Tag: Health

Is There A Healthier Ways To Eat Dessert?

Sticking with a healthy eating plan is hard work. There is no way around that, but for many it means giving up the foods that they love the most.

But, you don’t have to do that! If you are limiting yourself so much that healthy eating becomes more of a hindrance than a help, then your good habits won’t last long.

So what does this mean? You can still eat dessert– and enjoy it! Learn some smart substitutions to make your dessert a healthy part of your day.

The key to including dessert is to enjoy that sweet treat without overloading on calories, fat, and sugar.

Desserts can often make it hard to maintain a healthy weight. But who wants to give up their favorite foods? Willpower is hard to fight against.

As with many things in life, moderation is key, so you’ll need to stop yourself before you overindulge. Try sensible portions; you can eat 1 slice of pie and still be in your calorie range for the day.

Not every chocolate cake or banana nut muffin is created equal. Look for things without a lot of butter, nuts, or creamy frosting.

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No, there Hasn’t Been A Human ‘Head Transplant’, And There May Never Be

Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is in the news again, claiming to have performed the first successful human head transplant. But even cursory analysis reveals that he hasn’t.

And scientific logic suggests he never will.

In February 2015, Sergio Canavero appeared in this very publication claiming a live human head will be successfully transplanted onto a donor human body within two years.

He’s popped up in the media a lot since then, but two years and nine months later, how are things looking?

Well, he’s only gone and done it! As we can see in this Telegraph story from today, the world’s first human head transplant has been successfully carried out.

Guess all those more timid neurobods who said it couldn’t be done are feeling pretty foolish right now, eh?

Well, not quite. Because if you look past the triumphant and shocking headlines, the truth of the matter becomes very clear, very quickly.

These “successful” procedures are anything but

Many of Canavero’s previous appearances in the media have been accompanied by claims of successful head transplant procedures.

But, how are we defining “successful” here? Canavero’s definition seems to be extremely “generous” at best.

For instance, he recently claimed to have “successfully” performed a head transplant on a monkey. But did he?

While the monkey head did apparently survive the procedure, it never regained consciousness, it was only kept alive for 20 hours for “ethical reasons” and there was no attempt made at connecting the spinal cord.

So even if the monkey had survived long-term it would have been paralysed for life. So, it was a successful procedure.

If you consider paralysis, lack of consciousness and a lifespan of less than a day as indicators of “success”.

There was also his “successful” rat head transplant, which involved grafting a severed rat head onto a different rat, a living one that still had its head.

Exactly how this counts as a “transplant” is anyone’s guess. It’s adding a (functionally useless) appendage onto an otherwise healthy subject.

And this recent successful human head transplant? It was on corpses!

Call me a perfectionist if you must, but I genuinely think that any surgical procedure where the patients or subjects die before it even starts is really stretching the definition of “success” to breaking point.

Maybe the procedure did make a good show of “attaching” the nerves and blood vessels on the broad scale, but, so what?

That’s just the start of what’s required for a working bodily system. There’s still a way to go.

You can weld two halves of different cars together and call it a success if you like, but if the moment you turn the key in the ignition the whole thing explodes, most would be hard pressed to back you up on your brilliance.

Perhaps the techniques used to preserve the heads and attach them have some scientific value, but it’s still a far cry from the idea of someone wandering around with a fully functional body that isn’t the one they were born with.

Canavero seems to have a habit of claiming barnstorming triumph based on negligible achievements, or even after making things much worse. He seems to be the neurosurgical equivalent of the UK Brexit negotiating team.

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Could This Trick Make You Like Your Vegetables More?

Could we learn to like our vegetables more!? It’s a question that many of us may have wondered, as we struggle to get through a plate of broccoli.

Now, an experiment done with a group of UK school children thinks it might have the answer!

The study wanted to see if it was possible to train ourselves to like a food that we didn’t like before.

To find out, a group of young scientists aged 9 to 11 were split down into two groups.

Half of them were asked to eat a piece of the green vegetable kale every day for 15 days, while the other half ate raisins – and there were some very interesting results!

Most of the kids who ate kale every day found that they did like it more by the end of the experiment.

So, by making yourself eat something you may not really like over a period of time, you could learn to not hate it as much!

However, there were still some in the kale group who really didn’t like it – even after the 15 days was up.

It was discovered this was because they had more fungiform papillae on their tongue, which contain our taste buds.

The more fungiform papillae a person has, the more strongly they will taste flavours – especially bitter ones – so these children are known as ‘supertasters‘.

