture, Dr Carrol will be addressing issues on the Affordable Care Act and health care policy. His blog, “The Incidental Economist: Contemplating health care with a focus on research, an eye on reform,” is “mostly about the U.S. health care system and its organization, how it works, how it fails us, and what to do about it.” Dr Carroll is one of the Editors in Chief of the blog which also has several contributors who have “professional expertise in an area relevant to the health care system” as researchers and professors in health economics, law and other health service areas.
The Affordable Care Act and its impact on libraries and how librarians can help hospitals deal with certain aspects of it is a bit of a interest for me. I have taught several classes to library groups in the past year about librarians can better align their goals to that of the hospital. Since many hospitals goals are now focused around parts of the Affordable Care Act it makes sense that medical libraries develop strategies to support their institution’s Affordable Care Act goals.
For example…How can the medical library help the hospital
- Prevent readmissions
- Increase focus on preventive care
- Improve patient satisfaction
- Deal with Meaningful Use (not exactly ACA but very entwined)
Depending on the focus of the library or librarian, we might be able to help more than we or our administration realize. Here is what some libraries are doing already…
- Partnering with IT or CIO to provide evidence based medicine resources within the EMR
- Partnering with IT or CIO to make sure that order sets are based on best available evidence
- Embedded librarians rounding with patient care teams to help provide necessary information for patient care
- Help provide patient education documents and information and make them accessbile to patients through the patient portal
- Work with doctors to provide a prescription for health information to the patient through the EMR
Not only is it important the librarians do these things to help their institutions (BTW no one librarian can do it all but they should be doing something) achieve their goals, but it is equally important that we need to be MEASURING our impact. If we don’t measure it, it didn’t happen. Measuring can be tricky but it is necessary, especially if you want to keep your library and your job. Gone are the days where you can say I did 103 MEDLINE searches for doctors and that helped them treat patients. Really? How do you know those MEDLINE searches helped them? Did you ask what became of the search? Did you track how your information was being used? All you know is that you did 103 searches. You don’t know whether that was a benefit to the institution or not. We assume it was, but administration doesn’t assume anything.
I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Carroll speak. But before I see him at MLA, I am going to try and start to engage with him to find out what we librarians can do to help our institutions deal with the ACA and make our ourselves more valuable to the institution. I encourage everyone else to do the same with their own thoughts and questions prior to MLA.
The American physician’s problem with pain is less cosmic and more concrete. For physicians today in nearly every specialty, the problem of pain is how to treat it responsibly, stay on the good side of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and still score high marks in patient satisfaction surveys.
If a physician recommends conservative treatment measures for pain–such as ibuprofen and physical therapy–the patient may be unhappy with the treatment plan. If the physician prescribes controlled drugs too readily, he or she may come under fire for irresponsible prescription practices that addict patients to powerful pain medications such as Vicodin and OxyContin.
The janitor approached my office manager with a very worried expression. ”Uh, Brenda…” he said, hesitantly.
“Yes?” she replied, wondering what janitorial emergency was looming in her near future.
“Uh…well…I was cleaning Dr. Lamberts’ office yesterday and I noticed on his computer….” He cleared his throat nervously, “Uh…his computer had something on it.”
“Something on his computer? You mean on top of the computer, or on the screen?” she asked, growing more curious.
“On the screen. It said something about an ‘illegal operation.’ I was worried that he had done something illegal and thought you should know,” he finished rapidly, seeming grateful that this huge weight lifted.
Relieved, Brenda laughed out loud, reassuring him that this “illegal operation” was not the kind of thing that would warrant police intervention.
Unfortunately for me, these “illegal operation” errors weren’t without consequence. It turned out that our system had something wrong at its core, eventually causing our entire computer network to crash, giving us no access to patient records for several days.
The reality of computer errors is that the deeper the error is — the closer it is to the core of the operating system — the wider the consequences when it causes trouble. That’s when the “blue screen of death” or (on a mac) the “beach ball of death” show up on our screens. That’s when the “illegal operation” progresses to a “fatal error.”
The Fatal Error in Health Care
Yeah, this makes me nervous too.
We have such an error in our health care system. It’s absolutely central to nearly all care that is given, at the very heart of the operating system. It’s a problem that increased access to care won’t fix, that repealing the SGR, or forestalling ICD-10 won’t help.
It’s a problem with something that is starts at the very beginning of health care itself.
The health care system is not about health.
For any solution to have a real effect, this core problem must be addressed. The basic incentive has to change from sickness to health. Doctors need to be rewarded for preventing disease and treating it early. Rewards for unnecessary tests, procedures, and medications need to be minimized or eliminated. This can only happen if it is financially beneficial to doctors for their patients to be healthy.
[Press release] Regulating legal marijuana could be guided by lessons from alcohol and tobacco, study says
As U.S. policymakers consider ways to ease prohibitions on marijuana, the public health approaches used to regulate alcohol and tobacco over the past century may provide valuable lessons, according to new RAND Corporation research.
Recent ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington for recreational uses are unprecedented. The move raises important questions about how to best allow the production, sales and the use of marijuana while also working to reduce any related social ills.
A new study published online by the American Journal of Public Health outlines how regulations on alcohol and tobacco may provide guidance to policymakers concerned about the public health consequences of legalizing marijuana.
