Archive Page 2

Pollutants in the bones

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2010) — Exposure to chemical pollutants is of growing concern to regulators, health workers, and environmentalist groups alike. Now, researchers in the US and Russia have demonstrated that samples of human bone can act as a biological marker for dozens of metals and toxic elements across the periodic table.

They describe details in a study published in the International Journal of Environment and Health.

Sofia Zaichick of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology, at Northwestern University, in Chicago, and her father Vladimir Zaichick of the Department of Radionuclide Diagnostics, in the Medical Radiological Research Centre of Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, in Obninsk, describe analyses of rib bones. The team used Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrometry (ICP-AES) to analyze the intact rib-bone post mortem of 84 previously healthy 15 to 58 year-old citizens of a non-industrial region in the Central European part of Russia. They applied statistical methods to observe any effect of age and gender on major, minor and trace element content of the bone.

Of the 92 natural chemical elements in the periodic table, not counting those from which human tissues are mainly composed, including carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, the team demonstrated the presence of 44 additional elements. Among them are toxic elements, such as aluminium, arsenic, samarium and thallium, as well as the trace elements necessary for life, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

“Bone is a tissue in which the turnover of these elements, particularly those that have an affinity for bone, is extremely slow and their biological half-lives are estimated to be from few years to decades,” the team explains. “This gives bone several important features as a subject of environmental monitoring.”….

more via Science Daily


Popular diets and micronutrient deficencies

It is estimated that at any given time, as many as a third of people with overweight and obesity are on a restrictive diet (in addition to an unknown number of normal weight people, who follow diets in the hope that they are healthier and may prevent weight gain).

As most of the popular diets consist of restricting overall caloric intake (despite often misleading claims to the contrary) and amounts of certain foods, the question arises whether or not there may be any potential drawbacks to being on such diets.

This question is of particular importance as many people with overweight and obesity often have nutrient deficiencies to start with – a situation that can potentially become worse as total food consumption decreases….

more at

Berries as Cancer-Fighters

Garden-variety berries provide about the same cancer-fighting punch as more exotic ones, a study of rats with esophageal cancer shows. A separate study finds a potentially protective effect against breast cancer as well.

Cancer biologist Gary Stoner of Ohio State University in Columbus and his colleagues tested seven berry types against cancer of the esophagus in rats —black raspberries, red raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, noni berries, açai berries and wolfberries (also called goji berries).

The scientists injected the animals with a carcinogenic chemical and gave some of the rats normal food, while others got similar chow containing 5 percent of one of the berries in dehydrated form.

While nearly all of the rats fed normal chow developed tumors rapidly, only about two-thirds of the berry-supplemented rats did. Overall, these rats had about half as many tumors as the others, the researchers report in the June Pharmaceutical Research. The berry-fed rats also had lower concentrations of interleukin-5 and a rat version of interleukin-8, inflammatory proteins implicated in esophageal cancer….

more at Science news

Maybe how acupuncture reduces pain sort of

from the blog Ingenious Monkey comes an article on a research project on how acupuncture might reduce pain in mice.

The author of Ingenious Monkey has asked me to clearly point out that it is only a ‘POSSIBLE biological pathway for a POSSIBLE pain reducing effect of acupuncture.’ (direct quote)

And now part of the original article:

Since you’re spending time on my blog, I’m sure you’ve already worked through your higher-priority science blogs, and must have therefore read Ed Yong’s recent post about an upcoming Nature Neuroscience study purporting to have found a physiological basis for why acupuncture works.

As Ed points out in his post, the study somewhat builds on the premise that acupuncture does indeed work, and going by quite a few reactions on Twitter and other blogs that I follow, people are upset (or want to potentially join in on the good times that somebody is having).

Moreover, Ed seems disturbed about the study’s lack of a Placebo control, and this really got me wondering: Do you need a Placebo control for animal trials? In my head at least, the Placebo effect has to do with expectations, and it’s hard for me to phantom that laboratory mice (Pinky and the Brain excluded) would have any mental concept of acupuncture that could bias results.
Googleing the issue of Placebo effects in animalsdidn’t really help a lot, so I read the original Nature Neuroscience piece instead to make up my own mind about how crude a mistake the absence of a Placebo trial for this study really was.

Turns out I think the study is very well done, and I think the Nature Neuroscience editors were right to accept it into their journal. Here’s my take on the study:….

for the rest of the original blog post go to Ingenious Monkey

Good meat, bad meat

from the PBS program Need to Know

Good news for backyard barbecuers as we head into Memorial Day weekend: Red meat may not be totally bad for you. Researchers at Harvard recently found that processed red meat can actually cause heart disease and stroke, more so than unprocessed red meat. We asked Dr. David Katz, a professor of medicine at Yale University, about this new finding. “Not all meat is created equal.” he said. “You have to think, this animal I am eating, what did they eat? If we ask ourselves that question, we will be eating closer to nature.”

So, is it possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle and still indulge in the occasional hamburger? We think so. After consulting with doctors, food scientists and nutritionists, we put together a cheat sheet of 5 things you should know about red meat that will help you make healthier choices this barbecue season.

1. Skip the hot dogs, sausages and bacon. Preserved meats such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage and cold cuts are higher in calories, salt and additives like nitrates. The major culprit is salt. According to researchers at Harvard, processed meat contains up to four times more salt then a piece of steak.

