Health & Wellness


Shower after swimming to avoid MRSA, scientists advise

MRSA bacteria in a scanning electron micrograph

Large-scale study shows bathers have a high chance of contact with the drug-resistant superbug.

Holidaymakers should shower after swimming in the sea to reduce their chances of picking up the superbug, MRSA, according to scientists.

The warning follows one of the first major studies into dangerous microbes that bathers might encounter during a trip to the seaside.

Organic Gardening Offers Many Health Benefits and Helps Plants and Animals

Many scientific studies have begun to conclude that organic gardening is beneficial for every level of life: soil, plants and animals, insects, water and air quality, as well as our own mental and physical health. Certain conventional farming practices have led to increases of pollutants in our air, water, soil, and our own bodies. More and more, people around the country are beginning to grow their own organic food or to buy locally grown organic food. Growing food at home and supporting local farms can be easy ways to help support a healthy earth and also to take better care of our own bodies.

One In Five Rooms Is 'Highly Contaminated' With Hidden Mold

Surely your bathroom is fungus-free once you've wiped the mould off the tiles? Not according to a study by French scientists in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Journal of Environmental Monitoring. They report that almost one in five rooms studied with no visible mould was in fact "highly contaminated" by fungus which could aggravate conditions such as asthma.

Comment: In addition to asthma and allergies, mold toxins have been associated with nerve damage and immune system abnormalities, including autoimmunity or autoantibodies against the body's own nerves and brain tissue.


Pollution-related asthma may start in the womb

Children born in areas with increased traffic-related pollution may be at greater risk of developing asthma due to genetic changes acquired in the womb, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. The team reports its findings in the Feb. 16, 2009, issue of PLoS ONE.

In a study of umbilical cord blood from New York City children, researchers have discovered evidence of a possible new biomarker - an epigenetic alteration in the gene ACSL3 - associated with prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemical compounds are created as byproducts of incomplete combustion from carbon-containing fuels, resulting in high levels in heavy-traffic areas. Exposure to PAHs has been linked to diseases such as cancer and childhood asthma.

Researchers say this finding provides a potential clue for predicting environmentally related asthma in children - particularly those born to mothers who live in high-traffic areas like Northern Manhattan and South Bronx when pregnant.

'My allergies rule my life'

When Donna wants some fresh air, she stays clear of people wearing scents

Donna Robertson's Glasgow home is perfume-free.

One whiff of perfume, aftershave, air freshener, fabric conditioner or even furniture polish and she could be ill for days.

Donna, 61, has been diagnosed with an allergy to perfumes and chemical cleaners.

But she believes she actually has multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a controversial condition which some believe is triggered by exposure to chemicals, but others doubt exists at all.

She asks guests to ensure they do not wear perfumes when they visit her and even the children she babysits for must have their clothes washed in non-perfumed brands.

Comment: Ms. Robertson can be considered a "canary in the coalmine" as her body has emphatically rebelled against the toxic load of today's world. For information and further reading on this subject see here, here , here, and most importantly here.


Vaccine Insanity: Doctors Push Vaccines During Eighth Month of Pregnancy

Based on the findings of a new study conducted on a small number of patients, vaccine advocates are now recommending that mothers act to vaccinate their infants as early as the second trimester of pregnancy.

"Immunize the mother and you protect the infant," researcher Mark Steinhoff said.

Researcher from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Emory University and International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh studied 340 pregnant women in Bangladesh and compared rates of various health problems among their infants. They found that children of women who had been given the influenza vaccine during the third trimester were 63 percent less likely to suffer from a flu in the first six months of life than those who had not been vaccinated. In absolute terms, the number of flu cases fell from 16 to six. The researchers also found a 29 percent lower risk of respiratory illness among the vaccinated infants.

Your Brain on Schadenfreude...or Not

Full confession: after the concerns raised by scientists about brain imaging, which I've written about here before as well as in the paper magazine, I don't think I'll ever look at an fMRI study the same way again. I hope I was properly skeptical about such studies before MIT's Ed Vul and colleagues showed how many of these emperors have no clothes, but now whenever a neuroimaging study crosses my desk I wonder, does it fall into the same statistical trap that so many others have, rendering the results meaningless?

So it is with what would otherwise be a perfectly interesting little study being published tomorrow in Science. It's about envy and schadenfreude, taking pleasure from someone else's pain, that feeling of glee we get when someone we envy suffers a setback (cf. Bernie Madoff, Wall Street bankers . . . ). The study, described in paper called "When Your Gain Is My Pain and Your Pain Is My Gain: Neural Correlates of Envy and Schadenfreude," was led by Hidehiko Takahashi of Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences, who is one of the most prolific social neuroscience imagers around (for a sampling, see here and here. Like a 2003 study finding that the psychological pain of social rejection increases activity in the same brain regions that process physical pain, this one concludes that the social and the physical are closely related. In brief, brain regions that respond to feelings of envy and schadenfreude are also those that respond to, respectively, physical pain (envy hurts) and reward/pleasure (schadenfreude feels good).

Monsanto Attempts to Woo 'New Yorker' Readers

Monsanto, often a magnet for criticism among green advocacy groups because of its support for genetically modified food, is attempting to woo some thought leaders with a new ad campaign.

The print campaign, which broke in September, was stepped up in January with placements in publications like The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and the back-page of The New Yorker's current issue. The ads make the argument that the world is currently using all its arable land and future food production depends on technology breakthroughs from companies like Monsanto. "How can we squeeze more food from a raindrop?" asks one ad, which goes on to say that the answer involves "putting the latest science-based tools in farmers' hands."

Comment: Several articles on SOTT have exposed 'Monsanto's technology' and their 'potential' to solve the world's agriculture problems.

Flashback: In Brazil, Monsanto and Syngenta Lead Farm Model that Destroys Indians and Environment

Will the World Survive GM Cultures and the Damage to the Earth's Eco-Systems?

Monsanto: History of Contamination and Cover-up

Flashback: New movie damns Monsanto's deadly sins


Using Multiple Senses in Speech Perception

When someone speaks to you, do you see what they are saying? We tend to think of speech as being something we hear, but recent studies suggest that we use a variety of senses for speech perception - that the brain treats speech as something we hear, see and even feel. In a new report in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum describes research examining how our different senses blend together to help us perceive speech.

We receive a lot of our speech information via visual cues, such as lip-reading, and this type of visual speech occurs throughout all cultures. And it is not just information from lips- when someone is speaking to us, we will also note movements of the teeth, tongue and other non-mouth facial features. It's likely that human speech perception has evolved to integrate many senses together. Put in another way, speech is not meant to be just heard, but also to be seen.

Art therapy ups breast cancer patients' well-being

New York: Women having radiation treatment for breast cancer experienced lasting improvements in mental and physical health and quality of life after participating in five sessions of art therapy, Swedish researchers report.

The findings "strongly support art therapy as a powerful tool in rehabilitation of patients with breast cancer and, presumably, also in the care of patients with other types of cancer," Dr. Jack Lindh of Umea University, Umea, Sweden, and colleagues conclude in the European Journal of Cancer Care.

Women face major stresses after a diagnosis of breast cancer and art therapy could offer a way for women to express and "process" their emotions, the researchers say, thus improving their quality of life.