Showing posts from September, 2013

Who Smokes the Most? The Mentally Ill, and You'll Be Surprised Why

Do you smoke? Many who do, do it to relax.  Experts believe most do it to self-medicate.  But those with mental illness smoke the most, and it's not for the reason doctors originally thought.

Who wouldn't want to do anything they could to feel better than someone struggling with depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia? Mentally ill people were long thought to smoke so much for that very reason.  But a new study has found that that's just not the case.

Instead, "research indicates that psychiatric disease makes the brain more susceptible to addiction," according to

Half of all cigarettes sold are to people with mental illness, statistics show, even though smoking rates have fallen below 25% in the general population.

"This is really a devastating problem for people with mental illness because of the broad health consequences of nicotine addiction," quotes R. Andrew Chambers, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at t…

Think You've Only Had One Glass of Wine? Think Again.

You're out at a party. The host asks if you'd like a glass of wine.  You say yes, and stop at that, secure in the knowledge you've only had one and are perfectly fine to drive home.  But did you know that you could be drinking two, maybe three, servings in that one glass?

According to a story at, people have a hard time guessing the volume of liquids they pour.

"Just how much one pours is influenced by a variety of environmental factors, researchers at Iowa State and Cornell universities discovered, and that could have serious consequences when it comes to over-consumption," the Web site reports.

In the study, participants were asked to pour what they considered a normal drink using different types of glasses in various settings. Participants poured around 12 percent more wine into a wide glass than a standard one. Even more shocking, the same was true when holding a glass while pouring, compared to placing the glass on a table.

“People have troub…

New Cure for Cancer: Marriage

Sounds a little too hokey to be true but a recent study of 700,000 people with the most deadly forms of cancer in the U.S. has found that "patients who were married were more likely to detect their disease early, receive potentially curable treatments and live longer," according to

Even more unbelievable -- researchers found that those who were married were 20% less likely to die than those who weren't -- almost more than the benefit chemotherapy provides, reports.

“It is pretty astonishing,” quotes Dr. Paul Nguyen, the study’s senior author. “There’s something about the social support that you get within a marriage that leads to better survival.”

Now before you think of rushing off to the altar just in case, study results "did not show that marriage directly causes better survival among cancer patients." The study simply examined associations between marital status and cancer outcomes.

It's probably not too hard to figure out why this…

Beware of Warnings in Drug Ads; They May Make You Buy It Anyway

You know all those side effects you hear rushing by you, "cancer may occur," "may make you lose feeling in your arms and legs," "call your doctor if your erection doesn't go away in four hours," when drugs are advertised on TV?

It's a funny thing but a new study has found that those very warnings may induce people to try the drugs. 

According to, "Drug commercials that warn consumers about serious side effects may actually encourage them to make a purchase after a period of time rather than scare them away," the journalPsychological Science has reported.

"We were struck by just how detailed, clear and scary many warnings had become with regard to potential negative side effects of products," medicalnewstoday. quotes Ziv Carmon of INSEAD Business School and study author. "It then occurred to us that such warnings might perversely boost rather than detract from the appeal of the risky product."

In one e…

This Is Your Brain Speaking: Stop Overeating

What would you do if it were possible to find the exact circuitry in your brain that caused you to overeat? Now scientists have done just that.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine have pinpointed the precise cellular connections responsible for triggering this behavior, according to

Sixty years ago they were able to electronically stimulate a part of the brain to make mice overeat, but this new study may lead us to insight about a cause for obesity that could lead to treatments for anorexia, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder – the most prevalent eating disorder in the United States. In other words,
help us find more ways to turn off the signal that tells us, when we see fudge cake, "Eat me, eat me!"

The researchers' work "drills down to the precise biological mechanisms that drive binge eating and will lead us away from stigmatizing explanations that invoke blame and a lack of willpower," newswise.c…

McDonald's Healthy? No way! Way.

Can it really be?  Is McDonald's really going to offer healthy food, not just salads that, when you add the dressing and croutons, have more fat and calories than Big Macs?

Looks like it might be true.  Both The New York Times and Daily Mail ran stories this week about the fast food giant's new menu that will in, three years, in some places, allow diners to swap french fries for salad, fruit or vegetables (real vegetables), something they've been doing in France (it figures) for some time, and other healthy choices.

The new menus are being rolled out in 20 of the company's markets, both here and abroad, that are responsible for 85% of their sales.  

The changes will take place in half  of McDonald's restaurants in three years, and the rest will roll out sometime. .  .later.  Oh, 2020.

The reason they're doing this?  There're a lot, but one of the main ones is you millennials, who prefer Chipotle and Panera (me, too).

