Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Secondly and less convincingly, an Oxford team claims to have found the (or at least a) gene for left-handedness. On the upside, this is interesting. On the downside, the gene also appears to increase risk of schizophrenia. This coincidence is odd but not totally shocking - schizophrenia seems to be a problem with how the brain organizes information, and a gene that pretty radically changes all those systems may well make them more likely to screw up.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Take cigarettes: no one has ever alleged that they cause psychosis, but schizophrenics tend to be HEAVY smokers. Before and certainly after developing the disease. Analysis similar to the current pot study would similarly link tobacco to psychosis, an association known to be inverted (smoking is a form of self-medication for many schizophrenics).
Thursday, July 26, 2007
One thing we have lots of here, on the other hand, is vitamin C. Australian researchers suggest that a diet high in this citrusy nutrient, as well as in green-veggie carotenoids, could lower one's risk of developing knee arthritis. This result strikes me a bit odd, but given my history of knee injuries, I can't say I'll be avoiding my fruits or veggies!!
Something else we have a lot of in the US (especially here in Atlanta, home of the nation's second-most-unhealthy commute) is air pollution. While we've known for some time that pollution is linked to increased cardiovascular disease, it's not been clear precisely why. Now, UCLA researchers (who live in the unhealthiest commuter area) have found a direct link between air pollution and arteriosclerosis: strongly oxidative particles. Oh, goody. Can I get my car fit with a gas mask?
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The highest rates being among restaurant workers, shocking no one except New York lawyers and stock brokers, who thought they were ahead as usual. The problems with surveys like this pretty much outweigh their usefulness, as far as I'm concerned. Firstly, honest reporting is a serious problem. Secondly, asking if people have used drugs gives no indication whatsoever as to whether or not they did so in a dangerous, or excessive, or other manner which caused them to be less effective members of society.
Besides being on drugs, Americans are also very often obese. Why? Well, for starters we don't get enough exercise. A CDC study found that, even though as many as 35% of kids live within a mile of school, few walk or bike. Why? Well, it might have to do with the fact that we're a lazy, car-obsessed society. More interestingly (and ironically) is that we are also a fear obsessed society. Parents and school are so afraid of anything happening to their kids (and of getting sued for it) that they don't even allow their kids to walk. (I remember a comments discussion with Karen about her kids and school a while back, but can't find it)
Parents should, of course, be more afraid of their kids being obese and getting diabetes (both things which are likely and eminently preventable) than of their kids being kidnapped, run over, or getting lost (all increasingly unlikely, unless the kid is famous and/or incredibly stupid) on the treacherous 400 meter walk home. Why, you ask?
A study from Captain Obvious' lab has found that overweight kids face severe stigma from a very early age, especially from peers but also from parents and teachers. Fat kids lives tend to suck. Fat kids are also at risk of developing diabetes, which sucks even more.
On the upside, there is evidence that vitamin D and calcium may help protect against type II diabetes. It's not clear how this works, but is a promising direction for research.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
While everyone knows HIV is bad, most people are aware that drinking lots of cola is probably not good for them. Unfortunately, an article in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology suggests that folks who drink more than two servings of cola per day (that's less than one of those 20-oz bottles!) had a higher risk of chronic kidney disease. The culprit seems to be cola's characteristic phosphoric acid, as other sodas and caffeinated drinks didn't show similar effects.
Finally, you probably thought that Selenium was good for you. Health food stores and "dietary supplement" companies have been touting it for years as a miracle for everything from cancer to obesity and beyond. Unfortunately, what looks like a pretty robust clinical trial has found that selenium supplementation appears to be linked to higher risk of diabetes. Granted, this result comes from secondary analysis, but still it should serve as a warning: we don't really know what all those "supplements" do to our bodies.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Understanding the why can lead to the what-to-do. On top of my list, besides our increasingly-sedentary society, is fructose sweeteners. In the US especially (due to ridiculous sugar tariffs designed to guarantee votes from Cubans in Florida), almost any food you buy is laced with high fructose corn syrup.
Besides being a source of boundless empty calories, new research further confirms that this crap is actively bad for you: compared to glucose-sweetened drinks, volunteers drinking fructose-sweetened ones had increased LDL ('bad') cholesterol, triglycerides, and other measures of atherosclerosis risk. This is why I read labels and avoid the stuff.
What else makes people fat? Stress! Georgetown researchers confirmed that chronically stressed mice got fatter, and put the fat in more unhealthy places (around the abdomen) than did non-stressed mice, and that Neuropeptide Y appears to be a major culprit in this pathway. Blocking NPY made fat cells shrink and excess fat 'melt' away. Ignoring the likely side-effects, where's my anti-NPY?!!
So, if you wanna lose weight: stop eating fructose-sweetened food, be less stressed, and, oh yeah, GET SOME EXERCISE!!!!
On a tangentially-related note, it turns out that those 'probiotic' yogurt thingeys, containing Lactobacillus casei, L bulgaricus, and Streptococcus thermophilus, really do reduce your risk of getting diarrhea after antibiotic treatment. Cool!