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Dyslexia update   Fraud  Saccharomyces boulardii  Blood pressure and drinking water   Olive oil cough   Alone but not lonely   Breakfast   Undiagnosed celiac   EHEC   Grief myths    The anti-fat lobby  Goat cheese     Epilspsy First Aid    Orthorexia   High Blood Pressure non-drug treatments   Nano dangers     Even the rich   Are we in danger from the internet?      

Dyslexia update
It has been a long time since I wrote anything about dyslexia and there have been some recent developments:
  1. An area that processes words as whole units has been found in the left visual cortex (the orthographic lexicon or the visual word form area). "Previous studies have shown that this brain area is affected in reading disorders such as dyslexia, but it is unclear what the mechanisms involved are. Our data suggest that looking at the neuronal selectivity in this area might provide new insight. For instance, we would expect reading difficulties if neurons never become well tuned to words, making reading a slow, arduous process, just like it would be if reading all nonwords."
  2. Developmental reading disabilities including Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder appear to share some genetic correlations. The main result of the common genetic influences is slower mental processing speeds.
  3. It may be possible to predict how much dyslexics will improve from brain scans. “But children with dyslexia who at baseline showed greater activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus during a specific task and whose white matter connected to this right frontal region was better organized showed greater reading improvement over the next two-and-a-half years.” There were indications that gains in reading for dyslexic children involved different neural pathways than gains for typical children.
  4. There are dyslexic children in Italian which is straightforward in the converting of sounds to letters. In this situation improvement is selective and based on knowledge of vocabulary – not that noticeable in English.
  5. There is a type of dyslexia where the letters are identified correctly but appear to jump between words. It is called attentional dyslexia. Here reading is improved when only one word at a time is visible.
  6. Differences have been found in connectivity in dyslexic compared to typical brains. “Evidence links dyslexia to structural differences in an important bundle of white matter in the left-hemisphere language network. White matter is made up of fibers that can be thought of as the wiring that allows communication between brain cells; the left-hemisphere language network is made up of bundles of these fibres and contains branches that extend from the back of the brain (including vision cells) to the front parts that are responsible for articulation and speech. When you are reading, you are essentially saying things out loud in your head. If you have decreased integrity of white matter in this area, the front and back part of your brain are not talking to one another. This would affect reading, because you need both to act as a cohesive unit. The course of an important white matter bundle in this network and discovered that it ran through a frontal brain region known to be less well organised in the dyslexic brain. They also found that fibers in that frontal part of the tract were oriented differently in dyslexia.”
  7. Music therapy does not work for dyslexia. It was tried because music training help with sound identification, including phonemes.
  8. There is a genetic variant which influences whether a person with dyslexia is more skilled with either the left or right hand. The finding identifies a novel gene for handedness and provides the first genetic evidence to support a much speculated link between handedness and a language-related disorder. “The scientists found a strong link between a variant of a gene called PCSK6 and relative hand skill in these children with reading difficulties. Specifically, while most people are better at using their right hand, those who carried the variant in PCSK6 were, on average, more skilled with their right hand compared to the left than those not carrying the variant. This result was also seen in two independent groups of children with reading difficulties. The protein product of the gene PCSK6 is known to interact with another protein called NODAL. Previous experiments have shown that NODAL plays a key role in establishing left-right asymmetry early in embryonic development. This suggests that genetic variants of PCSK6 may have an effect on the initial left-right patterning of the embryo that in turn influences the development of brain asymmetry, and thus handedness.”
The 1998 paper in the Lancet by Wakefield that implied a link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been found to be a fraud. The British Medical Journal' chief editor says, “the MMR scare was based not on bad science but on a deliberate elaborate fraud”. There is “clear evidence of falsification of data.” This was not sloppiness, not honest error, not bad luck; it was deliberate fraud. The BMJ also reports that Wakefield planned to make money from his fraud. He thought a diagnostic test (for an invented condition) would make him $112 million a year plus a newly invented replacement vaccine would make him $43 million a year. He has also been shown to have been unethical in his treatment of patients.
Award winning journalist, Deer, has investigated the scam behind the scare for 7 years and the BMJ reviewed the paper and confirmed extensive falsification. There is no doubt that it was Wakefield who, with great planning and skill drafted the paper so as to misreport results. His clinical and academic credentials are now gone.
But the terrible damage Wakefield has done to public health continues. Rates of vaccination fell due to his lies and have not yet returned to normal levels. It has effected all vaccines not just MMR. The frequency of measles and other diseases covered by vaccination have risen. Measles was almost eradicated by immunization but has returned. Outbreaks of whooping cough due to avoiding an unrelated shot have risen dramatically. Children have died needlessly. But it is not just death: mental retardation caused by measles, children left deaf by the mumps, blinded by rubella, pneumonia caused by Hib (Haemophilus influenzae bacterium), the crippling effects of polio and more.
Money was diverted from improving immunization and its delivery to simply trying counteract the anti-vaccine movement. It was also ironically diverted from research into probable causes of autism to research into the vaccine link hypothesis dead end.
But despite the proof of deliberate fraud and the real damage to public health, there are people who still believe in him. He will be responsible for illness and even some deaths for years to come. Does he apologize? No, he continues to spread lies. Perhaps he should be prosecuted; many stand trial for much less harm.

