Category Archives: Health

Demand for ethical goods and services continues to grow despite recession

From Ethical Consumer:

The annual Ethical Consumer Markets Report reveals that demand for ethical consumer goods and services continues to defy recessionary pressures and grew by more than 12% in 2012 whilst the mainstream UK economy grew by just 0.2%.

Total ethical spending in the UK is now worth £54 billion, an amount greater than that spent on both cigarettes and alcohol.

The Ethical Consumer Markets Report has been acting as an important barometer of green spending since 1999 by tracking sales data across a wide range of consumer sectors from food to fashion.

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French scientists: We’ve lost SARS virus vials

From The Local:

Photo: Frederic Brown/AFPFrance’s distinguished Institut Pasteur, which was among the first to isolate HIV in the 1980s, admitted on Monday that it has lost some 2,349 vials in 29 boxes, containing samples of the deadly SARS virus.

During a recent inventory researchers realized the vials were unaccounted for and so called in France’s drug and health safety agency “l’Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé” to help with the search, according to a statement from Institut Pasteur.

The drug and health safety people spent four days, from April 4th-12th, doing an ‘in depth’ investigation at the unnamed lab in question and came up empty handed as well.

SARS is not the kind of virus you’d want floating around.

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UNICEF Music Video Urges Indians Not to Poo Outside

 

TTIP means trading away better regulation

Baskut Tuncak writes for EurActiv:

It might come as a shock to EU voters to learn exactly how weak US laws are when it comes to toxic chemicals, especially when the US’s chief negotiator for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been claiming otherwise.  This unprecedented “trade” agreement is primarily about regulation, and threatens to create new and additional avenues for industry and government to use their influence to stall necessary action on toxic chemicals, climate change, and other critical issues that must be addressed by the EU and global community to protect human health and the environment.

How weak are US laws for toxic chemicals?  Only eleven ingredients are restricted from cosmetics in the US, versus over 1300 in the EU.  Under a law dating back to 1976, US regulators have only been able to restrict the use of merely five of over 60,000 industrial chemicals that were presumed safe when the law was adopted, including asbestos.  Under this law, and despite over a century of substantial evidence of serious adverse effects, US regulators were unable demonstrate sufficient “risk” to justify a ban on the use of asbestos, unlike EU counterparts.  Moving ahead of the US, the EU has started to implement legislation that has the potential to systematically substitute over 1000 toxic chemicals—including those linked to cancer, interference with hormone systems, reproductive harms, and other serious adverse health effects—with safer alternatives in a wide range of everyday products.  The US has no such law.

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40% of Russia’s Food is from Dacha Gardens

From Natural Homes:

In 2011, 51% of Russia’s food was grown either by dacha communities (40%),  or peasant farmers (11%) leaving the rest (49%) of production to the large agricultural enterprises. But when you dig down into the earthy data from the Russian Statistics Service you discover some impressive details. Again in 2011, dacha gardens produced over 80% of the countries fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nations milk, much of it consumed raw.

While many European governments make living on a small-holding very difficult, in Russia the opposite is the case. In the UK one councillor‘s opinion regarding living on the land was, “Nobody would subject themselves to that way of life. You might as well be in prison“; tell that to a nation of gardeners living off the land.

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Photos: 30 Years After Chernobyl’s Meltdown

Doug Bierend writes for Wired:

Part of the mystery and terror of the Chernobyl disaster is the invisibility of the threat. The explosion at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin nuclear power plant released more radiation than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and one might never know they were being poisoned until months, even years later. Veteran photographer Gerd Ludwig’s spent 20 years photographing the area, chronicling the ongoing consequences of the radioactive release.

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Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline bribed doctors to boost sales, says whistleblower

Chloe Hamilton writes for The Independent:

Britain’s biggest drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, allegedly bribed doctors in Poland using money that was meant to be spent on educating patients, according to new evidence revealed today by the BBC Panorama programme. A GSK whistleblower claims that money put aside to teach patients in Poland about an asthma drug, Seretide, actually went towards paying doctors to prescribe more of the medicine. Jarek Wisniewiski, who was with the company for eight years until 2012, worked on a marketing programme across the country in 2010 to push the asthma drug. He told Panorama that although officially the money was to be spent on medical training, in reality it was used to bribe doctors to boost the company’s sales.

