Archive for category Medical
Scientists Discover Protein That Reverses Heart Disease In Older Mice
Scientists at Harvard University think they have found a way to possibly reverse the aging process in human organs.
Dr. Richard Lee, director of regenerative medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Amy Wagers, of the Department of Regenerative Biology at Harvard, made the discovery when they were working with younger and older mice.
They took an older mouse with the most common form of human heart failure and merged the mouse’s blood stream with that of a healthy young mouse using a Siamese twin technique known as parabiosis. They found that the older mouse’s diseased heart was able to reverse to a younger healthier condition.
They later identified a protein in the blood of young mice called GDF-11, which diminishes with age. They injected this protein directly into the older mice and had the same positive results. They are using this protein to restore other aging/diseased tissues and organs. Their results are published online today in the science journal Cell.
- Scientists may be able to reverse aging process in vital organs (upi.com)
- Transfusions Reverse Aging Effects On Hearts In Mice (science.slashdot.org)
- Scientists discover protein that may turn hearts younger (foxnews.com)
- ‘Macabre’ Technique Turns Old Mouse Hearts Young (news.sciencemag.org)
- Protein Rejuvenates Hearts In Mice (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Scientists discover protein that can REVERSE ageing in the heart (dailymail.co.uk)
- Blood hormone restores youthful hearts to old mice (nature.com)
- Researchers Discover Protein that Could Reverse Aging in the Heart (counselheal.com)
- Young blood reverses heart decline in old mice (newscientist.com)
- Blood ‘Youth’ Hormone Reverses Heart Failure Symptoms in Aging Mouse Hearts (medicaldaily.com)
Radioactive bacteria attack cancer
Approach turns tumours’ immune suppression from strength to weakness.
22 April 2013
Two dangerous things together might make a medicine for one of the hardest cancers to treat. In a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, researchers have shown that bacteria can deliver deadly radiation to tumours — exploiting the immune suppression that normally makes the disease so intractable.
Fewer than one in 25 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are alive five years later. Chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy are generally ineffective, mainly because the disease has often spread to other organs even before it is detected.
The work, which is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1, began when Ekaterina Dadachova of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York thought of combining two ways to fight cancer. She studies how radioactive isotopes can be used as anti-cancer weapons, and her colleague Claudia Gravekamp has been looking at whether weakened bacteria can be used to carry compounds that provoke a patient’s white blood cells into attacking the cancer. “I thought maybe we could combine the power of radiation with the power of live bacteria,” Dadachova says.
Sometimes found in food, the bacterium Listeria monocytogenescan cause severe infection, but is usually wiped out by the immune system. Exploiting the fact that cancer cells tend to suppress the immune reaction to avoid being destroyed, the two researchers and their collaborators decided to coat Listeria with radioactive antibodies and injected the bacterium into mice with pancreatic cancer that had spread to multiple sites. After several doses, the mice that had received the radioactive bacteria had 90% fewer metastases compared with mice that had received saline or radiation alone. “That was the first time we’d seen such a big effect,” says Gravekamp.
The immune system rapidly clears Listeria from healthy tissue, says Gravekamp, but tumour cells suppress the immune system and allow Listeria to remain. That means that tumour cells will receive continuous exposure but normal cells will be spared, she says.
But Elizabeth Jaffee, an oncologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who has used non-radioactive Listeria in human trials for advanced cancers, including pancreatic cancer, says that some of the observations in the paper are hard to explain, particularly how weakened Listeria gets into metastases and why it’s ineffective against the primary tumour.
Other researchers worry that healthy organs may receive excessive amounts of radiation. James Abbruzzese, an oncologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, says that the levels of radiation reported in the liver and other organs were disturbingly high, and that he would have liked clearer data that the radiation is being delivered specifically to tumours.
Estimating dose levels between animals and humans is not always straightforward, but Dadachova counters that, according to her calculations, the radiation levels are below what is considered the safety threshold for humans, and that patients with pancreatic cancer tend to be less prone to radiation sickness because they have not usually received chemotherapy beforehand.
Joseph Herman, a radiation oncologist at Johns Hopkins, says that he would have liked to have seen results for other tumour types. And although the study found no signs of tissue damage one week after high-dose treatment of radioactive Listeria, Herman thinks that the effects of radiation might take longer to show up.
Still, Herman says, the approach might present an option where few exist. “The benefit is that it’s a way of killing cancer cells in a cancer where therapy has not been very effective,” he says. “It’s exciting, but it needs to be further validated.”
