Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Looks good. Doesn't necessarily do you good.

Looks good. Doesn’t necessarily do you good.

There are a vast number of online ads currently pushing the Garcinia Cambogia diet, claiming it to be a wonder for weight loss, because it contains HCA, a kind of citric acid, which is claimed in a million breathless online ads (and elsewhere) to produce weight loss.

Sadly, before you part with your $49.95, be aware that the brouhahaha is just that – a load of marketing froth and bubble.

And it could even harm you.

Here’s the relevant Wikipedia extracts:

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a derivative of citric acid that is found in a variety of tropical plants including Garcinia cambogia and Hibiscus subdariffa.

Biological effects

Laboratory and animal studies of HCA have produced results that indicate a potential for modulation of lipid metabolism. However, a clinical study has demonstrated that HCA has no effect in terms of weight loss or reduction of fat mass. A 1998 randomised controlled trial looked at the effects of hydroxycitric acid, the purported active component in Garcinia gummi-gutta, as a potential anti-obesity agent in 135 people. The conclusion from this trial was that “Garcinia cambogia failed to produce significant weight loss and fat mass loss beyond that observed with placebo”.

And a meta-analysis published in 2010 revealed that gastrointestinal adverse effects were twice as likely for users of hydroxycitric acid.

One HCA product had to be withdrawn because of liver toxicity.

In a study in Zucker rats, which are genetically predisposed to obesity, Garcinia cambogia extract containing HCA showed that high doses led to significant suppression of epididymal fat accumulation, but also had high testicular toxicity. However, this study has been criticised because of possible contamination of the HCA used and various design flaws.

Like all things, peeps, there IS no short cut to weight loss. The solution? Walk more, eat less. Er, that’s it.

Read, mark learn and inwardly digest. Or don't, if you see what we mean.

Read, mark learn and inwardly digest. Or don’t, if you see what we mean.

 

Many, many moons ago, years ago now, the Wellthisiswhatithink household decided to stop eating margarine, especially polyunsaturated margarine, and to resume eating butter.

We stopped using soybean oil (like Canola) for cooking, and starting using fat-saturated coconut oil or monounsaturated olive oil instead.

In the case of the writer, Dear Reader, one’s cholesterol level and blood pressure fell. Our cholesterol level fell substantially, actually.

With the passion of the newly-converted we told everyone we knew that polyunsaturated oil turns into trans-fatty acids at body temperature – let alone when cooked -healing-miracles-coconut-oil-third-edition-bruce-fife-paperback-cover-art and that trans-fatty acids were deadly to humans.

We also told them repeatedly of the healing miracle that is coconut oil, which we discovered quite by chance when we were employed to write the marketing letter to get people to buy the book, which we devoured almost as enthusiastically as we did the product.

We recommend the book. A must read if you’d like to avoid a bunch of nasty modern illnesses.

Anyhow, within the last few months, scientists have caught up. Suddenly researchers all over the world are on the bandwagon for butter.

Well, we hesitate to say we told you so, but, we told you so.

Ponder this:

Alternatively, use butter. The manufacturing process essentially amounts to "Milk cow, churn milk."

 

Alternatively, use butter. The manufacturing process essentially amounts to “Milk cow, churn milk.”

 

 

Devastating: John Courtney, 21, a talented footballer once tipped to to be the next Alan Shearer, lying dead and clutching the syringe of heroin that killed him.

Devastating: John Courtney, 21, a talented footballer once tipped to to be the next Alan Shearer, lying dead and clutching the syringe of heroin that killed him.

The inability of a drug user to know what has actually gone into the drug they are taking remains, to me, one of the strongest reasons to avoid using illicit drugs, and also, to protect those for whom two decades of “Just Say No” clearly hasn’t had any effect at all, the best reason for their decriminalisation, supply under controlled circumstances, not to mention taxing them.

Unlike smoking cannabis – where one can actually see the raw material, if not know its strength – taking a pill, powder or injecting a concoction is always a case of Russian roulette.

The popular party drug cocaine, for example, is nearly always supplied in an adulterated form. The most commonly used products to ‘cut’ cocaine are baking powder, lactose, mannitol, lidocaine or benzocaine. (That’s the stuff you put on sore teeth, with mimics cocaine’s nose-numbing effect, thus fooling the user into believing they’re getting a better quality dose of cocaine.) It can also be cut with other stimulants products like methamphetamine.