About one in four people could be ‘supertasters‘, which makes them more sensitive to strong foods, like lemons, spices and bitter vegetables, like Brussels sprouts

Therefore, these people may need to eat kale for slightly longer before they learn to love it.

Jackie Blissett, professor in health behaviour and change at Coventry University, said: “It’s been wonderful to work with these young scientists, and they’ve helped shed some light on one of the great mysteries: why some of us might not like our Brussels sprouts!

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Why Are We Still Using Electroconvulsive Therapy?

The idea of treating a psychiatric illness by passing a jolt of electricity through the brain was one of the most controversial in 20th Century medicine.

So why are we still using a procedure described by its critics as barbaric and ineffective?

Sixty-four-year-old John Wattie says his breakdown in the late 1990s was triggered by the collapse of his marriage and stress at work.

We had a nice house and a nice lifestyle, but it was all just crumbling away. My depression was starting to overwhelm me. I lost control, I became violent,” he explains.

John likens the feeling to being in a hole, a hole he could not get out of despite courses of pills and talking therapies.

But now, he says, all of that has changed thanks to what is one of the least understood treatments in psychiatry – electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

“Before ECT I was the walking dead. I had no interest in life, I just wanted to disappear. After ECT I felt like there was a way out of it. I felt dramatically better.

The use of electricity to treat mental illness started out as an experiment. In the 1930s psychiatrists noticed some heavily distressed patients would suddenly improve after an epileptic fit.

Passing a strong electric current through the brain could trigger a similar seizure and – they hoped – a similar response.

By the 1960s it was being widely used to treat a variety of conditions, notably severe depression.

But as the old mental asylums closed down and aggressive physical interventions like lobotomies fell out of favour, so too did electroshock treatment, as ECT was previously known.

The infamous ECT scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest cemented the idea in the public’s mind of a brutal treatment, although by the time the film was released in 1975 it was very rarely given without a general anaesthetic.

Perhaps more significantly, new anti-depressant drugs introduced in the 1970-80s gave doctors new ways to treat long-term mental illness.

But for a group of the most severely depressed patients, ECT has remained one of the last options on the table when other therapies have failed.

Annually in the UK around 4,000 patients, of which John is one, still undergo ECT.

It’s not intuitive that causing seizures can be good for depression but it’s long been determined that ECT is effective,” says Professor Ian Reid at the University of Aberdeen, who heads up the team treating John.

In the 75 years since ECT was first used scientists have argued about why and how it might work. The latest theories build on the idea of hyperconnectivity.

This new concept in psychiatry suggests parts of the brain can start to transmit signals in a dysfunctional way, overloading the system and leading to conditions from depression to autism.

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How To Test For Lead In Your Home Water Supply

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, may have you asking, “Does my home’s water contain lead?”

It’s possible. The Environmental Protection Agency says between 10% and 20% of our exposure to lead comes from contaminated water.

It’s even worse for the youngest and most vulnerable: Babies can get between 40% and 60% of their exposure to lead by drinking formula mixed with contaminated water.

Lead “bio-accumulates” in the body, which means it stays and builds up over time, so ongoing exposure, even at extremely low levels, can become toxic.

While the EPA says you can’t absorb lead through the skin while showering or bathing with lead-contaminated water, you certainly don’t want to drink it, cook with it, make baby formula with it or use it to brush your teeth.

Just like in Flint, lead can enter your home when lead plumbing materials, which can include faucets, pipes, fittings and the solder that holds them all together, become corroded and begin to release lead into the water.

Corrosion is most likely to happen when water has a high acid or low mineral content and sits inside pipes for several hours, says the EPA.

While homes built before 1986 are the most likely to have lead plumbing, it can be found in newer homes as well. Until two years ago, the legal limit for “lead-free” pipes was up to 8% lead.

As of January 1, 2014, all newly installed water faucets, fixtures, pipes and fittings must meet new lead-free requirements, which reduces the amount of lead allowed to 0.25%.

But that doesn’t apply to existing fixtures, such as what is found in many older homes and public water suppliers.

Here’s a guide to assessing whether you’re at risk.

Start by calling your municipal water supplier. (If your water comes from a private well, look for information from www.epa.gov/privatewells.)

Ask for a copy of their Consumer Confidence Report, which lists levels of contaminants found during tests, which federal law requires be run on a regular basis.

Many public suppliers put yearly reports online, so you can also find it yourself by typing your ZIP code into the EPA’s web site at www.epa.gov/ccr.

You’ll want to see lead levels below the EPA’s action level of 15 parts per billion. If you discover a lead reading at or above that level on the report, take action.

