Health & Wellness


The great American hotdog: What's in it?

I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for the humble and much-maligned hot dog. A staple of my childhood, especially the summers spent on Long Island with my grandparents. Occasionally, my grandmother would take us by train into the city to shop, have lunch and see a show. As we'd pass the street food vendors, I'd beg her for a hot dog - steaming, and piled into a doughy white bun.

She'd invariably give me a curt, simple, and firm, "No." She didn't trust the meat. Instead, she'd take me by the hand, and we'd go home. If I were lucky, she'd pick up a package of hot dogs she did trust (and they were few and far between), boiling them in water spiked with yellow mustard before serving them for dinner, a technique I still use at home.

So, thirty years later, I find myself with just as much concern as my grandmother. I generally say no to hot dogs for my little boy because I just don't trust the meat. Of course, now I work as an advisor to Applegate so I tend to purchase their meats as well as the meat from regional ranchers and farmers who raise their animals on pasture.

So now when he asks me for a hot dog, I sit down with him and decode the hot dog ingredients.

So What's In Your Hot Dog?

Human skin can detect odors

© istockphoto
You may smell coffee with your heart and lungs, as well as with your nose
Human skin can smell itself as well as other odors, according to a new study that also determined a common and pleasant-smelling odor promotes skin healing.

The paper, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, strengthens prior research that found olfactory receptors -- proteins specialized to detect odors -- don't just exist in the nose.

"Only a tiny little amount of odorants are used by our receptors in the nose," chemist Peter Schieberle of the Technical University of Munich told Discovery News. "Odor might have secondary functions in the human body."

Schieberle and his team discovered that the human heart, blood and lungs all possess olfactory receptors. Yet another research group, led by Ester Feldmesser of the Weizmann Institute of Science, theorized that these odor-detecting sensors could be all over, and in, the body.

Schieberle and his team discovered that the human heart, blood and lungs all possess olfactory receptors. Yet another research group, led by Ester Feldmesser of the Weizmann Institute of Science, theorized that these odor-detecting sensors could be all over, and in, the body.
Alarm Clock

Brazil announces dengue fever emergency in GM mosquito trials region

GM mosquito
© Unknown
Civil society groups today expressed alarm at an increase in dengue incidence, leading to an emergency decree, in a town in Brazil where releases of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes are taking place.

The promise was to create genetically modified mosquitoes that would end dengue, but results from field trials conducted in Bahia, Brazil have not been published to date and did not evaluate the relation between Aedes aegypti mosquito populations and the occurrence of dengue [1]. Nevertheless, the Brazilian regulator Comissão Técnica Nacional de Biossegurança (CTNBio) recently gave the green light to the commercialization of the technology proposed by Moscamed Brazil in partnership with the English company Oxitec and the Universidade de São Paulo.

The Brazilian press had welcomed the new weapon to combat dengue but missed the information that Jacobina's mayor, a locality where the trials took place, issued a decree in February 2014 renewing the state of emergency "due to the abnormal situation characterized as a biological disaster of dengue epidemic." [2]. Before that, Moscamed had announced 81% and 100% reduction in the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in at least two localities of Jacobina, claiming that this meant the experiments were a success [3]. According to Oxitec, pilot-scale releases started in the north-west of Jacobina in June 2013 and the programme will roll out across the entire city over two or three years [4].

During the evaluation of the commercial application for the release of the GM mosquito, a CTNBio member had presented a report with information questioning the impact of the GM mosquitoes on the incidence of dengue and warning that in some circumstances the releases could make the disease worse, even if the number of wild Aedes aegypti mosquitoes was reduced. The concerns raised did not convince the majority of the Commission. The Brazilian National Agency of Sanitary Vigilance (ANVISA) is now in charge of registering and monitoring the product, which according to the company's recommendation implies weekly releases of 10 million GM mosquitoes for every 50 thousand inhabitants. Meanwhile, the date of publication of the promised results remains unclear.

Brazilian and international civil society organisations, including AS-PTA, Third World Network, RALLT (Network for a GM Free Latin America) and GeneWatch UK, today called on ANVISA to require Oxitec to publish the results of its experiments in a scientific journal and to cease further experiments and the commercial use of this technology until it has assessed the effects on the incidence of dengue and put an effective monitoring programme for the disease in place.

"CTNBio should review its decision to approve commercialization in light of the reality seen in Jacobina and ask for further serious studies on the full implications of releasing the GM mosquito over the local population" said Gabriel Fernandes, from AS-PTA, Brazil.

"Oxitec is knocking on the doors of many countries, promoting its GM mosquitoes as being able to address the serious threat of dengue. Yet, with no concrete proof that this technology is able to reduce dengue incidence, any approval of the GM mosquitoes would be grossly premature," said Lim Li Ching, Senior Researcher at Third World Network.

"It is extraordinary that experiments with Oxitec's GM mosquitoes continue and commercial releases have even been approved without any monitoring of the effect on dengue", said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK "The declaration of a dengue emergency in Jacobina should be a wake-up call for the authorities".
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Psychiatric drugs send 90,000 to the ER yearly in the U.S.

Nearly 90,000 U.S. adults visit the emergency room yearly for side effects of prescription psychiatric medications, and more than 10,000 of these visits are related to the sleep drug Ambien, according to a new study.

In fact, side effects of Ambien, along with generic forms of its drug zolpidem tartrate, were tied to more emergency room visits than those of any other psychiatric medication examined in the study.

Researchers analyzed information from 63 hospitals in the United States that collect data on emergency department visits for drug side effects, and then estimated how many visits would be expected for the whole U.S. population.

Between 2009 and 2011, there were an estimated 89,094 emergency room visits yearly for prescription psychiatric drug side effects, about half of which were among adults ages 19 to 44.

About 1 in 5 of these ER visits resulted in a person being hospitalized, the study found.

Sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs caused the most ER visits (30,707 visits), followed by antidepressants (25,377 visits) and antipsychotics (21,578 visits).

The side effects that lead to ER visits were: delirium, drowsiness, falls or head injuries (seen in people taking sedatives), vertigo and rash (seen in those taking antidepressants) and movement disorders and spasticities (seen in people taking antipsychotics), according to the study.

Oops! National Institutes of Health finds six forgotten smallpox vials

smallpox infection
© U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Human skin infected with the smallpox virus
Smallpox, officially preserved in two repositories worldwide, may have been sitting alive and well in an unsecured US government refrigerator. On 8 July, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that vials containing the deadly virus had been discovered in a cardboard box in the refrigerator, located on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

That refrigerator belongs to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has conducted some of its research at the Bethesda site since 1972. On 1 July, FDA researchers discovered the vials - labelled "variola", the name of the virus that causes smallpox - while conducting an inventory of the lab in preparation for a move to the FDA's White Oak site in Silver Spring, Maryland. NIH safety officials determined that the virus had not leaked and there was no danger to the employees who had found it, and then moved the samples to a secure lab on the Bethesda campus, the agency said.

Comment: The statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be found here.


Obesity 'epidemic' exaggerated? Hardly!

© n/a
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. People are fat and getting fatter, with no end in sight. Even kids are fat these days. Right? We've all seen the picture of the McDonald's-eating toddler and heard the dire nightly news reports about growing obesity narrating back shots of anonymous overweight families trudging along with wedgies and short shorts. But just as the public at large bemoans the pervasiveness of the obesity epidemic, many critics are claiming the opposite: that the obesity epidemic is exaggerated and overinflated; that the "overweight" and "obese" categories are ploys by insurance companies to get more money from policy holders; that obesity in and of itself isn't actually a health hazard. Some, like Paul Campos, are even arguing that America's weight problem is "imaginary."

Could this be? Am I tilting at windmills when I decry our collective weight problem?

Let's look at the claims being made.

First, there's the claim that the definition of obesity is arbitrary and the obesity epidemic only arose because our definition of obesity changed to include more people. According to this argument, people aren't necessarily any heavier, but what was previously assumed to be a healthy weight has now been deemed an unhealthy weight by statistical trickery. In his 2005 book, Fat Politics, J. Eric Oliver (PDF) tells the story of Louis Dublin, a statistician for MetLife insurance in the 1940s who analyzed the connection between age, bodyweight, and death rate among MetLife subscribers. Dublin found that thinner people generally lived longer and those who maintained close to the bodyweight of an average 25 year-old lived the longest. He published a new weight chart that shifted the healthy weight threshold back, effectively making millions of Americans obese or overweight overnight. And even though he did this to predict who would die earliest and determine who should pay the most for insurance policies, not to uncover a public health threat, it caught on and formed the basis for government policy regarding obesity and health that continues today.

Comment: There is evidence to support the fact that being over the 'recommended' weight does not necessarily imply that the condition is unhealthy. However there is indeed enough evidence to support the fact that obesity levels have skyrocketed. There are multiple reasons for this which not only include the plague of fast / junk food that people are consuming, but also the chemicals polluting our water, air and soils, prescription drugs, and lack of nutrients in the food we eat.

However, there is a way to dramatically improve health by eating a paleo/ketogenic diet which has been found to lower inflammation, heal disease while also reducing weight. For more information, visit our forum thread on the Ketogenic diet.