It is not unheard of for cocaine or heroin to be cut with a variety of products that it would be generally be considered unwise to put up y0ur nose or into your bloodstream.

These include any other whitish powder, which may have unexpected side effects, such as laxatives, for example, and in one famously awful incident, laundry-grade powdered nappy cleaner.

 

ear

 

Over the last couple of years warnings also went out that almost a third to a half of the cocaine circulating the US, Canada, (and maybe the world) was contaminated with a (potentially) poisonous veterinary de-worming agent called levamisole which had already killed several people and made many more people sick.

Levamisole causes a condition called agranulocytosis which means that it kills white blood cells which are a necessary part of your body’s immune system and prevent small things like a sore in the mouth from escalating into deadly infection.

In addition to temporarily AIDS-ifying your immune system, levamisole may also make cocaine more cardiotoxic and increase risk of seizures, meaning that it has three potential ways of killing you.

So if you’re a cocaine user and you experience thrush (especially of the mouth), sores that won’t heal or other skin infections, high fever, or flu-like/pneumonia symptoms you need to get to the quack fast – and quote this article.

On the other hand, you might not need to tell the doc about your problem in any detail, as another dead giveaway sign is that your nose and ears turn purple and drop off. The effect is so common that media outlets in the USA have christened it “flesh eating cocaine”.

Although pure, laboratory quality LSD has a wide margin of safety, street LSD may be laced with phencyclidine (PCP), commonly known as “angel dust,” “killer weed,” and “rocket fuel.”

PCP is a much more dangerous hallucinogen. As a result, tainted samples make street-sold LSD (as well as other drugs) especially unpredictable. Even with pure LSD, people can experience “bad trips,” with feelings of confusion, terror, anxiety, depression, and/or paranoia lasting up to several hours. In some cases, this extreme agitation has led to accidental death or suicide as people panic and attempt to flee from their hallucinations.

Anyhow, if that’s not enough to put you off, CNN now report that Dr. Karl Williams says he normally sees three or four deaths from drug overdoses in a typical week as the chief medical examiner in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. But in the past week, he saw 15 – men and women, of various ethnicities, ranging in age from 22 to 53. All of them appear to have been heroin users who instead received a mix of heroin and fentanyl, a powerful narcotic used to treat cancer patients’ pain, Williams told CNN.”This is pretty clearly somebody manufacturing fentanyl and selling it as heroin.”

The deaths Williams has recorded are among nearly two dozen in western Pennsylvania linked to a heroin-fentanyl mix, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Monday. The “extremely dangerous and potentially lethal” combination has killed 22 people in six counties, Kane said in a written statement.

“We are working with the Allegheny County Police Department, the Pittsburgh Police, and their counterparts in the region to get this deadly mix of heroin off the streets of Western Pennsylvania, and to arrest and prosecute anyone caught selling, distributing, and producing these drugs,” her statement said.

Williams said fentanyl can be 10-100 times more potent than morphine, the base molecule in heroin, and it’s only distributed as a powder when someone is manufacturing it illegally. The drug is being distributed in bags marked “Income Tax,” “Bud Ice” and “Theraflu, Williams said.

“This is not accidental. Somebody is deliberately trying to make a big batch of fentanyl,” he said. “It is not an extraordinarily complex molecule to synthesize, and you can find instructions on the Internet. It does not take a sophisticated chemist to do this.”

It’s not the first time that fentanyl has turned up on the streets of Pittsburgh. In 1988, Williams said, 17 people died when a chemist distributed fentanyl as heroin.

And in 2006, in Philadelphia, 269 people were killed by fentanyl overdoses, the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs said. The agency raised new alarms about fentanyl in July, blaming it for 50 deaths in Pennsylvania by mid-2013.

People: be careful out there.

ImageMany mental illnesses are as bad for you as smoking, research has suggested.

Life expectancy for people with mental health problems is less than for heavy smokers, experts have found.

Serious mental illness can reduce a person’s life expectancy by 10 to 20 years, when the average reduction in life expectancy for heavy smokers is eight to 10 years, according to researchers from Oxford University.

But critically, mental health has not been the same public health priority as smoking, they said.

The study, published in the journal World Psychiatry, analysed previous research on mortality risk for a whole range of problems – mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, dementia, autistic spectrum disorders, learning disability and childhood behavioural disorders.

