Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Emotional Intelligence Mapped In The Brain

For some reason, these emotional intelligence studies reminded me of Dr. Beaumont, who in 1822 studied digestion through experiments on a man who had stomach injuries.  A Wikipedia article gives a good summary.

From the 24 January 2013 article at MedicalNewsToday

A new study of 152 Vietnam veterans with combat-related brain injuries offers the first detailed map of the brain regions that contribute to emotional intelligence – the ability to process emotional information and navigate the social world.

The study found significant overlap between general intelligence and emotional intelligence, both in terms of behavior and in the brain. Higher scores on general intelligence tests corresponded significantly with higher performance on measures of emotional intelligence, and many of the same brain regions were found to be important to both.

The study appears in the journal Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience.

“This was a remarkable group of patients to study, mainly because it allowed us to determine the degree to which damage to specific brain areas was related to impairment in specific aspects of general and emotional intelligence,” said study leader Aron K. Barbey, a professor of neuroscience, of psychology and of speech and hearing science at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois.

Read the entire article here

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health and Environment: A Closer Look at Plastics

#6620 recycled plastic (PET) bottles

#6620 recycled plastic (PET) bottles (Photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle)

From the 23 January 2013 article at Science News Daily

 Plastics have transformed modern society, providing attractive benefits but also befouling waterways and aquifers, depleting petroleum supplies and disrupting human health…


In a new overview appearing in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health, Halden and his co-author, ASU student Emily North, detail the risks and societal rewards of plastics and describe strategies to mitigate their negative impacts, through reconsideration of plastic composition, use and disposal.

“We are in need of a second plastic revolution. The first one brought us the age of plastics, changing human society and enabling the birth and explosive growth of many industries. But the materials used to make plastics weren’t chosen judiciously and we see the adverse consequences in widespread environmental pollution and unnecessary human exposure to harmful substances. Smart plastics of the future will be equally versatile but also non-toxic, biodegradable and made from renewable energy sources,” says Halden….

..plastics may be manufactured at low cost using little energy and their adaptable composition allows them to be synthesized in soft, transparent or flexible forms suitable for a broad range of medical applications. Because they can be readily disposed of, items like latex gloves, dialysis tubes, intravenous bags and plastic syringes eliminate the need for repeated sterilization, which is often costly and inefficient. Such single-use items have had a marked effect on reducing blood-borne infections, including hepatitis B and HIV…


he benefits of global plastics use can come at a steep price in terms of both human and environmental health. Continuous contact with plastic products, from the beginning to the end of life has caused chemical ingredients — some with potentially harmful effects — to form steady-state concentrations in the human body.

In recent years, two plastic-associated compounds have been singled out for particular scrutiny, due to their endocrine-disrupting properties: Bisphenol A (BPA) and di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP). Studies of bioaccumulation have shown that detectable levels of BPA in urine have been identified in 95 percent of the adult population in the U.S. and both BPA and DEHP have been associated, through epidemiological and animal studies, with adverse effects on health and reproduction. These include early sexual maturation, decreased male fertility, aggressive behavior and other effects…

Biodegradeable plastics may break down in the environment into smaller polymer constituents, which may still pose a risk to the environment. Incineration liberates greenhouse gases associated with climate change. Landfilling of plastics, particularly in the enormous volumes now produced, may be an impractical use of land resources and a danger exists of plastics constituents entering the ground water. Finally, recycling of plastics requires careful sorting of plastic material, which is difficult. Recycled plastics tend to be of lower quality and may not be practical for health care and other application…

Read the entire article here

From the 23 January 2013 article at The American Medical Network

Many consumer products, such as water bottles and product containers, are made from various types of plastic. The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a classification system in 1988 to allow consumers and recyclers to properly recycle and dispose of different types of plastic. Manufacturers follow a coding system and place an SPI code, or number, on each plastic product, which is usually molded into the bottom. Although you should always verify the plastic classification number of each product you use, this guide provides a basic outline of the different plastic types associated with each code number.