Among the issues outlined in the study are how to reduce youth access to marijuana, how to minimize drugged driving, how to curb dependence and addiction, how to restrict contaminants in marijuana products, and how to discourage the dual use of marijuana and alcohol, particularly in public settings.
“The lessons from the many decades of regulating alcohol and tobacco should offer some guidance to policymakers who are contemplating alternatives to marijuana prohibition and are interested in taking a public health approach,” said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research center and a co-author of the paper. “Our goal here is to help policymakers understand the decisions they face, rather than debate whether legalization is good or bad.”
The analysis details some of the questions policymakers must confront when consideringless-restrictive marijuana laws. Those questions include: Should vertical integration be allowed, or should there be separate licenses for growing, processing and selling marijuana? What rules are needed to make sure a marijuana product is safe? Should marijuana be sold in convenience stories or only in specialized venues? Should taxes be assessed per unit of weight, as a percent of the price or on some other basis, such as the amount of psychoactive ingredients in marijuana?
“Based on the national experience with alcohol and tobacco, it seems prudent from a public health perspective to open up the marijuana market slowly, with tight controls to test the waters and prevent commercialization too soon while still making it available to responsible adults,” said Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and a co-author of the paper. “Of course, perspectives other than public health objectives might motivate policymakers to adopt different or fewer regulations. These are simply lessons learned from a public health perspective.”
The article discusses a variety of strategies used to control alcohol and tobacco that also may be appropriate for regulation of marijuana. Those include keeping prices artificially high to curb use, adopting a state-run monopoly on sales and distribution, limiting the types of products sold, restricting marketing efforts, and restricting consumption in public spaces.###
Support for the study was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research Program and RAND. Other authors of the report are Alexander C. Wagenaar of the University of Florida College of Medicine, Frank J. Chaloupka of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Jonathan P. Caulkins of the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
Since 1989, the RAND Drug Policy Research Center has conducted research to help policymakers in the United States and throughout the world address issues involving alcohol and other drugs. In doing so, the center brings an objective and data-driven perspective to an often emotional and fractious policy arena.
WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014 — Marijuana is in the headlines as more and more states legalize it for medicinal use or decriminalize it entirely. In the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) newest Reactions video, we explain the chemistry behind marijuana’s high, and investigate what scientists are doing to ensure that legalized weed won’t send users on a bad trip. The video is available at http://youtu.be/4ukdUDCE56c
The World Health Organization (WHO) has crafted this site that is dedicated to “public health, social and environmental determinants of health (PHE).” On the site, visitors can look over the WHO’s publications and news releases, along with multimedia features and event listings. Guests should start by browsing the Publications which contain timely reports on pharmaceuticals in drinking-water and children’s environmental health. The Health Topics area contains information about how WHO is working to reduce indoor air pollution, outdoor pollution, and chemical safety. The site also contains links to its overall global strategy via working papers and policy statements. [KMG]
[Press release] The Lancet: Reducing just 6 risk factors could prevent 37 million deaths from chronic diseases over 15 years
Reducing or curbing just six modifiable risk factors—tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, salt intake, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and obesity—to globally-agreed target levels could prevent more than 37 million premature deaths over 15 years, from the four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs; cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disease, cancers, and diabetes) according to new research published in The Lancet.
Worryingly, the findings indicate that not reaching these targets would result in 38.8 million deaths in 2025 from the four main NCDs, 10.5 million deaths more than the 28.3 million who died in 2010.
This is the first study to analyse the impact that reducing globally targeted risk factors will have on the UN’s 25×25 target to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25% relative to 2010 levels by 2025.
Using country-level data on deaths and risk factors and epidemiological models, Professor Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London, UK, and colleagues estimate the number of deaths that could be prevented between 2010 and 2025 by reducing the burden of each of the six risk factors to globally-agreed target levels—tobacco use (30% reduction and a more ambitious 50% reduction), alcohol use (10% reduction), salt intake (30% reduction), high blood pressure (25% reduction), and halting the rise in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes.
Overall, the findings suggest that meeting the targets for all six risk factors would reduce the risk of dying prematurely from the four main NCDs by 22% in men and 19% for women in 2025 compared to what they were in 2010. Worldwide, this improvement is equivalent to delaying or preventing at least 16 million deaths in people aged 30 years and 21 million in those aged 70 years or older over 15 years.
The authors predict that the largest benefits will come from reducing high blood pressure and tobacco use. They calculate that a more ambitious 50% reduction in prevalence of smoking by 2025, rather than the current target of 30%, would reduce the risk of dying prematurely by more than 24% in men and by 20% in women.
From the April news article
Common edible flowers in China are rich in phenolics and have excellent antioxidant capacity, research has shown. Edible flowers, which have been used in the culinary arts in China for centuries, are receiving renewed interest. Flowers can be used as an essential ingredient in a recipe, provide seasoning to a dish, or simply be used as a garnish. Some of these flowers contain phenolics that have been correlated with anti-inflammatory activity and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
[News article] Marijuana use may increase heart complications in young, middle-aged adults — ScienceDaily
From the April report
Marijuana use may result in heart-related complications in young and middle-aged adults. Nearly 2 percent of the health complications from marijuana use reported were cardiovascular related. A quarter of these complications resulted in death, according to a study. Surveillance of marijuana-related reports of cardiovascular disorders should continue and more research needs to look at how marijuana use might trigger cardiovascular events, researchers say.
Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
Source> Sutton Trust
Four in ten babies don’t develop the strong emotional bonds – what psychologists call “secure attachment” – with their parents that are crucial to success later in life. Disadvantaged children are more likely to face educational and behavioural problems when they grow older as a result, new Sutton Trust research finds today.
The review of international studies of attachment, Baby Bonds, by Sophie Moullin (Princeton University), Professor Jane Waldfogel (Colombia University and the London School of Economics) and Dr Liz Washbrook (University of Bristol), finds infants aged under three who do not form strong bonds with their mother or father are more likely to suffer from aggression, defiance and hyperactivity when they get older.
[Report] Is Violent Radicalisation Associated with Poverty, Migration, Poor Self-Reported Health and Common Mental Disorders?
Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
Source: PLoS ONE
Doctors, lawyers and criminal justice agencies need methods to assess vulnerability to violent radicalization. In synergy, public health interventions aim to prevent the emergence of risk behaviours as well as prevent and treat new illness events. This paper describes a new method of assessing vulnerability to violent radicalization, and then investigates the role of previously reported causes, including poor self-reported health, anxiety and depression, adverse life events, poverty, and migration and socio-political factors. The aim is to identify foci for preventive intervention.
A cross-sectional survey of a representative population sample of men and women aged 18–45, of Muslim heritage and recruited by quota sampling by age, gender, working status, in two English cities. The main outcomes include self-reported health, symptoms of anxiety and depression (common mental disorders), and vulnerability to violent…
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[Report] Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluating the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Cafeterias
Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
Source: PLoS ONE
Currently, 68.3% of the milk available in schools is flavored, with chocolate being the most popular (61.6% of all milk). If chocolate milk is removed from a school cafeteria, what will happen to overall milk selection and consumption?
In a before-after study in 11 Oregon elementary schools, flavored milk–which will be referred to as chocolate milk–was banned from the cafeteria. Milk sales, school enrollment, and data for daily participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) were compared year to date.
Total daily milk sales declined by 9.9% (p<0.01). Although white milk increased by 161.2 cartons per day (p<0.001), 29.4% of this milk was thrown away. Eliminating chocolate milk was also associated with 6.8% fewer students eating school lunches, and although other factors were also involved, this is…
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Novel study uncovers the way coughs and sneezes stay airborne for long distances.
The next time you feel a sneeze coming on, raise your elbow to cover up that multiphase turbulent buoyant cloud you’re about to expel.
That’s right: A novel study by MIT researchers shows that coughs and sneezes have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realized.
“When you cough or sneeze, you see the droplets, or feel them if someone sneezes on you,” says John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics at MIT, and co-author of a new paper on the subject. “But you don’t see the cloud, the invisible gas phase. The influence of this gas cloud is to extend the range of the individual droplets, particularly the small ones.”
Indeed, the study finds, the smaller droplets that emerge in a cough or sneeze may travel five to 200 times further than they would if those droplets simply moved as groups of unconnected particles — which is what previous estimates had assumed. The tendency of these droplets to stay airborne, resuspended by gas clouds, means that ventilation systems may be more prone to transmitting potentially infectious particles than had been suspected.
With this in mind, architects and engineers may want to re-examine the design of workplaces and hospitals, or air circulation on airplanes, to reduce the chances of airborne pathogens being transmitted among people….
Originally posted on Empathic Urbanite:
“By 2030, 230,000 people who need more than 20 hours of care a week will not have a relative to provide it, the think tank said.”
This is an IPPR report, so it’s solid evidence that our society, culture and especially government needs to start supporting care agencies and offering much better individual training and organisational opportunities if we are to meet this massive challenge. And don’t forget, when we talk about older people in the future, it’s not a report about some vague ‘other’, this time, we are talking about ourselves!
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Originally posted on Medication Health News:
For additional information, please see the news analysis in the New York Times.
Image courtesy of [ddpavumba]/FreeDigitalPhotos.Net
Originally posted on Johns Hopkins University Press Blog:
Today is the fifth and final in a series of brief podcast excerpts from The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss. This bestselling title by Nancy L. Mace, M.A., and Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H., is in its fifth edition and is now available in an audio edition.
Podcast #5: Excerpt from Chapter 10: Getting Help
In this excerpt from Chapter 10, Dr. Rabins focuses on the need for caregivers to have outside help and have time away from the responsibilities of caregiving. He describes how to find good information on available services, how to seek and accept help from friends and neighbors, and how to address problems you may encounter.
You can find this podcast and the rest of the series of podcasts here.
These podcasts are excerpted from a Johns Hopkins University Press audio…
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Originally posted on Metro News:
Thousands of seniors in Ontario nursing homes are on a powerful mix of antipsychotics and sedatives, according to a new provincial Health Ministry report that surfaced after a recent Torstar News Service investigation.
The report, commissioned by the ministry and co-authored by a leading doctor and scientist, sheds new light on the widespread use of powerful prescription drugs among the vulnerable elderly.
“These drugs are prescribed so commonly because they are perceived to be benign. That’s not true,” said Dr. David Juurlink, a drug safety expert who co-authored the report. “These drugs are inherently dangerous.”