The authors examined 20 papers looking at 1.7 million people and over 250,000 deaths. They found that the average reduction in life expectancy for people with bipolar disorder was between nine and 20 years, it was 10 to 20 years for schizophrenia, between nine and 24 years for drug and alcohol abuse, and around seven to 11 years for recurrent depression.

The loss of years among heavy smokers was eight to 10 years.

“We found that many mental health diagnoses are associated with a drop in life expectancy as great as that associated with smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day,” Dr Seena Fazel of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University said.

“There are likely to be many reasons for this. High-risk behaviours are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide.

The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren’t treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor.

Many causes of mental health problems also have physical consequences and mental illness worsen the prognosis of a range of physical illnesses, especially heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Smoking is recognised as a huge public health problem.

There are effective ways to target smoking, and with political will and funding, rates of smoking-related deaths have started to decline.

We now need a similar effort in mental health.”

Dr John Williams, head of neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust, which funded the study, added: “People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in society.

This work emphasises how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate healthcare and advice, which is not always the case.

We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking.”

At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, like most people, we have had a few run ins with mental illness in the family and friends coterie. Thankfully, the stigmas associated with mental illness is reducing – albeit achingly slowly. Especially as it is increasingly understood that mental illness does not betoken “weakness” or “badness” but rather chemical imbalances in the brain that are no more the sufferer’s “fault” than, say, diabetes.

We warmly welcome this research finding and trust it is widely studied at government level. A heap of misery can be lifted off the shoulders of sufferers and their families through early intervention, prompt care and adequate treatment with “talking therapy” and medication.

Assuming Government now longer feels itself morally bound to take action (it seems simple need is the least strong motivator for many Governments worldwide now, sadly, as you can see below) then what about this thought?

mental-illness-not-contagiousJust imagine the hurricane of productivity and wealth that would be released if mentally ill people became weller, faster, and more thoroughly well, and lived that way longer.

Yes, that’s something we’d like to see in our shiny new hard-headed neo-con austere world.

Meanwhile, here’s some additional reading on how Government in rich “advanced” countries consistently fails the mentally ill:

UK: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/cuts-send-rates-of-mental-health-disorders-among-young-soaring-9392996.html

UK: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/12/risks-deep-cuts-mental-health

Australia: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/mental-health-funding-cuts-spark-fears-of-social-mess-20140518-38hz9.html

Australia: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/these-two-budget-charts-show-how-much-money-joe-hockey-is-cutting-from-hospitals-and-schools-2014-5

USA (four stories): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/mental-health-budget-cuts/

USA: http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/10/10/mental-health-loses-funding-as-government-continues-shutdown/

workoutAs we work in a creative environment, we probably spend more time than most thinking about how to preserve and enhance the capacity of our brains. In the advertising industry, you’re often said to be “only as good as your last idea”. Which is why this research echoed with us. Anything we can use to keep our ideas fresh and flowing is good news!

But, a brain workout?

Yep, it’s a thing.

Fact: We are outliving our brains. Life expectancy in the developed world is now about 80 years old. And the trend towards longer living is speeding up. With better nutrition, shelter and medical care, girls have a one in three chance of living to 100, while boys have one in four.

And the problem?

Well, our cognitive brain performance actually peaks in our early 40s. That means mental functions like memory, speed of thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, and decision-making decline in the last 30 or 40 years of life. Ironically, as we accumulate “life wisdom”, we gradually lose the ability to access it and use it. And as our population ages, and we retire nearer 70 than 60, for example, this becomes critically important.

The truth is most people don’t consider their brain health until they’re faced with injury, disease, or simply getting old. But just as we’ve come to realise that we can improve our physical health through diet and exercise, we can improve our cognitive health too.  It’s simply a matter of engaging in the right mental workouts.

Science now strongly supports the fact that our brains are one of the most modifiable parts of our whole body. Our brains actually adapt from moment to moment, depending on how we use them; they either decline or improve, and which direction they go depends on us and the way we challenge them.

exercising brainA research team at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas is working on how to improve brain performance at all ages, and their findings show that making our brains stronger, healthier, and more productive requires actually changing the way we use them every single day.  And that’s where daily changes come in.

Before we can really perform at peak levels with our brains, we all must first abandon toxic habits that are depleting brain resources, and also incorporate complex thinking into our daily routines.

