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Fri, 28 Apr 2017
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Epilepsy drug valproate 'responsible for up to 4,100 severe birth defects', French study

© Robert Pratta / Reuters
A drug designed to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder may be responsible for 4,100 severe birth defects in babies, French health authorities have said.

A preliminary study published by the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM), in conjunction with the country's health insurance administration, found that women whose epilepsy was treated with the drug valproate were four times more likely have babies with major congenital malformations.

Women who took the same medication for bipolar disorder were twice as likely, the report said.

"The study confirms the highly teratogenic [capability of causing birth defects] nature of valproate," said Mahmoud Zureik, scientific director of ANSM and the study's co-author.

Health

Study finds significant link between depression and being underweight

© Alamy
Being skinny is associated with depression, according to a new study showing the first evidence linking being underweight with low moods
Being skinny is associated with depression, according to a new study showing the first evidence linking being underweight with low moods.

Experts believe they have found the first evidence of a significant link between being underweight and being depressed.

The research reveals both men and women can be affected by negative thoughts about being too thin, unlike depression among obese people, which predominantly affects women.

However, experts from Seoul National University of Medicine, who led the study, were unable to say whether depression leads to thinness or vice versa.

Comment:


Health

Nutritional deficiencies could be fueling your anxiety


Essential nutrients—vitamins, minerals, and other food-borne compounds play important roles in regulating anxiety levels.
As big-brained hominids, humans have the unique ability to think about the future. The very fact that we can perceive and plan for the time ahead has allowed us to conquer the earth, but it comes with a downside: anxiety. If extreme rumination on past events characterizes depression, worrying about imagined future scenarios describes anxiety.

This inherent capacity and human tendency to think ahead must be reined in and controlled. One way we can do that is make sure we're getting enough of the nutrients that studies indicate may play an etiological role in anxiety.

This is different from supplements with various ingredients that treat or help anxiety. There's obviously overlap, and some of the deficiencies mentioned today can be corrected by supplementing, but I'm focusing on essential nutrients—vitamins, minerals, and other food-borne compounds—that play important roles in regulating anxiety levels.

Pills

Why the mainstream American approach to heart disease has failed

© Nonnakrit / Shutterstock
A recent New York Times article correctly suggests that diet and lifestyle changes are far more effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease than statins and stents. But what diet, and what lifestyle? Is it as simple as avoiding "artery-clogging saturated fat," as the author suggests? Read on to find out why the American approach to heart disease has really failed.

Jane Brody wrote an article in The New York Times called "Learning from Our Parents' Heart Health Mistakes." She argues that despite decades of advice to change our diet and lifestyle in order to reduce our risk of heart disease, we still depend far too much on drugs and expensive procedures like stents.

Attention

Microdosing: The newest trend in recreational drug use

© Pixelmaniac Pictures
After a litany of prescriptions failed to control her stormy mood swings and deep depression, writer Ayelet Waldman finally found relief in a blue vial of diluted LSD.

Feeling she "had nothing to lose," the San Francisco Bay-area former federal public defender deposited two tiny drops of the of the psychedelic drug under her tongue—and soon felt her gloom subside.

"I was starting to feel, frankly, suicidal," the 52-year-old told AFP. "If the other option is death—or at least, misery that feels like death—then there's no reason not to at least try something different."

Waldman says she renewed her spirit by "microdosing," a modish—albeit illegal and potentially risky—trend that involves ingesting a nearly imperceptible portion of a psychedelic drug, often LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.

The goal is not to hallucinate but to boost work performance and creativity—or, as was Waldman's case, treat a laundry list of ailments including mood disorders.

Cloud Grey

California ranks #1 for most air-polluted state...again, but doing better

© Fred Prouser/Reuters
Los Angeles on a smoggy day.
Nearly 125 million Americans live in counties with dangerous levels of air pollution, with Californian cities dominating the list, according to a report from the American Lung Association, citing data from 2013-2015.

