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Fri, 24 Mar 2023
The World for People who Think

Health & Wellness


Canada's first ambulance for obese patients on call

Obese patients in Calgary, Alberta, are the first in Canada to have a new ambulance on call specially modified to move them in a dignified and safe way while protecting paramedics from injury.

The so-called "bariatric response team" is called in when the patient weighs between 400 pounds (181 kilograms) and 1,000 pounds (453 kg).

"There's a high risk of injury for our staff... obviously, the larger the patient, the higher the probability is," Paul Lapointe, public education officer at Calgary's emergency medical services, said on Thursday.


Why Americans Keep Getting Fatter

A long-running contradiction in U.S. farm policy is fattening the waistlines of Americans and the profits of agribusiness at the same time. For the 30 years that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been issuing dietary guidelines, there has been a stark inconsistency between the federal government's advice and its food funding.

True, the USDA has been doing more, over time, to promote health through dietary guidelines, food pyramids and other nutrition programs. And yet more than $20 billion yearly -- more than one-fifth its budget -- is sunk into a farm bill that supports many of the foods its recommendations warn against. At the same time, the department virtually ignores incentives to produce, promote and consume some of the healthiest foods: fruits and vegetables.


Bird flu fears reignited, reexamining another strain

While the threat of a bird flu pandemic continues to hang over the world, authorities in the United Kingdom now believe a second strain of avian flu -- previously considered of little human risk -- does indeed pose a real danger to people.

Magic Wand

Blind people are 'serial memory' whizzes

Compared to people with normal vision, those who were blind at birth tend to have excellent memories. Now, a new study reported online on June 21st in the journal Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press, shows that blind individuals are particular whizzes when it comes to remembering things in the right order.

The findings are a good example of the familiar adage that "practice makes perfect" and reveal that mental capabilities may be refined or adjusted in order to compensate for the lack of a sensory input, according to researchers Noa Raz and Ehud Zohary of Hebrew University.

"Our opinion is that the superior serial memory of the blind is most likely a result of practice," Zohary said. "In the absence of vision, the world is experienced as a sequence of events. Since the blind constantly use serial-memory strategies in everyday circumstances, they tend to develop superior skills."

For example, the blind tend to navigate the world by forming "route-like" sequential representations. Blind people also rely on serial-memory strategies to identify otherwise indistinguishable objects, such as different brands of yogurt that vary only in their labeling, the researchers noted. According to their own reports, in order to correctly choose a desired item, the blind typically place objects in a fashioned order and give them ordinal tags, such as "the 3rd item on the left." Thus, a memory for the order in which items are encountered may be especially important for blind people's ability to create mental pictures of a scene.


Body absorbs 5lb of make-up chemicals a year

Women who use make-up on a daily basis are absorbing almost 5lb of chemicals a year into their bodies, it is claimed.

Many use more than 20 different beauty products a day striving to look their best while nine out of 10 apply make-up which is past its use by date.

Dependence on cosmetics and toiletries means that a cocktail of 4lb 6oz of chemicals a year is absorbed into the body through the skin.

Some synthetic compounds involved have been linked to side effects ranging from skin irritation to premature ageing and cancer.

Richard Bence, a biochemist who has spent three years researching conventional products, said: "We really need to start questioning the products we are putting on our skin and not just assume that the chemicals in them are safe.

Magic Wand

Blackcurrants are the berry best fruit for you

It may not be as fashionable as its more exotic cousins but the humble blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all. Research shows that the common or garden blackcurrant is more nutritious than other fruits, from home-grown apples and strawberries to tropical mangoes and bananas.

Blackcurrants also contain the highest levels of health-boosting antioxidants - natural compounds credited with the ability to stave off a range of illnesses from heart disease to cancer. Researcher Dr Derek Stewart said his findings, which come amid a growing appetite for exotic berries, colourful juices and other superfoods, prove the British blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all.

Dr Stewart, who came to his conclusion after comparing the properties of 20 popular fruits, said: "The motivation for the research came from the huge publicity surrounding superfoods, coupled with lack of consumer knowledge. "We wanted to find out which fruit came out on top.

"The combined beneficial composition and impact in health-related studies mean that blackcurrants can claim to be the number one superfruit." Dr Stewart reached his conclusions by analysing the findings of dozens of research papers published by other scientists. Lack of published data on fruits which have only recently become popular, such as raisin-sized goji berries, means they could not be included in the analysis.

Bizarro Earth

Human bite wounds 12 times more common in men

Men are 12 times more likely than women to sustain severe human bite injuries for which surgery may be necessary, according to a study published in the July issue of the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Injuries are most likely to occur during brawls at weekends or public holidays and in most cases alcohol is involved.

The researchers reviewed the 92 patients requiring assessment for human bite wounds by the plastic surgery service at St James's Hospital Dublin, Ireland, between January 2003 and December 2005. Eight five of them (92%) were men and the 92 patients had a total of 96 bites.

Alcohol was implicated in 86% of the injuries and illicit drugs in 12%. Seventy per cent of incidents resulting in a bite wound had occurred during the weekend or on a public holiday.


France: Sports doping seen among pre-teens

Just over one per cent of 11-year-olds admit to using drugs to boost their athletic performance, a new study from France shows.

Furthermore, four years later, three per cent said they had used doping agents at least once during the previous month.

"This result shows that doping does exist among very young athletes, whatever their level of sports participation, including leisure," Drs Patrick Laure and C. Binsinger of the Direction regionale de la Jeunesse et des Sports de Lorraine in Saint-Max conclude in the June issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Dr Laure and his colleagues had previously demonstrated that as many as 4 per cent of teens in southern France had used doping agents.


Surgery for China's elephant man

Doctors in southern China are preparing to operate on a man who suffers from the world's most extreme case of elephantiasis of the face.

Huang Chuncai, 31, also known as China's elephant man, plans to undergo surgery in Guangzhou that will remove the 15kg tumour that has crippled him and left him ostracised from society.

The weight of carrying the tumour on his face has deformed his backbone, stunted his growth and left him in continual pain.

Mr Huang has had the condition since he was born and the tumour has grown as he grew older.

If the operation is successful, his quality of life will improve tenfold. But the procedure is very risky.

Mr Huang's doctor explained: "The tumour is huge and there are many blood vessels inside which makes the operation very difficult. If we cannot stop the bleeding during the operation, Huang will die."


An Epidemic: Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in the U.S.

The percentage of Americans disabled by mental illness has increased fivefold since 1955, when Thorazine - remembered today as psychiatry´s first wonder drug - was introduced into the market.

There are now nearly 6 million Americans disabled by mental illness, and this number increases by more than 400 people each day. A review of the scientific literature reveals that it is our drug-based paradigm of care that is fueling this epidemic. The drugs increase the likelihood that a person will become chronically ill, and induce new and more severe psychiatric symptoms in a significant percentage of patients.