A U. S. Department of Agriculture study has determined that watermelons stored at room temperature* are far more nutritious than those stored in the refrigerator. Apparently its power-packed carotenoids, lycopene and beta-carotene, continue to develop after a fully-ripe melon is picked, but the process is slowed by refrigeration. What's more, refrigerated watermelons spoil faster.

The news about watermelons makes me wonder if a similar process is going on with tomatoes, which are another rich source of carotenoids. Conventional wisdom says tomatoes should be stored at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator. This means we have to eat them rather quickly here in Florida, but I can attest to the superiority of their unrefrigerated flavor.

*70 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to the article is "room temperature in an air-conditioned home." I wonder whose home they are talking about, and what their power bills might be. Ours is now set at 78 degrees, a real luxury considering for years it was 84, but we're older, more self-indulgent, and (most of all) this overall setting keeps the computer rooms at a bearable level. Not that 70 degrees wouldn't be really nice....
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 31, 2006 at 8:03 am | Edit
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In 1971 I worked with researchers at the University of Rochester who were studying the algae blooms that were making a mess of Rochester, New York's Irondequoit Bay. At the time, the limiting factor for algae growth in the lake was phosphorous, and household use of detergents containing phosphates had fueled an algal population boom. Thanks to such research, low-phosphate detergents soon became. I presume the effect on the Bay was salutory, though I graduated and lost track of the researchers.

That was 35 years ago, but apparently we are still learning the same lessons. Please take time to read the long, but worthwhile, article from the Los Angeles Times on the frightening overrowth of toxic algae and other primitive organisms in our oceans.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 31, 2006 at 7:36 am | Edit
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The good news is that Starchild Abraham Cherrix and his family finally found a judge brave enough to lift the lower court order that would have forced him to undergo chemotherapy for his cancer. The bad news is that it's a temporary reprieve; he'll have to fight the battle again in court next month.

Abraham is not the only teen who has had to spend precious energy, resouces, and especially time fighting for the right to choose or refuse medical treatment. (See also Who Will Make Medical Decisions for You and Your Family?) That he has the full support of his family in his decision matters not to the social workers; they saw that as a reason to attempt to take custody of Abraham themselves. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 1:54 pm | Edit
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From what I read, people are getting tired of hearing about the benefits of human milk for human babies. Let's stop making mothers who "must" feed their children artificial milk feel bad, they say. Just tell people "breast is best" if you can do it, but let it go at that, and support them in whatever decision they make.

Not an unreasonable attitude; I hate having the government or anyone else harangue me about about very personal choices. But we're missing an important point. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 6:53 am | Edit
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The State of Florida has seized a woman's assets and imprisoned her because they think they can make better decisions for her than she can herself.

Lore Farrell's story should frighten us all.
Why should an 85-year-old woman be able to be forced out of her home, be forbidden to make her own legal and medical decisions, and even told what kind of shoes she can and cannot wear, just because living on her own his riskier? The Orlando Sentinel article calls hers a "sad story with no villains," but I see plenty of villainy in the attitude that gives the State such power over a person who has committed no crime. If Lore Farrell thinks the risk of bleeding to death on the floor of her own home is preferable to the living death she feels at an assistive living facility, that choice should be hers, not some bureaucrat's, well-intentioned or not.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 9, 2006 at 8:10 am | Edit
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A 62-year-old British woman is being called selfish, ridiculous, irresponsible, and unnatural because of the recent birth of her son, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization with a her husband's sperm and a donated egg. I have serious problems with the extremes to which many people are resorting to combat infertility, but age has nothing to do with it. A post-menopausal woman who uses unnatural means to conceive a child is no more absurd than an older man with a Viagra prescription.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, July 8, 2006 at 8:07 pm | Edit
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Most of the news we hear about people with severe brain injuries (such as Terri Schiavo) is from a negative perspective: How long can we afford (emotionally, finanacially, and in terms of prioritizing the use of resources) to keep an unresponsive, totally dependent person alive? Would a person in such a state want to be kept alive? What does the term "quality of life" really mean, and should it be the determining factor in critical medical decisions? To whom to such decisions belong—the person (through a "living will"), the family, the doctors, the government?

Organizations that focus on the possibility of recovery from severe brain injuries through coma arousal efforts and other stimulation programs, such as the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential and the Family Hope Center, are derisively labelled as "alternative medicine" if not as outright quackery. In light of recent discoveries, however, perhaps it's time to rethink our attitude.

After 19 years in a "minimally conscious state" after an accident, Terry Wallis is making significant progress towards recovery, with proven evidence of brain healing and regrowth. Now that there is clear evidence that healing of brain injuries is possible, there is no excuse for reflexively dismissing the work of those who have been saying so for years. If Terry's brain could heal itself, slowly, with minimal outside stimulation, it is inexcusable not to consider the possibility of speeding up the process.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 4, 2006 at 8:13 am | Edit
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I've occasionally wondered what we might be doing to ourselves by prolonging daylight with the use of artificial lights. A study by the U. S. National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences presents evidence that the use of artificial light during the hours of darkness is a signficant risk factor in the development and progression of cancer(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 19, 2006 at 7:05 am | Edit
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A recent New York Times article on the effort to promote breastfeeding includes this interesting line:

Nursing may even produce a euphoric feeling

So if you can't convince them with the overwhelming evidence of breastfeeding's benefits for the baby, try suggesting it as a new way to get high!
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 15, 2006 at 6:56 am | Edit
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There's nothing like a little foreign travel to open your eyes, and while we were in Japan my eyes discovered xylitol, which appeared to be a popular sweetener. Normally I wouldn't have given it two seconds worth of attention, as I loathe artificial sweeteners. I make an exception for chewing gum, but otherwise strive to avoid all versions of Saccharine, NutraSweet, Splenda, etc. and get really annoyed when they're included in a product without their presence being announced in big, obvious letters.