So are you ready to make your brain smarter? Here are a few scientifically proven ways to do it.

Quiet Your Mind

“Don’t make rash decisions!” In a word, slow down. And give your mind a break, now and then.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve all been given that advice, and as part of our career has been “helping people to make better decisions more easily” with the business “decisions, decisions” we warmly applaud the idea. Unwonted speed in decision making is often a recipe for failure, and sometimes those failures can cascade disastrously through an organisation, when if a little time had been taken for reflection, and we had employed tried and tested decision-making tools, we would have made our chances for success much greater.

Why take a break? Well, the brain can often better solve complex problems when you step away to reflect on ideas and crucial decisions rather than acting without weighing choices.

Shhhhhhhhh.

Shhhhhhhhh.

A halt in constant thinking slows your mind’s rhythms, allowing it to refresh.

Put a knotty problem in your subconscious, be confident that a solution will occur to you – indeed, say, “my subconscious is going to solve this” out loud – and then forget about it for a while. More often than not, a solution will occur when you least expect it. Your subconscious mind will pop out an answer without you wearing yourself out worrying the problem to death.

As a simple rule to give your brain a chance to help you, employ a “Five by Five” principle where you take a break from whatever you’re doing five times a day for at least five minutes to reset your brain.

When we let our brain work behind the scenes, we have our best “a-ha!” moments. And don’t we all want more of those?

In the Wellthisiswhatithink dungeon we find ours occur in the shower. So often, in fact, that we sometimes take a long, hot, relaxing shower when we don’t really “need” one, because the insights seem to flow so easily!

Translate Your World

Move away from surface-level, uninspired thinking and eschew predictable thoughts by pushing past the obvious and really think.

There is so MUCH to think about. How do you decide what you MUST think about? Answer: synthesise.

There is so MUCH to think about. How do you decide what you MUST think about? Answer: synthesise.

For example, if you were asked what a movie was about, you, like most people, you would often give a play-by-play of events that occurred, full of detail.

But to boost brainpower, think instead of the major themes of the film and relate it to personal situations in your own life and how they apply.

As an exercise, think back on one of your favourite movies or books from the past year and generate five to eight different short take-home messages you can glean from it.

This consciously analytical or critical process, which is called “synthesised thinking”, strengthens the connections between different areas of our brains. Our brains actually become quickly jaded by routine – by driving through the treacle of vast amounts of information – since they were actually built to dynamically shift between details and the big picture. When you’re a cave man being chased by wolves, it becomes unimportant to be able to describe each wolf in fine detail, and very important to work our which one is closest to you and likely to catch you, and what to do about that. Get the idea?

Our brains also hate information downloading, so it helps to think like a reporter. What really matters in the story? Don’t get overwhelmed by information flow – in fact, demand that you are relieved from it.

When taking in large amounts of information, try to explain it in a few sentences. Kick off your meetings with provocative big ideas. Power important email messages with simple but thought-evoking subject lines.

Stop Multi-tasking. Really. STOP.

We have written before about how we are inundated with more and more tasks every day.

Nu-uh. Not going to happen.

Nu-uh. Not going to happen.

Relentless simultaneous input and output fatigues the brain and reduces productivity and efficiency. You may think that by doing two or three things at once – like participating in “corridor meeting” on your way to somewhere else while tapping out a couple of emails on your smart phone –  you are actually moving faster through your day. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Our to-do lists keep getting longer while performance and accuracy slip. So, when working on higher-order thinking tasks that matter, allow your focus to be completely uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes at a time and then gradually increase the length of those intervals.

And remember – you can never do everything. There will always be “something” on your list of things to do. Worrying about the length of the list is a sure-fire way to increase your stress, and stress reduces your ability to think clearly.

So prioritise your lists, and be comfortable with the fact that “everyone dies with something on their list”.

Move Your Feet

Recently published research shows that aerobic exercise stimulates positive brain change and memory gains faster than we previously thought possible.

Adding regular aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate to your routine at least three times a week for an hour won’t just help with physical health, it will also increase brain blood flow to key memory centres in the brain and improve our memory for facts. When you combine complex thinking with aerobic exercise, brain health benefits are amplified. You don’t have to become a gym junkie – a brisk walk round the block or your local park is an excellent choice.

Works just as well in an office as it does on a 747.