What's in store?  Cups of corn and k…

Omega-3s Don't Help With Memory, After All

What else are they going to take away from us? Now studies are showing that omega-3 fatty acids may not benefit thinking skills, after all.

These are what's in fatty fish like salmon, and nuts.

“There has been a lot of interest in omega-3s as a way to prevent or delay cognitive decline, but unfortunately our study did not find a protective effect in older women. In addition, most randomized trials of omega-3 supplements have not found an effect,” quotes study author Eric Ammann, MS, of the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “However, we do not recommend that people change their diet based on these results.. . We know that fish and nuts can be healthy alternatives to red meat and full-fat dairy products, which are high in saturated fats.”

In the study of over 2,000 women aged 65 to 80, the researchers, using memory tests, found no difference between the women with high and low levels of omega-3s in the blood at the time of the tests. There was also no difference between …

Are You A Datasexual?

Hah!  Caught you!  OK. There's homosexual.  Meterosexual.  Now, datasexual?

It's not what you think.  It's obsessive self-trackers, according to Janet Fang at  You know them.  They're either posting their dinner photos, then checking compulsively to see who viewed them, or adding comments to someone else's post, and checking them every two minutes.

Fang, who references IIIEE Spectrum for the information, writes, they're constantly using social media "not just to enhance self-knowledge but also to embellish self-presentation, especially on social networks."

She notes that Big Think offered this description last year:
"They are relentlessly digital, they obsessively record everything about their personal lives, and they think that data is sexy. In fact, the bigger the data, the sexier it becomes. Their lives — from a data perspective, at least — are perfectly groomed." That's another thing.  I hate reading about all the tr…

Exercise or Sleep? You Need Both

Have you ever felt this way?  Oh, another 10 minutes of sleep would feel so good, in the morning, but you have to exercise before work.  Sleep?  Exercise?  Which one is better?

 “Exercise, sleep and nutrition form the triangle of health, and all are related,” The New York Times' Gretchen Reynolds quotes Dr. Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Reynolds notes that research from Zee's laboratory shows that at least seven hours of sleep results in better and more prolonged exercise sessions later that day, while "fewer hours of sleep frequently lead to reduced motivation to exercise."  But “exercise can improve the quality of sleep,” she told Reynolds, adding that “deep sleep is more restorative and effective for memory, performance and physical health.”

Reynolds reports that robbing yourself of exercise or sleep is counterproductive to good health, according to Kelly Glazer Baron, the di…

Doctors: Use Your Mind, But Shut It Off Sometimes With Patients

Mindfulness.   The concept has been kicked around for some time.  You know, closing your eyes (or not) and just letting thoughts come in and out of your mind without following them, just being there, in the moment.  It's kind of like meditation but that word scares a lot of people away, so mindfulness was coined.

You'd certainly want your doctor to do a little of this, before surgery, wouldn't you?  Well, now, Pauline Chen, herself a doctor, is writing at her New York Times blog that practicing it may just may help physicians avoid stress and burnout.

"Research over the last few years has revealed that unrelenting job pressures cause two-thirds of fully trained doctors to experience the emotional, mental and physical exhaustion characteristic of burnout," she reports. "Health care workers who are burned out are at higher risk for substance abuse, lying, cheating and even suicide. They tend to make more errors and lose their sense of empathy for others."

Anxiety Stinks (Really)

Scientists have long wondered where exactly smells come from, in the brain, and how they "exert their influence biologically on the emotional centers of the human brain, evoking passion or disgust, has been a black box."

But a new study has revealed how they've peeled back the brain to show how "anxiety or stress can rewire the brain, linking centers of emotion and olfactory processing, to make typically benign smells malodorous," according to

A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center has found that the brains of human subjects "experience anxiety induced by disturbing pictures and text of things like car crashes and war transform neutral odors to distasteful ones, fueling a feedback loop that could heighten distress and lead to clinical issues like anxiety and depression," newswise reports, and this may help scientists "understand the dynamic nature of smell perception and the biology of anxiety as the brain rewi…

Obesity = Cancer?

Did you know obesity can lead to cancer?  We've known that for a long time now but recent studies have found obesity "strongly linked with cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, pancreatic cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer," according to Fox News. One study estimates that if current trends continue, obesity will lead to approximately 500,000 additional cases of cancer by 2030.

Here's the deal.  One NYU Steinhardt researcher may have put her finger on an underlying biological mechanism responsible for the obesity-cancer link, Fox News reports. "In a large population-based study, nutritional epidemiologist Niyati Parekh found that disturbances in body insulin and glucose levels were associated with obesity-related cancers."

But there is some good news.  It's a finding that could lead to better treatments and management of cancer and heart disease and other diseases connected to obesity.

“I knew there were a lot of underlying nutritional factors …

We Get "F" for Food Choices, Experts Say

We get an "F."