Plastic marked with anSPI code of 1is made withPolyethylene Terephthalate, which is also known as PETE or PET. Containers made from this plastic sometimes absorb odors and flavors from foods and drinks that are stored in them. Items made from this plastic are commonly recycled. PETE plastic is used to make many common household items like beverage bottles, medicine jars, peanut butter jars, combs, bean bags, and rope. Recycled PETE is used to make tote bags, carpet, fiberfill material in winter clothing, and more.

Plastic marked with anSPI code of 2is made withHigh-Density Polyethylene, or HDPE. HDPEproducts are very safe and they are not known to transmit any chemicals into foods or drinks. HDPE products are commonly recycled. Items made from this plastic include containers for milk, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners, soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches. Many personalized toys are made from this plastic as well. (Please note: it is NEVER safe to reuse an HDPE bottle as a food or drink container if it didn’t originally contain food or drink!) Recycled HDPE is used to make plastic crates, plastic lumber, fencing, and more.

Plastic labeled with anSPI code of 3is made withPolyvinyl Chloride, or PVC. PVC is not often recycled and it can be harmful if ingested. PVC is used for all kinds of pipes and tiles, but it’s most commonly found in plumbing pipes. This kind of plastic should not come in contact with food items. Recycled PVC is used to make flooring, mobile home skirting, and more.

Plastic marked with anSPI code of 4is made withLow-Density Polyethylene, or LDPE. LDPE is not commonly recycled, but it is recyclable in certain areas. It is a very healthy plastic that tends to be both durable and flexible. Plastic cling wrap, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, and plastic grocery bags are all made from LDPE. Recycled LDPE is used to make garbage cans, lumber, furniture, and more.

Plastic marked with anSPI code of 5is made withPolypropylene, or PP. PP is not commonly recycled, but it is accepted in many areas. This type of plastic is strong and can usually withstand higher temperatures. Among many other products, it is used to make plastic diapers, Tupperware, margarine containers, yogurt boxes, syrup bottles, prescription bottles, and some stadium cups. Plastic bottle caps are often made from PP as well. Recycled PP is used to make ice scrapers, rakes, battery cables, and more.

Plastic marked with anSPI code of 6is made withPolystyrene, also known as PSand most commonly known as Styrofoam. It is commonly recycled, but it is difficult to do so and often ends up in landfills anyway. Disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery, packing foam, and packing peanuts are made from PS. Recycled PS is used to make insulation, license plate frames, rulers, and more.

The SPI code of 7is used to designate miscellaneous types of plastic that are not defined by the other six codes. Polycarbonate and Polylactide are included in this category. These types of plastics are difficult to recycle. Polycarbonate, or PC, is used in baby bottles, large water bottles (multiple-gallon capacity), compact discs, and medical storage containers. Recycled plastics in this category are used to make plastic lumber, among other products.

Consumers can make better plastic-purchasing decisions if they understand SPI codes and potential health hazards of each plastic, and recyclers can more effectively separate plastics into categories. Always check a product’s classification code prior to recycling it or re-using it. It’s important to stay educated about plastic classification numbers and plastic types; remember, informed consumers can demand that plastics manufacturers provide better products.

Read more:Health and environment: a closer look at plastics – Food & Nutrition -Public Health –

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, environmental health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Novel Approaches Needed to End Growing Scourge of ‘Superbugs’

A schematic representation of how antibiotic r...

A schematic representation of how antibiotic resistance is enhanced by natural selection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


From the 23 January 2013 article at Science Daily


With the rising awareness of the so-called “superbugs,” bacteria that are resistant to most known antibiotics, three infectious disease experts writing in the Jan. 24 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine called for novel approaches based on a “reconceptualization of the nature of resistance, disease and prevention.”






“Antibiotic-resistant microbes infect more than 2 million Americans every year and kill more than 100,000 annually,” said Brad Spellberg, M.D., a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center lead researcher and one of the authors of the viewpoint article published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “They spread rapidly, even in such seemingly harmless places as high school locker rooms, where they infect young athletes, and they can make mundane urinary or intestinal infections life-threatening. At the same time, the development of new antibiotics to treat these infections is plummeting, leading to our call for entirely new approaches to the problem.”


Dr. Spellberg, author of the book, “Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them,” authored the article with Drs. John G. Bartlett and David N. Gilbert, both past presidents of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.


