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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As further proof that we haven't progressed much, ethically, from the days when unsavory characters made midnight forays into graveyards to provide medical researchers with cadavers for dissection, I offer this macabre story of tissue removed from bodies entrusted to various mortuaries in New York City, without consent and without proper safety precautions. The tissues were then implanted, in the form of bone and skin grafts, in hundreds of unsuspecting patients across the country.

I'm beginning to suspect that "factory medicine" is as dangerous a practice as factory farming.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 8:02 am | Edit
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Because I have a friend who is an avid deer hunter, the New York Times article on chronic wasting disease caught my eye. CWD is the deer and elk equivalent of mad cow disease, and has spread so far to 11 states and two Canadian provinces.

The news is not all bad for hunters. Bruce Morrison, chairman of the National Chronic Wasting Disease Plan Implementation Team is himself a hunter and asserts, "I'm not worried." However, he also recommended that hunters in states where CWD has been found have their deer and elk meat frozen while the brain is tested, and warned that no part of an infected animal should be eaten.

Which is not good news for the rest of us. I fail to see a material difference between this warning and a call to increase greatly the testing of animals that end up in the meat departments of our grocery stores. We have not learned well from Great Britain's sad experience with mad cow disease, and need to stop burying our governmental heads in the sand. Japan's recent renewal of the ban on U.S. beef is not the most important reason for tightening the regulations, although it is the one grabbing the headlines.

Personally, I'm awaiting news from Symantec and McAfee that they will be implementing special protection measures for Gateway computers.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 27, 2006 at 7:43 am | Edit
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Imagine: You are happily expecting the birth of your child, and when the thrilling moment approaches you check into your local hospital, a scenario common to most American mothers-to-be. You give birth to a healthy baby boy, but when you, yourself, are finally released from the hospital, it is more than three months later and you have lost your uterus, both arms, both legs and very nearly your life. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 9:49 am | Edit
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Because of the vaccine shortage, we abstained from our annual flu shots last year. Perhaps that was a good thing, because it encouraged us to avoid public drinking fountains, to be more careful with handwashing, and to make use of pocket vials of hand sanitizer when out among the hand-shaking public. (This was recommended by a physician friend whose specialty is infectious diseases. The alcohol-based formula is effective on both bacteria and viruses and, because of the way it works, does not promote resistance as anti-bacterial soaps do.)

It was thrilling to have avoided the flu without the vaccine, but we decided not to translate that excitement into presumption, largely because we will be with people this season to whom we particularly do not want to pass the illness. So we paid a visit to the county health department.

We discovered the health department as a source of immunizations one year when we tried to go to our doctor and discovered his office was no longer giving flu shots that year. That turned out to be a blessing! We've gone back to the health department ever since. Which of these two scenarios would you choose? (1) Go to the doctor, hang around for half an hour or so in a waiting room full of sick people, and hand over a $20 copay; or (2) go to the health department, wait five minutes, and pay $18!
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 11, 2005 at 8:04 am | Edit
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Pressure is increasing on schools to remove that nutritional disaster called soda from their vending machines and replace it with healthy fare like water, juice, and milk. In response, the soft drink manufacturers, not to be caught with their profits down, have succeeded in spinning milk into soda. Take a delicious bottle of milk, add sugar, artificial flavor, and sometimes even carbonation, give it a name like Milky Way, Starburst, or Bubble Blast, and voila! — a drink no calf would recognize. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 7:53 pm | Edit
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In England, Darren and Debbie Wyatt are fighting in court to save the life of their 22-month old daughter, Charlotte, who is severely handicapped. Charlotte is no Terri Schiavo, with her parents and her legal husband in disagreement over her medical care. The Wyatts' battle is with England's medical and legal system, with doctors who insist Charolotte has no "quality of life," and a court ruling giving the doctors authority, against her parents' wishes, to refuse to resuscitate Charlotte if she stops breathing. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 26, 2005 at 10:32 am | Edit
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I've noted before some of the problems with epidural pain relief during childbirth, and my latest reading, Lise Eliot's What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life confirms my worries. Here are a few of her concerns: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 12:15 pm | Edit
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