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Scientists discover: Junk food encoded in DNA of future children

The next time you wolf down that Big Mac with large fries consider you may be affecting more than your own waistline. Scientists now say an unhealthy diet can be encoded into DNA, which is passed down to future generations.

By now, most people have heard various negative things about a Western diet: it is too fatty, too salty and too sugary. It can cause problems to the immune system, disturb the chemical makeup of the stomach, and, perhaps the most obvious of all symptoms, lead to obesity.

Now, a study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Maryland has provided yet another reason to drive past your favorite drive thru window: the deleterious effects of a poor diet can leave a mark on the DNA, passing along the genes to your offspring.

The harmful effects of an unhealthy diet can "actually stretch across generations," wrote Ian Myles, author of the study, which appeared in Nutrition Journal.

Comment: Additional articles about the frightening reality of junk food addiction and how 'Passing along the proverbial sweet tooth' contributes to a child's propensity to become Addicted to unhealthy foods!


Sitting too much is detrimental to cardiovascular health

Cardiologists have found that sedentary behaviors may lower cardiorespiratory fitness levels. New evidence suggests that two hours of sedentary behavior can be just as harmful as 20 minutes of exercise is beneficial.
Cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that sedentary behaviors may lower cardiorespiratory fitness levels. New evidence suggests that two hours of sedentary behavior can be just as harmful as 20 minutes of exercise is beneficial.

The study, published in today's online edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, examined the association between fitness levels, daily exercise, and sedentary behavior, based on data from 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Sedentary behavior involves low levels of energy expenditure activities such as sitting, driving, watching television, and reading, among others. The findings suggest that sedentary behavior may be an important determinant of cardiorespiratory fitness, independent of exercise.

"Previous studies have reported that sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular outcomes; however, the mechanisms through which this occurs are not completely understood," said Dr. Jarett Berry, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Science and senior author of the study. "Our data suggest that sedentary behavior may increase risk through an impact on lower fitness levels, and that avoiding sedentary behavior throughout the day may represent an important companion strategy to improve fitness and health, outside of regular exercise activity."
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High blood sugar levels linked to brain decay

© Jeanny
We all know sugar is bad for our teeth, but studies find it is also bad for our learning and memory.
Otherwise healthy people with high blood sugar levels are more likely to have memory problems, according to a recent study published in the journal Neurology.

The study was careful to recruit people without diabetes, glucose intolerance or chronically high blood sugar levels (Kerti et al., 2013).

Also excluded from the 141 participants, whose average age was 63, were people who were overweight or had a drink problem.

The researchers carried out both a memory test and scanned participants' brains, concentrating on the size of the hippocampus, a structure vital for memory.

The main memory test involved people learning a list of words, then trying to recall them 30 minutes later. The results showed that the lower people's blood sugar levels, the more words they could remember.

Along with a better memory, those with lower blood sugar levels also had larger hippocampi, suggesting their memory was in better shape.

Comment: Don't miss: 'Carbohydrates rot the brain': Neurologist slams grains as 'silent brain killers' - and says we should be eating a high-fat diet


Research shows possible new cure for 'superbugs'

© Corbis
Some harmful bacteria are increasingly resistant to treatment with antibiotics. This common fungus found in soil might be able to help the antibiotics combat diseases.
Some harmful bacteria are increasingly resistant to treatment with antibiotics. A discovery might be able to help the antibiotics treat the disease.

A soil sample from a national park in eastern Canada has produced a compound that appears to reverse antibiotic resistance in dangerous bacteria.

Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario discovered that the compound almost instantly turned off a gene in several harmful bacteria that makes them highly resistant to treatment with a class of antibiotics used to fight so-called superbug infections. The compound, called aspergillomarasmine A, or AMA, was extracted from a common fungus found in soil and mold.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public-health threat. Common germs such as Escherichia coli, or E. coli, are becoming harder to treat because they increasingly don't respond to antibiotics. Some two million people in the U.S. are infected each year by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and 23,000 die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization has called antibiotic resistance a threat to global public health.

The Canadian team was able to disarm a gene - New Delhi Metallo-beta-Lactamase-1, or NDM-1 - that has become "public enemy No. 1" since its discovery in 2009, says Gerard Wright, director of McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research and lead researcher on the study. The report appears on the cover of this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Comment: In the time it will take this promising new compound to be fully researched and approved by the PTB (and that's even if it is allowed to go the distance) it is quite probable that a number of 'man made' and environmental pathogens will appear on the scene, leaving many vulnerable to it's ravages as has been chronicled on SOTT for a number of years.

There is something that can be done right away to help build up one's natural resistance and immunity, however:

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