2. Buy grass-fed red meats. According to a recent report in the Nutrition Journal, grass-fed animals have less fat and have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which is better for your heart. Grass-fed red meat also has higher levels of cancer-fighting oxidants such as vitamins A and E.

3. Choose lean red meats. According to the Mayo Clinic, when you’re selecting beef, choose cuts labeled “choice” or “select,” instead of “prime” (which usually has more fat). Opt for cuts with the least amount of visible fat (i.e., marbling). Even then, trim any visible fat before preparing the beef. When you’re selecting ground beef, opt for the lowest percentage of fat. Nutritionist Cynthia Sass recommends lean cuts such as:

  • Eye-round beef
  • Top-sirloin beef
  • Top-round beef
  • Bottom-round beef
  • Top-sirloin beef
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Top round lamb
  • Bison
  • Venison
  • Buffalo

4. When grilling, season your meat with spices like rosemary, thyme and all spice. These herbs and spices are loaded with antioxidants, and they block the formation of carcinogenic compounds that can cause cancer when grilling. Other spices such as sage, marjoram and basil also have the same positive effect. These compounds are the same present in green tea.

5. Limit how much red meat you eat. Dr. Katz recommends only eating red meat a couple of times a week. He says the more meat people consume, the less fruits and vegetables they tend to eat. American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 ounces (170 grams) of lean meat a day, including poultry and fish.

Throat exercises reduce sleep apnea

from the New York Times



For people suffering from sleep apnea, specialized breathing machines are the standard treatment.

The machines use a method called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, which keeps the airway open and relieves potentially dangerous pauses in breathing during the night. But the machines are expensive, and some people complain that the mask and headgear cause uncomfortable side effects, like congestion.

One free and fairly simple alternative may be exercises that strengthen the throat. While they aren’t as established or as well studied as breathing machines, some research suggests they may reduce the severity of sleep apnea by building up muscles around the airway, making them less likely to collapse at night.

In a study published last year in The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, scientists recruited a group of people with obstructive sleep apnea and split them into two groups. One was trained to do breathing exercises daily, while the other did 30 minutes of throat exercises, including swallowing and chewing motions, placing the tip of the tongue against the front of the palate and sliding it back, and pronouncing certain vowels quickly and continuously.

After three months, subjects who did the throat exercises snored less, slept better and reduced the severity of their condition by 39 percent. They also showed reductions in neck circumference, a known risk factor for apnea. The control group showed almost no improvement.

Other randomized studies have found similar effects. One even showed that playing instruments that strengthen the airways, like the didgeridoo, can ease sleep apnea.


For people with sleep apnea, throat exercises may be a cheap and useful therapy.


via the New York Times

On Feet and Sensitivity

Our feet and hands are very sensitive gatherers of information about the world around us. This article takes the position that most shoes limit the foot’s ability to gather information. Though the article is focused on selling 5-toed footwear, its arguments support exercising the feet and walking barefooted.

from Birthday Shoes

(a) the more freely our joints move, the better the information, and (b) the more joints that are sending back these signals, the richer the picture of how we’re moving, let’s consider the foot. All those joints!. Twenty-five percent of the body’s joints are in the feet: per foot, there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. We are designed to send 25% of our physical orientation from our feet!

And yet in a conventional shoe — especially a “supportive” trainer, the arch is blocked from flexing, the ankle is restricted, we heel strike with abandon, and the squishiness of the soles deadens any true sense of the state of the surface to which we might otherwise be adapting by our highly flexibily designed foot. Modern shoes are like sensory deprivation tanks for the feet. And this is only the latest in a series of outrages against our feet going back at least 300 years in the west; longer in parts of the east.

Aside: A Moment in Western Footwear History

Henry VIII has no heels on his slippers/shoesOver the past three centuries we’ve designed footwear to nullify the nerual map of the foot with shoes that elevate the heel or squish the toes or in the most innocent of flip flops cause them to flex incessantly, or keep them on fixed think flat surfaces that never let the foot flex. All very anti-foot, if pro-fashion, of whatever stripe.

It wasn’t always like this. Take a look at full length portraits in the national gallery in London from the elizabethan era, and you’ll see all these really rich people have no-heeled slippers on, whether it’s Henry VIII or Philip II of Spain or Edward VI. Amazing. These folks, whether they knew it our not, knew how to let their feet be feet.

It’s not till the late 17th century that fashion introduces that now inescapable evil, the multi-gendered heel.

What’s been lost in the current heel is the Sedan Chair that went with it. The heel was a class statement: the rich, including men, were the “well heeled.” And they could wear heals, unlike “the mob” (or the mobile) because they did not have to walk themselves. Those sedan chairs carried the elite feet from door to door. At leaset they knew it was rediculous to attempt to walk in them. Only the poor, who could not afford the carriage or the chair, had to wear sensible shoes. It didn’t hurt that heels also made the Nobility taller than the peons (Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle novels has wonderful descriptions of such culture clashing contrasts}.

The heel, alas, eventually made its way to the rest of society who did not have the sedan chairs to go with them, and generations of foot, hip and back problems have ensued.

18thC Men’s Shoe; 21st C men’s trainer. Differences?

for the complete article go to Birthday Shoes

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