BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: health (Page 1 of 2)

MRIs Catch Autism Prior to Symptoms

Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton / Wellcome Images Image Link

Research

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers are now able to accurately study and predict which infants, among those with older autistic siblings, will be diagnosed by the age of 2. According to an article on Science daily, in the past couple of years, researchers have correctly predicted 80 percent of these infants who would later meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age.

A study published in Nature, shows how early brain biomarkers can be very beneficial in identifying infants at the highest risk for autism prior to any symptoms. Joseph Piven, professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, explains how typically autism cannot be detected in infants until they ages 2-4, but for infants with autistic siblings, it can be determined at an earlier age.

People diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), experience social deficits and  demonstrate very specific stereotypical behaviors. According to this study, it is estimated that one out of 68 children develop autism in the United States and that  for infants with older siblings with autism, the risk may be as high as 20 out of every 100 births. Despite these high numbers, it remains a difficult task to detect behavioral symptoms prior to 24 months of age.

Piven, along with a couple of other researchers, conducted MRI scans of infants at six, 12, and 24 months of age. They discovered that increased growth rate of surface area in the first year of life was linked to increased growth rate of overall brain volume in the second year of life. This meant that brain overgrowth was tied to the emergence of autistic social deficits in the second year. The researchers then took the information they had and used a computer program that classified babies most likely to meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age, and developed an algorithm that they applied to a separate set of study participants.

The researchers found that there were brain differences at 6 and 12 months of age in infants with older siblings with autism and infants with older ASD siblings who did not meet criteria for autism at 24 months.

Plans for the Future

This research and test would be very beneficial to a family who already has a child with autism and has a second child who may or may not be affected. The ideal goal would be to intervene and provide as much assistance to the infant and family prior to the emergence of symptoms. By intervening at early stages and when the brain is most susceptible, researchers hope to improve the outcomes of treatment.

In the nature study, Piven describes how Parkinson’s and Autism are similar in that when the person is diagnosed, they’ve already lost a substantial portion of the dopamine receptors in their brain, making treatment less effective.

One mother who has benefitted from this discovery and is extremely grateful is Rachel O’Connor. When interviewed by News12, she shared how early intervention “has brought out some language in [her] daughter,” and how her daughter “can now say what she wants and she desires. She makes better eye contact.”

 

Our Intestines Cure Cancer??

There are over one hundred trillion organisms- most are bacteria- living in our intestine today. These are referred to as the gut microbiota.

While trillions of bacteria sounds scary, they can actually be very helpful. Research has been done worldwide and the discovery has been that gut microbes actually can kill cancer cells all over the body. (Not just in the intestines) But how? Gut microbes and cancer actually cross paths. Gut microbes can manipulate the immune system and can either increase inflammation or lower it as needed. This means the bacteria can actually work with cancer treatments, boost T-cells, and control other factors that help cancer grow such as fungi, or viruses.

However, this is not all. While some cells help against cancer growth, others do the opposite. It varies cancer to cancer, and all have different results. As said by microbiologist and immunologist Patrick Schloss “What we really need is to have a much better understanding of which species, which type of bug, is doing what and try to change the balance.” So more research is still being done to decide how to control the microbiota, but a possible theory is that because it’s in the intestine it is related to our metabolisms and so what we eat controls the bacterium- this can also then effect the colon, thus effecting more cancer: colon cancer.

 

Dolly’s Legacy and the Healthy State of Sheep Clones

Over the past two decades, there has been much discussion around Dolly in the scientific community.  No, not Dolly Parton (although her name served as an inspiration), but Dolly the cloned sheep.  In 1996, researchers at the Roslin Institute, an animal sciences research center at the University of Edinburgh, made history by cloning the first mammal from an adult somatic cell via nuclear transfer.  The cell utilized for the cloning was from a mammary gland, and Dolly’s successful birth and 6 year longevity signified that cells other than gametes and germ cells could recreate an organism.  However, scientists and laymen alike have expressed concern regarding Dolly’s short lifespan in respective to the overage sheep’s of 10-12 years.  Does this mean clones are unhealthier versions of their “natural” predecessors?

dolly_face_closeupPhoto of Dolly’s taxidermied remains by Toni Barros, source

According to research conducted by Kevin Sinclair of the University of Nottingham, the answer is no.  Monitoring four sheep derived from the same mammary gland cells as Dolly in addition to nine cloned sheep of other breeds, Sinclair has dug up no evidence to suggest that the clones are less healthy than sheep born of natural processes.  In fact, all 13 of the sheep are now older than nine (equivalent to 70 or 80 years in the lifespan of a human) and are as healthy as their non-cloned counterparts according to tests scanning their bones, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure.

And so the question is posed, why did Dolly die young?  Scientists who interacted with Dolly claim that her life was taken by a contagious illness that ravaged the flock- not some defect as a result of her being a clone.  To address Dolly’s severe amounts of arthritis at the time of her death, geneticist Helen Sang from the Roslin Institute points to her indoor captivity and the excessive amounts of treats she was given.