That's what the government sgives our dietary habits, according to Jane Brody.  The Center for Public Science periodically compiles a report card on how we're doing and we, well, flunked.

Brody writes, "The analysis of changes in food consumption from 1970 to 2010 reveals that we still have a long way to go before we come close to meeting dietary guidelines for warding off obesity and chronic health problems like diabetesand heart disease."

Though there is some good news, she notes. "Our consumption of added sweeteners, though still significantly higher than it was in 1970, has come down from the 'sugar high' of 1999 when the average was 89 pounds per person." But an average of 78 pounds per person in 2010, mostly as sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, is still too much, the report points out. Brody says we get a B-plus for cutting back on fats and oils, the highest grade awarded,. But...."Yes, we’ve dramatically reduced co…

Does Anyone Ever Really Eat Up a Baby?

I just did it yesterday, this adorable little round-cheeked,  blue-eyed curly head poking up out of the blanket.  "I could just eat you up!"

How many times have we said that to a baby?  Well, it just might be in our genes.  Of course we're not going to eat a baby.  But what we mean is they'e so scrumptious and sweet, you want to do more than just hug or kiss them.  And that feeling makes us, well, feel great, too.

This reaction, which everyone has noticed or felt, could have biological underpinnings related to maternal functions, reports.

It may well, indeed, be in our brains. “The olfactory—thus non-verbal and non-visual—chemical signals for communication between mother and child are intense,” quotes Johannes Frasnelli, a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychology. “What we have shown for the first time is that the odor of newborns, which is part of these signals, activates the neurologica…

Can Prayer Replace Antibiotics?

Eric Nelson notes at the number of people who die every year from infections that antibiotics couldn't cure -- 23,000, a figure released by the CDC last week.

These people die each year from drug-resistant germs, what's called "antimicrobial resistance," a scary trend that's getting worse as bacteria continue to build up resistance to antibiotics.  As Nelson reports, "Common infections could become deadly, and diseases that were once curable will become more difficult and more expensive to treat."

Where is all this antimicrobial resistance coming from?  Agriculture, where farmers feed these drugs to chickens who are cooped up together to prevent them from getting sick and passing it on, or to plump them up, to doctors who prescribe it for aggressive parents who think antibiotics cure a cold (they don't; colds are viral), to the numbers of prescriptions being written for ear infections and the flu and other illnesses that tend t…

Number of People Killed by Medical Mistakes Quadruples

Are you sure you want to read this?  Previously it was thought that about 100,000 people a year died from medical mistakes. But the truth is, it's quadruple that.  A study in the current issueof the Journal of Patient Safety that says the numbers may be much higher — "between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says," according to

Here's something even more scary.  That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.

Though others balk at the numbers, believing it's really closer to 100,000, the study author based his estimates "on the findings of four recent studies that identified preventable harm suffered by patients –known as “adverse events” in the medical vernacular – using a tool which guides reviewers through medical records, sea…

Dog Food May Relieve Cancer Pain

My breast cancer surgeon had to quit because of it.  Others say the pain is worse than labor.  "It" is neuropathy, where painful nerve damage from chemo makes hands and feet become almost unusable (certainly for surgeons!), and it's what some cancer patients get after  chemotherapy.

But an amazing ingredient has been found to take the pain away.  An additive in dog food.

A study done at Johns Hopkins has found that "a chemical commonly used as a dog food preservative may prevent the kind of painful nerve damage found in the hands and feet of four out of five cancer patients taking the chemotherapy drug Taxol," according to

An antioxidant called ethoxyquin was shown in experiments to bind to certain cell proteins in a way that limits their exposure to the damaging effects of Taxol, the researchers say.

"The hope, they say, is to build on the protective effect of ethoxyquin’s chemistry and develop a drug that could be given to cancer patients b…

How Young is Too Young to Start Dieting?

I can't remember when I started trying to lose weight -- I think it was somewhere around 5th grade.  (Actress Ginnifer Goodwin, now 32, beat me -- she joined Weight Watchers at 9).  But now we're finding that there can be emotional consequences from being put on a diet too early in life.

According to Jen Weigel at the Chicago Tribune, the last thing people with children who are a little too pudgy should do is bug them about it.  She quotes a woman, who should know, whose mom was obsessed with her food intake, Karen Kataline, author of "Fatlash: Food Police & the Fear of Thin. "She had unresolved issues about weight and appearance and she wasn't happy with her own body."

Kataline says that her mother was obsessed with her weight from infancy.

Now mine didn't start quite that early, but almost since I can remember I, and a cousin, were teased about being overweight by our stringy, fast-metabolism siblings.

Children as young as six and eight hate their…