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This Dying Boy Gets A New, Gene-Corrected Skin

At the age of 7, Hassan had already seen more than his fair share of hardship. A week after he was born in Syria, a blister appeared on his back.

The doctors there diagnosed him with a genetic disorder called epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, which leaves one’s skin extremely fragile and prone to tearing.

There was no cure, they said. When Hassan’s family fled Bashar al-Assad’s regime and moved to Germany as refugees, the doctors there said the same thing. Meanwhile, the blisters were getting bigger.

In June 2015, Hassan was admitted to the burn unit of a children’s hospital in Bochum, Germany. By that time, around 60 percent of his epidermis—the top layer of his skin—was gone.

His back, flanks, and limbs had become a continuous landscape of open wounds, red and raw. Much of it was badly infected. The pain was excruciating.

Why do I have to live this life?” he asked his father.

Five weeks later, Hassan’s doctors had run out of options, and were planning to start end-of-life care.

But after his father asked about experimental treatments, they contacted Michele de Luca, a stem-cell biologist at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

Over the past decades, de Luca had been working on a way of giving EB patients fresh skin.

He would collect stem cells from their body, edit the faulty genes that were causing their condition, use the corrected cells to grow healthy epidermis, and graft these new layers back onto the patients.

He and his colleague Graziella Pellegrini had tried this once before in 2006, but on a smaller scale. Back then, they successfully treated a 49-year-old woman with a large EB-induced wound on her right leg.

Hassan’s condition was much worse—and he was just a child. Still, there was nothing else to try.

In August, De Luca and Pelligrini got the green light to try their technique. In September, they collected a square inch of skin from Hassan’s groin—one of the few parts of his body with intact skin.

They isolated stem cells, genetically modified them, and created their gene-corrected skin grafts. In October and November, they transplanted these onto Hassan, replacing around 80 percent of his old skin.

It worked. In February 2016, Hassan was discharged from the hospital. In March, he was back in school. He needs no ointments. His skin is strong.

It doesn’t even itch. “He hasn’t developed a single blister,” says de Luca, who shared the details of Hassan’s story with me. “He’s gaining weight. He’s playing sports. He’s got a normal social life.

EB has been called “the worst disease you’ve never heard of.” In the United States, it affects around one in every 20,000 people, and the many types and subtypes are caused by mutations in at least 18 possible genes.

But all of these mutations have one thing in common: They impair the molecules that strengthen skin, making it extremely fragile.

For some people, the symptoms are mild, while others are afflicted with massive wounds and blisters. When it comes to junctional EB one of the most severe types, and the one Hassan had around 40 percent of people die before adolescence.

Hassan’s treatment is “a sea change to the world of EB,” says Brett Kopelan, the executive director of the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America.

So far, both teams haven’t seen any negative side effects in their patients—a real concern, when it comes to gene therapy.

Hassan’s EB was caused by a faulty version of a gene called LAMB3, and de Luca’s team used a virus to insert the normal version of the gene into the DNA of the boy’s stem cells. But if the virus inserts the gene into the wrong place, it could cause new mutations that might ultimately lead to cancer.

Fortunately, when de Luca’s team sequenced DNA from Hassan’s new skin, they found that the normal LAMB3 gene had landed in safe zones.

There were no signs of any potentially cancerous changes in either Hassan’s new skin cells or those from de Luca’s earlier 2006 patient.

De Luca’s team is now running two separate clinical trials to test their gene-corrected skin grafts on around two-dozen children with EB.

His ultimate goal is to develop an effective and standardized procedure that could be carried out during early childhood, to prevent the painful blisters before they happen, rather than restoring lost skin after the fact.

“It will take years to get there but it’s clearly doable,” he says. “Maybe this will be the last thing I’ll do in my career.

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A New Study Suggests Gaming Addiction Isn’t A Real Disorder

There are those that take their gaming time too far, to the extent that it negatively impacts their lives, their careers, and their relationships with friends and family.

But according to a new study from Cardiff University, gaming addiction might not be a real condition – at least, not as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes it.

There are currently nine criteria for “internet gaming disorder,” an area of interest for the American Psychiatric Association that has not yet properly been classified as a mental disorder.

The study reports that almost nobody fits the five of nine criteria necessary for diagnosis.

Of more than 2,000 regular online game players surveyed, only nine met the criteria for the disorder. When the participants were questioned again six months later, none still met the requirements for diagnosis.

The study suggests that rather than game addiction itself being a problem, those who struggle with too much game time are instead filling a hole caused by sources of unhappiness in other areas of their life.