- Radioactive bacteria nuke pancreatic cancer in mice (newscientist.com)
- Radioactive bacteria attack cancer (3quarksdaily.com)
- Radioactive Bacteria Attack Cancer (science.slashdot.org)
- Radioactive bacteria target cancer (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Radioactive bacteria targets metastatic pancreatic cancer (medicalxpress.com)
- Radioactive bacteria attack cancer (nature.com)
- Bacteria targets pancreatic cancer in mice (abc.net.au)
- Tumour cells get nuked (stuff.co.nz)
- Radioactive Listeria Delivers Therapy To Kill Cancer (medicaldaily.com)
- Radioactive Microbes Nuke Tumor Cells (news.sciencemag.org)
The Danger of Secret Alcoholism
High-functioning alcoholics are often hiding in plain sight—and they’re often more dangerous than drop-dead drunks.
January 8, 2013
“He was never drunk when I interviewed him,” the late writer Truman Capote’s biographer told me.
“It was just a mistake. He didn’t hurt anyone,” a friend said of an acquaintance who got a DUI last year.
“She doesn’t drink much,” my husband said of me when a therapist asked about our drinking habits. “Just a little white wine.”
Alcohol is confusing. For one thing, it is selectively addictive. Some people can drink safely; others can’t. For another thing, although alcohol is a depressant, especially in large doses, new research shows that in moderate doses it can also act as a happy stimulant. The first few drinks make the world a better place. The next few have the opposite effect: The drinker “may not be able to grasp the thread of a conversation; his reflexes will be somewhat delayed, his speech slurred, and his gait unsteady,” writes Dr. James Milam in his classic study Under the Influence.
Because ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol, is a very simple and very tiny molecule, it is the Speedy Gonzales of addictive substances, zooming right through the protective blood/brain barrier and delivering an immediate punch. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it triggers a series of responses that can last 24 hours. Many heavy drinkers are always in some stage of inebriation or withdrawal, and this changes the way they engage with the world. There may be hours—entire mornings!—when they appear to be “normal,” but there is no “normal” in the body or brain of a heavy drinker.
Alcohol is metabolized at the approximate rate of one drink per hour. Someone who has two drinks before dinner, three beers with dinner and two nightcaps may pass out and wake up six hours late still drunk. If they sleep longer, they wake up with more alcohol out of their system but often in a painful state of withdrawal (along with dehydration and other nasty symptoms caused by the toxins that your body churns out as it processes the ethanol). Hangovers, which arguably have a greater effect on mood than alcohol itself, are the body’s scream for more. Soon enough, driven by a cellular level craving, the heavy drinker with a hangover will have that beer or that brandy in the coffee that quiets the disturbance, at least for a while.
Someone in withdrawal is even less likely to seem drunk than someone who has had a few drinks. But the effects can be deadly. “The strange truth that alcoholics are often in worse shape when their blood alcohol content is descending than when it is at its highest level is an extremely difficult point to grasp,” write Catherine Ketchum in her bookBeyond the Influence. “The withdrawal syndrome represents a state of hyperexcitability, or extreme agitation in the nervous system. “ Ketcham uses the tragic example of Henri Paul, the driver of the car in which Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed in 1997. Paul, who had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit when his body was tested after the accident, had been waiting around the Ritz for two hours to drive during which he had little to drink. “Paul was drunk and he was in withdrawal,” Ketchum writes. “Both facts sealed his doom and the fate of his passengers.”
In Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, Sarah Allen Benton makes the case that the image of the archetypal alcoholic—the stumbling Bowery bum—has obscured a much more common and infrequently treated type of alcoholic—the alcoholic who can function in the world and appear to be fine. Perhaps because high-functioning alcoholics do not tax government systems and cause social problems, they get far less attention than more dramatic drinkers. Although these high-functioning boozers sometimes do not meet the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism, they are desperately in need of help. Examples abound: from former First Lady Betty Ford to actor Robin Williams and musician Eric Clapton. Dr. Mark Willenbring, an addiction specialist, told Benton, “[High-functioning alcoholics] are successful students. They’re good parents, good workers. They watch their weight. They go to the gym. Then they go home and have four martinis and two bottle of wine. Are they alcoholics? You bet.”
I was one of those confusing invisible alcoholics. I didn’t stumble or slur. I didn’t break out in handcuffs. No one ever told me to stop drinking. There were no emergency rooms or rehabs. Most of the day, I considered myself sober. From the outside all was well: I had a loving husband, two terrific kids and an enviable career. From the inside I was hollowed out by despair. I got through the mornings on coffee and sugar, promising myself that I wouldn’t drink again. In this twilight state I lived my life—driving cars, arguing with the IRS, complaining about my marriage. By evening there only seemed one solution to the unbearable hammering of the hours—a glass of white wine, and then another. I felt entirely alone. Now, 20 years later, I realize that I had a great deal of company.
