Things tagged health:
Explorer, the world’s first medical imaging scanner that can capture a 3D picture of the whole human body at once, has produced its first scans.
Movie tracing the delivery and distribution of a radiolabeled sugar (fluorodeoxyglucose) following injection into a leg vein. In the first few seconds following injection it travels to the heart from where it is distributed through the arteries to all the organs of the body. At around 3 minutes, some of the substance is excreted from the kidneys into the bladder. Gradual accumulation of the glucose can be seen in the heart, brain and liver over time. The EXPLORER scanner will allow the delivery, metabolism and excretion of many substances and drugs to be followed in the entire human body in a similar manner.
Two dozen of the leading lights of placebo science spent a preconference day agonizing over their reputation — as purveyors of sham medicine who prey on the desperate and, if they are lucky, fool people into feeling better — and strategizing about how to improve it. It’s an urgent subject for them, and only in part because, like all apostate professionals, they crave mainstream acceptance. More important, they are motivated by a conviction that the placebo is a powerful medical treatment that is ignored by doctors only at their patients’ expense.
And after a quarter-century of hard work, they have abundant evidence to prove it. Give people a sugar pill, they have shown, and those patients — especially if they have one of the chronic, stress-related conditions that register the strongest placebo effects and if the treatment is delivered by someone in whom they have confidence — will improve.
G M Weber et al. in the BMJ:
In this study, we build on previous research into the healthcare process model, but on a larger scale. Specifically, we systematically evaluate the ability of 272 laboratory tests to predict three year survival across the full patient populations seen over a year at two large hospitals. We treat laboratory test data in the EHR as having two distinct dimensions. One dimension is the value of the test result, which is a measure of the patient’s pathophysiology. The other is the timing of when the test was ordered, which is a marker of the underlying healthcare processes.
Boils down to doctors have a pretty good sense of who is in trouble, and change behaviors therefore. But that is not the point, the point is that when you are extracting info from big data, the noise may have signal, that you have to control for if you want to look deeper.
Julia Medew in The Age:
The two scientists relished life. They skied, went bushwalking and climbed mountains, often taking their three young daughters with them. Their cultural and intellectual pursuits were many - classical music, opera, literature, wine, arguments over dinner with their many friends. They donated 10 per cent of their annual income to political and environmental movements. Family events were spent thoroughly debating the topics of the day.
As their capacity declined, the conversation about ending their own lives became more serious and their rejection of what Peter called “religious do-gooders” became more fierce.
“It was also a way into their favourite topics; philosophy, ethics, politics, the law …,” says their youngest daughter, Kate. “The idea that their end-of-life decisions could be interfered with by people with the superstitions of medieval inquisitors astounded them, and alarmed them.”
Via Next Draft
Emily Anthes in The New Yorker:
Each bit of dust is a microhistory of your life,” Rob Dunn, a biologist at North Carolina State University, told me recently. For the past four years, Dunn and two of his colleagues—Noah Fierer, a microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Holly Menninger, the director of public science at N.C. State—have been deciphering these histories, investigating the microorganisms in our dust and how their lives are intertwined with our own.
Most of our microscopic roommates are unlikely to present a real threat; many species of bacteria, scientists now know, are crucial partners in maintaining our health. “We’re surrounded by microbes all the time, and that’s not a bad thing,” Fierer said. In the next phase of their research, he and Dunn hope to identify connections between a home’s microscopic inhabitants and the health of its human ones. And there are likely to be more findings lurking in the dust that the volunteers already collected. How does the use of antimicrobial cleaning products alter a home’s profile? Is there a link between our genomes and the species that occupy our homes? There’s far more data than the scientists can analyze themselves, so they have posted it all online; members of the public can download the complete data set and hunt for new correlations and patterns.
Gina Kolata in the NYT:
Only in the world of medicine would Dr. Vivian Lee’s question have seemed radical. She wanted to know: What do the goods and services provided by the hospital system where she is chief executive actually cost?
Most businesses know the cost of everything that goes into producing what they sell — essential information for setting prices. Medicine is different. Hospitals know what they are paid by insurers, but it bears little relationship to their costs.
No one on Dr. Lee’s staff at the University of Utah Health Care could say what a minute in an M.R.I. machine or an hour in the operating room actually costs. They chuckled when she asked.
Gina Kolata in the NYT:
As many as 60,000 American women each year are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — Stage 0, as it is commonly known — a possible precursor to what could be a deadly tumor. And almost every one of the women has either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, and often a double mastectomy, removing a healthy breast as well.
Yet it now appears that treatment may make no difference in their outcomes. Patients with this condition had close to the same likelihood of dying of breast cancer as women in the general population.
For a long time, sleep’s apparent uselessness amused even the scientists who studied it. The Harvard sleep researcher Robert Stickgold has recalled his former collaborator J. Allan Hobson joking that the only known function of sleep was to cure sleepiness. In a 2006 review of the explanations researchers had proposed for sleep, Marcos Frank, a neuroscientist then working at the University of Pennsylvania (he is now at WSU Spokane) concluded that the evidence for sleep’s putative effects on cognition was “weak or equivocal.”
But in the past decade, and even the past year, the mystery has seemed to be abating. In a series of conversations with sleep scientists this May, I was offered a glimpse of converging lines of inquiry that are shedding light on why such a significant part of our lives is spent lying inert, with our eyes closed, not doing anything that seems particularly meaningful or relevant to, well, anything.
Ian Sample at The Guardian:
A series of experiments has produced incredible results by giving young blood to old mice. Now the findings are being tested on humans.