Last week, Torstar revealed that some long-term-care homes, often struggling with staffing shortages, are routinely doling out antipsychotics to calm and “restrain” wandering, agitated and sometimes aggressive patients.
At close to 300 homes, Torstar found, more than a third of the residents are on the drugs, despite warnings that the medications can kill elderly patients…
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[Report] One Year after West, Texas: One in Ten Students Attends School in the Shadow of a Risky Chemical Facility
Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
Source: Center for Effective Government
One year after the fertilizer facility explosion in West, Texas, which destroyed and severely damaged nearby schools, an analysis by the Center for Effective Government finds that nearly one in ten American schoolchildren live and study within one mile of a potentially dangerous chemical facility.
The analysis, displayed through an online interactive map, shows that 4.6 million children at nearly 10,000 schools across the country are within a mile of a facility that reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program. Factories, refineries, and other facilities that report to the program produce, use, and/or store significant quantities of certain hazardous chemicals identified by EPA as particularly risky to human health or the environment if they are spilled, released into the air, or are…
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Originally posted on Patrick Mackie:
Environmental health practitioners, particularly those who studied and qualified in the last twenty years, will be very familiar with Margaret Whitehead and Göran Dahlgren’s model of the social determinants of health, shown below in the well-known model from their 1991 publication.
Environmental health as a profession works at the interfaces between, generally, people’s living and working conditions and their health and wellbeing. But these are only one set of environmental factors that affect health in terms of morbidity and mortality, and there are other governmental and social actors that can work together to intervene and change the outcomes for real people in the real world. That’s why the new public health arrangements in England are game-changing for the profession and for the health of the public generally, and that’s why finding an evidence-base to target suitable and effective interventions that will really make a difference for people is so important.
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Originally posted on THL News Blog:
I was at the Ann Arbor YMCA the other day and overheard two women questioning the safety of chemicals used in makeup and other over the counter personal products. This conversation was prompted by someone’s sunscreen running into their eyes, making them partially blind for a few minutes, causing her to wonder if there are any chemicals in there she should be really worried about. I thought I would do a search for information about the safety of chemicals in makeup and share my results since it seems to be something people are interested in:
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A new report from the The United Hospital Fund and AARP Public Policy Institute finds that spouses who act as the primary family caregiver routinely perform complex medical and nursing tasks without adequate in-home support from health care professionals, especially when compared with non-spousal family caregivers.
“Wedding vows include the promise to be there “in sickness and in health”, but we should not expect spouses to do things that can make nursing students tremble without offering them instructions and support. They should not have to do this important work at home alone. They need and deserve support from professionals, other family members, and the community,” Reinhard said.
It’s unclear why spouses receive less help, but Reinhard and co-authors Carol Levine and Sarah Samis of the United Hospital Fund theorize that choice, lack of awareness about resources, financial limitations, or fear of losing independence play a role. The report calls for additional research to help tailor interventions that support but do not supplant the primary bond between spouses.
Good points about the limits of observational studies and how NNT (number needed to treat) is a good indicator of the efficacy of an intervention. Also good point of how a good preventive diet can often trump medications/surgery.
Well worth the 18 minutes of viewing.
From the Web site
Published on Sep 29, 2012
Dr. Newman is the Director of Clinical Research in the Emergency Department at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and an Iraq war veteran. In addition to being widely published in medical journals he has written health care articles for the New York Times and is the author of Hippocrates’ Shadow: Secrets From the House of Medicine. For the past ten years he has concentrated his work in medical evidence translation and appraisal. He is also the editor-in-chief for two online publications, TheNNT.com, a resource for health care evidence summaries, and SMART-EM, a monthly audio review. He lives in New York City with his wife and teaches at both Mount Sinai School of Medicine and at Columbia University.
Originally posted on Access Science:
Ever been told that eating superfoods prevents cancer? Or the one about sharks not being able to get cancer? If you’ve wondered how much truth is behind these ‘facts’ you should follow this link. Cancer Research have put out a fantastic blogpost debunking these cancer myths amongst others. Well worth a quick read!
Originally posted on HIV/AIDS in Global Context (PH770 - CUNY SPH):
One major statement that stuck out to me from Ida Susser’s discussion of her book AIDS, Sex and Culture was that “anthropology starts where public health ends.” In her lecture she discussed how easy it is to switch hats from public health to anthropologist. Susser was able to emphasize the fact that public health professionals must understand how data frames ideas. For example, an HIV mortality rate men to women of 10:1 is looked at differently from a public health eye then from an anthropologist eye. Public health would put more funding and research into men and would discount women since they are dying at a lesser rate than men. Anthropology would look deeper at similarities and differences, both within and among societies, and would pay attention to race, sexuality, class, gender, and nationality.
Public health addresses infectious disease epidemiology. However, anthropology can help inform public health about other components…
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Rice University analysis of state efforts show dramatic gains in reducing airborne particulate matter
HOUSTON – (March 27, 2014) – National efforts in the last decade to clear the air of dangerous particulate matter have been so successful that most urban areas have already attained the next benchmark, according to new research by Rice University.
Atmospheric researchers at Rice studied the state implementation plans (SIPs) from 23 regions mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) to less than 15 micrograms per cubic meter by 2009.
The Rice analysis appears this week in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.
