Health & Wellness


Study: Reading intervention improves brain connectivity and comprehension in autistic children

© University of Alabama at Birmingham
Change in functional connectivity for the experimental group of autism spectrum disorder participants as a result of the reading intervention. The functional connectivity of the Broca’s area with the rest of the brain and the change in connectivity from pre-to-post intervention during resting state show statistically significant changes in connectivity in the left hemisphere. The scale (right) represents significance in terms of T threshold.
Ten weeks of intensive reading intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder was enough to strengthen the activity of loosely connected areas of their brains that work together to comprehend reading, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found. At the same time, the reading comprehension of those 13 children, whose average age was 10.9 years, also improved.

"This study is the first to do reading intervention with ASD children using brain imaging techniques, and the findings reflect the plasticity of the brain," said Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences and the senior author on this paper. "Some parents think, if their child is 8 or 10 years old when diagnosed, the game is lost. What I stress constantly is the importance of intervention, and the magic of intervention, on the brain in general and brain connectivity in particular."

Families taking part in the study received the intensive intervention -- which was four hours a day, five days a week, for a total of 200 hours of face-to-face instruction -- free of charge, says Kana.

Comment: For more information and potential help in treating autism read:


No link found between secondhand smoke and lung cancer yet media consistently avoids facts

Although numerous studies seeking to find strong (or any) evidence of a link between SHS (secondhand smoke, or "passive smoking") and lung cancer have failed to find such, the popular wisdom (shared by most scientists) is that SHS is indeed a cause of lung cancer. One reason for this widespread mythology is the failure of news media — both general and scientific — to take note of these studies.

Another example of this "conscious avoidance" has occurred recently. In June, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO, possibly the most prestigious meeting of cancer researchers), a Stanford medical student (Ange Wang) presented her (and colleagues') evaluation of lung cancer and smoking histories contained in the vast Women's Health Initiative (WHI) database. Their conclusion: among the 76,000+ profiles with all the requisite information, "among women who had never smoked, exposure to passive smoking overall, and to most categories of passive smoking, did not statistically significantly increase cancer risk." The news report of this presentation only now has appeared on the website of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) — and as of today, no media have paid attention to either the original report or the current news item.

Comment: One has to wonder why the American Council on Science and Health would publish an article discussing the active avoidance by the media in discussing the over-hyped dangers of second-hand smoking on the one hand, yet on the other hand call for "continued, strong anti-smoking measures." Perhaps they should do a little more research themselves on the benefits of smoking, its continued demonization in the scientific community and then think twice about joining the chorus of anti-smoking cries:


Big Pharma: How they manipulate American medical doctors

© Unknown
"The pharmaceutical companies are an amoral bunch. They're not a benevolent association. So they are highly unlikely to donate large amounts of money without strings attached. Once one is dancing with the devil, you don't always get to call the steps of the dance."
—A psychiatrist, quoted in the Boston Globe, 2002.

The New England Journal of Medicine, under the editorship of Marcia Angell, MD, published a study in the May 18, 2000 issue whose principle author was the chief of Brown University's Department of Psychiatry. The academic psychiatrist had reportedly made $500,000 in one year doing consultancy "work" for various psycho-pharmaceutical companies that marketed antidepressant drugs. In editing the article, Dr Angell discovered that there wasn't enough room to print all the various co-author's conflict of interest disclosures. Because of space limitations, Angell put the full list on the website rather than in the hard copy issue.


Avoiding the sun is deadlier than basking in it

There a good chance you've adopted at least some of the messages from the media regarding sunscreen and avoiding the sun. But even though a vast body of evidence correlates sun exposure to skin cancer, it's not the cause.

What is lacking in every scientific study ever linking sun exposure to cancer is any evidence that sunlight is actually the cause or that it may shorten our lives. Ask a dermatologist about the evidence that sunshine raises your risk of dying and there will be an embarrassing silence. After a century of so many reports sunshine and skin cancer, there is not one that has conclusively proven that the sun is the culprit. In fact, there is increasing evidence that keeping out of the sun may be killing you -- and in more ways than you think.

Even the most ardent sun-phobes acknowledge that sunlight has health benefits, but these have largely been put down to Vitamin D. People with the highest vitamin D levels tend to be healthier. They are less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes or heart attacks -- in fact, they are less likely to die prematurely of any cause. In the absence of Vitamin D from sunlight, disease increases more than 1000 percent.

Comment: For more on vitamin D and sun exposure check out this episode of the Health and Wellness Show.


Who is looking out for the health of America's Children? House Chemical Bill favors industry over families

Washington - The bill passed by the House of Representatives today to update the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 falls short of what's necessary to ensure that everyday chemicals are safe, EWG said.

Ken Cook, EWG's president and cofounder, said:
American citizens expect chemicals in commerce to be safe, but they know that, far too often, this is not the case. Congress has neglected the problem of dangerous chemicals in consumer products for decades, to the great benefit of chemical industry profits. American families have waited far too long for a strong regulatory program that aggressively protects their children's health and safety from toxic chemicals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, at least 1000 toxic chemicals deserve immediate attention. And we need assurance that the most dangerous chemicals will be regulated or banned in a timely manner. We commend the House for its focus on the need to overhaul chemical policy, but this piece of legislation will not do the job. It tips much too far in favor of an industry in serious need of regulation.

Comment: More than 80,000 synthetic chemicals are used in the U.S. - only 200 have been tested under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. None of these toxic synthetic chemicals are regulated on the basis of their potential to affect infant and child development. What does that say about who's looking out for the health of America's children? Ken Cook is correct in his statement; "Congress has neglected the problem of dangerous chemicals in consumer products for decades, to the great benefit of chemical industry profits."


Study: Cognitive impairment risk from diabetes exists in both US and Chinese adults

Although diabetes is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia in the U.S., scientists have been unsure if such memory deficits occur in other cultures.

In a new study, scientists from Mayo Clinic and Huashan Hospital in Shanghai explored the association between diabetes and cognitive impairment to find out if the relationship varies in different populations. They found that American and Chinese adults with Type II diabetes are at similar risk for memory impairment.

Study participants had not been diagnosed with memory-related diseases, such as vascular dementia or Alzheimer's dementia.

For the study, the researchers evaluated data from two large, ongoing, population-based studies: the Shanghai Aging Study (SAS) and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA). Both use similar designs and methodologies.

Comment: A ketogenic diet has been shown to be efficacious in the treatment of diabetes, in some cases enabling patients to reduce their anti-diabetic medications. The diet has also been shown to improve memory in adults with cognitive impairment.


Lemongrass essential oil: A useful addition to your first aid kit

Anyone who has used essential oils for a period of time will find that they reach for the same tried and true oils over and over again. In my case, there are the go-to standards lavender, peppermint, rosemary and frankincense; but, in addition, there is lemongrass.

Three years ago, I thought lemongrass was an herbal plant used in tea and in Asian cuisine. While I still enjoy a soothing cup of lemongrass and ginger tea, these days lemongrass essential oil serves an important role in my first aid kit as well.

The lemongrass genus has over fifty different species worldwide, but only some of the species are suitable for utilization as essential oil. The two most commonly used in essential oils are are Cymbopogan citratus and Cymbopogan flexuosus.

Historically, lemongrass has been used to treat fevers, inflammation and indigestion as well as a sedative. These days, it is used for an armload of other ailments as well as for purification and odor control. Today I share 23 uses for lemongrass essential oil that will set you on a path of wellness.



Plants before pills

Ayurvedic practitioner Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs looks at the role of plants in the history of medicine and why reconnecting with natural food is essential to our health. With the explosion of system-wide health disorders, its time to take a more holistic approach to wellbeing.

We live in a time where the dominant mechanistic worldview of the last few centuries is becoming increasingly exposed as an inadequate interpretation of the interdependent nature of life. But because this ideology has dominated our ideas of how we should grow our food, rear our animals, raise our children, heal our society and look after our planet, we have largely forgotten quite how important the web of life is. Plants take a lead role in this mysterious play of life, providing, in one way or another, most of our clothes, our shelter, our food and our medicine. It's worth reflecting on this mutually beneficial plant-human bond, and on how re-engaging with the web of life may improve all our futures.

Comment: Learn more about the benefits of Ayurvedic herbs:


A call for a low-carb diet that embraces fat

© istock
People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

The findings are unlikely to be the final salvo in what has been a long and often contentious debate about what foods are best to eat for weight loss and overall health. The notion that dietary fat is harmful, particularly saturated fat, arose decades ago from comparisons of disease rates among large national populations.

Comment: Learn more about Low Carb Living with Dr. Stephen Phinney

Arrow Down

Lamb genetically modified with jellyfish sold as meat by Paris butcher

The following article takes the concept of Frankenfood to a whole other level.
© Alamy
A GM lamb (not shown) was sent to an abattoir from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris late last year and somehow ended up on a butcher’s slab.
From the Guardian:
French authorities are looking into how a lamb genetically modified with jellyfish protein was sold as meat to an unknown customer, a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday.

The jellyfish-lamb, called "Rubis", was sent to an abattoir from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris late last year and somehow ended up on a butcher's slab.
"A female lamb born to a sheep that was genetically modified as part of a medical research program was sold to a person in the Parisian region in October 2014," said the National Institute for Agricultural Research in a statement, confirming a story first reported by Le Parisien newspaper.

The case has been taken up by a public health court in Paris, a judicial source told AFP.

Rubis "found itself on a plate! Who ate it? No one knows," exclaimed Le Parisien on Tuesday.

France remains one of the staunchest opponents of GM research, ever since environmental protesters pressured the government into banning GM crops in the 2000s.

The European Union authorised the import and sale of 19 GM crops in April, but is likely to pass legislation allowing individual countries to block their use - in part thanks to demands from France.
Don't worry my fellow Americans, that is France, something like this could never happen here.