The article’s authors called for continuing the traditional practices in “infection control, antibiotic stewardship, and new antibiotic development.” But they also write that the World Economic Forum’s recent conclusion that antibiotic-resistant bacteria represent “arguably the greatest risk…to human health” underscores the need for new approaches as well.


New interventions are needed


  • “to prevent infections from occurring in the first place,
  • to encourage new economic models that spur investment in anti-infective treatments,
  • to slow the spread of resistance in order to prolong the useful lives of antibiotics,
  • to discover new ways to directly attack microbes in a manner that does not drive resistance, or to alter host-microbe interactions in order to modify disease without directly attacking microbes,” the researchers wrote.


Among their recommendations are


  • stricter monitoring and controls for prescribing antibiotics and
  • changes in hospital practices, including greater disinfection and
  • less usage of invasive materials than can transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the body.


They recommended new regulatory approaches to encourage antibiotic development, such as the Limited Population Antibiotic Drug (LPAD) proposal from the Infectious Diseases Society of America. They said this proposal would encourage the development new antibiotics by allowing their approval based on smaller, less expensive clinical trials.


They also called for new approaches to treating infections caused by bacteria. Rather than attacking the microbes causing the infection, the researchers urged scientists to pursue new courses of discovery that either “moderate the inflammatory response to infection or that limit microbial growth by blocking access to host resources without attempting to kill microbes.”


Read the entire article here



January 24, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [“Food Stamps”]: Examining the Evidence to Define Benefit Adequacy

English: Logo of the .

English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The USDA asked the IOM and the National Research Council to consider whether it is feasible to objectively define the adequacy of SNAP allotments that meet the program goals and, if so, to outline the data and analyses needed to support and evidence-based assessment of SNAP adequacy.


Conclusions include:


  • The adequacy of SNAP allotments can be defined
  • The adequacy of SNAP allotments is influenced by individual, household,and environmental factors
    •  Unprocessed foods are the cheapest, yet many do not have the time to “cook from scratch”
    • Food prices vary among regions. While SNAP allotments are adjusted, not enough data to show this is working.
    • Nutrition education seems to be working, but evidence is insufficient.
  • The adequacy of SNAP allotments is influenced by program characteristics. The maximum monthly benefit,benefit reduction rate, and net income calculation have important impacts on SNAP allotments.[See this fact sheet for explanations of these terms]


And the Recommendations


“The committee offers its recommendations in three areas

  • First, it recommends elements that should be included by USDA-FNS in an evidence-based, objective definition and measurement of the adequacy of SNAP allotments.
  • Second, it recommends monitoring and assessment of the adequacy of SNAP allotments that is needed for evaluation and adjustment over time.
  • Third, it recommends additional research and data needed to support an evidence-based definition of allotment adequacy.
  • In addition, the committee describes other research considerations that would further understanding of allotment adequacy.




[This image is basically unreadable if smaller!, it was copied from the summary of the report]

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 5.03.07 AM


From the summary of the report at


For many Americans who live at or below the poverty threshold, access to healthy foods at a reasonable price is a challenge that often places a strain on already limited resources and may compel them to make food choices that are contrary to current nutritional guidance.

To help alleviate this problem, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers a number of nutrition assistance programs designed to improve access to healthy foods for low-income individuals and households. The largest of these programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called the Food Stamp Program, which today serves more than 46 million Americans with a program cost in excess of $75 billion annually. The goals of SNAP include raising the level of nutrition among low-income households and maintaining adequate levels of nutrition by increasing the food purchasing power of low-income families.

In response to questions about whether there are different ways to define the adequacy of SNAP allotments consistent with the program goals of improving food security and access to a healthy diet, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a study to examine the feasibility of defining the adequacy of SNAP allotments, specifically:

  • the feasibility of establishing an objective, evidence-based, science-driven definition of the adequacy of SNAP allotments consistent with the program goals of improving food security and access to a healthy diet,
  • as well as other relevant dimensions of adequacy;
  • and data and analyses needed to support an evidence-based assessment of the adequacy of SNAP allotments.




January 24, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment


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