All but one of the regions studied reported they had met the goal by deadline. States with regions that met the deadline included Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. The final region, Alabama, reported attainment in 2010.
PM 2.5 concentrations in the nonattainment regions that filed SIPs to attain the standard by 2009 declined by an average 2.6 micrograms per cubic meter – significantly greater improvement than in regions that had attained the standard from its inception. The study showed PM reductions in the SIP regions were broadly spread, rather than pinpointed at the most polluted monitors.
“One of the things we were most interested in looking at was to see if states were cherry-picking their measures to meet the standard by reducing pollution at their worst monitors, compared with how much they were doing to bring down levels all across the region so that people were breathing cleaner air,” said Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice.
“It was encouraging to find that across the country, we have seen overall particulate-matter levels come down. We found very slight extra improvement at monitors that were targeted the most, but regions that had to develop plans achieved pretty solid controls that didn’t just pinpoint the worst monitors. And the large populations of these regions benefited.”
Cohan and Rice alumna Ran Chen also documented that air pollution continued to decline even after the 2009 standards were met. The majority of the SIP regions had already attained the mandated 2014 goal of 12 micrograms per cubic meter by 2012.
“We’ve been on a good trajectory,” Cohan said. “This demonstrates that the combination of state and federal controls has been substantially improving air quality in the U.S.”
- See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2014/03/27/us-clean-air-efforts-stay-on-target/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Science360NewsServiceComplete+%28Science360+News+Service%3A+Complete%29&utm_content=Netvibes#sthash.eZJySuaf.dpuf
Originally posted on Health Services Authors:
As you know a part of my work consists to participate in studies based on the extraction from retrospective databases and the analysis of the informations thus retrieved. The eligibility of the beneficiaries to the provision that represents the study’s outcome is always a major concern. There is two explanations for a beneficiary not having access to a care according to the data retrieved from the reimbursement base: either a real lack of access or a non eligibility of the care for a record in the reimbursement data base (for example if the insured is covered by another insurance or has lost his coverage and has exited from the health plan)*. I have always to keep in mind that I work on secondary data which are only a reflection of the primary data the reality of which I try to apprehend.
The dilemma is pretty well addressed in this article:
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[News item] Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways — ScienceDaily
March 28, 2014
Oregon State University
Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research indicates. A new theoretical model defines the two distinct pathways. “Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” explains one of the authors.
Disclaimer: My husband’s cousin developed diabetes after serving in Afghanistan. Diabetes did not run in the family nor did he have a lifestyle that predisposed him to this disease (in our opinion, of course). The VA did pay for his treatment, no questions asked.
Am thankful that research is being done to show just how war related chemicals, and even preventive agents are very harmful and deadly.
March 27, 2014
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences
Veterans of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War who suffer from “Gulf War illness” have impaired function of mitochondria – the energy powerhouses of cells, researchers have demonstrated for the first time. The findings could help lead to new treatments benefitting affected individuals — and to new ways of protecting servicepersons (and civilians) from similar problems in the future.
Golomb noted that impaired mitochondrial function accounts for numerous features of Gulf War illness, including symptoms that have been viewed as perplexing or paradoxical.
“The classic presentation for mitochondrial illness involves multiple symptoms spanning many domains, similar to what we see in Gulf War illness. These classically include fatigue, cognitive and other brain-related challenges, muscle problems and exercise intolerance, with neurological and gastrointestinal problems also common.”
There are other similarities between patients with mitochondrial dysfunction and those suffering from Gulf War illness: Additional symptoms appear in smaller subsets of patients; varying patterns of symptoms and severity among individuals; different latency periods across symptoms, or times when symptoms first appear; routine blood tests that appear normal.
“Some have sought to ascribe Gulf War illness to stress,” said Golomb, “but stress has proven not to be an independent predictor of the condition. On the other hand, Gulf veterans are known to have been widely exposed to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, a chemical class found in organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, nerve gas and nerve gas pre-treatment pills given to troops.
“These inhibitors have known mitochondrial toxicity and generally show the strongest and most consistent relationship to predicting Gulf War illness. Mitochondrial problems account for which exposures relate to Gulf War illness, which symptoms predominate, how Gulf War illness symptoms manifest themselves, what objective tests have been altered, and why routine blood tests have not been useful.”
Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
Source: Population Health Metrics
Cigarette smoking is a leading risk factor for morbidity and premature mortality in the United States, yet information about smoking prevalence and trends is not routinely available below the state level, impeding local-level action.
We used data on 4.7 million adults age 18 and older from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from 1996 to 2012. We derived cigarette smoking status from self-reported data in the BRFSS and applied validated small area estimation methods to generate estimates of current total cigarette smoking prevalence and current daily cigarette smoking prevalence for 3,127 counties and county equivalents annually from 1996 to 2012. We applied a novel method to correct for bias resulting from the exclusion of the wireless-only population in the BRFSS prior to 2011.
Total cigarette smoking prevalence varies dramatically between counties, even within states, ranging…
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Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
Source: American Journal of Public Health
We sought to better understand acts of self-harm among inmates in correctional institutions.
We analyzed data from medical records on 244 699 incarcerations in the New York City jail system from January 1, 2010, through January 31, 2013.