- The Danger of Secret Alcoholism (alternet.org)
- Digital Ice Cubes Designed To Monitor Alcohol Consumption (positivelygood.net)
- CDC: Binge drinking among teen girls increasing (csmonitor.com)
- Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It’s Cold Out? (mentalfloss.com)
- Are Women The New Problem Drinkers, Because They Are Lady Binge-Drinkers? (theawl.com)
- Idaho inmates blame it on the alcohol (newsfixnow.com)
- Health News: Having a word can help cut dangers of alcohol (walesonline.co.uk)
- Binge drinking warnings ‘overstated’ (stuff.co.nz)
- CDC: 1 in 8 U.S. women binge drink 3 times a month (cbsnews.com)
- Dieters `often ignore alcohol calories` (indiavision.com)
The Deadly Secret About the Fiscal Cliff Charade
Let’s stop repeating failures of austerity and move toward solutions that can restore our Federal budget – and us – to health.
January 4, 2013
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Imagine a nation with a terrible problem – one its leaders refuse to discuss. The problem will needlessly drain trillions of dollars from its economy in the next ten years.
Now imagine that this problem also robs that nation’s citizens of life itself, draining years from their lifespans while depriving them of large sums of money. Imagine that it sickens and disables countless others, drives many people into bankrupcty, and kills more than two newborn infants out of every thousand born.
Imagine that fixing this problem would make result in a dramatic decline in publicly-held debt. It wouldn’t just “help” the debt problem, mind you – it would cause that debt to plunge.
And now imagine a national “deficit debate” which completely ignores this problem.
Imagine a news media which pretends the problem doesn’t exist. Imagine a corporate-funded “Fix the Debt” movement that refuses to mention it, and yet is treated as an objective source of information. Imagine a political consensus in which the debate isn’t around how to fix this problem, but how to cut service programs that help people cope with it.
Welcome to the United States of America, January 2012. It’s a land where the population is broke, sick, gypped, and mistreated. But the problem’s fixable – if we can find the political will.
The problem, of course, is our health care system – although “system” seems like a flattering word for this greed-driven, anarchic three-ring circus. Our health care system – guess we’ll need to call it that for lack of an alternativer – is the worst in the developed world. It costs far more, provides much less, and has worse outcomes than any system that’s even remotely comparable.
How bad is it?
Our health care spending is 17.6 percent of GDP , compared with an average of 9.6 percent for all developed countries. (All figures are from the compendium ofhealth and economic statistics published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD ), unless otherwise indicated.)
Total health spending (from all sources, not just insurance-related) averages $7,960 per person in the United States, versus an average of $3,233 for all developed countries.
If we spent the same on health as the average developed country (as a percentage of GDP ) that would inject more than a trillion dollars per year into other parts of the economy. ( 1.14 trillion, by my rough calculation.)
What are we getting for our money?
- Life expectancy at birth in the United States is 78.2 years, compared with an OECD average of 79.5 years and Japan’s life expectancy of 83 years.Our expected lifespan is the shortest of any among the countries we normally think of as “developed.” The ones that trail us are newer entrants into the “developed” category — like Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, and the Eastern European countries.
- Our infant mortality rate is 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, as opposed to the OECD average of 4.4 deaths. As with life expectancy, we lag behind all the other long-term “developed” nations.
- We score even more poorly on another metric, “Premature Mortality,” which measures the number of years someone loses “before their time” (essentially by calculating how many years it would have taken on average to reach the age of 70).
Our high rates of premature mortality are affected by our high rates of accidents and suicide, too, and from a homicide rate for males that’s five times the average. (That’s a figure worth citing in the gun control debate.)
The question becomes, Why? Why do we pay so much and get so little for our money?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that, despite the high cost of private-insurance premiums, our health plans don’t provide enough coverage. According to survey data, Americans were unable to meet their medical needs because of cost more often than citizens of ten comparable countries ( OECD , Table 6.1.3).
That statistic applied to lower-income Americans, as might be expected. But interestingly, it was also true for higher-income Americans – those that are most likely to have private health insurance. 39 percent of Americans with higher-than-average income had an unmet medical need due to cost in 2010. For the runner-up, Germany, that figure was 27 percent. (It was 12 percent in Switzlerland and 4 percent in Great Britain.)
Higher-income Americans also led the pack in reporting out-of-pocket expenditures of $1,000 or more per year, along with their lower-income peers, with 45 percent in the higher-earner category spending that much or more per year. The figure was 37 percent for runner-up Switzerland. It was 2 percent in Sweden. And in much-reviled “socialist” Great Britain the figure was effectively zero.
These results reinforce the findings of studies on medical bankruptcies by Prof. Elizabeth Warren, which showed that medical costs were a dominant reason for bankruptcy even for people with health insurance. (She was officially sworn in as Senator Warren today – congratulations!)
Where does all the money go? Much of it goes to profit margins for private insurance companies, of course. (They’re experts at understanding their margins, which are much higher than most observers believe.) There are also profit margins for a number of health providers, including for-profit hospitals, medical imaging companies, and physician practice management groups.
