Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

Posts Tagged ‘health’

Hillary’s health problem

Posted by Richard on September 15, 2016

First, there were weeks of recurring coughing fits (which prompted this gem from Mad Magazine). Then, she was rushed out of the 9/11 remembrance ceremony, and some private citizens recorded her collapsing and being dragged into a waiting van. She became overheated, her staff said. It was 77° at the time. Oh, she was dehydrated, they added, due to the pneumonia she was diagnosed with last Friday. That’s why she’s been so frail that she needs to be helped up steps and is always coughing.

So of course, that van rushed her to the nearest hospital emergency room to get IV fluids and be checked out, right? Um, no. They took her to her daughter’s apartment. An hour later she came out and danced a jig. And a small child just happened to walk toward her, so she exposed the child to her pneumonia in order to complete the photo op.

Bill filled in for her on the campaign trail and, having failed to get the pneumonia memo, talked about her “flu.”

If you’re confused and/or suspicious, some posts by Aesop at Raconteur Report will make you less confused (but much more suspicious). He apparently has expertise in emergency medicine, as well as some personal history that’s relevant. The first post from last Tuesday includes this about the latter (emphasis in original):

1) I’ve had actual “walking” pneumonia, for real. In my twenties.
It absolutely kicked my 20-year old ass, around the block, and down the hill.
Forget about what it would do to a corpulent 68-year old woman.
I did not, for instance, simply go into an air-conditioned apartment for an hour, and come bouncing back to normalcy, same day.
Not just no, but HELL NO.
I was put on a course of antibiotics for a week. I dropped half my college classes for a semester, and it took two weeks at home, doing abso-effing-lutely nothing, to get to where I could come back and struggle through the half that I didn’t drop.
And before and after I got to that point, I looked and felt like death warmed over, thinking I just had a bad chest cold. I did not, for example, look bright and perky in the morning, and then faint dead away in a matter of an hour and a half on a pleasant fall day.

After you’ve read the eight other important points he makes in that post (note: I think he was wrong about Chelsea’s apartment), read the follow-up from Wednesday. And then read today’s update regarding Hillary’s miraculous recovery. If, by the time you read this, Aesop has posted again, you’ll probably want to read that too.

Hillary’s real health problem isn’t her health per se. It’s that this health issue has further exposed the fact that Hillary and her campaign staff are, as Kurt Schlichter says in his latest must-read column, not even competent liars. Even Bill, once the world’s greatest prevaricator, has become maladroit.

Yet why should they bother? Why should Task Force Pantsuit expend any effort at all trying to construct convincing prevarications when the mainstream media is going to smile and nod at whatever they say? Without resistance, you aren’t going to get any stronger, and Clinton’s lies have just gotten weaker and weaker. For her, lying to the mainstream media is like weightlifting by pumping Styrofoam.

Personally, I think all the covering for them that their sycophants in the media can muster isn’t enough to hide the clumsiness of their lies from the public.

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Happy National Coffee Day!

Posted by Richard on September 29, 2015

September 29 is National Coffee Day. In celebration, a number of doughnut shops and other restaurants are offering free coffee today. Krispy Kreme is even throwing in a free doughnut. If you’re a cheapskate and have lots of time on your hands, you could drive from place to place filling up for free on the world’s healthiest beverage.

I should point out that for some of us, every day is Coffee Day. 🙂

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Happy National Coffee Day!

Posted by Richard on September 29, 2014

Good morning! Today is National Coffee Day. So have a few cups. The health benefits are enormous.

I should note that Doug Mataconis is exactly right:

You can get a free coffee at various places today. But unless you cruise from one of those to another, you’ll have to brew your own to get a decent dose. Since I’m no longer working, I’ve cut back — to just six or eight cups a day.

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How a persuasive scientist with poor evidence ruined our diets

Posted by Richard on May 6, 2014

ICYMI: Put away that box of breakfast cereal and have some ham and eggs. That’s the take-away from a fascinating essay by Nina Teicholz in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal:

“Saturated fat does not cause heart disease”—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. How could this be? The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries. For many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.

The new study’s conclusion shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

The persuasive scientist who derailed nutrition policy was Ancel Benjamin Keys, and it’s an interesting story. The unintended consequences of the adoption of Dr. Keys’ diet recommendations, chiefly the increased consumption of carbohydrates and vegetable oils, have not been good. For one thing, eating less fat and more carbs, ironically, makes us fatter:

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. …

The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.

Read the whole thing. You may want to change your breakfast routine.

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Are vegetarians less healthy?

Posted by Richard on April 23, 2014

It’s only one study, and any single study such as this should be taken with a grain of salt. But an Austrian matched sample study of people with different dietary habits contradicts the conventional wisdom that vegetarians are healthier:

… Subjects were matched according to their age, sex, and socioeconomic status leaving 1320 people – 330 vegetarians, 330 that ate meat but still a lot of fruits and vegetables, 300 normal eaters but that ate less meat, and 330 on a more carnivorous diet. 