Symptoms of gaming disorder had been reduced in participants who had found greater satisfaction in other areas of their life.

It seems none of this is to say that spending too much time in-game, but rather that gaming addiction serves as a symptom of more general unhappiness.

Nonetheless, psychological organizations and game developers alike have taken steps to mitigate gaming’s role in those problems.

The British National Health Service began treating game addiction in 2015 alongside porn and online shopping habits, Valve even began adding healthy gaming timers in Dota 2 last year.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Possible Side Effects of the Bread & Water Diet

Many weight loss plans like carbohydrate cycling, ketogenic diets, liquid diets can be complicated, so a diet of bread and water alone may seem attractive due to its simplicity.

While such a diet may produce weight loss due to a low calorie content, there are many potential side effects, as a bread and water diet would not provide balanced nutrition.

Consult a doctor and apply your own common sense before you start any diet plan. Here are some side effects of bread and water diet:

  1. Reduced Testosterone Levels
    The foods you eat not only have an effect on your weight, but the functioning of your body’s internal systems, including your endocrine system, which controls hormone production.Bread contains very little fat and tends to be rich in fiber, so a diet comprised entirely of bread and water could have negative effects on your hormone levels.According to research published in the December 1996 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition“, consuming a diet rich in fiber and low in fat can decrease levels of testosterone. This hormone helps produce muscle and can aid in fat loss.
  2. Impaired Wound Healing
    Although bread does provide some important nutrients, it is typically devoid of vitamin C. This nutrient acts as an antioxidant and is crucial for healthy growth and development.Additionally, vitamin C plays a vital role in the wound healing process, so a bread and water diet may compromise your body’s ability to heal injuries.
  3. Eye Damage
    Consuming a diet consisting of just water and bread can also impair your vision. This is because neither water nor bread provide vitamin A.This vitamin is important for a wide array of functions, including maintaining the lining of your eyes that keeps out harmful bacteria.You may also experience night blindness, as a lack of vitamin A can dry out your eyes and cause damage to your cornea and retina.
  4. Increased Risk of Infection
    Consuming just bread and water may make you more susceptible to infections. This is because both vitamins A and C, vitamins not provided by bread — are involved in maintaining the integrity of your immune system.Even relatively innocuous infections may become serious health problems due to your compromised ability to fight off infections.
  5. Weak Bones
    Eating a diet of just bread and water can be detrimental for your skeletal system. This is because vitamin C helps produce collagen, which forms part of your bone structure.Additionally, bread contains no vitamin D, and low levels of this vitamin may lead to osteoporosis.
  6. Poor Skin and Hair Health
    Neither bread nor water are rich in dietary fat. While dietary fat is sometimes avoided on diets because it is high in calories, doing so can be detrimental.Your body needs fat to maintain your skin and hair health, so a diet low in fat can be detrimental for both.

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How To Easily Remove Pesticides From Your Fruits And Vegetables

Did you know that 65% of produce samples analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture test positive for pesticide residues?

Unless you’re buying certified organic food, the chances are that you’re consuming a significant amount of chemicals with every portion of your ‘healthy’ greens.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is trying to inform the public about the level of exposure to often toxic chemicals commonly found in our fresh produce.

They publish an annual list of most and least contaminated fruits and vegetables, the so called ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists. You can find this list for 2015 in my previous article.

Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes are all on the EWG’s Dirty list.

You should be careful when consuming these produce, as they contain a number of different pesticide residues and have high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.

For example, every sample of imported nectarines and 99% of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.

The cleanest fruits and veggies, which are least likely to hold pesticides, include avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Avocados are the cleanest, with only 1% showing any detectable pesticides (you can find here more healthy reasons to eat avocado).

How to make fruits and veggies safer for consumption?

here is a simple and cheap trick that can help you get rid of those nasty chemicals. You can simply wash your fresh produce in distilled white vinegar and water solution.

Gayle Povis Alleman, a registered dietician, suggests soaking your veggies and fruits in a solution of 10% vinegar to 90% water.

Make the mixture, and let the produce sit in for 15 to 20 minutes. When you remove them, you’ll notice that the water left in the bowl is dirty and may contain some gunk.

Rinse fruits and vegetables in fresh water, and then enjoy your cleaner product.

This method shouldn’t be used on fragile fruits, such as berries, as they have a very porous skin and might get damaged and soak in too much of the vinegar.

With other fruits, there should be no lingering vinegar aroma. If you wish, you can also use lemon juice.

According to the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), it also helps to wash your fruits and vegetables with 2% of salt water.