In 1303 (0.05%) of these incarcerations, 2182 acts of self-harm were committed, (103 potentially fatal and 7 fatal). Although only 7.3% of admissions included any solitary confinement, 53.3% of acts of self-harm and 45.0% of acts of potentially fatal self-harm occurred within this group. After we controlled for gender, age, race/ethnicity, serious mental illness, and length of stay, we found self-harm to be associated significantly with being in solitary confinement at least once, serious mental illness, being aged 18 years or younger, and being Latino or White, regardless of gender.
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Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
Source: Institute for the Study of Labor
We provide empirical evidence of crime’s impact on the mental wellbeing of both victims and non-victims. We differentiate between the direct impact to victims and the indirect impact to society due to the fear of crime. The results show a decrease in mental wellbeing after violent crime victimization and that the violent crime rate has a negative impact on mental wellbeing of non-victims. Property crime victimization and property crime rates show no such comparable impact. Finally, we estimate that society-wide compensation due to increasing the crime rate by one victim is about 80 times more than the direct impact on the victim.
Originally posted on GIS Use in Public Health and Health Care:
AIDSVu is an interactive online map illustrating the prevalence of HIV in the United States. The state- and county-level data on AIDSVu come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national HIV surveillance database, which is comprised of HIV surveillance reports from state and local health departments. ZIP code and census tract data come directly from state, county and city health departments, depending on which entity is responsible for HIV surveillance in a particular geographic area.
Uses can search through HIV prevalence data by race/ethnicity, sex and age, and see how HIV prevalence is related to various social determinants of health, such as educational attainment and poverty.
As one can see, HIV prevalence in the United States is concentrated in the South highlighting one of the many health disparities in the North-South divide in the United States.
Check out the map here.
Juhi Mawla, Intern, email@example.com
This resource is a bit off topic. It is an educational resource basically for junior high and high school teachers. However, I find it fascinating on how it shows the interrelationship among science and mathematical concepts. Here’s a few that are health/medical related
New JAMA article suggests review and certification process for mHealth apps
BOSTON–While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released guidelines for the regulation of mobile health (mHealth) apps that act as medical devices or as accessories to medical devices, the vast majority of mHealth apps remain unregulated and unevaluated. In a Viewpoint article, “In Search of a Few Good Apps”, published in JAMA on March 24, 214, co-authors, David Bates, MD and Adam Landman, MD of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Adam Powell, PhD, president of Payer+Provider Syndicate, call for the creation of mHealth (mobile health) app review and certification organizations to evaluate apps that are not regulated by the government.
“This article gives health care providers, patients, policymakers and mHealth app developers a perspective on how the issue of determining which apps are most useful might be addressed,” said Bates, who is Chief Quality Officer at BWH and chaired the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) Workgroup that made recommendations to the government about regulation of HIT and mobile apps. “Establishing an unbiased review and certification process is a key step in helping mHealth apps achieve their potential.”
The concept for this Viewpoint article was conceived by Landman and Powell after discussing their mutual concern about the lack of oversight over the accuracy, quality, and security of mHealth apps at the BWH Hackathon, an event sponsored by BWH’s Innovation Hub (iHub).
“Dr. Powell and I examined numerous mHealth apps and it was difficult to assess app credibility,” said Landman, Chief Medical Information Officer for Health Information Innovation and Integration and an emergency medicine physician at BWH. “The currently available reviews of mHealth apps have largely focused on personal impressions, rather than evidence-based, unbiased assessments of clinical performance and data security. With more rigorous certification criteria and unbiased accrediting bodies, both clinicians and consumers could be more confident in their selection and use of mHealth apps.”
In the article, authors describe the potential for multiple organizations to be created that could review and objectively certify mHealth apps for quality, accuracy, security and safety, similar to the role that Health On the Net Foundation (HON), a non-profit, non-governmental organization, plays in evaluating the quality of online medical content.
“People are increasingly turning to their smartphones for assistance in improving their health, but are having difficulty determining which apps are the securest and most effective. We hope that our article will instigate action that will enable clinicians and patients to make more effective use of mHealth apps,” said Powell, lead author of the article. “We foresee a potential future in which physicians will be able to confidently prescribe apps to their patient, and will have the tools that they need to interpret the resulting data. The establishment of an unbiased app certification and review process will play a key role in getting us there.”
Wellocracy aims to help trackers choose and use health apps and devices
Free and low cost Health Apps sources include
- Health and Wellness Information Apps for locating information for personal health and wellness
- Health and Fitness Tracking Apps to help you enter and store your personal health and fitness information quickly
And these may be helpful when selecting health apps
- How to Choose A Better Health App (by LEXANDER V. PROKHOROV, MD, PHD at KevinMD.com on August 8, 2011) contains advice in the following areas
Set realistic expectations
Avoid apps that promise too much
Research the developers
Choose apps that use techniques you’ve heard of
See what other users say
Test apps before committing
iMedical apps has mobile medical app reviews and commentary by medical professionals. Most apps are about apps geared toward professionals and are not free.
The iMedical app forum now includes a medical librarian corner, with some patient/consumer apps
- iMedical apps has mobile medical app reviews and commentary by medical professionals. Most apps are about apps geared toward professionals and are not free.