After controlling for variables, they found that vegetarians did have lower BMI and alcohol consumption but had poorer overall health. Vegetarians had higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders, a higher need for health care, and poorer quality of life. 

As a result, vegetarians take more medications than non-vegetarians.

I’m guessing that the vegetarians’ problem is insufficient alcohol consumption.

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Hepatitis C breakthrough?

Posted by Richard on July 20, 2012

Dexter Johnson, on the IEEE Nanoclast blog, reported a possible breakthrough nanotechnology treatment for the hepatitis C virus:

Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) have developed a nanoparticle that has shown 100 percent effectiveness in eradicating the hepatitis C virus in laboratory testing.

The nanoparticle, dubbed a nanozyme, consists of a backbone made from gold nanoparticles and a surface with two biological components. One biological component is an enzyme that attacks and destroys the mRNA, which provides the recipe for duplicating the protein that causes the disease. The other biological part is the navigator, if you will. It is a DNA oligonucleotide that identifies the disease-related protein and sends the enzyme on course to destroy it.

Y. Charles Cao, a UF associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Chen Liu, a professor of pathology at the UF College of Medicine published their research online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (“Nanoparticle-based artificial RNA silencing machinery for antiviral therapy“).

The basis of the work is mimicking the biological process of RNA interference, which researchers in the past have used effectively in the laboratory for treating HIV. In the UF research the nanoparticle mimics the function of RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which mediates the RNA interference process.

Current hepatitis C treatments do attack the replication process of the virus but they are not entirely effective and only help about 50 percent of the patients treated with them. Cao and Liu along with their team wanted to see if they could improve upon that percentage. The researchers claim that their treatment (in cell culture and mice) led to a near 100 percent eradication of the hepatitis C virus without bringing on any side effects caused by the immune system attacking the treatment.

I have a good friend for whom this research could matter — a lot. So in the words of Glenn Reynolds, “Faster, please!”

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Malaria breakthrough

Posted by Richard on July 18, 2012

If this pans out, it could be the most important breakthrough in the fight against malaria since the introduction of DDT, saving literally millions of lives:

Researchers report they have found a way to kill malaria in mosquitoes by genetically modifying a bacterium commonly found in the insect’s mid-gut, according to a new study.

The bacterium, called Pantoea agglomerans, can be modified to secrete proteins that are toxic to the malaria parasite, but are not harmful to humans or the mosquito itself.  In fact, the bacterium is so specific to targeting malaria that it does not even affect other bacteria in the mosquito’s gut, according to the researchers from Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, who conducted the study.

Of course, it will be bitterly opposed by the same luddite environmentalists who got DDT banned 40 years ago — and thus sentenced tens of millions of inhabitants of tropical regions (mostly Africans) to death.

There are some 300 to 500 million reported cases of malaria each year, 90% occurring in Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about two and a half million people die of the disease each year, again, mostly in Africa, the majority of them poor children. Indeed, malaria is the second leading cause of death in Africa (after AIDS) and the number one killer of children there (with about one child being lost to malaria every thirty seconds). Many medical historians believe malaria has killed more people than any other disease in history, including the Black Plague, and may have contributed to the collapse of the Roman Empire. Malaria was common in places as far north as Boston and England until the twentieth century. Two thirds of the world lived in malaria-ridden areas prior to the 1940s.

That devastation all but stopped during the time that DDT use was widespread, around 1950-1970. Indeed, the discovery that DDT could kill malarial mosquitoes earned Dr. Paul Müller the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1948. DDT, a chemical pesticide synthesized by Müller in the late 1930s, was initially used against houseflies, beetles, various farm pests, and typhus-carrying lice on the bodies of World War II soldiers and civilians. America and England soon became the major producers of the chemical, using it to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes, especially in tropical regions.

In all, DDT has been conservatively credited with saving some 100 million lives.

… In what is now Sri Lanka, malaria cases went from 2,800,000 in 1948, before the introduction of DDT, down to 17 in 1964 — then, tragically, back up to 2,500,000 by 1969, five years after DDT use was discontinued there.

Read the whole thing.

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Radiation dosages in perspective

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2011

Grim reports about the Fukushima nuclear plant continue every day. The media are now reporting that radiation from the plant has been detected in "miniscule" amounts across the US. They don't define miniscule, apparently merely quoting some government source. But every so often, they trot out some "expert" who warns us that there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation, that any additional quantity leads to additional deaths from cancer.

To put all this ominous news into perspective, I suggest that you take a look at xkcd's radiation dose chart (click the image to see it full-size). It elegantly illustrates the relationships across a broad range of radiation exposures, from sleeping next to someone or holding a banana to standing beside the molten core of a reactor. I think Edward Tufte would approve.