This should remove most of the contact pesticide residues that normally appear on the surface.

Generally speaking, you should be thorough when washing fruits and veggies, as chemicals can linger in crevices that are hard to wash.

CSE claims that if done diligently, washing with cold water should be able to remove 70% to 80% of all pesticides.

It is important to invest some time in preparing your food, as you don’t want to end up consuming a portion of toxins with your snack.

American Academy of Pediatrics issued an important report in 2012 that said that children have unique susceptibilities to pesticide residues’ potential toxicity.

By washing your food carefully, you protect the health of your whole family.

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Researchers Get Better At Tweaking The Genomes Of Human Embryos

It is risky to predict who and what will win a Nobel prize. But some discoveries are so big that their receipt of science’s glitziest gong seems only a matter of time.

One such is CRISPR-Cas9, a powerful gene-editing technique that is making the fraught and fiddly business of altering the genetic material of living organisms much easier.

Biologists have taken to CRISPR-Cas9 with gusto, first with animal experiments and now with tests on humans.

In March researchers in China made history when they reported its first successful application to a disease-causing genetic mutation in human embryos.

But their results were mixed. Although they achieved 100% success in correcting the faulty gene behind a type of anaemia called favism, they tested the technique in only two affected embryos.

Of four others, carrying a mutation that causes thalassaemia, another anaemia, only one was successfully edited.

Now, in a study just published in Nature, a group of researchers from America, China and South Korea have pulled off a similar trick, with striking consistency, among many more embryos, while avoiding or minimising several of the pitfalls of previous experiments.

Their work suggests that, with a bit of tweaking and plenty of elbow grease, CRISPR-Cas9 stands a good chance of graduating, sooner or later, from the laboratory to the clinic.

The researchers involved, Hong Ma of Oregon Health & Science University and her colleagues, obtained sperm donated by a man who carries a mutated version of a gene called MYBPC3 that causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a condition in which the walls of the heart grow too thick.

As with the genes that cause thalassaemia and favism, inheriting even a single copy of the malformed version of this gene is enough to cause HCM.

These sperm, half of which would have been carrying the mutated version of MYBPC3, were then used to fertilise eggs containing a normal copy of the gene.

The resulting embryos thus had a 50:50 chance of containing a defective copy. In the absence of editing, and had they been allowed to develop, those with a faulty version would have grown into adults likely to suffer from the disease.

CRISPR-Cas9 editing has been developed from a bacterial defence system that shreds the DNA of invading viruses. CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”.

These are short strings of RNA, a molecule similar to DNA, each designed to fix onto a particular segment of a virus’s DNA. Cas9 is an enzyme which, guided by CRISPRs, cuts the DNA at the specified point.

The hope was that, by being given such templates, embryos could be purged of nascent genetic disease.

That hope appeared fulfilled, at least in part. By the end of the experiment, 72% of the embryos were free of mutant versions of MYBPC3, an improvement on the 50% that would have escaped HCM had no editing taken place.

In achieving this, Dr Ma and her colleagues overcame two problems often encountered by practitioners of CRISPR-Cas9 editing.

One is that the guidance system may go awry, with the CRISPR molecules leading the enzyme to parts of the genome that are similar, but not quite identical, to the intended target.

Happily, they found no evidence of such off-target editing. A second problem is that, even if the edits happen in the right places, they might not reach every cell.

Many previous experiments, including some on embryos, have led to mosaicism, a condition in which the result of the editing process is an individual composed of a mixture of modified and unmodified cells.

If the aim of an edit is to fix a genetic disease, such mosaicism risks nullifying the effect.

Dr Ma and her colleagues conjectured that inserting the CRISPR-Cas9 molecules into the egg simultaneously with the sperm might help.

That way the process is given as much time as possible to complete its work before the fertilised egg undergoes its first round of cell division.

Sure enough, after three days, all but one of the 42 embryos in which the technique had worked showed the same modifications in every one of its cells.

So far, so good. But a third problem that has bedevilled experiments with CRISPR-Cas9 concerns the quality of the repair. There are at least two ways for cells to repair DNA damage.

One of them simply stitches the severed strands of DNA back together, deleting or adding genetic letters at random as it does so. Because it introduces mutations of its own, this process is not suitable for correcting DNA defects for medical purposes.

Fortunately, the other mechanism patches the break with guidance from a template, and thus without introducing any additional mistakes.

But cells seem to prefer the slapdash approach. In previous CRISPR-Cas9 research, the more precise method was involved only 2% to 25% of the time.

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