Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Obama quails (again)

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Obama is taking steps against excessive use of antibiotics by signing an executive order. Because of evolution, which actually does work, natural selection favors pathogens that can resist the antibiotics used, so such pathogens proliferate. In this case, however, the selection is not really “natural”: since humans are administering the antibiotics (in large numbers), we are in effect artificially selecting pathogens for antibiotic resistance—that is, we are engaged in a stupendously large program to breed pathogens that we cannot kill with our current medications.

Why one earth would we do such an insane thing? Money! You can make a lot of money by breeding superstrong pathogens that we cannot kill. Of course, eventually such pathogens will become a real problem, with people once again dying from small infections, but the beauty part is by then the money will have been made!

That is actually the “thinking” (if one can call it that) behind the great pressure to continue the super-pathogen breeding program.

Of course, Obama all to frequently seems incapable of committing himself to effective action. He may indeed have good intentions, but they are frittered away in compromises, half-measures, and backing down. Kerry Grens writes in The Scientist:

President Obama yesterday (September 18) signed an executive order and announced a National Strategy to fight antibiotic resistance. His administration also offered up a $20 million reward for developing a fast diagnostic test that could identify highly resistant bugs.

The National Strategy is a five-year plan including goals such as slowing the spread of drug-resistant bacteria; accelerating the development of new antibiotics, vaccines, and drugs; and enhancing the surveillance of antibiotic resistance. The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) also released its report outlining similar strategies.

“What’s new here is there is a highly federal focus that’s highly coordinated,” Eric Lander, the cochair of PCAST and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, told CNN. “We are endorsing a variety of specific goals in order to get our arms around this problem. If we’re producing antibiotics at a greater rate than we’re losing them, then we win in the long run.”

Those in the infectious disease community appeared pleased by the attention on antibiotic resistance.“The President’s engagement and actions in fighting antimicrobial resistance are a great step forward, but follow-up with resources and leadership in implementation will be critical,” Jesse Goodman, the director of the Center on Medical Product Access, Safety and Stewardship at Georgetown University Medical Center, said in a statement e-mailed to The Scientist.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), however, expressed disappointment in the lack of focus on antibiotic use on farms. “Just as the administration is taking steps to deal with abuse of antibiotics in humans, it must take steps to curb the overuse of antibiotics in animals, which consume about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States. Shying away from taking these needed steps will not yield the ‘substantial changes’ that PCAST says are necessary,” Mae Wu, health attorney at the NRDC, said in a statement. The FDA has spearheaded efforts to get drugmakers to change their labeling to help curb the use of antibiotics for beefing up livestock.

Emphasis added. And Obama? He went home. He will do nothing about the core of the problem, just kind of tap around the edges.

I am so disappointed in this Administration. Plenty of fire in the belly for going after whistleblowers, protecting torturers, making more and more of government secret, letting the NSA and CIA do whatever they want, and so on—but actual constructive change? I think he used it all up in the Affordable Care Act.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 3:30 pm

Comfort food: A myth

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Comfort foods provide zero comfort if you actually measure mood. Tom Jacobs points out in an article in Pacific Standard, “A new study finds comfort foods are no more effective at lifting moods than any other foods—or even sitting quietly without consuming a calorie.” The article continues:

“Negative moods naturally dissipate over time,” writes a University of Minnesota research team led by psychologist Traci Mann. “Individuals may be giving comfort food ‘credit’ for mood effects that would have occurred even in the absence of the comfort food.”

That tub of Haagen-Dazs may not have magical powers after all.

Mann and her colleagues describe four experiments, three of which were similarly structured. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2014 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Man! Viruses can move!

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Ben Richmond writes in Motherboard:

You are a walking vector of disease—not just you, but all of us. Especially the children. In fact, it takes just  hours for the microbes living on your body to cover your home. But how long does it take for an invading, diarrhea-causing human norovirus to spread across your house, office building, hotel, or hospital? Not long at all, it turns out, thanks to you and your grubby, disgusting hands.

Chuck Gerba, a professor of Microbiology at the University of Arizona, just presented a  study at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapywhere he found that the norovirus basically screams across surfaces.

It takes just hours from the time a virus is introduced on a tabletop or doorknob for it to appear all over the building’s fomites, or surfaces capable of sustaining microbial life, as well as everyone’s hands.

“Within 2 to 4 hours, between 40 to 60 percent of the fomites sampled were contaminated with virus,” Gerba told me.

In order to clock the viral spread, . . .

Continue reading.

Important note later in the article:

“What we found was that if we provided these households with hand sanitizers or disinfecting wipes, we could reduce the amount of virus they’re exposed to by 99 percent,” Gerba said. “Because colds and flus go around all the time, it’s probably a good idea to use them at least once a day. We found once to three times a day using a hand sanitizer is all you needed. If no other time of the year, then at least during cold and flu season.”

And note: Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2014 at 2:46 pm

Very clever: The chairless seating device

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I really like this idea—and I especially like how it will help those whose jobs require them to be on their feet all day long.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 September 2014 at 9:43 am

What is killing the Russians? It seems to be despair.

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 September 2014 at 3:00 pm

How we screw up our sleep

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One problem is that people now try to sleep the night through in one period of sleep (which doesn’t work so well) instead of using segmented sleep, with a “first sleep” and “second sleep.” This article discusses that issue and offers a historical perspective.

The second article concerns the blue light from our computer screens, which disrupts our sleep cycle but turns out to have much more serious consequences than that.

The Wife uses yellow glasses at the computer in the evening, to block blue light. Lifehacker discusses this approach here.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 September 2014 at 9:24 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

More proof that a low-carb high-fat diet works

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TYD sends along a link to this NY Times article by Anahad O’Connor:

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

The findings are unlikely to be the final salvo in what has been a long and often contentious debate about what foods are best to eat for weight loss and overall health. The notion that dietary fat is harmful, particularly saturated fat, arose decades ago from comparisons of disease rates among large national populations.

But more recent clinical studies in which individuals and their diets were assessed over time have produced a more complex picture. Some have provided strong evidence that people can sharply reduce their heart disease risk by eating fewer carbohydrates and more dietary fat, with the exception of trans fats. The new findings suggest that this strategy more effectively reduces body fat and also lowers overall weight.

The new study was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women — a rarity in clinical nutrition studies — who were assigned to follow diets for one year that limited either the amount of carbs or fat that they could eat, but not overall calories.

“To my knowledge, this is one of the first long-term trials that’s given these diets without calorie restrictions,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the new study. “It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that’s really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories.”

Diets low in carbohydrates and higher in fat and protein have been commonly used for weight loss since Dr. Robert Atkins popularized the approach in the 1970s. Among the longstanding criticisms is that these diets cause people to lose weight in the form of water instead of body fat, and thatcholesterol and other heart disease risk factors climb because dieters invariably raise their intake of saturated fat by eating more meat and dairy.

Many nutritionists and health authorities have “actively advised against” low-carbohydrate diets, said the lead author of the new study, Dr. Lydia A. Bazzano of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “It’s been thought that your saturated fat is, of course, going to increase, and then your cholesterol is going to go up,” she said. “And then bad things will happen in general.”

The new study showed that was not the case. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 September 2014 at 6:52 pm

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