Saccharomyces boulardii
My doctor has given me a new med that I really like – live Saccharomyces boulardii. It is a cousin of baker's yeast, it does not colonize or form an infection, it can withstand gastric acid and many antibiotics, it does not change the normal flora in the gut or interfere with other 'probiotics'. I take it when I need it and not continuously and it works to give me a more healthy gut. It is used for diarrhea (chronic, infectious, traveler's, from antibiotics etc.), irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, Lyme disease, C difficile colitis. And there are of course stories of it working for other things outside the gut, but who knows about them. The effect on the gut has been tested in double-blind trails.
It was first isolated from lychee and mangosteen fruit in southeast Asia in 1923 when Henri Boulard saw natives chew the skin of these fruits to help control cholera. How does it act? S. boulardii secretes a particular protease enzyme that attacks toxin A and B of Clostridium difficile so that they are inhibited from binding to gut cells. S. boulardii has mannose on its surface and this binds E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium to it. Again this stops those pathogens from binding to the gut cells and so they are eliminated in bowel movements. S. boulardii has the ability to lower chloride secretion and to protect the gut from leaking at the tight junctions, both reduce the over-secretion of water into the gut. Polyamines produced by S. boulardii may stimulate healing in the gut during recovery from diarrhea. It has a number of documented anti-inflammatory effects. It is thought to help the gut absorb nutrients even when it is affected by diarrhea.
The only side effects are gas and constipation in some people. However, people who are allergic to yeast cannot use it at all.

Blood pressure and drinking water
My hypertension medicine includes a diuretic and this has always seemed a little odd to me – it is like high blood pressure is due to too much liquid in my body, and that sounds slightly childishly simple. But I know it works because I was first prescribed medication without diuretic and it didn't work.
The osmolality of the blood is measured by neurons around the body, part of the nervous system that is separate from the central nervous system. One of the corrections that is made to counteract the watering down of the blood is to increase blood pressure.
This relationship is not that noticeable in younger, healthier people but when we are old or sick we have to think about how much and how fast we drink liquids. A large drink of water will stimulate the metabolism of a healthy young person but will raise the blood pressure of an older person.
The opposite is true. If someone has low blood pressure so that they often feel faint when they stand up, a big drink of water can help get rid of the faintness. Who-da-guessed that the movie scene with someone running for a glass of water for the lady who has fainted, actually has some sense to it.