After spending some time studying the chart, I wondered if the "no safe dose" advocates always sleep alone, never eat (or even stand near) bananas, never go into buildings containing granite or marble, never fly on airplanes, and live only at sea level. Somehow, I doubt it. But how sad for them if they do.

I'm going to remain in Colorado, where I get lots of extra ionizing radiation due to the altitude. But somehow, people still manage to live longer.

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Those “green” grocery bags can make you sick

Posted by Richard on June 29, 2010

Do you bring reusable grocery bags to the store, shunning the "paper or plastic" choice? Stop feeling so smug and self-righteous. Unless you're the rare exception who religiously washes them, you're putting yourself and your family at risk for serious illness:

They’re good for the environment, but reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health, according to a new report.

Researchers randomly tested bags carried by shoppers in Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco and found bacteria levels significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death.

They are a particular danger for young children, who are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses, says Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona professor and coauthor of the study.

“Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled,” says Gerba. “Furthermore, consumers are alarmingly unaware of these risks and the critical need to sanitize their bags on a weekly basis.”

A full 97 percent of those interviewed never washed or bleached their reusable bags, adds Gerba, noting that thorough washing kills nearly all bacteria that accumulate in reusable bags. Most of the bags tested were made of woven polypropylene. New reusable bags and plastic bags were tested; none contained any contamination.

The report comes at a time when some members of the California Legislature, through Assembly Bill 1998, are seeking to promote increased consumer use of reusable bags by banning plastic bags from California stores.

“If this is the direction California wants to go, our policymakers should be prepared to address the ramifications for public health,” says coauthor Ryan Sinclair, a professor at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health.

I'm going to stick to the plastic bags from the store. I use them for my trash, to line wastebaskets, etc. If the enviro-nazis ban them in Colorado, my stockpile will last a while.

After that runs out, I'll have to buy plastic bags to use for those purposes. So how will that be a gain for anyone except the sellers of plastic bags? Hmm, maybe they're secretly behind the "green" plastic bag bans.

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Blackhawks win — did vitamin D give them the edge?

Posted by Richard on June 11, 2010

Belated congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years. I'm not a Blackhawks fan (although I do have fond memories of their coach, Joel Quenneville, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche). But their victory is an opportunity to recall a bit of supplement-related news from Life Extension Foundation last month: 

The Chicago Blackhawks are the First Vitamin D Team in Modern Professional Sports History

PRNewswire-USNewswire

05-28-10

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., May 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Chicago Blackhawk team physicians began diagnosing and treating vitamin D deficiency in all Blackhawk players about 18 months ago. Apparently, most players are on 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. To confirm this assertion, simply ask the Blackhawk organization.

After many losing seasons, last year the Blackhawks came out of nowhere to get to the Western conference finals. This year the Blackhawks are playing even better.

According to my sources, improved athletic performance is only one of the benefits for the Blackhawk players. The other is a reduction in the number and severity of lower respiratory tract infections and a reduction in the number and severity of repetitive use injuries.

Did those vitamin D supplements give the Blackhawks the edge they needed to end their long drought? Well, they certainly didn't hurt.

In the past couple of years, about a bazillion studies have shown that most people are deficient in vitamin D, and that restoring one's vitamin D levels to the optimal range has significant health benefits. I'm taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

If you're not currently using nutritional supplements to enhance your well-being, you might want to look into vitamin D and other substances that can enhance your health and life. Start here.

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Get high to lose weight?

Posted by Richard on February 25, 2010

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? I mean, what about those infamous munchies? Oh, wait — they're talking about altitude! German researchers say that living at higher altitudes seems to increase metabolism, decrease appetite, and lower blood pressure:

Florian Lippl and colleagues at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich studied the effect of living in high altitudes for one week on the body weight of 20 obese males, while no other change was made to their exercise routine or food availability.

At the end of the week, their body weight, food intake, and diastolic blood pressure had been significantly lowered, effects that were still present four weeks after returning from high altitude.

The low levels of oxygen present at high altitudes could be responsible for an observed increase in leptin, a hormone thought to suppress appetite, though the causes of this need to be further studied, the researchers say.

The lasting weight reduction seen at high altitudes is primarily due to an increased metabolism and decreased food intake, though the reasons behind these changes remain unclear and may be a temporary effect of the body acclimatizing to new surroundings. 

This was a small, short-term study, so clearly there's more to learn. But the effect may not be so temporary. For some time, Colorado has had the lowest obesity rate in the nation and is the only state with a rate below 20%. Sure, there are significant lifestyle differences between the average Coloradan and Mississippian. But the altitude may be a factor. 

Either way, here's my advice: You'll be thinner and healthier if you decide that life's a mountain, not a beach.