While cloning might not be as efficient as traditional modes of breeding, this study exhibits that cloned animals which survive gestation and are relatively healthy during their infancy have the same chances of thriving and living to expected longevity as any other animal of the breed.  Additionally, cloning allows scientists to generate embryonic stem cells for further scientific research and to produce “high-value livestock”.  These advantages begin to show the importance of clowning and how beneficial it can become if it is accepted as an integral part of scientific studies. What animals are next to be cloned?  What impacts would cloning humans have on our society?

This new tropical virus is not as fun as it’s name sounds!!!

Although it may be fun to say, the Zika Virus is no laughing matter.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the number of Zika Virus infections has increased to 147 in recent months (only 107 of which are from international travelers from Zika-infected areas). Moreover 117 more cases of Zika were reported from Puerto Rico after the CDC released those aforementioned numbers. The CDC urges that people refrain from traveling to highly infected areas like Puerto Rico and especially Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janero, Brazil is a hotspot for Zika infection through mosquito bites

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janero, Brazil is a hotspot for Zika infection through mosquito bites

 

Zika is spread through the bite of an infected female mosquito (typically of the Aedis Aegipty type) and 80% of the infected showed a variety of the following symptoms: mild fever, skin rash around area of bite and other, conjunctivitis (pink eye), muscle and joint pain that last for approximately 1 week, and fatigue.

 

Now you may be asking yourself, “What’s so dangerous about a virus that sounds like it should be a Pokémon? People get over viruses every day?” Well the answer is not with Zika itself, but rather with what Zika causes.

 

Several studies have emerged that claim Zika is directly connected to Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Microcephaly. Additionally, the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) claims there is no evidence that Zika can cause death, but there have been several reports of it worsening pre-existing medical conditions.

CDC_map_of_Zika_virus_distribution_as_of_15_January_2016

Areas of Zika Virus infection and density of cases (the darker the purple the more amounts of cases in that area)

Guillain-Barre Syndrome – an extremely rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks the nervous system, systematically destroying it over a long period of time. Although weakness and tingling to extremities are first symptoms, they can quickly spread eventually leading to full-body paralysis. Most people with the rare disease must be immediately hospitalized for rigorous treatment.

 

Microcephaly – a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than average. Most often it can be detected at birth and sometimes avoided with late-stage abortions but recent U.S. laws have prevented such actions. Microcephaly results in abnormally low brain function and development (not growing enough in the womb and not developing at a normal pace after birth.) Children with Microcephaly have severe developmental issues and there is no treatment or cure.

 

Microcephaly can be caused by Zika if a woman contracts the virus in the first and second trimester of the pregnancy. 9 cases of pregnant women contracting Zika have been recorded and of those 9 cases, two women had miscarriages, two women terminated their pregnancies, one woman had a baby with very severe Microcephaly, and most other women contracted the virus in the late stages of the pregnancy and had generally healthy babies

 

In conclusion, if you are a pregnant woman try not to travel to exotic and/or tropical areas where Zika-infected mosquitos usually live.

 

Original Article: http://news.yahoo.com/factbox-why-zika-virus-causing-alarm-202231278.html;_ylt=AwrC1jHwztFW5m0AGIHQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTBydWNmY2MwBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM0BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–

Trust Your Gut and Exercise

 

File:Wild garden of the gut bacteria 5.jpg

According to an article on GEN news, the level of Microbiomes contained within the Gut is influenced by exercise as a young child. Microbiota are the organisms that share our body space, and the gut has a particularly concentrated region of these organisms. Scientists estimate that gut microbiomes make up anywhere from 1-3% of total body mass. As it turns out the saying, “trust your gut” has some scientific merit. Microbiomes promote healthy brain function and promote anti-depressant effects, as well as adding up to 5 million genes to the human genome. Having a healthy gut is a key to overall biological health.

A recent study by Colorado University claims a connection between early life exercise and healthy microbiome activity. This study was conducted with rats, with one group young of rats exercising daily contrasted against a control of rats who behaved normally. The younger exercising rats experienced a growth of probiotic bacteria in their guts, more so then the stationary rats or even older rats who exercised. Researchers “emphasize the ability of exercise” to promote a healthy brain and metabolic function. In the future, Colorado University will look for ways to promote healthy microbiome activity in adults who have a much more stagnant microbiome structure.

 

Sources:

1.http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/gut-microbiome-influenced-by-early-life-exercise/81252160/

2.http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/microbiome/

3.http://patient.info/health/the-gut

 

We Eat What We Are: The Importance of Microbes in Our Gut

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Photo of microbes (licensing information here)

Ever since the discovery of the microbes, scientists have become very aware of the miniature world of microbes. This early awareness was later translated to an understating of how bacteria and other microbes effect the world we live in. Of course, early scientific and medical research often focused on microbes that cause diseases and how to treat them. However scientists have become aware that each individual is in fact a biome of microbes living on our exterior and inhabiting our interior organs.  Bacteria also play an important role in digestion helping us break down certain foods, producing vitamin and allowing for efficient absorption of nutrients. Increasingly, investigators have began exploring how the micro biome in our digestive track impacts our health and wellbeing.