But xylitol was something popular in Japan and not here, so I did a little investigating. What I've found makes me astonished that it's not widely available, and very popular, in this country. I'm still looking for the down side, so maybe someone who reads this can fill me in. Here's what I've learned so far: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 12:47 pm | Edit
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I like to check out Google News every morning, and I'm especially interested in their Health section. Today there were two headlines that caught my attention, and each turned out to be totally misleading.

Flying does not cause blood clots, say experts

Do you feel safer now, as you prepare for your long flight? Do you think you can relax, forget about periodically wiggling your toes, stretching your feet, and disturbing your seatmates so you can get up and walk around? Not so fast! What the article says is that low cabin pressure and reduced oxygen do not increase the risk of blood clots. The damage is done by reduced circulation caused by long periods of inactivity, whether on plane, train, bus, or car. Although the article does not address this issue, I'm guessing sitting at a desk all day isn't a good situation, either.

Considering the relative leg room offered by the other modes of transportation, it's not surprising that the problem appears more often among those who fly. To give the casual reader the impression that he's safe from bloodclots on a long flight is misleading and dangerous.

Nonsmoking Men, Women Face Same Lung Cancer Death Risk

Same as whom? The point of the article is that among nonsmokers, women face no greater risk of lung cancer than men. But the impression I received from the headline itself was that nonsmokers face the same lung cancer risk as smokers, a truly startling (and untrue) finding.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 6:52 am | Edit
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Our local newspaper includes Parade Magazine in its Sunday edition. I find it generally to be a waste of paper. (A judgment almost equally true of the whole paper, now that it has gone to a format that emphasizes pictures over words, but that's another blog post.) However, I ususally find Marilyn vos Savant's column interesting, and this week it was especially so. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 9, 2006 at 5:36 pm | Edit
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It is nearly as dangerous to base life's decisions on individual scientific studies as it is on Bible verses taken out of context. Nonetheless, I enjoy reporting encourging news, and this morning's is about chocolate. This Scientific American article reports on a study of the cocoa consumption (in any form) of 470 elderly Dutch men, which found that those who ate the most cocoa were half as likely to die of cardiovascular or any other disease as those who ate the least. They haven't identified the protective mechanism yet; maybe it was the antioxidants, maybe the men were just happier. :)

Still, there's no need to go overboard on the Ghirardelli. The average daily cocoa consumption of the highest group was "more than four grams." Four grams is not a lot of cocoa, even in its pure form.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 6:53 am | Edit
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What is worse, dying because you can't afford medical treatment, or dying because the cogs in a socialized medicine system decide they can't afford to treat you? Or because someone else thinks you would be better off dead than alive?

A high court in the United Kingdom has ruled that two year old Charlotte Wyatt's life belongs in the hands of the hospital where she is being treated; her parents cannot force doctors keep her alive if the doctors decide it would be in the child's best interest to die.

Whatever your views on what would be best for Charlotte, and whatever confidence you might have in your own doctor, this court precedent should terrify you. The chasm between trusting the advice of a doctor who has treated your family for years and proven his compassion and competence, and submitting to the decision of a medical bureaucrat (be he doctor, judge, or accountant) that the patient does not deserve to live, is that between heaven and hell.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 27, 2006 at 10:13 am | Edit
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Fixed ideas, even if later discredited, are hard to dislodge. This is why urban legends and Internet rumors must repeatedly be quashed. Either we like what we "know" and don't care enough to be concerned about its veracity, or a new generation comes upon the outdated information and unwittingly embraces it. Or both.

This, I'm afraid is what will happen in the case of obstetrical practice. Several years ago a study (the "Term Breech Trial") led to the conclusion that it was safer for breech presentations to be delivered by Caesarean section, rather than vaginally. Consequently, this has become standard, established practice.

However, an article in the January 2006 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports serious flaws in the Term Breech Trial, and concludes that the recommendations from that study should be withdrawn.

Most cases of neonatal death and morbidity in the term breech trial cannot be attributed to the mode of delivery. Moreover, analysis of outcome after 2 years has shown no difference between vaginal and abdominal deliveries of breech babies.

Because Caesarean sections are considered to be more convenient than vaginal deliveries (nature is so messy!), and because people seem less inclined to sue doctors for interventions than for not intervening, I don't expect to see a rise in the number of women allowed to attempt vaginal deliveries of breech babies. Nonetheless, it is important to note yet another instance of major life decisions being made on the basis of erroneous data.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 1:53 pm | Edit
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