Works just as well in an office as it does on a 747.

And here’s a thought: if you really can’t get away from your desk, what about doing some of those “sitting in your place” exercises that they now recommend to help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis on aircraft?

Roll your neck, shrug your shoulders, shake your hands, waggle your feet, push them up and down.

Anything that improves circulation and muscle use will help your brain, too.

Action this day.

Until recently, we thought that cognitive decline was an inevitable part of getting old, but the good news is that’s officially not the case.

Toxic physical and mental habits and a life on autopilot are key culprits for unnecessary cognitive decline. Research has shown that healthy adults who use these strategies can regain lost cognitive performance, improve blood flow in the brain, speed up communication between its regions and expand its structural connections.

See results fast!

Just like all those ads for food supplements and gym memberships, you can actually evoke some of these positive changes in a matter of hours. Adopting this new, healthier way of thinking translates into immediate real-life benefits that support our ability to make decisions, think critically, reason and plan.

In other words, shaping your brain by engaging in the right kind of daily mental exercise has the power to reverse brain aging and actually make you smarter, more creative, and less stressed.

So boost your brainpower! You have nothing to lose, and much to gain.

This core of this article was originally written by Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, author of “Make Your Brain Smarter,” who is founder and chief director of the Centre for Brain Health, and a Distinguished University Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. Wellthisiswhatithink has added to it substantially.

sausage
An estimated 12 million people worldwide are infected by syphilis each year. Most (an estimated 90 per cent) are in the developing world. But since 2000, rates in developing countries have also been on the up. WTF?

Syphilis infections were in decline in the developed world until the 1980s and 1990s, due to widespread use of freely available antibiotics. But rates have been increasing in the US, UK, Australia and Europe – primarily among men who have sex with men. And antibiotic-resistant strains of the killer disease are spreading, too.

The bacterium that causes syphilis. Nasty little fucker.

The bacterium that causes syphilis. Nasty little fucker.

In 2004, 1,956 Syphilis cases were notified to the Australian Department of Health’s Disease Surveillance System. Between 2004 and 2010 this figure increased by 25 per cent, and last year (2013), 3,461 cases were clocked up. Most are in urban or suburban areas, and in men – and specifically, men who have sex with men.

Dr Kit Fairley has been the Director of the Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic since 2001. In that time, he’s seen the incidence of syphilis increase dramatically.

“In the past two decades, syphilis has increased all over the developed world. It was absent for about twenty years, then in the early 2000s we saw it come back with a vengeance,” he says.

“It took us a while to pick up on syphilis. What was probably happening was that firstly, doctors hadn’t seen it for 20 years and found it difficult to recognise. And secondly, we have a generation of gay men who had never seen or had to worry about syphilis before.”

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the Treponema pallidum bacteria, syphilis manifests in four progressive stages: primary, secondary, latent and late, or tertiary.

It’s been around since at least the fifteenth century, and while no one can quite agree where it came from, but it’s a dead cert that syphilis (“the great pox”) moves through four fetching stages. Painless sores and ulcers akin to an ingrown hair appear in the primary stage, and rashes, hair loss, fevers and general tiredness in the secondary stage. There are no symptoms in the stealthy latent stage, just detection by blood test. These stages of syphilis are all treatable; it’s the infamous tertiary or late stage that put paid to Napoleon, Oscar Wilde and Hitler, and is the one that will make you go slowly crazy then kill you. There are some wince-inducing, NSFW images of the various stages here, if you must. Then again, if you’re having unprotected sex, whether you are male or female, gay, bi, or straight … well, maybe you should go look.

Like its boner-killer cousins HPV (Human Papillo Virus, a.k.a. warts) and herpes, syphilis is passed from person to person by skin-to-skin contact. You can catch it through oral, vaginal or anal sex with a person who has primary or secondary syphilis; the secondary stage’s characteristic rash (back, hands, feet and chest alert) is particularly contagious. More rarely, it can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy (congenital syphilis).

It’s tricky, says Dr Fairley, because it can be caught multiple times, and is very easy to catch – even when you’re practising sex that is safe, from an HIV perspective.

“Classically, syphilis is known as the great mimicker; the rash it gives is like any other rash from any other infection. But it’s very treatable, and once you’ve been treated, it’s gone. You don’t need ongoing treatment, as with HIV,” says the doc.