Olive oil cough
How do you judge quality olive oil? Well, good olive oil can be felt in the back of the throat and connoisseurs appreciate the little cough that follows the slight sting. This is not quite unique as liquid ibuprofen gives the same feeling. In the case of olive oil the irritation is due to oleocanthal, a anti-inflammatory chemical found in good extra virgin olive oil. Ibuprofen is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory. Although they are chemically unrelated, they both inhibit COX enzymes which gives them their anti-inflammatory effect. Both activate a chemical receptor in the back of the throat (TRPA1) and it is that which causes the cough. TRPA1 also reacts to irritating toxins in the air and triggers the cough to protect the lungs. The little cough may be useful in identifying other anto-inflammatory chemicals in food and drugs.
It is interesting that people have come to value the pungency of extra-virgin olive oil.

Alone but not lonely
It is well established that loneliness is bad for one's health. Chronically lonely people show harmful changes to their cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems, have shorter life expectancy, and increased risk of many diseases. Loneliness is as risky as smoking and more risky than physical inactivity or obesity.
The loneliness is subjective and its harm depends on the amount of stress (cortisol and epinephrine) and inflammation that it produces. Being susceptible to the dangers of loneliness is partly inherited. Whether we are prone to loneliness or not, we are social animals that, by and large, are better off with mates, friends and collaborators available when we need company.
But many of us also need our solitude. We are not socially anxious, or bored or alienated - we just find that being alone is pleasant and efficient. Not too much but regular solitude. Some things are better alone: certain types of creativity, forming memories, changing moods. Being alone allows a feeling of relaxation, control and freedom. We can interact with others with more enthusiasm and positive attitudes if we get the amount of 'aloneness' we naturally need. The line between healthy aloneness and unhealthy loneliness is a personal thing for all of us. I am one who needs my solitude and only rarely feels lonely; but I think my mother was often lonely as opposed to enjoying solitude.

I have been told by many people and publications that if I want to loss weight, I must eat a good breakfast. And I have been suspicious of the advice although I often followed it. There I would be, eating breakfast although I was not a bit hungry that time of day and knowing that in a couple of hours I would be ravenous and it would be some time until lunch. Also knowing that if I missed breakfast, I would not be hungry until I smelled lunch.
Here is the latest word on breakfast:
“Dr Volker Schusdziarra, from the Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine, conducted a study on over 300 people who were asked to keep a journal of what they usually ate. Within the group sometimes people ate a big breakfast, sometimes small, and sometimes skipped it all together.
Schusdziarra said that "the results of the study showed that people ate the same at lunch and dinner, regardless of what they had for breakfast," this means that a big breakfast (on average 400kcal greater than a small breakfast) resulted in a total increase in calories eaten over the day of about 400kcal. The only difference seen was the skipping of a mid morning snack when someone ate a really big breakfast, however this was not enough to offset the extra calories they had already eaten.”
In my experience, I have energy just after I eat and when the last food was a longish time ago. But between these from about a half hour after I eat for two or three hours, I have a trough in energy and a hungry feeling. So for me to eat a good breakfast sets me up for a day of eating more, having less energy and/or being hungry. And in added irony, I have to stuff that breakfast down without much enjoyment.

Undiagnosed Celiac
There is a recently published study that used stored serum taken in the late '40s and early '50s from about 9000 young healthy adults at Warren Air Force Base. Serum was taken today from matching people with either the same birth year or a similar age when the sample was taken – giving 3 sets of serum samples. Abnormal transglutaminase and specific antibodies were measured on the sera.
In the 45 years from the first sampling to a follow-up on the health of the subjects, the 0.2% that had undiagnosed celiac had a 4 fold increase in risk of death from any cause. The second sampling showed an undiagnosed celiac frequency of about 0.9% showing an increase in undiagnosed celiac over the time period on about 4 to 4.5 fold.
The criteria is a rather high bar for gluten problems. There are people with severe gluten intolerance that would not necessarily have either or both the abnormal transglutaminase or the specific antibodies that were tested for. Therefore the frequency of undiagnosed gluten intolerance/celiac may be higher than quoted in this report. The increased risk of death and increased frequency of the disease are statistically  significant.