Underlying much of our explosive cost growth is the phenomenon we described in “Sick Money“: Investors like Bain Capital buy up health care companies, load them up with debt, and demand highly aggressive profit margins. Many of them respond to the problem the way the Bain companies did in our piece: through fraud.
But many other providers overtreat, subjecting the population to a barrage of needless (and sometimes invasive) procedures while other basic health needs go unmet.
Here are two more OECD statistics that illustrate the point:
The United States is second only to technology-crazed Japan in the prevalence of high-cost (and high profit) MRI and CT devices for medical imaging, both in hospitals and in free-standing facilities. Many American facilities were financed by physicians who send their patients there, which poses a significant conflict of interest and which both public and private insurers have been attempting to limit. Many others are owned by sales-driven chains. Unsurprisingly, studies suggest there is significant overuse of this equipment in the United States.
And let’s not forget drugs. When it comes to per-person pharmaceutical costs the United States is off the charts, spending $947 per person on average. That’s nearly twice the OECD average of $487.
And remember: Congress won’t even let Medicare negotiate with the drug companies.
Pharmaceutical corporations, for-profit hospital companies, private insurers — our system is sick. The diagnosis: Corporate greed.
Our “sick secret” can be fixed. In our next piece we’ll discuss how to attack it — and what it will take to shift the debate away from a “consensus” plan to adopt the miserly failures of austerity and toward real solutions that can restore our Federal budget – and us – to health.
- The Deadly Secret About the Fiscal Cliff Charade (alternet.org)
- The Deadly Secret About the Fiscal Cliff Charade | Alternet (seculardiscourse.wordpress.com)
- America’s White Male Problem | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- 6 Reasons the Fiscal Cliff is a Scam | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Tea Party Republicans Flaunted Their Nihilist Extremism During Fiscal Cliff Negotiations | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- America’s White Male Problem | Alternet (goodolewoody.wordpress.com)
- The Real Meaning of the Fiscal Cliff: “We Were All Lying in 2011.” (teapartyeconomist.com)
- The Real Meaning of the Fiscal Cliff: “We Were All Lying in 2011.” (flyoverpress.wordpress.com)
- Fiscal Cliff charade over – next charade will be debt ceiling and sequestration charades…… meanwhile the Fed will be buying 45 billion a month in treasuries starting January 3rd….. (fredw-catharsisours.blogspot.com)
- Even Mainstream Pundits Are Now Saying, Republicans ‘No Longer a Normal Governing Party,’ ‘Unfit for Government’ | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
Cancer-Detecting Smart Bra Could Soon Surpass Mammograms in Accuracy
By Bridgette Meinhold, 10/15/12
Jokingly, we expect our bras to work miracles, but soon they may actually do just that – save you from breast cancer. Reno-based First Warning Systems is working on a new bra that could detect if you are developing breast cancer. Integrated sensors and a data controller regularly monitor your breasts and can watch for irregularities which may signal the growth of tumors. Tests so far are showing that the bra is far superior and may be able to detect cancerous growth up to 6 years sooner than self-exams or mammograms.
The First Warning Systems Bra is exciting news for Breast Cancer Awareness month and the company expects the product to be available in Europe in 2013 and in the US by 2014. The athletic-style bra features a series of small integrated sensors that tracks the temperature of the breasts. The sensors are connected to a controller that monitors and analyses the data and determines if there are any changes. Increases in temperature in a specific area indicate the growth of cancerous cells, which would signal a warning and notify your doctor.
While there is no prevention for breast cancer, the best hope for survival is early detection, which is currently achieved through self-exams, doctor exams and mammograms. These are not fool-proof methods and mammograms specifically have come under fire recently for false-positive results and exposure to radiation. After three clinical First Warning Systems claims their bra is non-evasive, more accurate (90%) at diagnosis and capable of detecting cancerous growth up to 6 years before the other methods would even pick up on a lump.
It likely won’t be a low-cost item anyone could pick up at their local drug store, the bras will likely be available with a prescription from a doctor for high risk patients and cost about $1,000. Wearing the bra all the time also may not be realistic, but hopefully even wearing it for just a few hours a day could collect enough data points to track your breasts’ health.
- Cancer-Detecting Bra Could One Day Surpass Mammograms In Accuracy (idle.slashdot.org)
- Smart Bra Detects Breast Cancer Earlier (news.discovery.com)
- Breast Cancer-Sensing Bra Detects Tumors Years Before Some Mammograms (techcrunch.com)
- New Bra Continuously Checks Breasts for Tumors (dailytech.com)
- One Day, This Bra Could Detect Breast Cancer (fastcoexist.com)
- New Bra is Early Detection for Breast Cancer (brit.co)
- Smart Bra Detects Cancer Long Before Tumors Are Noticeable (bigthink.com)
- Sports bra can detect breast cancer early (springwise.com)
- How a smart bra could one day outdo the mammogram (news.cnet.com)
- The Breast Tissue Screening Bra acts as a continuous monitoring system for tumors (bluesyemre.com)
“I’m Lovin’ It”: Fast-Food Logos ‘Imprinted’ in Children’s Brains, Study Says : Consumer News : Medical Daily
“I’m Lovin’ It”: Fast-Food Logos ‘Imprinted’ in Children’s Brains, Study Says
A study has found that fast-food logos are branded into the minds of children from an early age.