[...] GSK sells some of the world’s best-known medicines and has an annual turnover of more than £26bn. However, allegations of bribery have hounded the company in recent months. The most recent claims come just a week after reports that GSK hired Iraqi government doctors and pharmacists to act as sales representatives for the Brentford-based company, to boost revenues for its medicines. The company is also waiting to find out whether it will face prosecution in China following claims it paid £300m to doctors and government officials there. The company’s Chinese sales plummeted by 61 per cent in the third quarter of last year, and 18 per cent in the final quarter, after its offices were raided by Chinese police and its staff arrested.

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UN: Disease threatens world’s bananas:

From Channel NewsAsia:

The United Nations warned on Monday of the potential “massive destruction” of the world’s banana crop if a disease affecting the most popular variety spreads from Asia to Africa and the Middle East. The disease is “posing a serious threat to production and export” of bananas, the fourth most important food crop for the world’s least developed countries, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement.

“Countries need to act now if we are to avoid the worst-case scenario, which is massive destruction of much of the world’s banana crop,” Fazil Dusunceli, a plant pathologist at FAO, was quoted as saying. Gianluca Gondolini, secretary of the World Banana Forum, said it could hurt “employment and government revenues in many tropical countries”.

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Ben Goldacre: What the Tamiflu saga tells us about drug trials and big pharma

Ben Goldacre writes for The Guardian:

Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/ReutersToday we found out that Tamiflu doesn’t work so well after all. Roche, the drug company behind it, withheld vital information on its clinical trials for half a decade, but the Cochrane Collaboration, a global not-for-profit organisation of 14,000 academics, finally obtained all the information. Putting the evidence together, it has found that Tamiflu has little or no impact on complications of flu infection, such as pneumonia.

That is a scandal because the UK government spent £0.5bn stockpiling this drug in the hope that it would help prevent serious side-effects from flu infection. But the bigger scandal is that Roche broke no law by withholding vital information on how well its drug works. In fact, the methods and results of clinical trials on the drugs we use today are still routinely and legally being withheld from doctors, researchers and patients. It is simple bad luck for Roche that Tamiflu became, arbitrarily, the poster child for the missing-data story.

And it is a great poster child. The battle over Tamiflu perfectly illustrates the need for full transparency around clinical trials, the importance of access to obscure documentation, and the failure of the regulatory system. Crucially, it is also an illustration of how science, at its best, is built on transparency and openness to criticism, because the saga of the Cochrane Tamiflu review began with a simple online comment.

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‘Do smelly emissions from baked beans contribute to global warming?’ Viscount Simon asks Energy Minister

Kashmira Gander reports for The Independent:

A member of the House of Lords raised eyebrows in the chamber on Wednesday, when he said there could be a link between global warming and the large amount of baked beans consumed in the UK, causing people to produce so-called “smelly emissions”. 73-year-old Labour peer Viscount Simon raised his concerns about the gasses bean-eaters are contributing to the Earth’s atmosphere as Energy Minister Baroness Verma answered questions in the Upper House on how the Government was tackling climate change.

“In a programme some months ago on the BBC it was stated that this country has the largest production of baked beans and the largest consumption of baked beans in the world,” said the peer who has been a member of the House of Lords for more than 20 years. To laughter from peers, he asked Lady Verma: “Could you say whether this affects the calculation of global warming by the Government as a result of the smelly emission resulting therefrom?” Lady Verma described his question as “so different” but added: “You do actually raise a very important point, which is we do need to moderate our behaviour.”

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Is The Internet Addictive?

Scale of UK food waste ‘repugnant’

Overweight seen as the norm, says chief medical officer

Nick Triggle reports for BBC News:

ScalesBeing overweight is increasingly seen as the norm, England’s chief medical officer says.

In her annual report on the state of health, Dame Sally Davies said this was concerning, pointing out many people did not recognise they had a problem.

Parents of overweight children were also failing to spot the signs too, she said. Dame Sally blamed the way weight was being portrayed by the media and clothes industry.

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Cereal Box Psychology: Why Cereal Mascots Are Staring at You

From Newsy:

Ever notice how the mascots on cereal boxes have the same creepy stare? Well, science says there’s a reason for it—and might explain why the cereal aisle has become such a kids’ trap. According to a Cornell study, the angle at which cereal box characters stare has a lot to do with convincing shoppers to buy the product and creating brand loyalty. Characters on children’s cereal boxes tend to look downward to make eye contact, while those on adult cereals look straight ahead. In fact, the magnetic gaze was a major factor explaining how shoppers felt about a particular brand.