Here in Europe the big news is the new E.coli. It has the name Enterohaemorrhagic Esherichia coli 0104:H4. It is either a brand new strain or has never caused an outbreak before. It causes bloody diarrhea and, more seriously, a kidney condition which is what kills. Treatment with antibiotics make it worse, which makes its high resistance to most antibiotics not as important as one would think. The diarrhea is caused by the having acquired the gene for entero-aggregation, the HUS kidney problems are caused by Shiga toxin gene and the antibiotic resistance by acquiring the gene for a particular enzyme ESBL. So a few genes have changed a relatively safe bacterium into a killer. How do genes move between bacteria?
One way is by phages, or viruses that attack bacteria rather than plants or animals. Genes can hitch-hike on viruses. Shiga is a toxin made by the Shigella bacterium and it is carried to other bacteria by a phage. When the virus is replicated so is the toxin and it is released with the virus. The antibiotic resistance probably occurred in the gut of farm animals with low levels of antibiotics in their feed. In fact, all of the creation of this bacterium would have happened in some gut, human or more probably animal. The shiga toxin is an advantage to bacteria in manure piles.
This strain in E.coli is going to find its way into water and agricultural produce by bad luck and bad hygene. This would not matter for food that is cooked and would not be that dangerous in food that is well washed in clean water but eaten raw. But what happened was that it found its way into the production of bean and other sprouts. A farm producing sprouts has a fairly high turn over – it doesn't take very long for seeds to sprout and be shipped out. On the other hand, the symptoms of the infection in humans started in 8 days plus. By the time the sprouts were suspected, the farm had worked its way through the seeds that were contaminated.
The farm got seeds for all over Europe and the world, various beans and peas, alfalfa and other grasses, all from multiple suppliers. It was impossible to trace the supplies from the time of the infections back to the fields they came from. It did not appear to be the water or an employee. This was a dead end. But it has been decided that the sprouts were the source as they were the only source that explained all the cases.
Besides that, seeds sprout in damp warm environments – a perfect environment for bacteria to survive, even grow.
Meanwhile German governments, at various levels, created a political, economic and public relations mess of enormous proportions – they really have a 'black eye'.
Update: After 3500 hospitalizations and 44 deaths in last seven weeks, the facts are known. 33,000 lbs of Fenugreek seeds from Egypt were shipped from Damietta by ship to Antwerp and by barge on to Rotterdam. They were trucked to Germany and then distributed to wholesellers: 10 German companies, one each in Spain, Austria and England. From those companies they were sold on. Fenugreek is used as a spice, a herbal medicine, garden seed, and seed for sprouting. The batch is now throughout Europe and will take time to eliminate.

Grief myths
For 30 years people have been using five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The theory has never been tested or proven to be anything but a myth.
We do not grief in stages:
A study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007, found that most respondents accepted the death of a loved one from the very beginning. On top of that, participants reported feeling more yearning for their loved one than either anger or depression. Other studies that discredit stages have been published since then. But despite this "stage theories of grief have become embedded in curricula, textbooks, popular entertainment and media because they offer predictability and a sense of manageability of the powerful emotions associated with bereavement and loss."
We don't need to express it rather than repress it:
Expressing negative emotions can actually prolong grief. Studies have shown that repressive coping actually has a protective function. Grief is not a process that must be tackled in order to prevent psychological problems – Freudian silliness. This also applies to other trauma. A follow up to 9/11 showed that people who did not express their initial reactions actually showed fewer signs of distress later on, while people who did express their reactions had a harder time adjusting.
Grief is not harder on women:
Nup – it is dependent people who find grief more difficult, independent of gender. It is women who have never driven a car and men who have never cooked a meal who have an equally bad time adjusting.
Grief never ends:
The worst of grief is usually over within 6 months for most people. They miss their loved one but have no problem with normal life. A small percentage take longer to adjust. A feel of loss is forever but grief is not.
Counseling helps:
That is not proven and would be difficult to prove. But 60 controlled studies found no evidence that counseling helped most bereaved people. With or without counseling most people just get better. Some individuals with specific problems may benefit from counseling.

