Health & Wellness

Heart - Black

Mexico: Manganese Mines Harm Children's Mental Development

The Mexican mining company Autlán maintains that there is no evidence that manganese causes any harm to human health. But in the central state of Hidalgo, where the metal is mined, adults shake as if they suffered from Parkinson's disease and children's mental development lags behind normal.
IPS maganese
© Courtesy of INSP
Autlán mining operations in the mountains of Hidalgo.

"The company takes a sceptical position (about studies that show the effects of manganese poisoning); it does not believe that it is causing the problems or that it is to blame," but the evidence is irrefutable, Horacio Riojas, from the Population Health Research Centre of the government's National Public Health Institute (INSP), told Tierramérica.

Riojas said the findings are alarming. Sixty percent of the adults who live near the mines present neurological problems and trembling similar to the effects of Parkinson's disease. In the case of the children near the mines, it was found that their intellectual and learning abilities are 20 percent lower than the comparable group that does not live near any mines.

There is no doubt that the exposure to manganese is the cause of the problems, he said.

Israeli scientists reverse brain birth defects using stem cells

Joseph Yanai

Prof. Joseph Yanai of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Israeli scientists have succeeded in reversing brain birth defects in animal models, using embryonic stem cells to replace defective brain cells.

The findings could lead in the long term to a significant breakthrough in the treatment of neural and behavioral birth defects, such as learning disabilities, which are particularly difficult to treat. Unlike neural disorders such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, the prenatal teratogen - the substances that cause the abnormalities - act diffusely in the fetal brain, resulting in multiple defects.

A team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Hadassah Medical led by Prof. Joseph Yanai, were able to overcome this obstacle in laboratory tests with mice, by using mouse embryonic neural stem cells. These cells migrate in the brain, search for the deficiency causing the defect, and then differentiate into becoming the cells needed to repair the damage.

Subtle brain deficits seen in lupus patients

New York - Psychiatric and neurologic disorders are common in patients with lupus, and new research confirms that problems with attention, memory, and reasoning are present even in lupus patients without overt brain manifestations of the disease.

Lupus, technically known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, is a chronic "autoimmune" disease in which the immune system can confuse healthy and foreign tissues and sometimes attacks both. The condition can vary widely in severity, manifesting as skin rash and arthritis or leading to damage to the kidneys, heart, lungs and brain to varying degrees. There is no cure.
Black Cat

A Highly Evolved Propensity for Deceit

When considering the behavior of putative scam operators like Bernard "Ponzi scheme" Madoff or Rod "Potty Mouth" Blagojevich, feel free to express a sense of outrage, indignation, disgust, despair, amusement, schadenfreude. But surprise? Don't make me laugh.

Sure, Mr. Madoff may have bilked his clients of $50 billion, and Governor Blagojevich, of Illinois, stands accused of seeking personal gain through the illicit sale of public property - a United States Senate seat. Yet while the scale of their maneuvers may have been exceptional, their apparent willingness to lie, cheat, bluff and deceive most emphatically was not.

Deceitful behavior has a long and storied history in the evolution of social life, and the more sophisticated the animal, it seems, the more commonplace the con games, the more cunning their contours.

Comment: It is important to note that for the most part our leaders are pathological individuals who promote, through the media and a climate of fear, a culture where pathological behaviour is rewarded. Thus, even people without the genetic predisposion, adopt the pathological behaviour in order to survive in the world. And when our conscience goes to sleep, it is then easier to lie and cheat, it becomes the norm, and we too are then more likely to be deceived. The way the system is designed allows pathology to win... unless we take responsibility to educate ourselves.


FDA Urges a New Diet Coke Label Due to Inappropriate Nutritional Claims

Diet Coke Plus
© The Coca-Cola Company
Regulators say Diet Coke Plus lacks enough nutrients to justify the word "plus."
The Food and Drug Administration called on Coca-Cola Co. to revise the label on a version of its Diet Coke brand containing vitamins and minerals, warning the beverage giant that it makes inappropriate nutritional claims, according to a warning later posted on the agency's Web site Tuesday.

The FDA said the soft drink, Diet Coke Plus, doesn't contain enough nutrients to qualify for use of the word "plus." Foods may use that name only if they contain at least 10% more of the reference daily intake or daily reference value of a nutrient than a similar product. The FDA also invoked a longstanding rule under which it "does not consider it appropriate" to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages.

Expecting a Late Night? Sleep Deprivation Boosts Heart Risk

Planning a late night wrapping gifts and an early morning ripping them open? It may be wise to get more rest in the New Year, said researchers who found sleep deprivation may increase heart disease risk.

People who get five to seven hours of sleep nightly are almost twice as likely to develop early signs of blood-vessel damage as those who get more rest, according to a five-year study published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. Those who regularly sleep less than five hours a night are at even higher risk.

Abnormal sleep patterns skew the release of appetite-related hormones, which may contribute to obesity and diabetes, earlier studies showed. Today's research is the first to suggest a shorter night's sleep may have a more direct and damaging effect on heart health, said Diane Lauderdale, the University of Chicago epidemiologist who led the research team.

Santa Claus is the original action figure for many kids

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa clause.

It's that part of the unspoken contract between parents and kids that says there really is a jolly old fellow in a white beard and red suit who zips around on Christmas Eve delivering toys from a miniature sleigh pulled by eight tiny - but flight-capable - reindeer.

Anybody have a problem with that?

Well, yes. Despite Francis P. Church's famous 1897 New York Sun editorial to 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon that declared St. Nick to be as indisputably real as love, generosity and fairies, a debate has long raged about whether myth-mongering adults shouldn't just tell children the truth.

Two Canadian researchers, however, suggest there's really no rush.

Comment: A lie that teaches children that it is ok to be lied to by the parents and that they in turn can lie also, for all the wrong reasons. Not to mention the betrayal and trauma experienced by the children at such tender age. How white is that?


Our unconscious brain makes the best decisions possible

Researchers at the University of Rochester have shown that the human brain - once thought to be a seriously flawed decision maker - is actually hard-wired to allow us to make the best decisions possible with the information we are given. The findings are published in today's issue of the journal Neuron.

Gene of rule-breaking behavior may influence popularity in males

A groundbreaking study of popularity by a Michigan State University scientist has found that genes elicit not only specific behaviors but also the social consequences of those behaviors.

According to the investigation by behavioral geneticist S. Alexandra Burt, male college students who had a gene associated with rule-breaking behavior were rated most popular by a group of previously unacquainted peers.

It's not unusual for adolescent rule-breakers to be well-liked - previous research has made that link - but Burt is the first to provide meaningful evidence for the role of a specific gene in this process. The study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.
Red Flag

Does Old Glory Have a Dark Side?

Research suggests that seeing the flag doesn't make Americans feel more patriotic. But it does make them feel more nationalistic and more superior to non-Americans.

Early in the presidential campaign that was, Barack Obama's initial reluctance to wear a flag pin caused some opponents to question his patriotism. After all, some conservatives argued, the flag is the quintessential symbol of American patriotism, and by not wearing it on his lapel, well, one could only assume ...

But are the stars and stripes as much a symbol of patriotism as many make them out to be? Probably not, according to some new research on the effects of exposure to the American flag. Experiments conducted by Markus Kemmelmeier, a professor of social psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and colleagues show that gazing upon the red, white and blue actually does very little to stoke feelings of patriotism.

But it does make people more individualistic, more materialistic and -- perhaps most troublingly -- more nationalistic.