“Even if you’re using condoms for anal sex, it’s possible to catch syphilis through oral sex or even by masturbating someone, if the person you’re in contact with has a lesion.”

So do we have another sexual health epidemic on our hands?

No, says the doc, but there’s no doubt that syphilis is a serious STI.

“If you don’t treat it, it leads to substantial health consequences; problems with the heart and brain, hearing and eyesight. Here in Melbourne we’ve seen a few tertiary cases, where people are having trouble with their eyesight and hearing.”

Early recognition is key.

“If you’re a gay man having regular sex with different people, it’s important that you have regular checks, even if, from an HIV perspective, you’re practising safe sex. We recommend a full sexual health check up every six months.”

And there’s always room for improvement. Improved public health communications against at-risk target audiences would seem to be a no-brainer. In fact, public health boffins have yet to implement a highly effective control program for syphilis.

“We need to work harder on early symptom recognition and testing, and make it easier for people to have regular testing,” says Dr Fairley.

“We’re working on programs to make it easier for gay men to be tested, like home testing, and testing in clubs. Every time you test for HIV, ask to be tested for syphilis as well; it doesn’t mean any extra needles.”

“We’re also pushing to change the legislation around blood tests, so that when you see a doctor you can have five or six tests from a single referral slip, without having to return to your doctor every time you want to get tested.”

Treatment is simple – one or perhaps a series of penicillin injections. This sure as hell beats the mercury and arsenic treatments that were the go until well into the nineteenth century, and would often kill a sufferer long before the syphilis itself.

Ladies, you do not want this.

Ladies, you do not want this.

The spread of the disease from it’s current spike in the gay community to the broader sexually-active community is also, of course, a potential problem.

Many men who have gay sex also have sex with women.

Many women, especially since the HIV infection scare has dulled, and who are covered by oral contraception, have sex with gay-active bisexual men.

It is worth those women remembering that there are no fewer than 32 sexually transmitted diseases that having sex without a condom makes them much more vulnerable to.

Syphilis, as you can see, is just one of the most unpleasant.

(From the Vine, with additional reporting by Wellthisiswhatithink.)

A Mayo Clinic trial has made a breakthrough in the fight against cancer, with more trials to come.

A dose of 100 billion units of measles – enough to inoculate 10 million people – has successfully knocked widespread blood cancer into remission, says a groundbreaking new test from the Mayo Clinic.Having been through chemotherapy treatments and two stem cell transplants, 50-year-old Stacy Erholtz was running out options in her battle against myeloma, a blood cancer that affects bone marrow, when scans showed she had tumours growing throughout her body.

As part of a radically new two-patient clinical trial, doctors at the Mayo Clinic injected Erholtz with the measles vaccine, with an immediate reaction.

 

Are we on the verge of a new treatment for cancer?

Are we on the verge of an exciting new treatment for cancer?

 

Five minutes into the hour-long process, Erholtz got a terrible headache. Two hours later, she started shaking and vomiting. Her temperature hit 41 degrees, Stephen Russell, the lead researcher on the case, told The Washington Post.

Evan – the name given to the tumour on Erholtz’s forehead by her children – began to shrink within 36 hours. Over several weeks, the tumour – and the accompanying tumours spreading throughout her body – disappeared. Evan was no more.

The viruses succeeded by binding to cancer cells and using them to replicate. The process destroys the cells, and the body’s immune system attacks what’s left since it’s marked as viral material. This test also gave doctors a benchmark for the virus dose needed to reduce cancer in patients — 100 billion infectious units instead of the standard 10,000 units.

Although Erholtz has been completely cleared of the disease, there are still potential hurdles to overcome. Now that her immune system has experience fighting the measles virus, the treatment wouldn’t be as effective a second time ; the body would attack the virus before it could take over the cancer cells.

The treatment wasn’t successful in the second patient. While Erholtz’s tumours were mostly in her bone marrow, the other patient’s tumours were mainly in her leg muscles, the Star-Tribune reported. Russell said more research is needed to know how the nature of the tumour affects the virus.

The next step for this method is another clinical trial, which is expected to launch by September, to see if the massive measles dose works on a large number of patients.

As for Erholtz, her next step is an annual checkup next month, but she’s optimistic.

“We don’t let the cancer cloud hang over our house, let’s put it that way, or we would have lived in the dark the last 10 years,” Erholtz told the Star Tribune.