The last summary read, “As a society, we will most likely be unable to face grief without some sort of script. "No culture before has abandoned all recommendations as to how to mourn," notes sociologist Tony Walter of the University of Bath. But it certainly seems time to move beyond our current habit of using untested theories to create unnecessarily lengthy — and agonizing — models for coping with grief that have created more anxiety about the experience instead of alleviating it. Losing someone is hard enough as it is.”

The anti-fat lobby
The adage 'you are what you eat' is true in a trivial sense but not the way many people think. If you eat a lot of protein, you do not end up with that amount of protein; if you eat a lot of carbohydrate, you do not contain that amount of carbohydrate; ditto fat. What the body does with food is to digest and take in what it can and/or needs. It is largely broken down into a small set ingredients (amino acids, simple sugars and fatty acids mostly). These building blocks can be changed to a large extent into each other. The little molecules are then used for energy, building tissue and storage molecules.
For some reason there is an anti-fat climate. The idea is that if you eat fat then you will get fat and the fat will clog your arteries and poison your liver. Far more useful an idea is that of 'everything in moderation'. Of course it is bad for you to eat too much fat but it is also bad to eat too little. The same is true of more of less any food type. The anti-fat climate has a moral air – fat is evil, fat is disgusting, eating fat is immoral. Carbohydrate and protein – good; lipids – bad. People are being misled by this atmosphere and their health suffers – they become deficient in fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids and they gain more weight from carbohydrate calories then they would from lipid ones.

Here is some recent evidence about dietary fat:
Aslibekyan & Baylin – there is no link between consumption of dairy products and risk of heart attack. Either the saturated fat is not a heart risk or the other nutrients in milk are protecting the heart: calcium, vit D, potassium, magnesiun, conjugated linoleic acid (a particular unsaturated fatty acid). They compare milk to eggs, once thought dangerous due to cholesterol content but now seen as healthy because of the other nutrients.
Garbarino - "too much cholesterol and the membrane becomes too rigid; too little cholesterol and the membrane becomes too fluid, drastically increasing permeability. As such, cholesterol is a key factor behind what gets into cells and what does not, such as nutrients or signals from other cells. One must consider cholesterol as a molecule of utmost importance...The speed at which cholesterol is transferred to and from its carriers, the variety of carriers for cholesterol (including many different proteins and little capsules known as vesicles), the fact all these carriers act simultaneously and the sheer number of cholesterol transfers that occur at any given moment makes it near impossible to visualize the individual steps of the cholesterol transport process.”
Astrup, Willet & 17 others – They reviewed, discussed research and wrote a paper with conclusions (1) coronary disease risk is slightly reduced when polyunsaturated fats replace saturated, but not when carbohydrates replace saturated fats. Not enough evidence about monounsaturated fats. (2) the ratio of saturated fat to refined carbohydrates does not affect the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. (3) you cannot predict a foods' effect on heart disease by looking only at saturated fat. Foods should be studied as a whole not their components alone. (4) health of individuals and types of heart disease need to be taken into consideration. Carbohydrates may have more negative effects than lipids in those who are overweight, inactive or insulin resistant. (5) all saturated fat is not the same: long chain fatty acids are more dangerous. Stearic acid has some protective qualities. (6) high intake of processed meat products are a heart risk but dairy produces are not. Dairy is beneficial in type 2 diabetes. (7) trans fats are dangerous. (8) dark chocolate which has high content of stearic acid, oleic acid and polyphenols reduces the risk of heart disease.
Stewart – low carb dieters with moderate exercise do not need to worry about the fat in the program will harm their arteries.
Browning – treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (to reduce risk of diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation, cirrhosis) is better done by reducing carbs then reducing calories or fats.
Danci and others – extreme low carb diets can be detrimental to learning, memory and thinking.
Swithers, Ogden & Davidson – the synthetic fat substitute, olestra, contributes to weight gain (as do artifical sweeteners). They upset the ability to regulate food intake; in order words, they make people hungrier. In fairy-tale style: the substitute fools the mouth so the stomach expects x amount of calories, the calories do not arrive, so stomach insists that the mouth eat until it has furnished the calories that it tried to cheat the stomach out of.
Stix – received knowledge about cholesterol is HDL good & LDL bad. Lowering LDL with statin does lower heart disease risk. But raising HDL fails to do the same.
Riechman – LDL is not all bad. Muscles and other tissues need cholesterol and LDL is how it is delivered. To build muscles, LDL is needed. HDL cleans up afterwards. High LDL means that cells are needing a lot for repair – a sign that something is wrong not the cause.
Wang and 17 others – part of heart risk that had thought to be genetic is due to differences in bacteria in the gut. Lecithin and choline are lipids found in a wide variety of foods, supplements and vitamin pills. Some intestinal microbes convert them to a product that promotes fatty plaque deposits in arteries. Choline is a vitamin that should not be taken in excess through multi-vitamines. Choline, beaine and TMAO are found in healthy amounts in fruits, vegetables and fish.
Moore – on the other hand, another similar lipid, dilauroyl phosphatidylcholine, found in lecithin preparations, increases sensitivity to insulin, reduces fatty liver and is protective against diabetes.
Ailhaud – humans do not make omega 6 or 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids – all of them come through diet. The ratio of these is important to health, 5 of omega6 to 1 of omega3. That actual ratio (instead of to the 5 to 1) is 15 to 1 in France and 40 to 1 in the US. Omega 3 is found in linseed, canola/rapeseed and fatty fish; omega 6 is found in maize, meat and dairy. Both are important to have in the diet but when the ratio is off, there is risk of obesity.
Samieri – extra virgin olive oil is protective against stroke, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