BY MAKINI BRICE | SEP 25, 2012
Childhood obesity is a growing health concern in the public sphere, but for many of us, it also hits close to home. But while public health campaigns have singled in on parents providing children with unhealthy nutrition options and with poor examples of healthy eating, new research indicates that some of the problem may lie with fast food companies and their overly effective marketing campaigns. A study has found that fast-food logos are branded into the minds of children from an early age.
(Photo : REUTERS/Mike Blake) When asked to taste a hamburger from a box with no label, and a hamburger from a box labeled McDonald’s, the children overwhelmingly preferred the McDonald’s burger.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years. And perhaps more damning, the government bureau reports that “[the] percentage of children aged 6-11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12-19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.”
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, showed children 60 logos from popular food brands, like Rice Krispies and KFC and 60 logos from popular non-food brands, like BMW and FedEx. The children were aged between 10 and 14. Then, using a functional MRI scanner, which measures blood flow to different areas in the brain, they watched the brains of these children react to the different logos.
When showed images of fast food companies, the parts of the brain that control pleasure and appetite lit up. The brains did not do the same when showed images from companies not associated with food.
The brain’s reaction may not seem like a big deal. After all, when someone mentions food, a common bodily response is to feel hungry. But researchers also found that children were more likely to choose the food branded with the logo with which they were familiar. When asked to taste a hamburger from a box with no label, and a hamburger from a box labeled McDonald’s, the children overwhelmingly preferred the McDonald’s burger.
Researchers’ concern is that marketers for these companies are tapping into the reward portions of the brain long before children develop self-control. In addition, most of the foods marketed to children are high in caloric content, sugars, fat and sodium.
”The brains of children are ‘imprinted’ with food logos,” said Dr. Amanda Bruce, who led the study. “Without the necessary inhibitory processes to aid in decision-making, youth are particularly susceptible to making poor choices about what to eat.”
- “I’m Lovin’ It”: Fast-Food Logos ‘Imprinted’ in Children’s Brains, Study Says (sott.net)
- Fast-Food Logos Burned Into Pleasure Center of Children’s Brains (science.slashdot.org)
- Fast-food logos light up kid’s brains (news.bioscholar.com)
- Logos ‘brand’ youthful minds (independent.co.uk)
- So that’s why children love burger and chips: Fast-food logos are ‘branded’ on their brains, claims study (engineeringevil.com)
- Fast-food logos are ‘branded’ on young brains: Study (thehindubusinessline.com)
- Absence of family dinners and obsession with fast food breeds obesity in Britain (telegraph.co.uk)
- AUDIO: Feeding kids fast food is ‘abuse’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Asking Your Children What Their Superheroes Would Eat Primes Them To Make Healthier Fast Food Choices (medicalnewstoday.com)
- You Are (As Smart As) What You Eat (psychologytoday.com)
The Fascinating Differences Between The Conservative and Liberal Personality
Evidence suggests that differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age.
August 20, 2012
“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin,” laments Linus van Pelt in a 1961 Peanuts comic strip. Yet in today’s hyperpartisan political climate, religion and politics are obsessively debated, while the “American people” that politicians and reporters constantly refer to seem hopelessly divided. Meanwhile, psychologists are increasingly exploring the political arena, examining not just the ideological differences, but also the numerous factors – temperamental, developmental, biological, and situational – that contribute to the formation and maintenance of partisan political beliefs.
Personality differences are a leading candidate in the race toward understanding the rift between political liberals and conservatives. Using data compiled from nearly 20,000 respondents, Columbia University researcher Dana Carney and colleagues found that two common personality traits reliably differentiated individuals with liberal or conservative identifications. Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical. These personality differences were even reflected in the bedroom belongings and offices or workspaces of ideological undergrads, with liberal students collecting more CDs, books, movie tickets, and travel paraphernalia, as opposed to their conservative peers, who showed more sports décor, U.S. flags, cleaning supplies, calendars, and uncomfortable furniture. Lest you think that the partisan personality is a uniquely American phenomenon, similar findings on personality and political ideology have emerged in samples across the globe, from North America, Europe, and Australia.