Gut bacteria appear to play a role in matters of obesity, the development of certain types of cancer and ulcers. They do so by producing certain chemicals that affect a variety of health outcomes. Gut bacteria also produce a wide variety of neurology related chemicals that affect mental processes such as depression and anxiety disorders. Some studies now point to a relationship between autism and particular levels of gut bacteria.

The recognition of the importance of gut bacteria in health and disease have implications in a number of areas. First of all it suggests that a healthy diet should involve the encouragement of the development of good gut bacteria. It also suggests that gut bacteria diversity is a positive goal. Lastly, the results of many of these studies of the significance of gut bacteria in regard to disease point to the need to incorporate the study of an individuals gut bacteria as part of the treatment regiment to fight particular illnesses

 

 

Junk Food Encourages Disease

According to a recent discovery posted in Science News, a typical American diet, consisting of poorly nutritional foods, leaves one prone to getting sick by weakening their immune system. Interestingly enough, this issue is rooted in cells that are not your own. In your gut microbiome, there are countless varieties and numbers of bacteria, all working away at the food that passes through your gut. Now, these bacteria are actually quite manipulative, and besides from feeding off of the food that you eat, teach your immune system what to attack, like an instructor or tutor for your immune system, albeit a biased one. These bacteria have colonized your body. They’re not just going to let some pathogen get in the way of their free meal ticket.

(What it looks like in there)

What happens when you eat certain foods, like junk foods, is that your gut microbiome changes. Different bacteria thrive on the fatty or sugary foods while other bacteria that survive off of more complex starches and carbs fade away, changing the demographic of your gut microbiome. This limited variety also limits the amount of invaders your immune system knows as hostile, or understands how to deal with, and therefore, you are more susceptible to disease, or medical complications.

(Actual photo of a biofilm found in the gut)

This was proven by taking samples from fit and obese humans and inserting them in otherwise sterile mice. Their resulting microbiomes grew, and the mice with the obese implant suffered more medical problems than the mice with the fit implant. This is because there were not enough “trainer” bacteria in the first mice’s gut to help train it to fend off disease, and thus it got sick more easily. So don’t go blaming your immune system the next time you get sick. It may be your fault for avoiding real, nutritional food (not just salad), and not taking care of it.

The moral of the story is to eat your vegetables and serve the bacterial overlords that have taken host in your body.

They’re good for you.

Trust me.

 

What a Smelly Solution to a Smelly Predicament!!!!

The newest developments in scientific and medical research have been focused around a rather smelly purpose.

Fecal transplants are all the rage… and yes, it is what is sounds like. A fecal transplant occurs when the feces of a healthy donor are surgically transplanted into the colon of an individual who has various imbalances in the bacterial assortment of their gut. The feces with a healthy bacteria levels pass through the colon of the sick individual, replacing their “bad bacteria” with “good bacteria”, restoring the bacterial balances back to the way they should be.

Poop

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poop.jpeg

You may ask yourself, why can’t you just take some antibiotics to kill the dominating bacteria and even things out?

Well the problem is just that. Bacterial imbalances are usually caused by antibiotic use that kill one type of bacteria and not another, so taking more antibiotics on top of that would just add to the problem.

The transplant of fecal matter is an icky procedure but has shown to cure many more ailments other than JUST bacterial imbalances. Fecal transplants have showed to help various metabolic diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, autoimmune diseases, allergic disorders, and even tumors.

E coli Ag Res Mag

E. Coli. – one of the most common bacterias in not only your colon, but also your whole body, is a key player in the Fecal Microbiota Transplantation

One specific study of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) in metabolic syndromes, mixed microbiota from the feces of a lean donor with a sample of unhealthy, self-collected feces. After the mixed feces were then reinserted into the gut, the resultant excrement of the patient displayed increased insulin sensitivity and increased number of healthy butyrate-producing intestinal bacteria. In a sense, the resultant doo doo showed signs of improved health for the patient. Another report of FMT displayed favorable outcomes in abating the effects of:

  • Parkinson’s disease – a progressive disorder of the nervous system that negatively affects movement
  • Multiple Sclerosis – an autoimmune nervous system disease in which the human immune system attacks the central nervous system
  • Myoclonus Dystonia – a nervous and musculoskeletal disorder that results in involuntary and spontaneous muscle twitching and jerking
  • Chronic fatigue Syndrome – a cerebral disorder in which the brain excretes neurotransmitters that transmit the information to feel tired and fatigued. Can be extremely dangerous when mixed with everyday activities such as cooking and driving.
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura – a vascular disorder that results in excessive bleeding, internal hemorrhaging, and bruising from low levels of blood platelets.

While many think that poop is simply waste that ought to be disposed of immediately, the beneficial effects that Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) have spread all over the body. From regulating the bacterial levels in the colon, to helping alleviate the symptoms of various autoimmune, vascular, muscular, nervous, and skeletal diseases.

Who would’ve thought that putting poop BACK into the colon would be a healthy thing to do!?!?!

Original Article: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/22/fmt-film/

Funny, yet extremely informative, animation and additional article: http://www.openbiome.org/about-fmt/

 

ANOTHER new study on Coffee

As students in high school, many of us are familiar with the immediate advantage of drinking coffee which is a decrease in fatigue and increase of alertness. Since I was young, however, I have heard many myths and hypotheses about the bad side effect of coffee, like how it stunts your growth and stains your teeth. I have also heard of other, positive side effect of drinking coffee. Some articles have said that caffeine has some positive effects against some diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. Multiple studies and published articles have come up throughout the years on the various side effects of drinking coffee daily and whether or not it is good or bad for you. An article published on sciencenews.org explains the most recent research on this mysterious drink and its long term effects on us humans, while another article argues its bad effects.

This article describes a study and analysis of more than 200,000 professionals followed for almost 30 years. They concluded that drinking up to five cups of either decaf or caffeinated coffee a day has a strong correlation to reduced risk of early death from heart and brain diseases as well as suicide. This study had even accounted for lurking variables such as smoking, weight, and diet. By adjusting for these factors, the scientists discovered that the benefits were more pronounced for non-smokers. They also found that both decaf. and caffeinated coffee were had positive effects. This led the researchers to believe that the powerful components of coffee may stem from chemical compounds in the bean such as diterpenes and chlorogenic acids.

Another article I came across mentioned the known positive, as well as the harmful effects of caffeine. (On a side note, I find it relevant to point out that this article mentioned that studies proving harmful effects of caffeine are harder to find that the reported positive effects. This, I speculate, might have to do a little bit with the fact that people tend to want to hear reassurance on things that will permit them to continue on with habits or actions that might be seen as harmful or bad otherwise.) This website cited studies that were performed by the Mayo Clinic that found that coffee raised blood pressure, increased risk of heart attacks, caused headaches, reduced fertility in women, proved harmful to people with type 2 diabetes, worsened menopause symptoms, increased anxiety, and, most obviously, caused insomnia and more. Some of these correlations, like an increase in headaches due to drinking coffee, can be explained by obvious reasoning: caffeine is a diuretic, and therefore if you aren’t drinking enough water to compensate, your body will produce too much urine and you will become dehydrated which leads to headaches in some cases.

Because of this drug’s popularity, studies after studies have come out presenting new, or sometimes repetitive, information regarding the side effects of drinking coffee. Many people want to believe that it is good for them because they drink it on such a regular basis that if it proved to be very harmful they would be in real trouble. Therefore, people are looking for proof that it is good, so there are more articles, credible and not, showing proof that it is. Additionally, another potential issue with these studies is the amount of caffeine given to the patients. In study one, the subjects were given around 5 cups of coffee a day, which is 2 to 3 more than the average American, and therefore unrepresentative of what Americans actually consume. From this data, I have decided to continue drinking the relatively small amount of coffee I do on a weekly basis, paying attention to how my own body reacts and noting the changes with attention in order to learn more about how it affects me personally, as I feel I am the only reliable source of information to myself at the moment.

Sewage Does More than Just Gross You Out… It Carries a Signal For the Microbiomes of Humans

Who knew that sewage would ever be useful. Well, it is a successful way to collect fecal bacteria from people. It can monitor, through gut microbes, the public health of a population without invading people’s privacy. The human gut microbiome consists of huge amounts of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This gut bacteria has important functions in a healthy human. Recently, there has been much attention to the human microbiome, and more specifically, finding a “healthy microbiome” by identifying which bacterial communities are associated with healthy individuals. What has been hindering this experiment are financial concerns but also privacy concerns in terms of the individuals that can be screened.

Researchers from MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) and the UWM (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) School of Freshwater Sciences proposed the idea of using sewage as a population that consists of a signal for human microbiomes. The scientists used oligotyping to compare 137 healthy people’s gut bacteria (provided by the Human Microbiome Project) to the bacterial communities of more than 200 sewage samples from 71 different U.S. cities. Researchers realized that geographically distributed populations consists of a similar core set of bacteria and its members symbolize many different communities within U.S. adults. The percent of obese people in a city is used by the study as a measure of a lifestyle difference which indicates that this bacteria community structure is accurate in detecting obesity in a city. Lifestyle differences are important because they can change the human gut microbiome and an indicator of obesity is the microbial community composition. This process of working with microbiomes of individuals is similar to drawing a map of a specific geographical area and fishing out new understandings and patterns. If it weren’t for the sewage, the scientists wouldn’t have been able to differentiate the cities based on their level of obesity. This type of approach can be effective when it comes to answering concerns about public health, without undermining the privacy of individuals.

I found it interesting how this profound yet relatively small experiment is even part of a bigger plan to create better water pollution and public health assessments. Do you think it can lead a better water pollution and efficient public health assessments? Overall, it’s amazing how new technologies can aid in decrypting information from complicated environments. I’m excited to see where this experiment takes us as it leads researchers and scientists in a more knowledgeable outlook on our environment and in public health.

