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Mon, 20 Feb 2017
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Biohazard

Chemicals associated with cancer and other health problems found in fast food packaging

© Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Some fast-food packaging has been found to contain chemicals linked to cancer, but researchers are not calling out specific companies
Chemicals that have been associated with cancer and other health problems have been found in some fast-food packaging, according to a new study. Researchers found the substances, which can leach into food, in sandwich and dessert wrappers and paperboard containers.

"We have more than one reason to try to eat more fresh food, and to reduce our consumption of fast food," said Laurel Schaider, one of the study's authors, and a research scientist for the Silent Spring Institute. "This is another reason."

The chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), are used in nonstick, stain-resistant and waterproof products. Fast-food packaging manufacturers might use them to keep sauces or grease from leaking through the wrapper. (Consumers are also exposed to them in other products, such as certain types of cookware, coats and carpets.) Some of the substances in this category are associated with kidney and testicular cancer, low birth weight, thyroid disease and immunotoxicity in children, among other outcomes.

Schaider and her team tested wrappers from 27 fast-food companies, including McDonald's, Wendy's, Starbucks and Panera Bread. One-third of all samples tested contained detectable concentrations of flourine, a marker for PFASs. The food packages that were most likely to contain the fluorine were paper wrappers for desserts and sandwiches. Paper board — such as the stiff containers for french fries or pizza — also contained fluorine. Paper cups for beverages were in the clear, though.

Syringe

Trump admits in 2015 interview he's never had the flu, vaccines filled with 'bad stuff'

© thepotomacreporter.com
In an October 18, 2015 interview with Opie and Anthony on Sirius XM, Donald Trump admits he's never had the flu or a flu vaccine:
I've never had one. And thus far I've never had the flu. I don't like the idea of injecting bad stuff into your body. Which is basically what they do. And I guess this one has not been very effective to start off with. I've never had a flu shot and I've never had the flu.

"I have friends that religiously get the flu shot and then they get the flu. You know, that helps my thinking because I say why am I doing this? I've seen a lot of reports that the last flu shot is virtually totally ineffective.

Comment: See also: Unsettled science: Trump sets off media firestorm with creation of Vaccine Safety Review Panel


Health

Acupuncture boosts the effectiveness of standard treatments to significantly lessen chronic pain and depression

Health specialists at the University of York have found than acupuncture treatment can boost the effectiveness of standard medical care, lessening the severity of chronic pain and depression.

In a report published in the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Journals Library, the researchers showed that there is significant evidence to demonstrate that acupuncture provides more than a placebo effect.

Professor of Acupuncture Research, Hugh MacPherson, working with a team of scientists from the UK and US, brought together the results of 29 high quality clinical trials focused on patients treated with acupuncture and standard medical care.

In the majority of these trials, patients with chronic pain treated with acupuncture and standard medical care were tested against those who were provided with standard medical care alone, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy. The trials involved approximately 18,000 patients diagnosed with chronic pain of the neck, lower back, head, and knee.

The report shows that the addition of acupuncture compared to standard medical care alone significantly reduced the number of headaches and migraine attacks and reduced the severity of neck and lower back pain. It also showed that acupuncture reduced the pain and disability of osteoarthritis, which led to patients being less reliant on anti-inflammatory tablets to control pain.

Comment: With documented use dating back more than 2,500 years, acupuncture has been proven to impact a wide range of diseases and health conditions. Evidence suggests that it activates the body's own opioid system, and may also work by stimulating the central nervous system to release natural chemicals that alter bodily systems, pain and other biological processes.


Arrow Up

About time: Three insulin drug makers being sued for price-fixing

© Klaus Ohlenschläger / www.globallookpress.com
Eleven diabetes patients have filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Massachusetts accusing three big pharmaceutical companies of inflating the prices of lifesaving drugs by 150 percent and harming patients in the process.

Diabetes sufferers, who need daily doses of insulin to survive, watched as Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly jacked up the price of insulin from $25 per prescription to as much $300-400 over five years, according to the complaint filed Monday.

Drug manufacturers usually rationalize drug price increases by claiming the high costs of research and development. In this instance, the plaintiffs claim, manufacturers admitted their price hikes were neither related to such costs nor any jump in production expenses.

Comment: As Marcia Angell, the former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine stated, the supposedly high cost of research and development has very little to do with how high pharmaceutical companies price their products. Basically, drug companies charge what they think they can get.


Health

What causes abdominal bloating?

"Bloating", the feeling of a full and swollen belly, is one of the most common complaints we hear about in medical practice from patients, with 10 to 30% of people experiencing it.

The term is used by patients to describe a wide variety of abdominal sensations, usually associated with abdominal discomfort (feel like one's going to burst) or tummy cramp. People suffering from bloating may also experience burping, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal swelling and excessive passing of gas (flatulence).