Evidence suggests that these personality differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age. A 20-year longitudinal study by Jack and Jeanne Block showed that those who grew up to be liberals were originally assessed by their preschool teachers as more emotionally expressive, gregarious, and impulsive when compared to those who became conservatives, who were considered more inhibited, uncertain, and controlled. Liberals may show greater tolerance for diversity and creativity, but they may also be more impulsive, indecisive, and irresponsible. On the flip side, conservatives may be organized, stable, and thrifty, but also have stronger just-world beliefs (leading to a greater tolerance for inequality), and stronger fears of mortality and ambiguity. Even recent neuroscience work published in Current Biology from University College London identifies fundamental differences in the partisan brain. Brain scans revealed a larger amygdala in self-identified conservatives and a larger anterior cingulate cortex in liberals, leading the researchers to conclude that conservatives may be more acute at detecting threats around them, whereas liberals may be more adept at handling conflicting information and uncertainty.
Some evidence suggests, however, that we aren’t always so divided. In situations that remind people of death and mortality (such as terrorist attacks or implicitly primed images of funeral hearses and chalk body outlines) conservatives and liberals alike gravitate toward more conservative leaders and beliefs. By contrast, greater acceptance of liberal values occurs during events in which people feel disillusioned by government authorities and the politically powerful (such as the Vietnam War or after the 2008 housing crisis).
Of course, the field of psychology isn’t immune to political biases and partisanship. Liberal psychology professors vastly outnumber their conservative counterparts by as much as 10 to 1 (perhaps conservatives have some justification for a general distrust of science and academia). A similar imbalance was found by Dyer Bilgrave and Robert Deluty in their 2002 survey of more than 200 clinical and counseling psychologists, published in the journal Psychotherapy. They also found that cognitive-behavioral therapists tended to hold more conservative religious and political beliefs than their more liberally oriented psychodynamic and humanistic-oriented colleagues. Other findings implicative for psychotherapy suggest that liberals and conservatives conceptualize different values in their family narratives, and that individuals fail to empathize completely with the nonpolitical concerns and problems of others if they’re perceived as belonging to an opposing political party.
No matter which side of the couch they sit on, therapists are inevitably bound to confront political and moral issues in treatment. In research, practice, and training, therapists are expected to achieve the kind of bipartisan collaboration that politicians seem to only talk about. According to Bilgrave and Deluty, “therapists should ask themselves regularly how their religious and political beliefs, values, and attitudes may be influencing their practice of therapy-how they see clients and their problems, how they help clients frame and understand their concerns, and how and in which direction they encourage clients to act.” But if our partisan personalities are deeply rooted in our early development and wired in our brains, is honest and thoughtful consideration of our own biases and predeterminations enough, or even possible? And when even your furniture choices betray your political persuasions, then what does your office tell patients about you?
- The Fascinating Differences Between The Conservative and Liberal Personality (alternet.org)
- Where are the conservative social psychologists? (psychologicalscience.org)
- Do Conservatives Care About the Poor? (stacyswimp.net)
- The Difference between a Conservative and a Liberal (contentconservative.wordpress.com)
- Politics and Prejudice – Insights from Psychological Science (psychologicalscience.org)
- Confessions of an Ex-Liberal (americanthinker.com)
- How Conservatism Lost Its Mind (theamericanconservative.com)
- Professors Admit They’d Discriminate Against Conservatives (thecollegeconservative.com)
- Why are conservatives happier than liberals? Because of marriage and faith or they refuse to see injustice? (thesunnews.typepad.com)
- Conservatives, Liberals, and Happiness (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
Do Antibiotics Make Us Fat?
by Kai Kupferschmidt on 22 August 2012
Fattening for the feast. Farmers use antibiotics to make turkeys grow bigger. Now, scientists are suggesting something similar could be happening to babies treated with antibiotics.
Farmers have long used antibiotics to make cows, pigs, and turkeys gain weight faster. Now, scientists claim that receiving antibiotics early in life may also make children grow fat. The researchers believe the drugs change the composition of the bacterial population in the gut in a crucial developmental stage that may have a long-lasting impact.
Other scientists are casting doubt on the conclusions, however. The new data are “not convincing,” says Michael Blaut, a microbiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam, Germany. And David Relman, a microbiologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, calls the work “provocative” but says some of the data are “a bit vague and unclear.”
Billions of microbial cells live in the guts of humans and other animals. Research on these vast bacterial populations, called microbiomes, is just getting started, but scientists already know that some microbial boarders play a crucial role in breaking down nutrients in our diet. Some have also suspected that low-dose antibiotics, given to farm animals to make them grow bigger, could work by altering the gut microbiome.
To test this hypothesis, a team led by microbiologist Martin Blaser of the New York University School of Medicine in New York City added antibiotics to the drinking water of mice that had just been weaned. The medicine—either penicillin, vancomycin, a combination of the two, or chlortetracycline—was given at doses comparable to those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as growth promoters in farm animals. After 7 weeks, the group of mice on antibiotics had significantly more fat than a control group drinking plain water, the team reports online today in Nature. “This confirms what farmers have shown for 60 years, that low-dose antibiotics cause their animals to grow bigger,” Blaser says.