The original article can be found here.

Wait… Smoking is bad for you???

Thinking back, it’s pretty hard to believe that at one point most people thought smoking was good for you. Up until about 60 years ago, advertisements preached that smoking cigarettes was not only the cool thing to do, but was also in some ways beneficial for your health.

Lewis_Hine,_Newsies_smoking_at_Skeeter's_Branch,_St._Louis,_1910

Cigarette ads used doctors and scientists to preach that smoking helped alleviate social anxiety, dry mouth, colds, and headaches. Although in some cases the menthol used in many cigarettes did have a positive effect on cold symptoms, in many cases the ill symptoms were caused by smoking withdrawal itself. (i.e. social anxiety and headaches)

To much of 1940’s doctors’ demise, enumerable amounts of studies have come out proving that smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer, gum cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, and most of all emphysema. Now, the tobacco is not always the cause of all these diseases; all the other fun chemicals that the cigarette companies put in the cigs to “enhance the experience” and help them burn faster, are the culprits. Just a few of the chemicals in modern cigarettes are as follows:

Acetone = commonly found in nail polish and many paint removers

Ammonia = highly toxic; usually found in household cleaners

Arsenic = found most in rat poisons

Butane = found in lighter fluid (helps cigarette to burn faster)

Cadmium = component of battery acid

Carbon Monoxide = found in car exhaust fumes

Formaldehyde = embalming fluid (used to preserve dead bodies)

Need I go on? Okay!

Lead = decreases function and activity of the nervous system (brain, spine, etc.)

Methanol = main component of rocket fuel

Nicotine = main component of insecticide but has a very addicting side-effect

Tar = used for paving roads

Toluene = found in dynamite (TNT = Tri-Nitro Toluene)

Some_Kills

It is obvious to me why cigarette companies have stopped running their ads that depict doctors, scientists, teachers and other professions often lauded as some of the most intelligent in society, smoking and promoting cigarettes. Even so, what troubles me, is how 17% of America’s population still chooses to smoke. With 8% of that 17% being teenagers, the number of smokers has steadily declined over the years, but not at a rate rapid enough. The common sense that goes behind just not smoking is maddening to those who watch smokers constantly spending $15 (NY) per pack.

PS: Up until 1978, Camel Cigarettes actually contained minute particles of camel. The company used the fat because it burned very quickly, was odorless, and gave the cigarette a more mild taste.

Original Article: http://www.vox.com/2015/11/14/9732414/how-many-americans-smoke

Information on Emphysema: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/emphysema/basics/definition/con-20014218

Lung Cancer Facts: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/learn-about-lung-cancer/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html

 

The Not-So-Sweet Truth

Trick-or-treaters excitedly hoard candy every Halloween, aware of its dangers to the extent that sugar causes cavities. However, sugar’s stealth effects extend far beyond tooth decay. Research shows that consuming high-concentrations of sugar slows down brain function and is detrimental to both physical and mental health. Continuing overindulgences in sugar-laden products may even lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Children, teenagers, and adults need to understand the damages that a high-fructose diet could cause in order to avoid sugar.

For consumers, sugar is extremely difficult to avoid since it is found in most processed foods in the form of honey, sucrose, and high fructose corn syrup. As soon as sugar is consumed and absorbed into the body, it causes the brain to release hormones, such as dopamine, that generate good feelings. The good feelings from the release of dopamine are temporary. Once the high sugar level in the bloodstream drops, feelings of depression, irritability, or fatigue take over. Sugar thus stimulates the body to intensely crave for more sugar intake.

In addition to affecting the hormones, research shows that sugar-heavy diets causes changes in gut bacteria, which makes the brain’s ability to adapt and switch to new concepts more difficult to comprehend. The gut bacteria influences the way the brain functions, so any change in this type of bacteria is unhealthy for neurological health. The level of sugar intake and cognitive abilities are interconnected; therefore, restricting sugar from entering the bloodstream is an intelligent dietary choice.

The negative consequences of diets high in sugar have been studied and the conclusive evidence shows that sugar is toxic to good health. Scientists conducted experiments on a group of rats to prove that sugar consumption hinders the ability to effectively think. One group was given normal water to drink, while the other group was given a fructose-infused water to drink for six weeks. After the six weeks, the rats were timed to see how fast they could escape a maze. The group that drank the sugar water took thirty percent longer than the group that drank plain water. The researchers ultimately concluded that fructose disrupts plasticity: the brain’s ability to retain short-term and long-term memories and generate new ideas using new information.

It is important for everyone to be aware of the harmful effects that sugar has on the human body. Cavities should not be the thing people worry about when they eat candy, as they are petty compared to the dangers sugar has on the brain. Sugar weakens mental and physical health, and should be avoided like the death it could cause.