Wellthisiswhatithink says: Let’s hope that this might be a major step forward in our understanding of how to treat this illness which strikes terror into so many. Humankind has beaten killer illnesses before, and there’s no fundamental reason why we can’t beat cancer … Alzheimer’s … HIV.
Let us also salute those patients who have the courage to accept experimental treatment from scientists and medicos, with no guarantee of success. It’s too easy for us to dismiss the role they play with “well, what else are they going to do?”: the answer is, they could choose a less disruptive and more peaceful route towards the end of their lives. In undergoing what can be disturbing and distressing treatment with no certainty of success they demonstrate not only their own personal determination, but they also blaze a course for the rest of us. We owe them our gratitude.
(Yahoo Health and Others)

From Jonathan Amos. Science correspondent, BBC News

Thwaites Glacier is a huge ice stream draining into the Amundsen Bay

Thwaites Glacier is a huge ice stream draining into the Amundsen Bay

 

In a finding which will add heat to the ongoing climate change debate, key glaciers in West Antarctica are in an irreversible retreat, a study team led by the US space agency (Nasa) says. It analysed 40 years of observations of six big ice streams draining into the Amundsen Bay and concluded that nothing now can stop them melting away.

Although these are abrupt changes, the timescales involved are likely measured in centuries, the researchers add. If the glaciers really do disappear, they would add roughly 1.2m to global sea level rise.

The new study has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, but Nasa held a teleconference on Monday to brief reporters on the findings.

Prof Eric Rignot said warm ocean water was relentlessly eating away at the glaciers’ fronts and that the geometry of the sea bed in the area meant that this erosion had now entered a runaway process.

West Antarctica is one of the least accessible parts of the planet and it takes a huge effort to research the changes under way there. Now the scientists involved have the benefit of repeated flights, copious satellite images and data from field trips to work on. There is still a lot they do not understand about the pace of change and therefore the speed with which the melt will contribute to sea level rise. But the more detailed the research, the sharper the picture of rapid change.

“We present observational evidence that a large section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat; it has passed the point of no return,” the agency glaciologist explained.

“This retreat will have major consequences for sea level rise worldwide. It will raise sea levels by 1.2m, or 4ft, but its retreat will also influence adjacent sectors of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet which could triple this contribution to sea level.”

The Amundsen Bay sector includes some of the biggest and fastest moving glaciers on Earth.

Other glaciers melting too

Pine Island Glacier (PIG), over which there has been intense research interest of late, covers about 160,000 sq km, or about two-thirds the area of the UK.

Like the Thwaites, Smith, Haynes, Pope, Smith and Kohler Glaciers in this region – the PIG has also been thinning rapidly.

And its grounding line – the zone where the glacier enters the sea and lifts up and floats – has also reversed tens of km over recent decades.

What makes the group of glaciers especially vulnerable is that their bulk actually sits below current sea level with the rock bed sloping inland towards the continent. This is a geometry, say scientists, that invites further melting and further retreat.

The new study includes radar observations that map the underlying rock in the region, and this finds no ridge or significant elevation in topography that could act as a barrier to the glaciers’ reverse.

“In our new study, we present additional data that the junction of the glaciers with the ocean – the grounding line – has been retreating at record speeds unmatched anywhere in the Antarctic,” said Prof Rignot.

Recent European Space Agency satellite data has also recorded the glaciers’ thinning and retreat.

“We also present new evidence that there is no large hill at the back of these glaciers that could create a barrier and hold the retreat back. This is why we conclude that the disappearance of ice in this sector is unstoppable.”

The researcher, who is also affiliated to the University of California, Irvine, attributed the underlying driver of these changes to global warming.

This, together with atmospheric behaviours influenced by a loss of ozone in the stratosphere, had created stronger winds in the Southern Ocean that were now drawing more warm water towards and under the glaciers.

Dr Tom Wagner, the cryosphere program scientist with Nasa, said it was clear that, in the case of these six glaciers, a threshold had been crossed.

“The results are not based on computer simulations or numerical models; they are based on the interpretation of observations,” he told reporters.

“And I think this is an important point because this sometimes can get lost on the general public when they’re trying to understand climate change and the implications.”

Prof Rignot and colleagues put no real timescales on events, but a paper released by the journal Science to coincide with the Nasa media conference tries to do just this.

