Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Dawn of Agriculture Took Toll On Health


Amanda Mummert led the first comprehensive, global review of the literature regarding stature and health during the agriculture transition. (Credit: Image courtesy of Emory University)

From the 18 June 2011 Science Daily article


ScienceDaily (June 18, 2011) — When populations around the globe started turning to agriculture around 10,000 years ago, regardless of their locations and type of crops, a similar trend occurred: The height and health of the people declined….

…”Many people have this image of the rise of agriculture and the dawn of modern civilization, and they just assume that a more stable food source makes you healthier,” Mummert says. “But early agriculturalists experienced nutritional deficiencies and had a harder time adapting to stress, probably because they became dependent on particular food crops, rather than having a more significantly diverse diet.”

She adds that growth in population density spurred by agriculture settlements led to an increase in infectious diseases, likely exacerbated by problems of sanitation and the proximity to domesticated animals and other novel disease vectors.

Eventually, the trend toward shorter stature reversed, and average heights for most populations began increasing. The trend is especially notable in the developed world during the past 75 years, following the industrialization of food systems.

“Culturally, we’re agricultural chauvinists. We tend to think that producing food is always beneficial, but the picture is much more complex than that,” says Emory anthropologist George Armelagos, co-author of the review. “Humans paid a heavy biological cost for agriculture, especially when it came to the variety of nutrients. Even now, about 60 percent of our calories come from corn, rice and wheat.”…

An abstract of the article may be found here.

Click here for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost.

June 20, 2011 Posted by | Nutrition, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

USDA State Fact Sheets

From the US Department of Agriculture State Fact Sheets home page

State fact sheets provide information on population, income, education, employment, federal funds, organic agriculture, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and exports, for each State in the United States. Links to county-level data are included when available.

Data last updated on April 28, 2011.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | statistics | , , | Leave a comment

The genius of bacteria

The genius of bacteria

Tel Aviv University develops an IQ test to assess and outsmart bacteria’s ‘social intelligence’

This is a “smart community ” of Paenibacillus vortex bacteria.


From the January 24, 2011 Eureka news release

Q scores are used to assess the intelligence of human beings. Now Tel Aviv University has developed a “Social-IQ score” for bacteria ― and it may lead to new antibiotics and powerful bacteria-based “green” pesticides for the agricultural industry.

An international team led by Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and his research student Alexandra Sirota-Madi says that their results deepen science’s knowledge of the social capabilities of bacteria, one of the most prolific and important organisms on earth. “Bacteria are our worst enemies but they can also be our best friends. To better exploit their capabilities and to outsmart pathogenic bacteria, we must realize their social intelligence,” says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

The international team was first to sequence the genome of pattern-forming bacteria, the Paenibacillus vortex (Vortex) discovered two decades ago by Prof. Ben-Jacob and his collaborators. While sequencing the genome, the team developed the first “Bacteria Social-IQ Score” and found that Vortex and two other Paenibacillus strains have the world’s highest Social-IQ scores among all 500 sequenced bacteria. The research was recently published in the journal BMC Genomics.

Highly evolved communities

The impact of the team’s research is three-fold. First, it shows just how “smart” bacteria can really be –– a new paradigm that has just begun to be recognised by the science community today. Second, it demonstrates bacteria’s high level of social intelligence –– how bacteria work together to communicate and grow. And finally, the work points out some potentially significant applications in medicine and agriculture.

The researchers looked at genes which allow the bacteria to communicate and process information about their environment, making decisions and synthesizing agents for defensive and offensive purposes. This research shows that bacteria are not simple solitary organisms, or “low level” entities, as earlier believed ― they are highly social and evolved creatures. They consistently foil the medical community as they constantly develop strategies against the latest antibiotics. In the West, bacteria are one of the top three killers in hospitals today.

The recent study shows that everyday pathogenic bacteria are not so smart: their S-IQ score is just at the average level. But the social intelligence of the Vortex bacteria is at the “genius range”: if compared to human IQ scores it is about 60 points higher than the average IQ at 100. Armed with this kind of information on the social intelligence of bacteria, researchers will be better able to outsmart them, says Prof. Ben-Jacob.

This information can also be directly applied in “green” agriculture or biological control, where bacteria’s advanced offense strategies and toxic agents can be used to fight harmful bacteria, fungi and even higher organisms.

Tiny biotechnology factories

Bacteria are often found in soil, and live in symbiotic harmony with a plant’s roots. They help the roots access nutrients, and in exchange the bacteria eat sugar from the roots.

For that reason, bacteria are now applied in agriculture to increase the productivity of plants and make them stronger against pests and disease. They can be used instead of fertilizer, and also against insects and fungi themselves. Knowing the Social-IQ score could help developers determine which bacteria are the most efficient.

“Thanks to the special capabilities of our bacteria strain, it can be used by researchers globally to further investigate the social intelligence of bacteria,” says co-author Sirota-Madi. “When we can determine how smart they really are, we can use them as biotechnology factories and apply them optimally in agriculture.”




January 25, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Agriculture and Public Health Gateway


The Agriculture and Public Health Gateway allows researchers, journalists, advocates, and educators to explore the links between agriculture and public health by searching several databases simultaneously, or by browsing a vetted collection of reports, journal articles and other resources.
This gateway is A project of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

From the About page:

he Agriculture & Public Health Gateway connects visitors to numerous information sources within topic areas that link these two fields. It can be a powerful tool for researchersjournalistsadvocates and educators, providing access to recommended resources linked from the site, as well as to powerful database search capabilities.

The two primary means of accessing information through the Gateway are the Browse by Subject collections and our Database Search:

Browse by Subject

Find collections of recommended resources on specific public health and agriculture topics. Each collection is divided into four categories:

  • Reports & Other Documents – white papers, reports from government agencies or non-governmental organizations, fact sheets, brochures, or other “gray” literature on a topic.
  • Peer-reviewed Journal Articles – a sampling of some of the best research on each topic.
  • Relevant Organizations – includes governmental and non-governmental agencies, academic centers, and private-sector sources that are considered key information resources within a topic area.
  • Other Tools & Resources – databases, books, films, videos, slide presentations, newspaper articles, or consumer guides, as well as other organizations’ lists of resources or Web links.

Search Databases

Concurrently search these key electronic libraries (and the Gateway site itself):

  • AGRICOLA – National Agricultural Library collection includes more than 3.3 million bibliographic records of journal articles, theses, patents, software, and technical reports related to agriculture from 1979 to the present.
  • PubMed – A service of the National Library of Medicine that includes more than 18 million citations for biomedical articles dating to the 1950s. Includes links to full-text articles.
  • NASD – the National Agricultural Safety Database, a project of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  • EarthTrends – environmental database by the World Resources Institute that tracks environmental, social, and economic trends.

Link to Other Resources

Other Gateway resources include links to glossaries, listservs and newsletters, online photos and images, and event listings related to agriculture and public health.

Register as a Gateway Member

Additional services are available to users who register with the Gateway. For more details, visit Benefits of Registration

The gateway also provides links to factsheets, listservs and newsletters, images, and events.

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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