So what is the takeaway message? MODERATION is important. Metabolism is complex and by and large there is more ignorance than knowledge about nutrition. Many unqualified individuals write nonsense on the subject in magazines and newspapers. If in doubt use the Mediterranean model – heavy on the olive oil, fish, red wine, garlic, complex carbohydrates, cheese, tomatoes, other veg and fruit; including but light on the animal protein/animal fat and refined carbs. Avoid fat substitutes and sweeteners if trying to lose weight. Avoid trans fats at any time. Don't listen to the anti-fat emotional crap – fat is not bad, evil, disgusting or immoral. In moderation, it is good healthy food.

Goat cheese
Goat cheese has become one of my very favourite foods. There is always some in the frig and I eat some everyday. The kind I like is shaped like a sausage and covered in a white mold, and I like it partly affected by the mold but with an unaffected center. I have only tasted goat's milk a few times and found it so-so, but from the first time I tasted goat cheese I liked it (and that cheese was not even moldy).
I find that goat's milk has many health advantages over cow's milk. I hope some also apply to the cheese.
Here are the advantages:

  1. Goat's milk is hypoallergenic compared to cow's because it has less alpha 1 casein in its casein fraction. In this it resembles human milk. Alpha 1 casein is what causes most allergies to milk.

  2. Goat's milk has more oligosaccharides (again similar to human milk). These are usually undigested and reach the large intestine where they help probiotic bacteria compete with pathogenic bacteria.

  3. It has lower lactose than cow's milk so that some people with intolerance to milk sugar can tolerate goat's milk. (I would not think this is important for most cheese.)

  4. Compared to cow's, goat's cheese has higher essential omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic and arachidonic. It has a high proportion of short chained fatty acids which are used for quick energy rather than stored a fat in the body. It is recommended for heart patients because it helps reduce cholesterol and maintains transaminases.

  5. The milk is high in calcium and phosphorus in a very bio-available form. It is also rich in zinc and selenium.

  6. It does not interfere with iron absorption.

So it is recommended for those with allergy or intolerance to cow's milk, malabsorption, high cholesterol levels, anemia, osteoporosis, and those taking prolonged treatments with iron supplements.
I am so glad to find something I like so much is good for me.
And that is without the good that mold does me – I'm pretty sure some fungus is good in the diet: yeasts, molds, mushrooms. Deep down it offends me when I see people cut the mold away from a classic moldy cheese. 