It does include computer modelling and was led by Dr Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. The study considers the particular case of Thwaites Glacier.

Collapse “inevitable”

In the model, Dr Joughin’s team is able to reproduce very accurately the behaviour of the glacier over the past 20 years. The group then runs the model forwards to try to forecast future trends. This, likewise, indicates that a collapse of the glacier is inevitable, and suggests it will most likely occur in the next 200 to 500 years.

Prof Andy Shepherd, from Leeds University, UK, is connected with neither Rignot’s nor Joughin’s work.

He told BBC News: “[Joughin's] new simulations are a game changing result, as they shine a spotlight on Thwaites Glacier, which has until now played second fiddle to its neighbour Pine Island Glacier in terms of ice losses. There is now little doubt that this sector of West Antarctica is in a state of rapid retreat, and the burning question is whether and how soon this retreat might escalate into irreversible collapse. Thankfully, we now have an array of satellites capable of detecting the tell-tale signs, and their observations will allow us to monitor the progress and establish which particular scenario Thwaites Glacier will follow.”

Prof Shepherd said the EU’s newly launched Sentinel-1a radar satellite would have a unique capability to assess the glaciers’ grounding lines. “As soon as the satellite reaches its nominal orbit, we will turn its eye on Thwaites Glacier to see whether it has indeed changed as predicted.”

Wellthisiswhatithink says:

This finding is particularly significant because it effectively adds 1 metre of sea level rise to most current forecasts. At 1 metre (the sea level rise most people accept as inevitable by 2100) the damage to coastal areas is relatively slight. But each additional metre causes more problems for humanity. As you can see here:

http://www.globalwarmingart.com/sealevel?lat=NaN&lng=NaN&zoom=2


									

Coffee!

 

A new book by health journalist Robert J. Davis, PhD aims to diss some common diet myths once and for all.

‘Coffee Is Good for You’, published Jan 2014, disputes many commonly held beliefs about healthy diets. According to Davis’s book (and many recent comments in the media by other experts) you actually don’t need eight glasses of water a day and carbs aren’t to blame for your weight gain, while gourmets might be disappointed to note that hugely expensive sea salt offers no health benefits distinct from other everyday salt.

The book’s title was inspired by the mass of misinformation that is often disseminated about coffee. According to Davis, coffee drinkers are not at a higher risk of cancer than people who don’t drink the brew, nor does coffee greatly increase the risk of heart attack and strokes despite claims otherwise. The most significant problem with coffee, says Davis, is the dairy and sugar people add to it.

One of the canards that has always annoyed me is people nodding sagely and telling me coffee makes the kidneys work too hard. Really? I mean, as I have said to people for donkey’s years – what do you make coffee with, people? WATER! The amount of water you drink in a cup of coffee must vastly outweigh any diuretic effect from the caffeine. Dur!

At the same time Davis gives other claims his seal of approval. Oatmeal does reduce cholesterol, he says, and it’s true that trans fats are harmful. Some theories about diet are inconclusive, like whether tomato helps prevent prostate cancer.

Oh, and ‘trans fats’? Guys, canola oil turns to trans fats INSIDE your body at body temperature. And trans fats kill you, no question. So frankly, the best thing we could do for Western health would be to persuade MacDonald’s to go back to cooking burgers in coconut oil. In my steadfast opinion, if you do some “alternative” reading, you will never touch vegetable oil again, let alone cook with it, except for good old olive oil.

Davis wanted to give people unbiased and fact-checked information about diet and health, particularly when so much advice available contains conflicting theories. One recommendation he makes is to avoid fads and advertisements making health claims for their products. Davis is also the author of ‘The Healthy Skeptic: Cutting through the Hype about Your Health’ and editor of Everwell.com, and his work has featured on CNN, PBS, and WebMD, and in ‘The Wall Street Journal’.

More power to his elbow. As I have said for a generation, it is a matter of time before someone works out that cholesterol is good for us, and what’s really been killing us is worry. And probably plastics. We note that butter is enjoying a “actually it’s good for you” resurgence as we write. Anyway, I need another cup of fair trade Timorese coffee. With low fat milk, and no sugar. Yum.

The advice offered in this article should not be taken as authoritative. Or, indeed, necessarily true in any way. Apart from the bits lifted from the internet, it is the product of a grumpy old fat bastard with no medical knowledge whatsoever and lots of bias.