Health & Wellness


What is the best Diet? Low fat? Low carb?

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Diets targeted at carbohydrates, proteins or fats result in similiar results, as long as calorie intake was reduced.
The dieting world screams with contradictory advice: Carbs are evil; carbs are good for you. "Good fat" is healthy; "good fat" has tons of calories.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center put four popular diets -- high carb, high fat, low-fat and high protein -- to the test to see which of the regimens resulted in more weight-loss success.

After two years of monitoring the participants, "all the diets were winners," said study co-author Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health. "All produced weight loss and improvements in lipids, reduction in insulin.

"The key really is that it's calories. It's not the content of fat or carbohydrates, it's just calories," said Sacks. The findings are published in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, 811 overweight adults in Boston, Massachusetts, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were assigned to one of four diets.


US: Company Knowingly Shipped Tainted Syringes That Killed Five

A manhunt is underway for the owner of a North Carolina company that knowingly shipped tainted pre-filled syringes. The syringes, shipped by AM2PAT Inc. resulted in a massive recall, hundreds of illnesses and at least five deaths.

As we reported previously, in 2007 numerous infections from Serratia marcascens bacteria were traced to heparin-filled syringes made by AM2PAT. In December 2007 and January 2008, Sierra Pre-filled and B. Braun syringes were recalled by AM2PAT because of the contamination issues.


Radioactive contamination in steel: a wake-up call

Regulatory authorities have identified Indian steel products contaminated with cobalt-60 in the U.S., Germany, France and Sweden. The events occurred at disturbingly high rates.

"Overall, 123 shipments of contaminated goods have been denied entry to U.S. ports since screening began in 2003, according to Homeland Security data.

Of those, 67 originated in India, 23 came from China and 20 were from Canada" (The Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2008). We cannot ignore this wake-up call.


Girl, 3, raised by dogs in her home after her alcoholic mother neglected her

Neglected: Madina, was found naked and crawling on the ground on all fours after being neglected by her alcoholic mother.

A three-year-old girl has been found being cared for by dogs while her alcoholic mother neglected her.

Social workers discovered the girl in her mother's house in Russia, naked and walking on all fours, gnawing bones with the dogs who she clung to for warmth.

The child, called Madina, only knows two words - yes and no - and growls like a dog when people come too close, Russian media reported.

Madina, from Ufa in central Russia, was shunned by other local children in her neighbourhood.


Antibiotic-Resistant Meningitis Reported in U.S.

Health officials worry that overuse of antibiotics may be to blame.

The first U.S. cases of meningitis bacteria resistant to a widely used antibiotic have caused public health agencies to increase surveillance efforts, change preventive measures in one area of the country, and emphasize warnings about overuse of all antibiotics.

A toddler in North Dakota who recovered, a Minnesota adult who died and a Minnesota college student who survived were found to have been infected with meningitis bacteria resistant to ciprofloxacin, said a report in the Feb. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


Why do some people kill themselves?

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Global tragedy

For a few months in late 2006 and early 2007, the woman who called herself kristi4 was one of the best-known members of the pro-anorexia community. As the administrator of a blog on, she dispensed advice, encouraged others and wrote candidly about her own struggles. Then, late one Friday night, after a series of entries describing what she was planning to do, kristi4 killed herself with an overdose of prescription sleeping pills, muscle relaxants and painkillers.

Her death was just one tragic data point in one of the most striking statistics in all of psychology. It has long been known that anorexia has the highest death rate of any mental illness: one out of every five people with anorexia eventually die of causes related to the disease. What has only now been recognised, however, is that a huge number of those deaths are from suicide rather than starvation. Someone who develops anorexia is 50 to 60 times more likely to kill themselves than people in the general population. No other group has a suicide rate anywhere near as high (Archives of General Psychiatry, vol 60, p 179).

Recently, psychologists have tried to explain why anorexia and suicide are so intimately connected, something which is helping to answer the wider question of why anyone would commit suicide. If this explanation holds up, it will give psychiatrists a new tool for screening patients and determining which of them are most likely to kill themselves, perhaps saving lives.


FDA ignored red flags at syringe firm

The FDA is taking its licks in North Carolina today, where a leading newspaper reports the agency ignored reports of contamination at a syringe facility. Not just any facility, but AM2PAT, whose tainted heparin and saline syringes were linked with five deaths before they were pulled from the market.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the FDA received "numerous complaints" about sediment and debris in the medicine, beginning as early as 2005. Besides the five patients who died, another 100 were sickened after receiving the IV drugs. The complaints continued in 2007; in one case, "food particles" were reported to be floating in the liquid drug. The bacterial infections surfaced in December 2007 and January 2008.

According to an FDA spokesperson, inspection reports show the plant was visited by FDA inspectors in June 2005, January 2006 and December 2007.


Arsenic And Old Toenails

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The researchers are definitely NOT requiring people to send in their toenail clippings. Neither can you assess arsenic contamination simply by looking at your toenails.

Scientists from Leicester and Nottingham have devised a method for identifying levels of exposure to environmental arsenic - by testing toenail clippings. Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment and people can be exposed to it in several ways, for example through contaminated water, food, dust or soil. The risk of exposure is greater in certain areas of the UK where the natural geology and historic mining activities have led to widespread contamination of the environment with arsenic.

Long term exposure to arsenic is associated with increases in lung, liver, bladder and kidney cancers and skin growths. Previous studies using hair have suggested high levels of arsenic in the bodies of King George III and Napoleon Bonaparte. Now doctoral research at the British Geological Survey by Mark Button of the University of Leicester has used toenail clippings to find fresh evidence of exposure to environmental arsenic within a UK population living close to a former arsenic mine.


Researchers Discover New Mode Of How Diseases Evolve

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With infectious diseases on the rise, the McMaster finding has implications on how new pathogens are identified in the environment. Scientists currently monitor the risk of new diseases by assessing the gene content of bacteria found in water, food and animals.

Researchers of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research have discovered a new way that bacteria evolve into something that can make you sick.

The finding, published in the Feb. 16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has implications for how scientists identify and assign risk to emerging diseases in the environment.

The researchers found that bacteria can develop into illness-causing pathogens by rewiring regulatory DNA, the genetic material that controls disease-causing genes in a body. Previously, disease evolution was thought to occur mainly through the addition or deletion of genes.

Brian Coombes, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, was the lead investigator of the study which involved researchers at McMaster University, the University of Melbourne, Australia and the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.

"Bacterial cells contain about 5,000 different genes, but only a fraction of them are used at any given time," Coombes said.


The Evolution of Human Aggression

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Everyone has experienced anger at one point in their lives and some of us - males mostly, going by statistics - have channeled that anger into violence, perhaps by throwing a punch during a hockey game or after too many beers at the bar.

Then there's aggression on a much more sinister scale, in the form of murder, wars and genocide. Trying to understand what fuels the different levels of human aggression, from fisticuffs to nation-on-nation battle, has long preoccupied human biologists.

Is there evolutionary reasoning that explains our aggressive tendencies?

This is the central question that anthropologists are now asking as they meet this week at the University of Utah to discuss violence and human evolution. Speakers at the conference, "The Evolution of Human Aggression: Lessons for Today's Conflicts," intend to explore how the long process of human evolution has shaped the various ways we display aggression in modern society.