Original Article 

 

The Real Scoop on Artificial Food Coloring

Although artificial colors and dyes have been used in foods since the early 1900’s, the FDA has banned many of them due to health concerns. Thirty-seven artificial colors still remain approved for general food use in the USA, many of which are now prohibited in some European countries. Many of these chemicals have been researched and found to have harmful side effects, but they are still used in popular candies, soft drinks, cereals, and other processed foods.

Americans are now consuming more processed foods and drinks than ever before, and therefore more artificial colors and dyes. Many scientists have researched these common chemicals and found shocking results. The most common blue 1 & 2, citrus red 2, green 3, red 3 & 40, and yellow 5 & 6, have been found to cause a wide degree of side effects. Some have been found to cause cancer, ADHD, neurochemical and behavioral effects, allergies and more. Because of link between artificial dyes and the frequently seen side effects of cancer and ADHD, many European countries such as Norway, France, Finland, The U.K., and Sweden have banned a number of these chemicals from their foods.

It is no secret that these additives have harmful side effects, so why do companies still choose to use them? It is a very simple marketing tactic. “You eat with your eyes”, therefore companies will try to make their food look visually appealing to convince you to buy their products. Using artificial dyes and colors is just one method companies use to attract buyers. Artificial dyes like Yellow 5 have more vibrant and concentrated color than natural ones like saffron or turmeric. They are also much cheaper than natural dyes because companies do not need to use much in order to get the color they want. Artificial colors are also easier to use and their results are more reliable because they are much less sensitive to heat than naturally-derived food dyes are.

Silly Rabbit

(A bowl of Trix cereal made with artificial colors and flavors. The new Trix will go on sale later this year, without its blue and green puffs.)

This news may seem very alarming and upsetting to the average consumer, but there is hope. The FDA requires that companies put their ingredients on the food labels, so you know which foods are organic and which ones have artificial coloring. Research on artificial food dyes has led many consumers to cut out harmful processed foods and sodas from their diet and led to more awareness among buyers. And although there are companies such as Coca-Cola that use harmful cancer causing dyes such like 4-MEI, there are brands like General Mills that are promising to soon cut out all artificial dyes from their cereals by 2017. The new direction American consumers are taking now towards organic and health foods is slowly leading the food industry to change their foods in a healthy way. No longer are some food companies looking for the most vibrant look with their presentation, but rather the healthiest.

 

 

The Buzzing Battle of the Bees

Bee

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bees_on_sunflower.JPG

 

There is a species of bees called “commercial” bees. These bees are kept by beekeepers to pollinate crops such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, and oilseed. This population of managed bees is coming down with “fast evolving viruses”, according to the University of Exeter in Science Daily News.

Then there are “wild” bees, free to fly around, not employed by beekeepers. The viruses that the commercial bees have are starting to spread to the wild bee population. Currently, researchers are “calling for new measures” to protect the wild pollinators, and confine the commercial, diseased population. In the article, Dr. Lena Wilfert said this can be controlled by beekeepers keeping a vigil eye and monitoring the commercial bees they own. It is their “responsibility” to do so. Also, interesingly enough, the international transport of these commercial bees must have more checks and security. They must be screened better, in order to get a better sense of how many have a disease, so they know not to set any of the commercial bees free into the wild.

The major cause of the spread is the Varroa mite. This spreads viruses, such as the Deformed Wing Virus, and may increase the power of the viral spread. It significantly weakens bees, causing their RNA to deteriorate. The article says that it has been “identified as an emerging disease in pollinators,” and there is a connection between wild bumblebees who have it, and commercial honeybees.

The poor management of the commercial bee community is the cause of this horrible break out of diseases among innocent wild bees. In the future, researchers plan to investigate which species of commercial bees are the major cause of the breakout and spread. The wild bee population is extremely important for our environment, and beekeepers need to realize that, and make sure their bee farm does not spread disastrous diseases.

 

*Additional information is found through the last two hyperlinks.*

*Original article is the first hyperlink.*

Head Start is the way to “Start”

nice-apples-214170_640

Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously,” said Jean-Pierre Barral*

The good health and well-being of Americans is something that matters to me.

Head Start is a United States Department of Health and Human Services program that helps low income families achieve the goal of living a healthy lifestyle. This program occurs during the transition from preschool to elementary school. Its mission is to foster stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills.

According to an article by Kathryn Doyle, “Obese kids in Head Start get healthier during the year.” This conclusion was determined through a study by Reuters Health on pre-schoolers in Michigan. From the study, they concluded that the kids who were underweight or overweight at the start of the program were healthier than the other kids in their community when they all entered kindergarten.

In the article, Dr. Julie C. Lumeng of the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor states that she was “watching their weight get better.”  The researchers involved in the study used children’s height and weight data, which was provided by Michigan Head Start programs for 19,000 kids to calculate their BMIs. They compared these BMIs to what would be considered the average for other children of the same age in Michigan. It was found that within the first academic year, the overweight kids who started Head Start lost weight and the underweight kids gained weight.