"California has dominated the top 10 list every year. In fact, a California city has been number one every year since the report began in 2000," Will Barrett, Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California. "For ozone pollution, Los Angeles has topped the list the past 17 or 18 reports."

The report did find evidence of cleaner air. While 125 million Americans are still living with high rates of pollution, the report found it was a drop of 41 million from the 2016 report, based on earlier data. The progress in cleaner air has come in part due to cleaner power plants and increased use of cleaner vehicles and engines, leading to fewer days of high ozone levels and lower levels of year-round particle pollution.

Comment: Basins, especially with surrounding mountains, keep smog contained where it accumulates and increases density without winds to help it escape. Droughts and fires also exacerbate the problem by keeping particles in the air rather than propelling them to the ground via dew, fog or rain.


Christmas Tree

Cannabinoids may be a useful treatment for inflammatory skin disorders

You'd have to be a sufferer of immune-related psoriasis or eczema to know the extent of suffering it causes. The fear of unsightly disease being seen - the questioning from onlookers, the scaling and the ensuing repulsion, the money spent on creams, the special clothing to cover up. And perhaps missing events like weddings and swimming outings too... Special diets are cumbersome and are not a guarantee of healing - that's why it brings me absolute joy to bring you the following news.

According to researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, cannabinoids contain anti-inflammatory properties that could make them useful to medically treat a wide-range of skin diseases.

The new study, published online recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, is a summary of current literature about it and concludes that treatments containing cannabinoids may be effective against eczema, psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis.

Health

Intermittent fasting: The perfect treatment for diabetes and weight loss

"Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness." - Hippocrates

Fasting has not received as much attention as it should when it comes to the world of health and medicine. That's because you can't really make any money off of it. The 'pharmaceutical science' studies used in medical schools to teach doctors about human health simply don't focus enough on fasting for doctors to be knowledgable in the subject. Doctors also learn very little about nutrition and are trained to prescribe drugs as a result.

Dr. Jason Fung is trying to change all that. A Toronto based nephrologist, he completed medical school and internal medicine at the University of Toronto before finishing his nephrology fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles at the Cedars-Sinai hospital. He joined Scarborough General Hospital in 2001 where he continues to practice and change peoples lives.

He is one of a growing number of scientists and doctors to create awareness about the tremendous health benefits that can be achieved from fasting. It's one of the oldest dietary interventions in the world and has been practiced for thousands of years. If properly practiced fasting was bad or harmful in any way, as some doctors suggest, it would have been known by now, and studies would not be emerging showing the health benefits that can be achieved from fasting regularly.

Comment: More on the health benefits of intermittent fasting:


Eye 1

Look to your eyes for clues to your health

Our bodies have a knack for telling us when something is wrong - but that only works if we catch the signals. Fortunately, we're here to explain what your eyes may be trying to tell you.

1. Stye that persists

Styes that persist or return repeatedly to the same location may be a sign of sebaceous gland carcoma, a rare cancer. Seek immediate medical attention.

2. Eyebrow thinning or loss

Losses of eyebrow hair - especially to the outer edges of your eyebrow - may be a sign of thyroid disease.

3. Blurred vision

Blurry vision and burning eyes may be symptoms of computer vision syndrome - the result of extra attention spent focusing on pixels and strain as a result of lacking contrast. You may need to spend less time staring at screens.

Dollar

Expiration dates are responsible for billions of dollars in food waste

Norbert Wilson who joined the Friedman School as a professor of food policy, has been investigating food waste, building on his past research on food choice, domestic hunger, food banking and the international trade of food products. What motivates people to spend good money on food they don't intend to eat?

According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, a staggering 1.3 billion tons -- is lost or wasted every year.

The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to an exaggerated use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food.

When Wilson turned his attention to issues related to food waste, he theorized that consumers buy food even when they're aware they may not finish it. It's a concept that anyone who has purchased a container of sour cream can understand--we buy it knowing we may toss the container with a hefty portion still clinging to the sides.