PISCATAWAY, NJ – It’s no secret that drinking and driving can be a deadly mix. But the role of alcohol in U.S. traffic deaths may be substantially underreported on death certificates, according to a study in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Between 1999 and 2009, more than 450,000 Americans were killed in a traffic crashes. But in cases where alcohol was involved, death certificates frequently failed to list alcohol as a cause of death.
Why does that matter? One big reason is that injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans younger than 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s important to have a clear idea of alcohol’s role in those deaths, explained Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
“We need to have a handle on what’s contributing to the leading cause of death among young people,” Hingson said. What’s more, he noted, researchers need reliable data to study the effects of policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related deaths.
“You want to know how big the problem is, and if we can track it,” Hingson said. “Is it going up, or going down? And what policy measures are working?”
For the new study, I-Jen Castle, Ph.D., and a team led by Hingson focused on traffic deaths because, of all types of accidental fatalities, that’s where researchers have the best data. This is partly because many U.S. states—about half right now—require that fatally injured drivers be tested for blood alcohol levels, and nationwide about 70% of those drivers are tested.
Hingson’s team used a database maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)—which contains the blood alcohol levels of Americans killed in traffic crashes. They compared that information with deaths certificate data from all U.S. states.
Overall, they found, death certificates greatly underreported the role of alcohol in traffic deaths between 1999 and 2009: Just over 3 percent listed alcohol as a contributing cause. But based on the FARS figures, 21 percent of those deaths were legally drunk.
The picture varied widely from state to state. In some states—such as Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, and New Jersey—alcohol was rarely listed on death certificates. Certain other states did much better, including Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota. It’s not fully clear why alcohol is so often left off of death certificates. One reason could be the time it takes to get blood-alcohol test results back. Coroners or medical examiners usually have to file a death certificate within three to five days, Hingson’s team notes, but toxicology results might take longer than that.
The reasons for the wide variation among states aren’t known either. But Hingson said that’s an important question. “Some states have been pretty successful,” he noted. “What are they doing right?”
It doesn’t seem to be only a matter of passing laws: States that mandate alcohol testing for deceased drivers did not always do better when it came to reporting alcohol as a contributor on death certificates.
Whatever the reasons, Hingson said, the role of alcohol in injury deaths may be seriously underestimated on death certificates. And the situation is likely worse with other types of accidental deaths, such as falls, drug poisoning/overdoses, and drowning, for which there is no mandatory blood alcohol testing or other reporting systems.
Hingson said he thinks testing should be done in those cases as well.
Tel Aviv University research shows fat mass in cells expands with disuse
Over 35 percent of American adults and 17 percent of American children are considered obese, according to the latest survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even certain types of cancer, obesity places a major burden on the health care system and economy. It’s usually treated through a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise, and other techniques.
To understand how obesity develops, Prof. Amit Gefen, Dr. Natan Shaked and Ms. Naama Shoham of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, together with Prof. Dafna Benayahu of TAU’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, used state-of-the-art technology to analyze the accumulation of fat in the body at the cellular level. According to their findings, nutrition is not the only factor driving obesity. The mechanics of “cellular expansion” plays a primary role in fat production, they discovered.
By exposing the mechanics of fat production at a cellular level, the researchers offer insight into the development of obesity. And with a better understanding of the process, the team is now creating a platform to develop new therapies and technologies to prevent or even reverse fat gain. The research was published this week in the Biophysical Journal.
Getting to the bottom of obesity
“Two years ago, Dafna and I were awarded a grant from the Israel Science Foundation to investigate how mechanical forces increase the fat content within fat cells. We wanted to find out why a sedentary lifestyle results in obesity, other than making time to eat more hamburgers,” said Prof. Gefen. “We found that fat cells exposed to sustained, chronic pressure — such as what happens to the buttocks when you’re sitting down — experienced accelerated growth of lipid droplets, which are molecules that carry fats.
“Contrary to muscle and bone tissue, which get mechanically weaker with disuse, fat depots in fat cells expanded when they experienced sustained loading by as much as 50%. This was a substantial discovery.”
The researchers discovered that, once it accumulated lipid droplets, the structure of a cell and its mechanics changed dramatically. Using a cutting-edge atomic force microscope and other microscopy technologies, they were able to observe the material composition of the transforming fat cell, which became stiffer as it expanded. This stiffness alters the environment of surrounding cells by physically deforming them, pushing them to change their own shape and composition.
“When they gain mass and change their composition, expanding cells deform neighboring cells, forcing them to differentiate and expand,” said Prof. Gefen. “This proves that you’re not just what you eat. You’re also what you feel — and what you’re feeling is the pressure of increased weight and the sustained loading in the tissues of the buttocks of the couch potato.”
The more you know …
“If we understand the etiology of getting fatter, of how cells in fat tissues synthesize nutritional components under a given mechanical loading environment, then we can think about different practical solutions to obesity,” Prof. Gefen says. “If you can learn to control the mechanical environment of cells, you can then determine how to modulate the fat cells to produce less fat.”
The team hopes that its observations can serve as a point of departure for further research into the changing cellular environment and different stimulations that lead to increased fat production.
HUNTSVILLE, TX (3/20/14) — Parents who use alcohol, marijuana, and drugs have higher frequencies of children who pick up their habits, according to a study from Sam Houston State University.
The study, “Intergenerational Continuity of Substance Use,” found that when compared to parents who did not use substances, parents who used alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs were significantly more likely to have children who used those same drugs. Specifically, the odds of children’s alcohol use were five times higher if their parents used alcohol; the odds of children’s marijuana use were two times higher if their parents used marijuana; and the odds of children’s other drug use were two times higher if their parent used other drugs. Age and other demographic factors also were important predictors of substance use.
“The study is rare in that it assesses the extent to which parent’s substance use predicts use by their children within age-equivalent and developmentally-specific stages of the life course,” said Dr. Kelly Knight of the College Criminal Justice’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. “If a parent uses drugs, will their children grow up and use drugs? When did the parent use and when did their children use? There appears to be an intergenerational relationship. The effect is not as strong as one might believe from popular discourse, but when you measure it by developmental stage, it can provide important information on its impact in adolescence and early adulthood, specifically.”
The study examined the patterns of substance use by families over a 27-year period. It documents substance use over time, giving a more complete understanding of when substance use occurs, when it declines, and the influence of parents in the process.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2011, about 22.6 million Americans age 12 years and older said they used illicit drugs in the last month. Other studies show that drug use is associated with reduced academic achievement, lower employment rates, poorer health, dependency on public assistance, neighborhood disorganization, and an increase in the likelihood of involvement in crime, criminal victimization and incarceration. The cost of drug use in this country from lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice is nearly $600 billion.
By plotting the life course of substance use within families, the study may be a valuable tool for the development of intervention programs. The study suggests that if substance use can be curtailed in adolescence, it may help to curb its prevalence in future generations.
The study also helps pinpoint the use of different illicit substances over the span of a lifetime, including its emergence in adolescence and when that use may decline. For example, marijuana and other drug use is most prevalent in adolescence and generally declines before or at age 24. Alcohol use continues to increase throughout adolescence and young adulthood, and then remains relatively steady over the lifetime.
These findings come from the National Youth Survey Family Study, which has collected data from three generations over a 27-year period. The analysis is based on 655 parents and 1,227 offspring from 1977 to 2004.
Addictive behavior such as drug and alcohol abuse could be associated with poor development of the so-called “love hormone” system in our bodies during early childhood, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide. The groundbreaking idea has resulted from a review of worldwide research into oxytocin, known as the “love hormone” or “bonding drug” because of its important role in enhancing social interactions, maternal behavior and partnership. This month’s special edition of the international journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior deals with the current state of research linking oxytocin and addiction, and has been guest edited by Dr Femke Buisman-Pijlman from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences. Dr Buisman-Pijlman, who has a background in both addiction studies and family studies, says some people’s lack of resilience to addictive behaviors may be linked to poor development of their oxytocin systems.
“We know that newborn babies already have levels of oxytocin in their bodies, and this helps to create the all-important bond between a mother and her child. But our oxytocin systems aren’t fully developed when we’re born – they don’t finish developing until the age of three, which means our systems are potentially subject to a range of influences both external and internal,” Dr Buisman-Pijlman says. She says the oxytocin system develops mainly based on experiences. “The main factors that affect our oxytocin systems are genetics, gender and environment. You can’t change the genes you’re born with, but environmental factors play a substantial role in the development of the oxytocin system until our systems are fully developed,” Dr Buisman-Pijlman says. IMAGE: This photo shows Dr. Femke Buisman-Pijlman from the University of Adelaide. She is the guest editor of the April 2014 edition of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, which is focused on… Click here for more information. “Previous research has shown that there is a high degree of variability in people’s oxytocin levels. We’re interested in how and why people have such differences in oxytocin, and what we can do about it to have a beneficial impact on people’s health and wellbeing,” she says. She says studies show that some risk factors for drug addiction already exist at four years of age. “And because the hardware of the oxytocin system finishes developing in our bodies at around age three, this could be a critical window to study. Oxytocin can reduce the pleasure of drugs and feeling of stress, but only if the system develops well.” Her theory is that adversity in early life is key to the impaired development of the oxytocin system. “This adversity could take the form of a difficult birth, disturbed bonding or abuse, deprivation, or severe infection, to name just a few factors,” Dr Buisman-Pijlman says. “Understanding what occurs with the oxytocin system during the first few years of life could help us to unravel this aspect of addictive behavior and use that knowledge for treatment and prevention.”
New book Near-Death Experiences explores this controversial topic with historical reports and well-documented cases
In popular understanding, the expression “near-death experience” refers to the transition between the states of life and death. But how should such experiences be interpreted? Are they verifiable with scientific methods? If so, how can they be explained? Attempting to relate matters of scientific knowledge to subjective experience and the realm of belief is a difficult balancing act, and has led to a variety of approaches to the topic.
Near-Death Experiences by Birk Engmann scrutinizes the diverse views, and also myths, about near-death experiences and describes them from a scientific standpoint. Situated at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and religious studies, his book will appeal to a broad audience of both scientists and general readers.
Engmann explains, “The multitude of views and models purporting explanation already indicates that near-death research is something of a tightrope walk between rationally explainable theories and the sphere of belief. There is an urgent need for a critical review, and indeed, one which examines the way the natural sciences can throw light on this matter. This is the main aim of my book.”
Near-Death Experiences provides explanations for the various experiences construed by some as proof of the supernatural. The author discusses this highly controversial topic, using interesting historical reports and recent well-documented cases.