    Some nice goat cheese showing the 3 layers (mold fuzz, affected cheese, unaffected middle)

Epilepsy first aid
I have twice been with someone who had a seizure. The first time I didn't know what to do and was very frightened. So frightened, in fact, that I did not do anything and therefore did not do any of the bad things that I had heard over the years. The second time was different. I had just read a little first aid manual about two weeks before and therefore was not frightened and also was able to be somewhat helpful. I knew both these people for a while but had no idea that they might have a seizure – it's something you may do know about people, so it is a good idea to be a little prepared. Epilepsy Action has just updated their advice about a week ago. Here is how it now reads.

Tonic-Clonic seizures
The person goes stiff, loses consciousness and then falls to the ground. This is followed by jerking movements. A blue tinge around the mouth is likely. This is due to irregular breathing. Loss of bladder and/or bowel control may happen. After a minute or two the jerking movements should stop and consciousness may slowly return.
The recovery position
Call for an ambulance if... Focal (partial) seizures
Sometimes the person is not aware of their surroundings or what they are doing. They may pluck at their clothes, smack their lips, swallow repeatedly, and wander around.
Don't... Call for an ambulance if... Orthorexia
Here is a new eating disorder, orthorexia, the obsession with healthy food taken to unhealthy extremes. Of course it is a good thing to eat healthy foods and healthy amounts. But this is taking 'picky' eating to the extreme.
Over time the orthorexic cuts more and more foods out of their diet because they are not perfect until they finally suffer from nutritional deficiences.
Their self-esteem becomes involved in how well they avoid imperfect foods. Moderation does not figure. They can only feel clean, pure and virtuous if they follow their routine. Hours are spent studying food labels, the nature of ingredients and so on. All the food has to be prepared themselves because they cannot trust others to wash food throughly enough or cook it long enough. This means they tend to isolate themselves – no restaurants or eating at others houses or even being embarrassed by feeding people their restricted meals. They are prone to nutrition fads. They suffer feelings of failure when they find that a food that they have been trusting has some fault.
It cannot be good for their digestion to find food a source of anxiety rather than comfort. There are better things to be compulsive-obsessive about.

High Blood Pressure non-drug treatments

Drs. Woolf and Bisognano from Rochester Medical Center have published a review of the published scientific evidence available on non-drug treatments for high blood pressure. Here is what they found.
Recommended life style changes: low salt DASH diet (lowers systolic blood pressure by 11.4) with an exercise routine and weight loss if over-weight (lowers SBP an additional 3.7), only moderate alcohol and no smoking are cardiac friendly.
The DASH diet in the recommended life-style can be strengthened with these supplements/foods. However many supplements have recently been shown to shorten life. "All of the women, in their 50s and 60s, were generally well nourished yet many decided to take supplements. Multivitamins, folic acid, vitamen B6, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron in particular appeared to increase mortality risk." Calcium and Vitamin D do not shorten life. "Some people. like the elderly, might need to take certain supplements. For example, vitamin D is recommented for people over the age of 65."
Some herbs raise blood pressure and should be avoided: St John's wort, ephedra/ma huang, yohimbine, licorice.
Here is a table of results. Note that they are not necessarily additive (most of the life-style changes are somewhat additive but the others have not been tested for this – note that conventional medicines of different types are additive in effect.)