If the findings of the study are replicated in other animal models, such as pigs, they could have considerable implications for public health, says Oluf Pedersen, professor of genomic medicine at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen.
Antibiotics did not reduce the overall number of microbes in the animals’ guts, but it shifted their composition. DNA comparisons showed that mice treated with antibiotics had a higher proportion of bacteria belonging to the group Firmicutes than control animals. Firmicutes might be able to extract more calories from food and deliver them to the host, Blaser argues. The results are relevant to humans as well, he says. Another paper Blaser co-authored, published online in the International Journal of Obesity yesterday, reports a link between antibiotic use in infants and obesity in childhood.
The researchers looked at data collected from more than 11,000 children born in Avon, U.K., in 1991 and 1992. Those who had been treated with antibiotics in the first 6 months of their lives had a higher chance of being overweight at 10, 20, and 38 months of age. “It is an association, and that does not mean causation,” says Leonardo Trasande, the paper’s first author. “But coupled with the Nature paper, it begins to tell a convincing story.”
Blaser argues that his work shows that antibiotic use in babies has an unappreciated cost. And while they’re sometimes necessary, antibotics are often used willy-nilly, he says.
But others say caution is in order. In the human study, the differences in weight were small, and there was no correlation between antibiotic use in the first 6 months and weight at 7 years, the last time information was collected on the children. And there are many reasons why the mice experiments should not be extrapolated to humans and children, Relman says. The study was done with just one inbred line of mice. Seven weeks is a long time in mice, which mature quickly and live to be only 2 or 3 years old, he says. “We never give antibiotics to children continuously from the time they wean to the time they reach sexual maturity.”
Also, the differences in fat mass between antibiotic-fed mice and controls are small, Blaut says. And Relman points out that while they became fatter, the mice’s overall weight did not increase, as happens in farm animals. “Although one doesn’t expect antibiotics to work the same in all species and under all circumstances, it does seem curious that there was this one effect and not the weight gain,” Relman writes in an e-mail.
Finally, Relman cautions that the composition of the mouse microbiome was measured only at the end of the experiment. “This means that we don’t know whether the microbiome changes were the cause of, the result of, or unrelated to the mouse fat content change,” he says. Blaser calls that a valid criticism, but adds that he has begun to address this. “We have shown in further experiments that have not been published yet that transferring the microbiome also transfers the obesity from one mouse to the next.”
- Do Antibiotics Make Us Fat? (news.sciencemag.org)
- Antibiotics linked to fat buildup (sciencenews.org)
- Livestock fattening antibiotics ‘could have contributed to human obesity’ (sott.net)
- New Study Accuses Antibiotics of Boosting Civilization’s Fatness Problem (motherboard.vice.com)
- Antibiotic use in infants before 6 months associated with being overweight in childhood (engineeringevil.com)
- Do Antibiotics Contribute To Obesity? (science.slashdot.org)
- Childhood Obesity Linked With Antibiotic Use In Infants Under 6 Months Old (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Antibiotic Use in Infants Tied to Overweight Later: Study (news.health.com)
- Giving babies antibiotics could lead to obesity – study (vanguardngr.com)
- Antibiotic use in infants before 6 months associated with being overweight in childhood (eurekalert.org)
Some students use prescription drugs to boost academics
Published On: Aug 14 2012
Prescription stimulants are so dangerous that the Drug Enforcement Administration considers them just as addictive as cocaine and morphine. The drugs Adderall and Ritalin are supposed to be used for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Local 2 found that some students are using them to improve their academic performance.
“Joe” is now in medical school. He told Local 2 he was prescribed Ritalin for legitimate medical reasons as a child, but evolved to abusing it as a study drug.
“I took a whole 30-day prescription of Ritalin in six days. It got to the point where I would hallucinate. I saw shimmers and shines,” he said.
The jolt of energy unleashed by one pill was so strong and so intense, the one-time National Merit Scholar was able to stay awake and race through his homework marathon with laser focus.
“I stayed up four days straight on Ritalin and tobacco and caffeine, trying to study for my exam. I studied 90 hours. It was to the point where I was sitting in math class or physics lab and I went to write my name and I wrote a chemical compound.”
Students, particularly those in high school, are under tremendous pressure to get straight A’s and outperform their classmates academically and on the athletic field. So, experts said, more and more are turning to prescription stimulants to meet the expectations society puts on them and the ones they put on themselves.
“They think, ‘That is really the only way they can make the grade that I have to make.’ There (are) no two choices about it,” clinical psychologist and school counselor Dr. Jennifer Welch said.