Male fish becoming ‘feminised’ by pollutants in Spanish waters

Antonia Molloy reports for The Independent:

Members of the Cell Biology in Environmental Toxicology group have found evidence that male fish in the estuaries in Basque Country are becoming “feminised” by chemical pollutants in the water. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) acting as oestrogens – the primary female sex hormones – are seeping into the waters and causing reproductive and developmental disturbances, according to a report published in the Marine Environmental Research journal.

Immature eggs were found in the testicles of a number of male fish, the scientists from the University of the Basque Country said.  The chemicals involved are found in everyday products such as pesticides, contraceptive pills and detergents. They are thought to enter the estuaries after getting through the cleaning systems in water treatment plants or as a result of industrial and farming activities.

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Bioethicist Julian Savulescu: We have a moral obligation to increase the intelligence of our children

Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge:

Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu has again sparked controversy, this time advocating for the genetic screening of embryos and foetuses for intelligence genes.

In article published Wednesday in The Conversation, Savulescu referred to new research that identified specific genetic factors that contribute to low intelligence. A recent study, conducted by researchers from Cardiff University, showed that children with two copies of a common gene (Thr92Ala), together with low levels of thyroid hormone are four times more likely to have a low IQ.

… Accusations of eugenics have been leveled at Savulescu in the past, and this article is likely to garner similar responses. This most recent piece forms part of Savulescu’s growing corpus of articles advocating for human enhancement.

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Infectious Diseases Expert Explains How Ebola Spreads

Australian judge warns of psychological effects of commercial surrogacy on children

Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge:

An Australian judge recently expressed grave concerns about the effects of international surrogacy arrangements on children born through via the procedure. In a judgment that could have significant influence on future surrogacy rulings, Justice Paul Cronin of the Family Court of Australia warned that children could very easily encounter an identity crisis when they become aware that they were conceived via commercial surrogacy.

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Black death was not spread by rat fleas, say researchers

UPDATE: Black Death ‘Revelation’ Is Totally Bogus

Vanessa Thorpe writes for The Observer:

Photograph: Philip Toscano/PAArchaeologists and forensic scientists who have examined 25 skeletons unearthed in the Clerkenwell area of London a year ago believe they have uncovered the truth about the nature of the Black Death that ravaged Britain and Europe in the mid-14th century.

Analysis of the bodies and of wills registered in London at the time has cast doubt on “facts” that every schoolchild has learned for decades: that the epidemic was caused by a highly contagious strain spread by the fleas on rats.

Now evidence taken from the human remains found in Charterhouse Square, to the north of the City of London, during excavations carried out as part of the construction of the Crossrail train line, have suggested a different cause: only an airborne infection could have spread so fast and killed so quickly.

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Amsterdam paying alcoholics with beer to help keep city clean

 

Psychiatrist links selfie addiction to narcissism and mental illness

Fiona Keating reports for the International Business Times:

Miley Cyrus is no stranger to the selfieThe growing trend of taking smartphone selfies is linked to mental health conditions that focus on a person’s obsession with looks.

According to psychiatrist Dr David Veal: “Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take selfies.

“Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help a patient to recognise the reasons for his or her compulsive behaviour and then to learn how to moderate it,” he told the Sunday Mirror.

19-year-old Danny Bowman’s selfie addiction spiralled out of control, spending ten hours a day taking up to 200 snaps of himself on his iPhone.

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India and 10 other Asian countries declared polio free

From AFP:

Photograph: Saurabh Das/APIndia and 10 other Asian countries have been declared free of polio, meaning the disease has been eradicated in 80% of the world.

The World Health Organisation certified the south-east Asian region – which includes India but excludes Afghanistan and Pakistan – polio-free after three years without a single new case being reported. The WHO said this meant 80% of the world’s population lived in polio-free regions, an important step towards global eradication of the crippling disease…

There are only three countries where polio is still endemic: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. However, isolated outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and war-torn Syria emerged as causes for concern in 2013, and vaccination workers in Pakistan are still being killed by the Taliban.

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Mind-reading breakthrough can recreate the faces you see in your brain

Graham Templeton writes for Geek:

mri faces headA team of Yale researchers, led by a then-undergraduate student, have made an astonishing step forward in brain science. The (perhaps unsettling) breakthrough allows scientists to use a medical imaging machine and a well-trained algorithm to visually reconstruct faces seen by test subjects. As seen below, their technique returns some results with a truly astonishing level of accuracy. Oddly, their results seem to have been possible specifically because the brain processes faces in such a unique and distributed way. This study takes the field’s greatest and most intractable problem and leverages it to truly impressive effect.

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Lost sleep leads to loss of brain cells, study suggests

Helen Briggs reports for BBC News:

Could prolonged sleep loss be killing our brain cells?Sleep loss may be more serious than previously thought, causing a permanent loss of brain cells, research suggests.

In mice, prolonged lack of sleep led to 25% of certain brain cells dying, according to a study in The Journal of Neuroscience.

If the same is true in humans, it may be futile to try to catch up on missed sleep, say US scientists.

They think it may one day be possible to develop a drug to protect the brain from the side-effects of lost sleep.

The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, looked at lab mice that were kept awake to replicate the kind of sleep loss common in modern life, through night shifts or long hours in the office.

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What Makes Dark Chocolate Good For You?

George Dvorsky writes of io9:

Researchers are emphasizing the benefits of dark chocolate.…It’s good for your heart and brain. It’s full of antioxidants (which reduces oxidative stress to cells), theobromine (which can harden tooth enamel), and various vitamins and minerals (such as iron, potassium, copper, and magnesium). It can also help you reduce your blood pressure,ease depressioncontrol your blood sugar and lose weight (but you should keep your dark chocolate t0 >85%, people).

The precise reasons for these health benefits are many, but a new study presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society explains much of it. Research shows that certain bacteria in our stomach consume dark chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for our hearts.

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Girl suspended from school for shaving her head in support of friend with cancer

Consider mass fluoridation of water, says health body

Nick Triggle writes for BBC News:

Tap waterAdding fluoride to water should be considered by councils in England to improve dental health, the government’s public health advisory body says.

Public Health England urged councils to act after reviewing the impact of water fluoridation on children in areas where it has been introduced.

About 6m people – 10% of the country – currently live in areas with fluoridated water supplies.

PHE said it was a “safe and effective” public health measure.

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One company’s quest to make meat from celebrity tissue samples

Jenn Harris reports for the L.A. Times:

celebmeatIt may sound like the makings of a bad science fiction movie: A company that harvests human tissue to make meat products such as salami. But a new start-up called BiteLabs is claiming to want to make human test-tube meat a reality. And they want to use celebrities to do it.

“At the moment, our primary goal is to provoke discussion and debate around topics of bioethics and celebrity culture,” said Martin from the BiteLabs team. He says he wishes to remain anonymous at this time, due to the controversy surrounding the focus of the company. “We see inefficiencies, environmental hazards, and ethical problems in the world’s food production and distribution. There are exciting opportunities to disrupt these industries while opening new ways to consume celebrity culture.”

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Biologist explains how marijuana drives tumor cells to ‘suicide’

Arturo Garcia reports for Raw Story:

Weed - Dr. Christina Sanchez Analyzes How THC Kills Cancer CellsA December 2013 video that has been picking up attention in medical marijuana advocacy circles points out the benefits of the drug’s active ingredient in cancer treatments.

“We observed that the cannabinoids were very effective in reducing tumor growth,” molecular biologist Christina Sanchez said in the video, first uploaded by Cannabis Planet. “Cells can die in different ways, and after cannabinoid treatment, they were dying in the ‘clean’ way. They were committing suicide, which is something you really want.”

Cannabinoids are a group of natural and man-made chemicals, which include the active ingredients in cannabis, that act upon some receptors within the body. Marijuana.com reported that Sanchez’s work at Compultense University in Madrid, Spain parallels British oncologist Wai Liu’s discovery that THC can “target and switch off” pathways that would otherwise allow tumors to develop.

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Bill Gates criticised over health initiatives

Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge:

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, has made many enemies in his healthcare policy campaigns. Gates was heckled by protesters from the Foreskin Awareness Project (FAP) in Vancouver on Thursday, just before he delivered a talk at a TED conference. The protesters were criticising circumcision programs in Africa funded by the the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It donates millions of dollars each year to male circumcision programs in 14 countries, because of the procedure appears to reduce heterosexual HIV infections. FAP says that Gates is “Foreskin Enemy #1”.

FAP founder Glen Callender questions the merits of circumcision in preventing HIV, and is concerned about the aggression of ‘circumcision drives’ in African nations: “Soon it will be obvious that circumcision gave these men false confidence, not effective protection,” he said.

Elsewhere, conservative Bioethicist Wesley Smith attacked Gates for his recent remarks on “death panels” and “rationing medical advances”.

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