Ariana Eunjung Cha in The WaPo:
Scientists seeking to better understand the alluring properties of hot foods have found evidence that we may be so drawn to them because they are good for us. While the research is still preliminary, it suggests spicy food may have all kinds of health benefits ranging from boosting metabolism and preventing gastric damage to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The newest study, published this week in The BMJ, finds a link between regular consumption of spicy foods and a lower risk of death.
Maia Szalavitz in Pacific Standard:
Hailed as the most compassionate way for the criminal justice system to deal with addicts, drug courts were designed to balance punishment with rehabilitation. But after 25 years, the verdict is in: Drug courts embolden judges to practice medicine without a license—and they put lives in danger.
Deena Shanker in Quartz:
For all the debate surrounding the latest recommendations from the committee that proposed federal dietary guidelines, the group’s endorsement of low-fat and fat-free milk over whole has garnered little attention. This suggests that while many of us scoff at the misguided anti-fat crusades of recent years (nuts to you, 1980s!) whole milk remains an unpopular outlier. And that’s just ridiculous.
Surprise! Dairy fat actually helps avoid obesity Though it would seem to follow that consuming less fat would lead to being less fat, that’s not quite what the science says, at least when it comes to dairy—even if whole milk is more caloric than skim.
Gabrielle Glaser in The Atlantic:
The 12 steps are so deeply ingrained in the United States that many people, including doctors and therapists, believe attending meetings, earning one’s sobriety chips, and never taking another sip of alcohol is the only way to get better. Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers use the 12 steps as the basis for treatment. But although few people seem to realize it, there are alternatives, including prescription drugs and therapies that aim to help patients learn to drink in moderation. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, these methods are based on modern science and have been proved, in randomized, controlled studies, to work.
Harriet Brown in Slate:
If you’re one of the 45 million Americans who plan to go on a diet this year, I’ve got one word of advice for you: Don’t. You’ll likely lose weight in the short term, but your chance of keeping if off for five years or more is about the same as your chance of surviving metastatic lung cancer: 5 percent. And when you do gain back the weight, everyone will blame you. Including you.
Brendan Kiley in The Stranger:
As Allan Clear, executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition in New York City, puts it, “If you want to engage with drug users and build their trust, you have to provide something meaningful to them. A stem or a pipe helps build that relationship… it makes it more likely that they’ll return for advice or medical care if you have provided them with something useful in your first interaction—something you didn’t have to give them.”
Renee Engeln in The New York Times:
Conversational shaming of the body has become practically a ritual of womanhood (though men also engage in it). In a survey that a colleague and I reported in 2011 in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, we found that more than 90 percent of college women reported engaging in fat talk — despite the fact that only 9 percent were actually overweight. In another survey, which we published in December in the Journal of Health Psychology, we canvassed thousands of women ranging in age from 16 to 70. Contrary to the stereotype of fat talk as a young woman’s practice, we found that fat talk was common across all ages and all body sizes.
Alice Gregory in The New Yorker
In 2011, a young woman named Stephanie Shih was working in New York City at DoSomething.org, a nonprofit that helps young people start volunteer campaigns. Shih was responsible for sending out text messages to teen-agers across the country, alerting them to various altruistic opportunities and encouraging them to become involved in their local communities: running food drives, organizing support groups, getting their cafeterias to recycle more. Silly, prankish responses were not uncommon, but neither were messages of enthusiasm and thanks. Then, in August, after six months on the job, Shih received a message that left her close to tears for the rest of the day. “He won’t stop raping me,” it said. “He told me not to tell anyone.” A few hours later, another message came: “R u there?”
Despite the linkbait headline, this is a decent article anyway:
Rowan Jacobsen in Outside:
Brown’s aha moment came in 2009, when the Worldwatch Institute published “Livestock and Climate Change,” which carefully assessed the full contribution to greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs) of the world’s cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs, and poultry. An earlier report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization had pegged that contribution at 18 percent, worse than cars and trucks. That’s shocking enough, but the Worldwatch study’s authors, two analysts from the World Bank, found that the FAO hadn’t taken into account the CO2 breathed out by our 22 billion livestock animals, the forests being felled to make room for pasture and feed crops, or the total impact of the 103 million tons of methane belched into the air by ruminants each year. When everything was tallied up, Worldwatch estimated, livestock were on the hook for 51 percent of GHGs.
That was all Brown needed to hear to put the plant-based McDonald’s back at the top of his agenda. Forget fuel cells. Forget Priuses. If he could topple Meatworld, he thought, he could stop climate change cold.
“Depression has long been seen as nothing but a problem,” says Paul Andrews, an assistant professor of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster. “We are asking whether it may actually be a natural adaptation that the brain uses to tackle certain problems. We are seeing more evidence that depression can be a necessary and beneficial adaptation to dealing with major, complex issues that defy easy understanding.”
Olga Khazan in The Alantic:
At a drab community center on Chicago’s West side, there’s a room where families sit around idly. Unemployment is high here, and so is crime: Last month, East Garfield Park was ranked the seventh most violent out of 77 Chicago neighborhoods. The center offers everything from domestic-violence help, to financial assistance, to warmth during the long winter.
It also offers salads, which visitors can purchase from a futuristic-looking vending machine. The salads are made from high-end ingredients like blueberries, kale, fennel, and pineapple. Each one comes out in a plastic mason jar, its elements all glistening in neat layers, the way fossils might look if the Earth had been created by meticulous vegans.
She finally gets there: “It’s not the money, it’s the time.” I’m sick of rich people wondering why poor people eat shit food. Duh.