Psychologists and counselors warn that while students who abuse these drugs might think they’re invincible, they are actually heading down the dangerous road toward addiction and may ultimately put their health in jeopardy.
“Their heart rate can increase. They may develop high blood pressure. They are putting themselves at a very serious risk,” Dr. Marylou Erbland said.
Erbland is the clinical director at the Center for Success & Independence in Houston.
The warning signs that a child may be struggling with too much pressure are similar to the symptoms for depression or anxiety. They may be irritable, having difficulty sleeping or isolate themselves.
Experts said parents can help their kids by redefining success.
“Empower kids to take risks, make choices to maybe fail sometimes, to fall down and learn to be resilient and work through that. Those are the skills that are going to serve them better than the shortcuts,” said Welch.
“Joe,” who is now in recovery for another type of addiction, said it’s a lesson he had to learn the hard way.
“I just put myself through the physical and emotional ring for no reason,” he said.
- Some students use prescription drugs to boost academics (click2houston.com)
- Prescription Drugs ~ What You Don’t Know (indybay.org)
- The Alarming Amount Of Prescription Drugs In Education (edudemic.com)
- Q1Medicare.com Drug Search Tools Updated with Latest Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Data (prweb.com)
- College Kids Abuse Rx Drugs (noellio.wordpress.com)
- David Sack, M.D.: Do ‘Study Drugs’ Breed a Nation of Winners — or Cheaters? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Wales News: Marilyn Monroe death anniversary prompts legal drugs warning (walesonline.co.uk)
- More Mental Health Woes in College Kids Who Abuse Prescription Drugs (nlm.nih.gov)
- Nation’s Drug Czar Pushing For Prescription Monitoring (fox2now.com)
- Prescription Drugs: What You Don’t Know (iamaddicted2.wordpress.com)
Ryan’s Medicare Plan Is Horrible, but His Medicaid Plan Is Worse
Posted Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, at 6:39 PM ET
Vice Presidential candidate and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in March 2012
The hot election issue in this country right now is Medicare: who is doing what to it, and why. According to the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, 73 percent of American adults think Medicare is either extremely or very important, ranking it highest among health care issues.
But there is another issue that we should be talking about just as much if not more: Medicaid. Because unlike the proposed Medicare changes in Paul Ryan’s budget, which kick in years from now, the assault on Medicaid starts immediately—and could have devastating effects.
Ryan’s budget, starting in 2013—that’s right, next year—through 2022 would cut $1.4trillion from Medicaid, the government’s health insurance program that primarily serves low-income individuals. The nonpartisan, universally respected Congressional Budget Office calculates that a minimum of 14 million people would be dropped from the program. This doesn’t include the 11 million people who would be dropped from Medicaid if the Romney-Ryan plan to repeal health care reform is implemented.
Folks who would be dropped from Medicaid are almost inevitably going to be incapable of getting private insurance, so the vast majority would go without health insurance at all. Without health insurance, they will get vastly inferior health care, usually with little preventive care. So the choice between the president’s program—which will lead to about 17 million people gaining coverage—and the Ryan plan—which will lead to about 25 million losing coverage—could not be more stark.
Play this scenario out a bit more. What will happen when these 25 million lower-income Americans need care? Some of it will be paid out of pocket, but an awful lot will be deemed charity care by providers, and that cost will be picked up by everybody else—through higher premiums in private insurance, tax payments to state governments that are then used for charity care payments to the hospitals, or direct charity. All of which explains why the president both expanded Medicaid and created the individual mandate. That way there would be logic to both how we provide health care and how we pay for it.
It may not be fashionable these days to spend much time talking about how we ensure that the social safety net doesn’t get torn in too many places, but the Ryan budget tears an enormous gaping hole in the very center of that net.
It is good that we are talking about the Medicare issues in the campaign, but let’s spend a few minutes talking about Medicaid as well.
- Eliot Spitzer: Paul Ryan’s budget would tear a ‘gaping hole’ in the social safety net (current.com)
- Medicaid Cuts Ryan Doesn’t Tout Would Limit Aid to Poor Seniors (bloomberg.com)
- 7 Reasons Why Romney-Ryan’s Desperate Attempts to Spin Medicare Won’t Work | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Under The Microscope: Ryan’s Plans For Medicare, Medicaid And The Budget (badgleyandassociates.wordpress.com)
- Primer: How Paul Ryan’s Plan Would Change Medicaid (pbs.org)
- Ryan budget would hurt poor and elderly, experts say (mcclatchydc.com)
- Ryan Plan Would Crush Seniors Beneath Mounting Medical Costs (usnews.com)
- Ryan plan sparks debate: let each state run its own Medicaid program? – NBCNews.com (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Another Reminder: Medicaid, Not Medicare, Biggest Target For Conservatives (washingtonmonthly.com)
- Ryan budget would hurt poor and elderly, critics say (kansascity.com)