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Free online tanning

Posted by Richard on February 5, 2009

I saw this gem at Counterknowledge. Most amusing — check it out.

(YouTube link)

Now, go visit ComputerTan.com for your free trial session.

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Protect your joints, have another drink

Posted by Richard on June 7, 2008

Need another reason to attend tonight's Blogger Bash? Well, just tell yourself that you need to drink more to protect yourself from a crippling disease. New research suggests that alcohol consumption can cut your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in half:

The Scandinavian researchers base their findings on more than 2750 people taking part in two separate studies, which assessed environmental and genetic risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis.

The results showed that drinking alcohol was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. And the more alcohol was consumed, the lower the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

Among those who drank regularly, the quarter with the highest consumption were up to 50% less likely to develop the disease compared with the half who drank the least.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight let us drink a toast to those Scandinavian researchers! Maybe a toast to each of the researchers!

Among those with antibodies to a specific group of proteins involved in the development of the disease, alcohol cut the risk most in smokers with genetic risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis.

The authors conclude that their research reinforces the importance of lifestyle factors in the development of the disease, and that giving up smoking remains the single most important preventive measure.

Hmm, I don't know. It sounds like taking up drinking is a pretty important preventive measure, even for smokers, and by far the most important for non-smokers. But researchers are always reluctant to say positive things about "vices," no matter how strong the evidence. Bad for their employers' public relations and their chances of getting more grant money.

Nonetheless, good news for those of the imbibing persuasion. Skol!

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Soy saves bones

Posted by Richard on February 29, 2008

Two new meta-analyses of soy studies provide strong confirmation that women can improve bone mineral density, inhibit bone resorption, and increase bone formation by supplementing with soy isoflavones. The meta-analyses, one by Chinese and one by Japanese researchers, appear in the February issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the journal Clinical Nutrition, respectively. According to Life Extension Foundation (emphasis added):

The first meta-analysis found an average decrease in urinary deoxypyridinoline [bone resorption marker] of 2.08 nanomoles per millimole, and an average increase of 1.48 micrograms per liter of BAP [bone formation marker] in women who received isoflavones compared with those who received a placebo. “Isoflavone intervention significantly inhibits bone resorption and stimulates bone formation,” the authors stated. “These favorable effects occur even if less than 90 milligrams per day of isoflavones are consumed or the intervention lasts less than 12 weeks.”

The second review also found a bone-building benefit for soy. In the clinical trials examined, women who received soy experienced a significant increase of 20.6 milligrams per cubic centimeter in spine bone mineral density compared with those who received a placebo. Bone mineral content also increased, but to a lesser extent. Benefits were greater when more than 90 milligrams per day isoflavones were consumed, or when the trial lasted at least six months. “The results clearly suggested that isoflavones contributed significantly to the increase of spinal bone mineral density, especially in postmenopausal women,” Dr Wang and his coauthors conclude.

… The lower incidence of osteoporosis-related fracture among Asian women who consume 10 to 20 times more soy than Western women may point to a bone-protective effect of soy isoflavones. The authors recommend large randomized clinical trials using graded dosages of isoflavones to measure their long term effects on bone mass as well as fracture risk.

Larger studies would indeed be helpful. But if you're concerned about osteoporosis, you may not want to wait for those. You may want to take soy supplements or add soy milk, edamame, tempeh, or tofu to your diet. The latter, I understand, can be made quite palatable by wrapping it in bacon.  

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Drink more coffee to live longer

Posted by Richard on January 2, 2008

Did you make any health-related New Year's resolutions, like eating better and working out more? You might want to add drinking more coffee. According to a Finnish study, you'll live longer. The researchers followed about 800 elderly men and women (born in 1920 or earlier) from 1991-2 to 2005. During that period, over 600 of the subjects died. The mortality rate was inversely correlated with coffee consumption (emphasis added): 

For total mortality from all causes, and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other or unknown causes, there was an association observed between the number of cups of coffee consumed and a decrease in the risk of death. Compared with drinking one to two cups coffee per day, each added cup lowered the risk of mortality by an average of 4 percent. When the follow-up period was divided into five year periods, the strength of coffee’s effect appeared to diminish during the final years of the study, although the researchers add that there was not enough evidence to conclude a constant linear decrease.

“The present study in a representative sample of older adults strengthens the findings in some previous studies among middle-aged individuals of a beneficial effect of moderate or heavy coffee consumption on the risk of death,” the authors conclude. “We expect results from more detailed studies in larger study populations to provide more insight about the advantages and disadvantages of coffee consumption, and to set critical recommendations of optimal consumption with regard to health.”

You could wait for more research, I suppose. But a number of studies have already provided compelling evidence of the health benefits of coffee. So go ahead and have an extra cup of java. Or two. Or three. And pour grandpa a cup, too.

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