Monday, April 30, 2007

Napping May Boost Memory, Understanding

news you may not know
Ah - So, That's How It All Fits...

GSN Studios - Mind The Map Game Show

Wow, how exciting is this? You've been a huge fan of Mind The Map since the early days, when they had those cheesy, plastic covered wall maps and they used different colored pushpins to mark the Hot Spots. Incredible! But, now, it's awash in the latest high tech gadgetry and you - You! - are a contestant.

If you don't pass out from the excitement, this should be fun.

OK - here you go. The "Avoid the Lightning" round. Careful - this gets tricky.

"All right, contestants. Here are the cities and, remember, it's early spring and the thunderstorms are popping. Here you go: Madras, Oregon. Cortez, Colorado. Dodson, Montana. Eureka, South Dakota. Minden, Louisiana. Kokomo, Indiana. Rutland, Vermont. Dublin, Georgia. Alabaster, Alabama."

Your mind races to memorize each city as it appears on the 30-foot plasma screen.

"OK, have them memorized? Good. Now for the hard part. Pick a starting point - any city you desire - and plot a route to the other cities. The contestant who suffers the fewest lightning strikes during their journey is the winner - so, check the long range weather forecast and get to it."

You grab a quick peek at the weather patterns, begin to get a spatial perspective of your cities, and mull over your options. Then, knowing it's first-come-first-served, you bang the buzzer and shout, "Alex, I'd like to take a Map-Nap Detour!"

Ah, good strategy...

Scientists report that sleep provides much more than just sweet dreams. Sleep also appears to serve as a bit of a respite for the brain - a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the workaday world, let its synapses down and take it all in.

Researchers have long known that sleep assists the brain in learning functional activities such as walking, talking and playing musical instruments. Now, they report that sleep also helps the brain "put it all together." It appears the brain utilizes the quiet time during sleep to take the multitude of disparate pieces of knowledge it acquires throughout the day and piece them together. It's somewhat akin to creating a neural fabric of our lives while we snooze.

This type of memory is what's known as Relational Memory. So, for example, in the never-to-see-the-studio-lights game show Mind The Map, it's a two-step process. First, contestants must learn the individual cities. It's all well and good to memorize them, but it's insufficient.

To play the game - especially to win - they must combine multiple pieces of information. Where are the current storms? In what direction are they moving, and how quickly? How far apart are the cities, and what is the estimated travel time? Will beginning in the east or the west allow them to avoid more storms?

It's a complex puzzle that requires a keen analytical mind - and, a good nights sleep. The complex apparently becomes quite simple when subjected to late night snores and copious drool. The researchers aren't yet sure of drools exact function, but further studies are planned.

The studio's alarm clangs and jolts you awake. It was only thirty minutes, but you feel fabulous. You step back to the podium, take a quick look at the map, and Bingo! It all falls in place.

"Alex, I'll summer in Paris and travel in the fall - after the thunderstorm season has passed.'

Lights flash, bells whistle and confetti falls.

Alex turns excitedly to the camera and announces, "We have a winner!"

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Marijuana as Medicine?

tidbits that tantalizeDr. Doug - THC Specialist...

Wow, man...

You knew cancer was a nasty, no-holds-barred, show-no-mercy type disease. So, when the doc said you had lung cancer, your world pretty much imploded. You didn't know your head could spin so fast, or jumbled thoughts could run so wild. What about Jenna's high school prom? How will she pay for college? The car needs to go into the shop, and who's going to kill the dang dandelions?

So, you took a long walk with your wife and devised a plan. You'd done some online research and, though she was a bit skeptical, she finally decided it was worth a try. And, now...

Wow, man...

Life looks pretty good. The cancer not only stopped spreading, but actually shrunk! You feel more - WAY more - relaxed about things and your appetite has never been better. Who knew potato chips, cupcakes and Cheetos could play such a central role in fighting cancer?

Thank goodness for the Cheech and Chong Cancer Treatment Center. Ever since you started the daily marijuana treatments...

Marijuana treatments? Well -

Researchers at Harvard have discovered that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, may be effective in fighting lung cancer. The studies were conducted on mice implanted with human cancer cells. After three weeks of treatment with THC, the lung tumors had shrunk by an average of 50%. The treated mice also showed no further spread of the cancer.

The treatment works by retarding the inflammatory process that contributes to cancer's growth. The THC attaches itself to components, known as endocannabinoids, which are found in particularly high amounts in cancer cells, and have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Once attached, the THC accelerates the anti-inflammatory effects of the endocannabinoids, thereby stopping the cancer's spread.

Scientists postulate the treatment may also be effective in combating brain, prostate and skin cancer.

You grab a fresh bag of Doritos and surf the channels for a good comedy. Or, really, about anything will do. For some reason, it all seems outrageously hilarious.

Wow, man... Who knew cancer could be such a trip?

To read more about the study, see this from WebMD. To read about traditional cancer treatments, see this from the National Cancer Institute.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

In Hospitals, Dirty Hands Can Be Deadly

news you may not know

Behold - The Power Of Soap...

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Nosocomial Infection 101.

The weary young medical students shuffle in, exchange the obligatory nods and grunts that pass for civilized greetings among the harried, and settle in behind their examination tables. They don gowns and gloves as the instructor, a well-rested woman in her mid-thirties, prances into the room. She surveys the dozen or so stressed and depressed students and silently gives thanks at having already passed through the valley of despair known as Year Two.

"Ah - a fabulous day, wouldn't you say?"

She quickly rolls on, knowing she will receive no more than a series of blank stares and, possibly, a raised eyebrow or two.

"OK - step up to the table. Yesterday, we covered Nosocomial infectious theory, including historical perspectives and discoveries, and recent advances within the field. Today, it's time to 'Get your hands dirty!'"

She chuckles to herself and - by herself.

"Hmm... I thought that would kill. OK - examine the three specimens on the table. Don't be shy. Pick them up to get a feel for their heft, bulk, shape and symmetry. Compare the specimens and begin to get a sense of their unique elements, structures, shapes and hues. Now, get your hands into them. Dig in, slather the liquid substances around or, if you're dealing with a solid matter, grasp it firmly between both hands and give it a hardy rub."

She watches silently as the students explore - she notes the looks of discovery and surprise that begin to sweep across their faces. Ah - this is what teaching is all about. She smiles broadly herself, caught up in the wonder.

"All right - you're seeing it aren't you? It's not just theory anymore. It's the real thing. Yes, ladies and gentlemen," she holds up a final specimen and announces loudly:

"This is soap!"

It's sad but true. A recent study confirms that efforts to acquaint hospital workers with the power of soap have failed quite miserably. Researchers at the City University in London report that health care workers fail to consistently wash their hands and that few effective strategies have been instituted to address the issue.

The costs, both physical and financial, are staggering. Each year in the United States, tens of thousands of people acquire what are known as Nosocomial Infections - infections that are acquired after admission to a hospital and are unrelated to the patient's original condition. Thousands of patients die each year as a result and the cost to treat these infections, including longer hospital stays, runs into the billions of dollars annually.

While hand washing is not a cure-all, it must certainly be near the top of any plan to curb hospital-acquired infections. As with many complex medical issues, high-tech solutions are not always necessary. Sometimes, the low-tech fix is, shall we say, within easy reach.

...Watching her students file out of class, the instructor takes a moment to enjoy a renewed sense of hope about the future of health care. But, knowing tomorrow's going to be a brutally tough day, she quickly recaptures her focus. Tomorrow, she introduces her students to a complex and amazing new world: alcohol-based hand cleansing solutions...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about infection control, see the Hand Hygiene Guidelines Fact Sheet from the CDC.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Eating Green Fights Cancer

tidbits that tantalize
I Brought Broccoli...

Come on, come on - it's got to be in here somewhere.

You rummage through your "junk" drawer a second time, becoming more desperate with each passing moment. Fifteen minutes ago, life was grand. Then, the door flew open and, "Mom!" The last time your mom showed up unannounced was an embarrassment you are not keen to repeat. You hum loudly in a feeble attempt to hide your search, hoping she'll be distracted by the...


Your mom's call jolts you to your core. You sigh sadly and march into the other room to take your medicine. As you enter, you're struck by what a kind looking woman she is and, really, for being 93, she looks terrific.

"Is this what you were looking for?"

She hands you the lapel pin - the one that says, "Mom was Right" - and chuckles softly. Then, she reaches into her purse and hands you a stick of broccoli. "Here," she says, "You look hungry."

Research seems to confirm that mom was on to something.

A study following 500,000 retirees concludes that eating vegetables protects against developing head and neck cancer. Experts believe that two-thirds of all cancers are lifestyle related. Smoking, alcohol use, poor dietary habits and a lack of appropriate exercise are the leading factors in cancer risk. Vegetables, even in modest quantities, appear to be at the other end of the spectrum.

The researchers found that a single serving of fruit or vegetables - for each 1,000 calories consumed - reduced the risk of head and neck cancer by 6%. Not significant enough? The benefit increases proportionally with increased veggie intake. When six servings of fruits and vegetables are consumed the drop in risk is a robust 29%.

"Wow, I could've had a V8."

...Well, really, you know your mother means well. It's just, now that you're 73 and the CEO of a multi-billion dollar international electronics consortium - you wish your mom would quit showing up at the board meetings with a purse full of broccoli.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters Health. To read more about the benefits of fruit and vegetables, see this from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fantastic Food Facts - Free!

resources to rely on

What - Without The Pie?

Your daughter scoots in the door, drops her laundry on the floor and heads upstairs to take the first of a seemingly unending series of afternoon naps. Ah, yes - memories of the joys of past spring breaks come rushing back. But, not to worry. This year, you have a secret weapon:

Double Cheeseburger Pizza.

Oh, sure - it took a bit of work to perfect. But, Sarah won't be able to resist her two main food groups combined into a singular dream meal... Just as the pizza hits the table, Sarah saunters into the kitchen. Aha! You knew she'd be hooked.

Or, so you thought.

But, she takes one look, raises a skeptical eyebrow and announces, "No thanks - I'm on the Peach Pie Diet."

She then launches into a preemptive nutritional justification of her dietary preferences. "Oh, yeah, all the kids at school are on it. And, Mom! Did you know that a single slice of peach pie is only 13% of my daily calories and that it contains 4% of my dietary fiber and protein, and has Vitamins A, C, E and K? It also provides tryptophan, lysine, beta-carotene and lutein."


"Oh, yeah - And, it has iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc and manganese. Over 63 grams of good old water too. But, the best part..." She takes a huge bite and mumbles on. "This new recipe I got from Kim is killer - absolute killer!"

What's a mother to do?

Well, first - sit down and enjoy a nice big slice of Double Cheeseburger Pizza before it gets cold. You're going to need the energy. Next, get online and hustle over to NutritionData. It's where your daughter got her information and the only real hope you have to level the eating field.

What can NutritionData tell you about food? Virtually anything. Consider:

-A slice of Papa John's pepperoni original crust pizza has 338 calories, including 131 from fat, and 825mg of sodium.

-A Burger King double hamburger, no cheese, has 450 calories, including 210 from fat, 75mg of cholesterol and 620mg of sodium.

-A larger banana has a measly 121 calories - only 4 from fat - and no sodium. It does have 17 grams of sugar.

-A slice of Louis Rich turkey bologna contains 52 calories, 302mg of sodium and no dietary fiber.

-One ounce of regular flavor microwave popcorn is tasty - and packs 107 fat calories.

NutritionData is a fabulous site and has more food assessment tools than you'll ever need - unless, of course, your daughter is on the Peach Pie Diet. At NutritionData you can search for foods by category, as in the selected samples, to assess their nutritional value. Or, you can search for foods that are rich in a particular vitamin, mineral or nutrient. The site also provides a daily needs calculator to help you gauge your caloric and nutrient requirements based on your individual lifestyle.

There appears to be only one glitch - they have no entry yet for Double Cheeseburger Pizza...

To explore all its resources and tools, see this from NutritionData.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Can Caterpillars Cure the Flu?

tidbits that tantalize
Who Knew You were SO Smart?

Kivalina, Alaska - Late September

Ah, what a fabulous day! A fresh snowfall overnight, temperatures warming nicely to the mid-30s and a clearing sky. It's the perfect day to travel. Which makes it all the more odd you're the only one who seems to be excited about the trip.

What gives?

Sure, Miami is a ways away. But, it's worth it. You figure - especially after the battle your family had with the flu last year - there's really no other choice. Heck, the way you see it, if the Fall Armyworm likes Miami in the winter, then so do you. After all, they hold the key to staying healthy this winter and, just like mom always said, "sometimes being healthy takes a little sacrifice."

What's the big deal, anyway? A quick 10-hour charter to Fairbanks and, shoot - you'll already be less than a 5,000-mile drive to Miami. It's a piece of cake...

Is it worth the drive?

A new method of developing flu vaccine using a caterpillar, the aforementioned Fall Armyworm, appears to hold great promise. Not only is the process quicker, it may also be safer than the current method that relies upon egg-based vaccines.

Dr. John Treanor, of the University of Rochester, led a study to evaluate the efficacy of the vaccine FluBl0k, produced by Protein Sciences Corporation. The participants were randomly assigned to three groups. One group received a small dose of the vaccine, a second group received a larger dose and a third group received a placebo.

The two groups receiving the vaccine showed a combined effectiveness in preventing influenza of 86%. This is a rate that's on a par with currently available vaccines. The group receiving the larger dose, which experienced no cases of the flu, said they were, "delighted with the results." The patients in the placebo group were all in the bathroom and could not be reached for comment.

...Really, what's the big deal? So the plane's engine threw a rod, and the 10-hour charter to Fairbanks turned into a 6-week dogsled journey? The bottom line is, if Miami is good enough for the caterpillars...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about the development of FluBl0k, see this from Protein Sciences Corporation.

Image courtesy of Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff at Wikipedia:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Cup of Cocoa May Lower Blood Pressure

tidbits that tantalize

She Drank


London, England - 4:30 a.m.

The drizzle is nonstop, sending a chill down your spine and straight into your heart. So much for the Channel Five Spot-On AccuCast. Weathermen! And, what's with this new bloke? If anything, he's a terrific anti-barometer of sorts. When he says sunny, it rains - when he says rain, you schedule an outing. Absolutely useless! But, your sister loves him and, sigh – he is your brother-in-law…

Well, like it or not, you have to get things organized for the protest. The parade comes right past this point, the television coverage will be huge, and the banners are ready. It's the perfect opportunity to let the royal family know they've let the nation down. What were they thinking? Oh sure, their spokeswoman says it was an innocent mistake. Innocent! There's certainly nothing innocent about the Queen Mother fraternizing with Netherlands' Queen Beatrix - laughing, smiling and...

Sipping Cocoa!

It was a national disgrace...

Is the Queen Mother on to something? She may be.

German researchers report that cocoa is superior to tea in lowering blood pressure. The findings, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, call into question the previously reported benefits of both green and black tea. The analysis points to the distinct type of polyphenols within cocoa, known as procyanids, as the difference in its capabilities to more significantly reduce blood pressure.

After two weeks, participants who consumed cocoa products showed a reduction in blood pressure equal to the decrease seen by patients taking blood pressure medications. Not only did the patients enjoy lower blood pressure, they reported the cocoa was far tastier than the medications. Ahh...

The stakes are quite high. A reduction in blood of this magnitude can be expected to lower the risk of heart attacks and stroke by 10-20%. Other sources of polyphenols - yes, possibly the best sources - are fruits and vegetables. But, really, where's the fun in sipping a nice, hot cup of carrot juice?

All right - you're all set up. Just in time, five minutes till the parade starts. Now, if you could only stop your teeth from chattering - if you only had something nice and warm - if you only had a luscious cup of piping hot choc...

You lower your head in disgrace at the very thought, your tears of remorse mixing silently with the drizzle...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. For a nutritional analysis of cocoa, see this from NutritionData.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cancer Takes Its Toll - On Spouses, Partners...

news you may not know

Wait - Let's Go

Back to Yesterday

It's 3 a.m. You should be - what? Sleeping? Sure, like you're going to be able to sleep after the news you got today. Things were looking good and, well - today's scan just blew your life apart all over again.

News like this sets you back on your heels in a hurry. All the indications were positive. Tumor size was down, no detectible spread, blood counts and other labs strong. How can it be? Forty-two years old, always active. Shoot - if anything, somewhat over the top when it comes to health, diet, exercise. It just makes no sense.

And, now - you may lose him...

This is the often silent torment of those whose spouses are affected by cancer. Not only do the partners of cancer sufferers experience the agony of each bit of bad news, they often do so without adequate support.

Researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville report the spouses of cancer sufferers are 3.5 mores likely to suffer from clinical depression than people without a sick relative. Their study indicates the partners suffer similar levels of emotional distress as the cancer patients. In addition, in a surprising finding, it's the partners who pay the highest social costs over the long-term.

The discrepancies may be attributable to two key aspects of cancer treatment. First, patients who suffer from depression are quickly offered assistance through a variety of social service networks within the health care system. Second, the short, intermediate and long-term burden of caring for the cancer patient falls squarely on the shoulders of the patient's partner. As the hospitals streamline treatments to send patients home quickly, spouses are relied upon to provide nursing care, emotional and financial support, handle childrearing responsibilities, watch over...

Well, it's a long list of responsibilities for which partners suddenly find themselves solely responsible.

This is the first study to assess the long-term impact on family and friends of cancer patients. The results indicate that much more attention needs to be given to establishing support mechanisms for the spouses and partners.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about coping with cancer, including the ways in which cancer affects family and friends, see this from People Living With Cancer.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Alzheimer's Sedatives May Shorten Life

news you may not know

Careful -

This May

Get Complicated

72 seconds...

That's how often someone in America develops Alzheimer's disease. By mid-century, it's expected the rate will accelerate to once each 33 seconds. Consider some additional figures reported by the Alzheimer's Association in their recent report, the 2007 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures:

-Over 5 million people in the United States currently suffer from Alzheimer's

-Without significant advances, this figure is expected to reach 7.7 million by 2030

-By mid-century, the figure could exceed 16 million

-The cost of Alzheimer's and other dementias is estimated to be $148 billion annually

As these figures reflect, the challenge is significant.

Family members struggle to make sense of a life careening wildly out of control. The mom - dad, husband, wife - whom you've loved begins to somehow drift away. The little nuances that once served as the language of special connection disappear. The loving gaze devolves into the look of uncertainty and, both excruciatingly slowly and vengefully fast, you step over the line and assume the most challenging role of your life - you become a caregiver.

Clinical complications, though less personal, are no less complicated. Having few concrete tools to thwart Alzheimer's progress, clinicians are often relegated to the role of caretaker, comforter and companion. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes train staff to deal with Alzheimer's patient's special needs. As the disease progresses, the choices become more difficult, the settings more secure, the treatment options less meaningful.

A recent report from Britain indicates that neuroleptic medications, originally developed to treat schizophrenia, have an adverse effect on Alzheimer's patients. The medications are often used to sedate Alzheimer's patients who exhibit behavioral problems. The study finds that patients treated with neuroleptic medications die an average of 6 months sooner than those not receiving the medications. In addition, the medications cause a significant decline in verbal and cognitive functioning.

The researchers recommend against the use of neuroleptics for people with mild forms of Alzheimer's. For more advanced cases, they say the benefits must be weighed against the known adverse effects.

The choices, personally and clinically, are most difficult. May you find you have nimble feet, and God's grace, as you struggle with this perilous balancing act...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about Alzheimer's, including treatment options, see this from the Alzheimer's Association, or this from Mayo Clinic.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Eat Less, Gain More - Repeat

tidbits that tantalize

Come On -

Buffet's Open...


You always knew cable television was fabulous, but this is really over the top. Sure, you still love the soaps - who can resist the real-life intrigue? - but, lately, you've been cruising the odd assortment of channels dealing with science, medicine and history. Did you know the Irish potato famine resulted from a failure to cultivate multiple potato varieties and the onset of the Little Ice Age? Yeah - it's almost as good as the soaps.

So, when you happened to flip past the special report on the whatever channel about dieting, wow! There it was in black and white, and full color, right before your diet-weary eyes. You could have - well, actually, you did - rushed forward, flung your arms about the television set and sobbed with uncontrollable joy. The reports headline said it all:

Diets Don't Work!

Really? Well, according to a review of 31 long-term studies, dieting may actually increase the risk of weight gain. Researchers at UCLA discovered an amazingly consistent pattern in their review. The initial results of diets, of any variety, are likely to be positive. Most participants lose 5 to 10% of their body weight within the first six months. Then...

Almost as if flipping a switch, the dieters begin the process of regaining the pounds they have shed. Many will regain all the weight they lost within the following two years. One study showed that 83% of the dieters they followed actually weighed more at the end of the two-year period than they did at the beginning of the study. Other studies have indicated that the single best predictor of future weight gain is previous weight loss from dieting.

What's to be done? Researchers postulate that exercise is the key component of long-term weight reduction. They plan studies to assess the effectiveness in weight control due to exercise and diet versus exercise alone.

In the meantime, you've got no time to dilly-dally. The TV says traffic is a mess and - the buffet opens in 15 minutes...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about weight-loss strategies including diet, exercise, vitamins and supplements, and weight-loss surgery, see this from Mayo Clinic.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dirt: The Natural Antidepressant

tidbits that tantalize

...Happy Feet

You inch toward the front of the line. Front? Well, yes - rumor has it there is a front of the line somewhere over the crest of that small hill. But, who cares? Once you crest the hill you'll probably just be confronted with, hmm... Something. Something will surely be messed up, or out of place, or late, or broken, or - well, who cares?

It seems that Gilda Radner was right after all: "It's always something."

But, then again, this may simply be the depression talking. It's hard to tell these days. Reality and perception seem intertwined in a muddy battle of competing definitions. Huh - muddy battle - considering the circumstances, you can imagine that turn of phrase may actually be comical. In theory, that is.

"Step forward, please."

What? Wow, you must've been lost in your thoughts forever. You straighten yourself and step into the red circle. A specially trained inspector sets about her task, looking you up and down, making notes and declaring her findings.

"Dirt on the left sleeve - small smudges on the right cuff - fresh earth beneath the fingernails of the left hand - trousers appear relatively unscathed - soil stains on the socks - fresh dirt just above on the right ankle - shoe bottoms moderately clean."

You hold your breath as she tallies the results

"So sorry, miss. This is unacceptable. Your total Dirt Immersion Gateway score is 62 - that's an F in my book. I'm afraid it's back to the mud with you. And see that you get down there and really muck it up this time. It's your best hope to bring your score up to a passing C."

What's your Dirt Immersion Gateway (DIG) score? Well, if you've been out digging around in the dirt, chances are your scores are off the charts.

British researchers report that bacteria in good old-fashioned dirt have a beneficial impact on people suffering from major depression. The effect was first recognized when cancer patients treated with the bacteria reported an unexpected improvement in their quality of life.

The scientists postulate the bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, activate neurons in the brain that contain serotonin. A neurotransmitter, serotonin influences multiple bodily functions, including appetite control, memory, temperature regulation, cardiovascular function and, significantly, mood, behavior and depression. Clinicians have long known that low serotonin levels are often associated with mood disorders, anxiety, fear, fatigue and depression.

...What a trudge. But, now that you're back at the pit, you find yourself oddly intrigued by the ooey, gooey pool of moist mud. Not wanting to lose the moment, you rush to the edge and take the proverbial "flying leap." Seconds later, now one with the goo, it strikes you: you feel better already...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about serotonin, see this from the University of Bristol.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Alzheimer's Vaccine Mends Minds of Mice

news you may not know

What Grocery List?


What's with Shorty today anyway? Yesterday he was right there at the front of the pack. Seemed he couldn't wait to get hitched up and head out. But, today? Heck, looks like he'd rather just hang around under the couch, or the refrigerator, the stove, the entertainment center - just about anywhere that keeps him away from his little red work harness.


It's been a tough go the last few months but, even with the occasional work stoppages, you feel pretty encouraged. Sure, it was a bit of a shock to have your doc blurt out the "A" word - after all, who's ever really ready to admit they have Alzheimer's? But, you did some poking around on the Internet and there it was! A study showing the Japanese had developed a vaccine that cures Alzheimer's - in mice.

So, you figured, while you still had your wits about you, you'd train a bunch of mice to help with simple, everyday sort of stuff. Teach them the routes to the neighborhood stores and shops, show them where you keep your meds, maybe how to make a few simple dishes. So far, it's worked out pretty well.

Oh sure, you're quite the sight walking down the sidewalk with a cadre of eager mice on tiny red leashes...

Japanese researchers have indeed developed a vaccine that shows tremendous promise in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. The vaccine targets the amyloid plaques within the brain that are thought to be at the center of the disease. During the course of the study, the vaccine effectively reduced the amyloid plaques within the brains of the treated mice.

The study utilized mice that were genetically modified so they developed Alzheimer's. Following treatment with the vaccine, the treated mice showed an improvement in mental function to levels close to their pre-Alzheimer's state.

The Japanese scientists hope to begin human Phase I clinical trials this year. In the United States, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, in conjunction with Ireland's Elan Corporation, is also developing a vaccine that targets amyloid plaques.

OK - fourteen little leashes all hooked up and just one to go. You're darn tempted to just head to the grocer without Shorty, but there's a problem - He's got the shopping list...

To read more about the Japanese study, see this from Reuters. To read more about the American research, see this from Elan.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Aspirin May Protect Women From Heart Attack, Stroke and Cancer

news you may not know

Are You Sure

You Want

Scrambled Eggs??

Back to nature, my foot! Sure, you were on board for the organic meats, milk and veggies. But, this is simply over the top. Hippocrates! What did he really know, anyway? As far as you're concerned, he was just one more fanatic afraid to admit that modern science had a better way.

...Oh, well.

You might as well get to it. After all, by the time you get down to the stand of willow trees, strip off the Recommended Daily Allowance of bark, wash off the little crawly critters and give it the required chew time, half your morning will be gone. Good thing you got up at 4am to round up and milk the Oberhasli goats - boy, if you only had their freewheeling, free ranging, free specially-formulated-diet lifestyle...

Is it all Hippocrates' fault? Well...

He was the first to use an extract of the willow bark, from which aspirin is derived, to treat pain. Now, a recent study indicates a daily dose of aspirin may be beneficial for older women. The "may be" caveat is attached to the results because the study was "observational." This means there was no double-blind, directed study, but that women involved in the study made their own choices concerning aspirin use and simply reported those decisions. This complicates the conclusions that may be drawn from the study, as the group of women choosing to use aspirin may have made other health and lifestyle choices that beneficially impacted their lives.

The bottom line? Consult your doctor before chawing on the bark of the white willow - or, before initiating a daily dose of aspirin.

Caveats aside, the results of the 24-year study are impressive. Women taking a daily dose of aspirin - the 81 milligram baby type - showed an overall 25% lower risk of death than women taking no aspirin. The risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 38% lower and the risk form cancer was 12% lower. Hmm... Maybe Hippocrates was on to something...

All right. Now that the goats are milked and you've taken your daily dose of bark, it's time to get some breakfast going. "What will it be today?" you mutter, as you poke through the pantry. Then, it strikes you. You sit down, grab your running shoes and cinch them up tight. You're going to head down to the lower forty and chase down a free range chicken - if you're lucky, you'll be scarfing down scrambled eggs in two hours flat...

To read a summary of the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read the entire study, see this from the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Does Tai Chi Chih Heal Shingles?

news you may not know

Maybe I Should Just

Unload The Truck...

This can't be right. Your 72-year-old mom called last week to say she was working on her shingles and asked if you wanted to join in. You're always up for a good home repair project - yes, there are the absolutely fabulous chocolate chip cookies to consider - so, you said you'd see her first thing Saturday morning.


She told you to meet her Saturday at the park down the street - at dawn. It seemed rather odd, but she is a morning person and, heck, maybe she was going for an early walk before tackling the roof. So, off you went.


As you approached the park you began to wonder if you just hadn't fully woken up. There was your mom, and maybe a dozen or so other folks, standing in the park. Not regular-type standing - really odd, exaggerated standing. And moving. Sort of. It was really so slow, you weren't sure if it qualified as moving, or was more likely to fall under the casual swaying category.


The group breaks up and your mom, all smiles, walks up and says, "Ah, that about takes care of the shingles. Now, let's go home and have coffee and cookies." And, now, you're sure - you're definitely still asleep.

Researchers at UCLA recently reported the results of a study assessing the benefits of Tai Chi Chih, a simpler version of Tai Chi. They specifically studied its impact on the immune systems of the elderly and its ability to fight the painful condition of shingles. The results were impressive.

The study used two patient groups - one group attended Tai Chi Chih classes three times per week for 16 weeks, while the other group attended health education classes. At the end of 16 weeks, both groups received treatment with Varivax, the shingles vaccine.

The group that practiced Tai Chi Chih showed an immunity to shingles twice as high as the health education group. They also exhibited multiple additional health benefits, including the reduction of pain, increased vitality and better levels of mental health.


Though you're disappointed not to be scrambling about your mom's roof, the park at dawn turns out to be a pretty cool place. Now that you've learned a few of the basic movements, you look only moderately out of place. But, even if you do make a bit of a fool of yourself - the chocolate chip cookies are worth it...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about shingles, see this from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. To learn more about Tai Chi Chih, see this from

Monday, April 02, 2007

Do the Chinese Really Pee Green Tea?

tidbits that tantalize

Are You Sure

This Is

Green TEA??

This could get tricky. You have a decision to make and you have to act fast. You're traveling in China on vacation and suspect you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Your train leaves in a few hours, the hospital's over a mile away and - to be totally candid - you really have to pee right now...

OK - you've made your choice. Though it would have seemed rather bizarre just a couple weeks ago, the locals have assured you this is how "it's" done. And, really, it's kind of nice to turn in a lab sample and relieve - sorry - your other pressing need without making a mad, holding it in, crossed-legged dash to the hospital. Still, you wonder exactly how the Chinese will be able to diagnose a UTI from the cup of green tea you've been sipping...

Are the Chinese onto a revolutionary medical discovery? Well...

In a "Welcome to freedom of the press" exercise, a group of Chinese reporters set out to assess the integrity of China's ailing health care system. They submitted green tea to ten hospitals as urine samples. The hospitals were all located in Hangzhou, a prosperous city of several million residents.

The results?

It appears 6 of the 10 tea samples were suffering from the aforementioned UTI. The other 4 were in perfect health. Doctors at the hospitals, including 4 that were state owned, prescribed expensive medications to treat the mysterious green tea symptoms.

China's health care system is under tremendous financial pressure, even as the nation's economy soars. Failed reforms and rising heath care costs have left many citizens without basic care and have opened the door for unscrupulous providers to prey upon the sick. Reuters quotes a Chinese newspaper commentary that reflects the widely held belief the health care system is corrupt, "Patients have become automatic teller machines for the hospitals."

Well, the results are back. Looks like you were right - the lab confirms you have a UTI. You just have time to hit the pharmacy and pick up your prescription, but... This can't be right. While your Chinese isn't the greatest, you could swear the prescription reads, "Drink two cups of Green Pee and call me in the morning."


To read more about the tea-for-urine scandal, see this from Reuters.