If we are to understand bloating we need to look at some basic anatomy. The intestinal tract is made up of a hollow tube with a muscular wall. This tube serves different functions in different parts.

The stomach is like a bag that holds food while it mixes with acid to help break it down. The small intestine is long and thin allowing for digestion of food as it mixes with the body's digestive juices. And the large intestine serves as a reservoir to allow for the final processing of stool.

People

Fat shaming more stressful on the body than obesity itself

© Anne-Katrin Purkiss, Wellcome Images
Fat shaming, in which overweight individuals are stereotyped as unattractive, lazy, incompetent, and to blame for their condition, may take it's toll on health. It could actually increase the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, according to a new study led by a research team at the University of Pennsylvania.

Team leader Rebecca Pearl, PhD, an assistant professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and colleagues from Penn's Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, said:
"There is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health. We are finding it has quite the opposite effect.

When people feel shamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress. In this study, we identified a significant relationship between the internalization of weight bias and having a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a marker of poor health."

Bug

Drug resistance? Primary malaria treatment fails to cure 4 patients in the UK

© Jim Young/Reuters
A key malaria treatment has failed for the first time, prompting scientists to fear the disease could be becoming resistant to the primary drugs used to counter it. The failure occurred in four patients being treated in the UK for an African strain of the mosquito-borne condition.

A team of medics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said it's still too early to say for sure that they had found a dangerous level of resistance, but called for further investigation. The results were reported in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy Journal after being carried out in late 2016.

"It's remarkable there's been four apparent failures of treatment, there's not been any other published account [in the UK]," Dr Colin Sutherland told the BBC on Tuesday. Although the evidence is not yet conclusive, there are signs the strain is learning to fight back.

"It does feel like something is changing, but we're not yet in a crisis. It is an early sign and we need to take it quite seriously as it may be snowballing into something with greater impact," he said.

Bacon n Eggs

Skipping breakfast and eating late in the day can raise risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity

Skipping breakfast or eating late in the day could raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity according to a new study. The study from a group of American researchers suggests that the time we eat our meal is equally as important as what we eat.

Writing in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers from Columbia University said both meal timing and frequency are linked to risk factors for a variety of conditions including heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, obesity, and reduced insulin sensitivity.

The researchers reviewed other current scientific studies concerning breakfast and heart disease and found that those who eat breakfast daily are less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure, while those who skip breakfast and instead snack and graze throughout the day are more likely to be obese, have poor nutrition, or be diagnosed with diabetes.

They analysed other studies that found people who skip breakfast have a 27 per cent increased risk of suffering from a heart attack, and are 18 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

Toys

Adult swaddling gaining traction as new therapy for postnatal women in Tokyo

© CBS/Reuters
The age-old practice of swaddling babies is being turned into a therapy for adults in Tokyo to alleviate posture and stiffness, mostly after giving birth.

Called Otonamaki, literally "adult wrapping," the therapy is gaining traction, especially amongst post-natal women after taking the internet by storm.

At a recent session in Tokyo organized by a non-profit organization dedicated to new moms, about five women gathered at a local community center to try it out, some for the first time.

Each took turns to tie each other in a large cloth from head to toe and in a cross-legged position, with the guidance from the session's organizer Yayoi Katayama.

They also swayed slightly from side-to-side after being laid gently on their backs in the hope of helping loosen the muscles and bones.

Some were given the option to use a colored cloth to help simulate different environments as they lay completely covered in the white cloths.

Many of the participants described the feeling of a warm embrace once swaddled in cloth.

People 2

Our microbes could promote altruistic behavior even more than genetic factors

© Lewin-Epstein et al. Nature Communications
(Left) The payoff matrix and (right) an illustration of horizontal transmission probability of microbes between hosts. Using this model, researchers have found that microbes may induce their hosts to help other hosts, benefitting the microbes and the other hosts, but not always the original hosts.
Why do people commonly go out of their way to do something nice for another person, even when it comes at a cost to themselves—and how could such altruistic behavior have evolved? The answer may not just be in our genes, but also in our microbes.

In a new paper, researchers Ohad Lewin-Epstein, Ranit Aharonov, and Lilach Hadany at Tel-Aviv University in Israel have theoretically shown that microbes could influence their hosts to act altruistically. And this influence could be surprisingly effective, with simulations showing that microbes may promote the evolution of altruistic behavior in a population to an even greater extent than genetic factors do.

"I believe the most important aspect of the work is that it changes the way we think about altruism from centering on the animals (or humans) performing the altruistic acts to their microbes," Hadany told Phys.org.

It's already well-known that microbes can affect the behavior of their hosts, with a prime example being how the rabies virus increases aggressive behavior in infected individuals. Research has also shown that the microbiome—the community of microorganisms that inhabit our gut—can even manipulate the hosts' social behavior by infecting neurons and altering neurotransmitter and hormone activity.

Comment: See also: