Osteoarthritis, sometimes called “wear and tear arthritis,” is the biggest cause of disability in the United States. Now a new study suggests that wear and tear may not be the cause. It might be a bad balance of bacteria in the intestines. The study in the journal JCI Insight shows that mice fed a high fat diet developed bacteria in the gut that were dominated by pro-inflammatory types. The mice developed inflammation all over their bodies and rapid deterioration of joints. But when they were given a prebiotic to balance the intestinal bacteria, it reversed the symptoms.
Some experts have suggested drinking coffee to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. But a new study shows that once Alzheimer’s has taken hold…coffee or other caffeinated drinks only make the symptoms worse. The animal study in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology shows that caffeine increases anxiety and fear of new things two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s that are considered strong sources of distress for patients. It took the equivalent of about three cups of coffee per day to produce the effects.
And finally, if you work the night shift, or if your work changes hours often, watch out for that cheeseburger on the way home. a study in the FASEBJ Journal shows that constantly changing schedules make it tough for the body to process fats without producing much higher than normal levels of inflammation.
Firefighters have extremely high rates of PTSD, similar to combat soldiers, yet are very reluctant to seek help. Experts discuss reasons for this reluctance, results of it, and how new efforts at peer counseling may help ease the psychological strain.
Autism and Prodigies
Behavioral similarities between prodigies and some people with autism have long been noted. Now some researchers are beginning to find genetic links between the two phenomena. Experts discuss findings and their implications for autism treatment.
With all the medical advancements humans have accomplished, it may be hard to believe but some animals are capable of a task that medical technology has yet to achieve; smell disease.
Dogs have been known to sense low blood sugar in diabetic owners. In research projects, dogs have been trained to detect prostate cancer in urine and lung cancer in breath samples. What makes them able to achieve such a feat?
Dr. Cindy Otto is the Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, located at the University of Pennsylvania. She explains that dogs are able to focus on specific scents, similar to how humans can use vision to focus on subtle changes in the environment. These talents are based on the unique ability to block out extraneous stimuli. Otto says the ultimate goal is for diagnostic machines to ‘sniff’ out the same scents animals have been trained to identify. She also hopes that scientists, using the same technology, will be able to create readily available, inexpensive diagnostic tests on a massive scale.
In Mozambique and Tanzania, a very different type of animal puts their diagnostic talents to the test. Large rats are tasked with detecting tuberculosis in humans. Dr. Christiaan Mulder, the director of Apopo, a TB program based in Belgium, says rats are much more efficient and cheaper than laboratory tests. The rats are said to rule out about 80% of the healthy individuals, saving time and money compared to laboratory tests that can take days to rule out individuals one by one.
Dr. Gary Beauchamp, Emeritus Director and President of Monell Chemical Senses Center, says there’s a lot of skepticism when it comes to using animals to detect disease. Although he points out that dogs are relied upon to detect explosives, find drugs, and track missing humans. So should we trust animals with this crucial job? It would be up to the FDA to approve any animal-based diagnosis and many agree that a technological simulation of the skill should be the ultimate goal.
Dr. Cindy Otto, Executive Director, Penn Vet Working Dog Center, University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Gary Beauchamp, Emeritus Director and President, Monell Chemical Senses Center
Dr. Christiaan Mulder, Director, TB program, Apopo
Why do we crave the foods we know aren’t good for us?
Dr. Joan Ifland, lead editor of the textbook Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment and Recovery, says processed foods impact our brains the same way as alcohol and drugs.
Have you ever had an intense craving for processed foods? Ifland says we know exactly what occurs in our brain chemistry when we crave and eat processed foods. In fact, the chemical reaction is remarkably similar to cocaine, heroin, and alcohol.
The word ‘processed’ refers to highly concentrated foods. Usually, sugar or salt is a main ingredient. On top of that, various additives are introduced which can also be highly addictive. According to Ifland, dairy and gluten even contain small amounts of morphine-like chemicals. When these foods are concentrated the amounts of highly addictive chemicals greatly increases and your brain reacts accordingly.
So what should you eat? Ifland says looks for unprocessed foods like animal proteins and vegetables. Basically, anything that is not altered into a concentrated state is a much healthier option.
Due to the fact that so many people eat processed foods, Ifland says addiction to them is widespread. Intense cravings for processed foods are the first sign of addiction and according to Ifland abstinence is the best remedy. Our society is so geared towards processed foods that the cultural pressure to consume them can be overwhelming and extremely difficult to overcome.
Dr. Joan Ifland, lead editor, Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment and Recovery
This year’s flu season is barely over but a new analysis predicts that next fall’s flu vaccine is likely to be just as ineffective as this year’s. The study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases estimates that next fall’s flu vaccine will be only 20 percent effective against the dominant strain of influenza A. However, that’s better than nothing, so health officials are likely to say a flu shot is still worth it. Researchers say mass production of the vaccine produces mutations cutting its effectiveness by nearly 30 percent.
A lot of people take calcium supplements for bone health. But a new study finds that calcium may increase the risk of one kind of colon polyps that can later turn cancerous. The study in the journal Gut shows that calcium supplements raise the risk of sessile serrated polyps in the colon. Researchers say the increased risk is greatest in smokers and those with a previous history of polyps in the colon.
And finally, researchers say that the world’s supply of chocolate is in danger. It’s all because of a group of viruses in the six West African countries that produce 70 percent of the world’s cocoa. A study in the Virology Journal finds that the mysterious viruses can kill trees in less than a year. However, farmers are reluctant to take down diseased trees if they’re still bearing pods and that spreads the disease quickly. scientists hope to use gene editing to develop virus-resistant plants.
Diseases apparently have distinctive odors that humans can’t detect. Researchers are using dogs, mice, rats and other animals to literally sniff out cancer and other diseases in the laboratory. In the 3rd World, rats are used to diagnose TB. Experts discuss the use of animals to diagnose disease and their efforts to build machines that can do the same thing.
Processed Food Addiction
Researchers are discovering that for some people, eating processed foods produces some of the same brain effects as people addicted to alcohol or drugs. An expert discusses how dietary adjustment can end this addiction and its effects.
With the opioid epidemic continuing to take many lives every year, people are concerned with how to stop it. In order to help counter this epidemic, Medicare has taken steps to implement limits on the prescriptions of opioids. However, the Medicare proposal has left doctors wondering if these new limits will do more harm than good for patients.
Currently, the United States is experiencing the second wave of the opioid epidemic. Dr. Anna Lembke, Associate Professor and Chief of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, explains that opioid addiction arises from the prescription of these medications as a go-to for doctors even if the medical condition does not necessarily call for it. Furthermore, Dr. Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine and Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute, states that another issue is not just the prescribing of opioid medications, but the over-prescribing. In many cases, a doctor will prescribe a patient an unnecessary amount of opioids, but this often leads to leftover medication that tends to get into the hands of people who are likely to abuse it. So, one way that Medicare is working to counteract this is by regulating the quantity and overall dose of opioids that are allowed to be prescribed to a patient. Dr. Satel explains that by limiting the number of pills allowed when refilling a prescription, not only will it decrease the number of leftover pills, but it will also guarantee that those who benefit from opioids continue to take them appropriately. Along with this, Dr. Lembke states that this limit on the number allowed to be prescribed is important because doctors most likely would not limit their prescriptions enough to a point that would allow for a decrease in the epidemic. With this regulation, the number of leftover pills being circulated outside of who they were prescribed to will decrease which will allow for a drop in the number of people addicted to prescription opioids.
The proposed Medicare regulations also came with a second leg to it. This other guideline would cut-off any doctor from prescribing a high-dose of opioid medications. However, Dr. Satel explains that many pain physicians had problems with this regulation because it would make it extremely difficult for patients who do benefit from these prescriptions, and use them properly, to have access to them. So, when the final Medicare proposal was released, this second guideline was altered to allow physicians to prescribe high-doses of opioid medications, but it gave pharmacists the power to override a high-dose request that seemed unnecessary.
While these Medicare limits are a step in the right direction for managing the opioid epidemic, there is still much that can be done to improve it. For instance, other medical treatments should be made more accessible through Medicare, explains Dr. Lembke. It’s important to reduce the access to opioids. However, it is also important to facilitate the use of other medical treatments to help with pain. Improvements are being made in the healthcare system to stop the opioid epidemic, but those who benefit from opioid prescriptions should not have to suffer.
Dr. Anna Lembke, Associate Professor and Chief of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine
Dr. Sally Satel, addiction psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine, and Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute