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fight germs with germs

Reuters reports on a Swedish study showing that the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum works as well as the antiseptic chlorhexidine for protecting patients from infections.

Running is good, not bad, for your joints

ABC News reports that runners followed over a 20 year period had fewer disabilities than non-runners, a longer activite span of life, and a greatly reduced risk of early death compared to sedentary people.

Here's the study in PubMed. Also worth a look are these results showing that runners did not have increased osteoarthritis of the knee.

the latest on Bisphenol-A

Back in February 2006, I posted about the dangers of the ubiquitous chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone that is the building block of polycarbonate.

More attention has been focused on BPA of late. Time reports on the latest data and the latest regulatory action:

Why the renewed uproar over plastic? Since the FDA completed its original analysis in August, additional data on the potential health effects of BPA have emerged, linking high levels of BPA exposure to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes and even a decreased sensitivity to chemotherapy in cancer patients. The compound is also linked to developmental and brain effects in infants; BPA is known to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body, which can cause changes in developing fetuses and infants. "There is enough evidence today for the FDA to take the precaution and to certainly get BPA out of infant products," says Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union. "Even more, consumers should not be ingesting this substance while the science is being figured out."

on the placebo effect

Some discussion over on Slashdot about the placebo effect. Following are some of my posts on the topic.

If I could explain the placebo effect I'd be a millionaire.

The problem is that there are several different things that get lumped under the label "placebo effect":

  • Patient experiences no difference in their perception of symptoms, but feels compelled by social pressure to report an improvement. I.e., "It still hurts as much as ever, but I don't want to disappoint Dr. Smith, so I'll say it's better."
  • Patient has no difference in symptoms, but perceives them differently. The pain signal arriving at the brain is unchanged, but comes to be processed differently.
  • Patient believes in ability of the healer or treatment, gains confidence that they will recover, stress responses are reduced, and the immune and parasympathetic responses are improved.
  • Patient gains feelings of acceptance into their tribe/social group as a result of being tended to by the healer. Stress responses are reduced, and their relationship to their community is transformed; a new psychological perspective may be adopted that changes their "will to live" and perception of their "quality of life". Humans are social animals, and I think the social aspects of healing have been tremendously underexamined.
  • Patient comes to feel empowered over their own health because they are able to take simple actions, and so are eventually led to make lifestyle changes that lead to improvements.
  • Patient benefits from non-specific aspects of treatment. For example, after placebo surgery, skilled nursing during recovery may well have benefits. (I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that every double-blind placebo-controlled study of a surgical technique, has found the surgery to be no better than a placebo cut. Yet many "skeptics" who demand rigorous double-blind studies of "alternative" treatments will go under the knife without a second thought.)

Powered exoskeleton helps man walk


Sci-fi made real: a man who's been paralyzed for 20 years, walking thanks to a robotic exoskeleton. "The device, called ReWalk, is the brainchild of engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Argo Medical Technologies, a small Israeli high-tech company. Something of a mix between the exoskeleton of a crustacean and the suit worn by Robocop, ReWalk helps paraplegics - people paralysed below the waist - to stand, walk and climb stairs."

SSRI antidepressants no better than placebo for most; the myth of mental illness?

A recently published meta-analysis of studies of SSRI antidepressants - including unpublished trials - shows that they are no better than placebos for all but the most severely depressed people; and furthermore, that severely depressed people exhibited a decreased placebo response rather than a increased responsiveness to the drugs. (SSRIs, “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” are the class of drugs that include Prozac (fluoxetine),
Effexor (venlafaxine), Serzone (nefazodone), and Seroxat (paroxetine).)

This prompted a discussion over on Slashdot, where I posted as follows:

Weston A. Price Foundation: shills and quacks

I've been seeing flyers around lately for a upcoming lecture in D.C. by Weston A. Price Foundation president Sally Fallon. Today I got spam from them about it, which prompts me to post a bit about these shills and quacks.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is one of the primary groups responsible for spreading some of the FUD that you may have heard about soy products. Their interest (both philosophical and financial) is in promoting dairy consumption, specifically raw milk. They make claims about supporting "traditional diets", which would be fine - except that the use of dairy products is fairly new in the 200,000 years history of the human species, dating only to the neolithic revolution of about 10,000 years ago; and of course dairy consumption was just about unknown in many areas of the world where lactose intolerance is common. In fact, Price himself wasn't such an advocate of dairy.

"Introduction to Zen Meditation" workshop, December 16

Hello friends. Just wanted to remind you about this upcoming event. Please feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested.

Introduction to Zen Meditation

Sunday Dec 16, 2:00 - 4:00 PM
The Well, 3711 Old Columbia Pike, 21043
(410) 418-8944

love and qi

Here's an idea: in "energy work", we sometimes talk about how the energy (qi, whatever) flows through but does not come from the practitioner. The practitioner acts as a focus, a lens, a mirror even perhaps, but not a source.

Now, what if we apply this idea to love? What I do not give love, but merely act as a lens, a mirror, redirecting the love I receive?

Then to love, I must let love in, fully accept it, believe myself worthy of it; for if I block the incident love, there is no refracted or focused or reflected love going out.

why Americans are fat, part XXXVIII

Stumbled across this on the web today. Discussion over at Slashdot about the role of high-fructose corn syrup in obesity; someone mentioned that with all the sugar in hamburger buns, "you might as well be eating your hamburger in the middle of a donut sliced in half." Chuckle chuckle.

Then someone pointed out this, from the Sauget, Illinois "Gateway Grizzlies" minor-league baseball team:

The burger, which was debuted at the Grizzlies' December 10th sale, consists of a thick and juicy burger topped with sharp cheddar cheese and two slices of bacon. The burger is then placed in between each side of a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnut.

(It might be noteworthy that Sauget was founded as a Monsanto company town, and thus has a long history of poisoning people.)


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