Mary Cunningham Deluca, director of children services at Community Action Agency in Jackson, Michigan, believes nutrition is the most important part and I could not agree more. I chose this article because I like to be extremely health conscious. I try to fuel my body with the best food for me and maintain an active lifestyle. Personally, I have found that  living a healthy lifestyle builds confidence, opens your mind, and teaches you to break through boundaries and overcome obstacles you never thought possible. It opens up opportunities and that is exactly what we need to do for children; It’s time to give them a “head start!”

 

*”Jean-Pierre Barral is an Osteopath and Registered Physical Therapist, who serves as Director and Faculty of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulation at the University of Paris School of Medicine in Paris, France. He earned his diploma in Osteopathic Medicine in 1974 from the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, England, and went on to teach spinal biomechanics at the institution from 1975-1982.”

 

Dieting: Weight Loss Tool or Social Trend?

In today’s society, it is easy for us to assume that “going on a diet” is the cure for weight gain and can make you look and feel better. However, this is not necessarily the case.

Researchers have begun to counteract the common conception of diets, and how these beliefs are most likely misconceptions. Dr. David Katz, director of Yale Griffin Preventative Research Center is certain of the failure of diets, stating “Frankly, everyone falls off the wagon at 12 months, to say nothing of 24 months, and are gaining the weight back.”

In order to further evaluate this generalization, Dr. Mark Eisenberg of Jewish General Hospital/McGill University in Montreal, Canada conducted a study with his colleagues. He did this by studying the results of the four most advertised and popular diets, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, and the Zone.

Image by Pixabay

Image by Pixabay

This study involved the interpretation of data collected from populations that successfully initiated the diet. Those on the Weight Watchers diet lost an average of 6.6 pounds, those on the Atkins diet lost an average of 4.6 to 10.3 pounds, and those on the Zone diet lost an average of 3.5 to 7 pounds. Similarly, people with nutritional guidance or counseling lost about 4.85 pounds. However, in all four situations, the population gained back much of the weight between one and 5 years after beginning the diet.

In addition, these types of ways of life didn’t necessarily improve ones health, showing constant rates of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels across the board. Inventors of diets such as the Zone and Weight Watchers defend their products as a “way of life” that people must stick with. However, additional opinions, including that of Linda Van Horn, an American Heart Association spokesperson, believe in the power of advertisements and social popularity that promotes the diets, not the promised results.

This article is interesting because is defies the commonly accepted myth of dieting, and how it can regress ones progress. Instead, it teaches us that moderation and healthy choices are key, rather than limiting oneself.

 

Article: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/diet-fitness/overcooked-baloney-diets-dont-work-long-review-shows-n246331

Image: http://pixabay.com/p-2354/?no_redirect

Additional Sources:

http://www.besthealthmag.ca/get-healthy/weight-loss/why-do-diets-stop-working

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/weight-loss_b_1594441.html

http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/weight-loss/4-reasons-why-fad-diets-are-bad-you/

Is Exercise really that important?

1st_Lt._DAmelio_Running_(7637737280)
Yes, exercise can have a ton of benefits not only for your heart, but for your overall health. First of all, cardiovascular disease (CVD-or heart disease) accounted for approximately 30% of worldwide deaths in 2008. Coronary heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death. Why such terrible statistics? Well, let’s just say some people don’t take care of their bodies as well as they should be.

Obesity rates are sky high in people, mostly in the United States. It can drastically increase the risk of certain diseases like heart disease and diabetes (type II). Sometimes obesity and heart disease is beyond peoples’ control, either being born with a very slow metabolism or diabetes. However in most cases, heart illness can be prevented. The best way to fend off heart disease would be to exercise. In combination with a healthy diet, exercise is essential to a healthy heart. The essential benefactors of exercise are that it lowers ones blood pressure and lowers ones resting heartbeat. Your heart isn’t working so hard to pump at higher pressures, but it is being conditioned as the muscle it is to pump faster at certain points. Since you are exerting energy, you burn calories and lower your cholesterol levels (cholesterol levels in bulk could lead to clogged arteries). Of course there’s still more to exercise. Exercise leads to the release of natural endorphins, which create a sense of euphoria. Some people describe this state as a “natural high”. The release of endorphins could be considered positive reinforcement to exercise since it makes people literally feel good physically and mentally. In turn people would keep coming back to exercise to feel great and be in shape. This is overall highly effective for helping people to burn more calories (which would mean burning fat and stopping obesity from occurring within themselves). If one does not participate in exercise, they are much more likely to feel worse and overall have a higher risk of heart disease. According to the CDC, over 9 million cases of cardiovascular disease were due to lack of exercise. So why not exercise? Protect your health and well being. Even for a little bit every day, exercising is a helpful tool for better health and better morale.

Do you exercise on a regular basis?

 

Helpful link: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/exercise-healthy-heart

Artificial Sweeteners: Safe or Sweet Misery?

Picture of Splenda

Picture of Splenda

Have you ever drunk a zero-calorie soda or eaten a sugar free dessert as a “healthier” choice or perhaps to even “cut calories”? If you’re like me, you have probably begrudgingly done this numerous times, maybe even at the request of your mom, despite your desire for that sweet snack. Well, new research has been conducted that suggests that the artificial sweeteners used to substitute sugar actually increase blood sugar levels-the exact condition they aim to avoid.

