Monday, May 07, 2007
My epidemiology professor said at one point that "chronic diseases are those things that, should we live long enough, we will all enjoy." So, in honor of the discovery of a gene responsible for the increased longevity seen from calorie-restricted diets, a few bits on chronic disease.
Two groups of researchers have found (separately) that an allele appears to be responsible for as much as a 60% increase in heart disease risk. The gene, which is especially common in white people, is not determinant: you still need lifestyle and other risk factors, but having one or two copies of this gene is no good either!
Diabetic ulcers are just one of the many complications of that potentially debilitating chronic disease, whose incidence is likely to begin really skyrocketing soon, as the world's population gets older and fatter. And now, of course, we have super-bugs, which are resistant to antibiotic treatment, which can infect these ulcers and make amputation more likely. Two new treatments may be on the horizon: honey and maggots. Both have shown promise in preliminary and anecdotal studies, the former helping healing by sterilizing the area with peroxide and dehydration, the latter doing a number of (not entirely clear) things to kill even MRSA infections.
Another chronic, but more annoying than debilitating, disease is herpes. US researchers claim to have found the gene responsible for HSV's ability to 'hide' in the body, a promising discovery for future improvements in treatment.
Once you've gotten old and have managed your diabetes and heart disease risks, living in a walkable neighborhood may be another good thing to do for yourself: US researchers found that elderly men who lived in walkable neighborhoods (those with things like sidewalks, crosswalks, and nearby shops and cafes) were less likely to be depressed than those living in nonwalkable areas. I live in a dreadfully unwalkable area, and I know I think it's depressing!
Finally: too much of a good thing. Green tea's supposed to be all kinds of good for you, right? Well yes, unless you're overdoing it. Rutgers researchers found that people who take 'green tea supplements' may be at risk of liver and kidney damage. I always say, don't take as a pill that which you can get in real life...it's just never quite right.