A study conducted by biologists, Segal and Elinav, of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, showed that after 11 weeks of drinking water with the sweetener Saccharin, commonly found in Sweet’N Low, mice had higher glucose levels in their bloodstream, a symptom of diabetes. Additionally, the scientists conducted another experiment with seven volunteers who were given the maximum approved daily dose of saccharin for a week. This time Segal and Elinav found that four out of the seven subjects developed an unbalanced glucose metabolism similar to that of the mice. From this experiment, the scientists hypothesized that artificial sweeteners negatively affect our bodies and may promote disease.

Although these results are preliminary and are largely reflective of mice’s digestive systems rather than humans, the study raises a valuable caution for consumers to reassess their actions. As the science community continues to explore this study, are you going to continue consuming foods with artificial sweeteners.

For more information about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, please check out: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/artificial-sweeteners-may-disrupt-bodys-blood-sugar-controls/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

The Ebola Epidemic: When Will it End?

Ebola Virus

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has captivated international audiences the last few weeks.  Ebola Virus Disease is an often fatal disease which is systemic meaning it attacks all organs and tissue in the body. It can be spread through any human to human contact, making this disease highly contagious. The countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been heavily affected by this disease. On tuesday September 23th the Center for Disease Control (CDC) based in Atlanta Georgia released new projections on the Ebola epidemic in Africa based on computer modeling.  The CDC released a best-case scenario being that if proper measures are taken the disease could be eradicated by January 2nd and a worse-case scenario that if disease is left unmonitored and continues as is, there will be approximately 1.4 million cases by January 2nd.   Doctor Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Ebola epidemic, has stated that since the data was received in August conditions have improved slightly due to increased aid to the affected regions. Another report was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) which stated more conservative figures but also acknowledged that there could possibly be more due to unreported cases. The WHO report brings about the idea that the epidemic may not end and the Ebola virus will perpetuate in West Africa. It is obvious to health officials, such as Dr. Jack Chow, that even in a medium case scenario the amount of hospital beds and aid are rapidly being surpassed by the number of cases. The CDC does acknowledge this impending lack of bed and isolation unit crisis. One solution to this problem is to educate citizens on home care and send home care packages to support this movement.  Although some are dubious, Frieden states that home care had been effective in the smallpox crisis in the 1960s in Africa.  In addition to homecare, Doctor D. A. Henderson explains that funds and food play a huge roll in the containment and elimination of disease because when you give victims money and food there is no need for them to beg or go out to the market for food where they might encounter other human contact. How should this epidemic be handled? Is homecare an effective solution? Where should money be allocated, homecare or hospital expansion?

 

Link to Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/health/ebola-cases-could-reach-14-million-in-4-months-cdc-estimates.html?ref=health&_r=1

 

To Know or Not to Know: Cancer Risk Gene Testing

Breast Cancer Cells

Genetic mutation testing has been a hotly debated and controversial topic since its initial prevalence in 1990.  Originally genetic testing was used to test females who have cancer in their family history for the BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations.  Early detection of these mutations allowed for precautionary measure sure to be exercised prior to cancer even being diagnosed. The hereditary breast cancer risk testing was done mainly by Myraid Genetics but just last year the Supreme Court invalidated Myraid’s patents on the testing of the BRCA genes.  This ruling opened up many windows for the competition of Myraid in the field of genetic testing.  Many other companies and Myraid itself began not only offering BRCA testing but also more elaborate multi gene testing for the same price (apron $4000) as it would have been to test just the two BRCA genes.  This “bargain” influenced many patients to have more genes (up to 25) tested for mutations despite the fact that they may not have a family history to tendency towards certain cancers.  This multiplex testing has raised many eyebrows in the medical field because patients and doctors are getting information that sometimes they are unsure as to what they should do.  Doctor Kenneth Offit of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center stated when referring to multiple gene mutation testing, “because they could be tested,not necessarily because they should be…individuals are getting results we’re not fully educated to council them on. ” However Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is working on setting up a database for more knowledge on genetic testing.  This online forum, the Prospective Registry of Multiplex Testing (PROMPT) will allow for more research to be done and for patients to learn more.   Often genetic mutations are found and doctors are unsure how to react to the information due to lack of knowledge in that specific field of mutation leading to a specific type of cancer with out any family history.   Professor Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington voiced her opinion that, “We need to report back only what is devastating and clearly devastating.”  Meaning she felt that patients and physicians should only receive specific information as opposed to a full list of all the genetic mutations that tested position or inconclusive.  When do we know when to much information become frivolous? When it come to human health, the more we know the better the outcomes.  How will doctors be able to sift through extraneous data to find what truly are indications for higher risk of cancer?  Is this “extra” testing and information skewing the data and prognosis of many patients?

 

Main Article Used:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/health/finding-risks-not-answers-in-gene-tests.html?ref=health&_r=0

 

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