BP table

bp table

Nano dangers
Nanoparticles are small, so small that they cannot be seen with a light microscope and in the air they do not form any 'mist'. We just will not know when we encounter them except when they are labelled in produces. I have never seen such labels but they may exist.
The carbon nanoparticles are generally considered fairly safe. They are found in electronics, medicines and cosmetics. They are manufactured in factories, shipped about, used in other factories, sold in products and discarded in waste. How much are we exposed to CNPs? – nobody knows.
The problem with CNPs is that they do not respect biological barriers. Our bodies have barriers against the outside – skin, gut lining, lung lining, Then we have internal barriers – the urine-blood barrier in the kidneys, the blood-brain barrier and others. It seems CNPs can pass through these barriers as if they weren't there. They are not large enough to notice the filters and barriers of the body. Is this dangerous? - nobody knows.
Researchers note that these incredibly strong particles, visible only under an electron microscope, perform useful functions including roles in drug delivery and are responsible for many advances in electronics such as the impressive colors seen on plasma televisions and computer monitors. What they worry about is when CNPs enter the air and the environment and eventually the human body from inappropriate disposal or from manufacture of products containing the particles. “These particles are so small that when they get into various organs or systems they can bind to many things. We need to further study what they look like in various parts of the body, how they affect protein expression, as well as what they do when they cross a barrier or are excreted," said F. A. Witzmann of Indiana University. He is part of a group that have shown that low concentrations of CNP cause leakage in the cellular lining of the renal nephron, tubes inside the kidney that make urine.
Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide are used in many products including paint and sunscreen. The French Atomic Energy Commission investigated these particles when breathed in by rats. The nanoTiO2 particles were found in the brain having passed through the blood-brain barrier. They caused inflammation and had effects in the activity of some proteins.
I wrote about this before. Here is a link to coming in under the radar.

Even the rich
Micheal Prowse wrote in the Financial Times:

Those who would deny a link between health and inequality must first grapple with the following paradox. There is a strong relationship between income and health within countries. In any nation you will find that people on high incomes tend to live longer and have fewer chronic illnesses than people on low incomes.
Yet, if you look for differences between countries, the relationship between income and health largely disintegrates. Rich Americans, for instance, are healthier on average than poor Americans, as measured by life expectancy. But, although the US is a much richer country than, say, Greece, Americans on average have a lower life expectancy than Greeks. More income, it seems, gives you a health advantage with respect to your fellow citizens, but not with respect to people living in other countries….
Once a floor standard of living is attained, people tend to be healthier when three conditions hold: they are valued and respected by others; they feel ‘in control’ in their work and home lives; and they enjoy a dense network of social contacts. Economically unequal societies tend to do poorly in all three respects: they tend to be characterised by big status differences, by big differences in people’s sense of control and by low levels of civic participation….

Unequal societies, in other words, will remain unhealthy societies – and also unhappy societies – no matter how wealthy they become.
Highly unequal societies are unhealthy for their members, even members of the highest strata. Not only do these societies score worse on all sorts of indicators of social well-being, but they exert a toll even on the rich.

Are we in danger from the internet?
There is a famous scientist, Susan Greenfield. She is a professor at Oxford (neuro-physiology), former head of the Royal Institution, member of the House of Lords since she was made a baroness, and holds many other appointments (I won't list them – the list is too long, but impressive). She has presented some very good television, written books and of course scientific papers.
But now she is the center of controversy and her reputation in some quarters has fallen like a stone. I know that occasionally great people can go a little weird but it is always sad. As many of her critics have pointed out, all she has to do is produce evidence for her theories (ie do the experiments or talk someone else into doing them) or except the evidence that exists that does not support her ideas. Critics point to statements she has made that are at odds with research results. She seems to answer with the idea that unpopular ideas are always attacked.
There are a number of related controversies:
  1. Greenfield says computer use is changing people's minds and this is especially dangerous for children. Critics answer that everything changes minds (learning to drive, falling in love, traveling, reading books, just living) so the question is: are the changes good, neutral or bad. There are over 3000 scientific studies published on effects of new technologies on minds and Greenfield ignores all but 2. Most people who have looked at the evidence come to the view that computers, smart phones, social networks, video games etc. are basically neutral or good and only rarely bad (mostly because of violence). For example, “New research suggests that far from disengaging young people from real life, virtual worlds can provide unique environments that can help them learn and negotiate new situations.”
  2. Greenfield made statements that computer use as linked to autism and ADHD. Dorothy Bishop answered this: “you mention the rise in autism as evidence for your concerns about the impact of the internet on children’s brains. Previously I’ve read that you've made similar comments about ADHD. You may not realize just how much illogical garbage and ill-formed speculation parents of children with these conditions are exposed to...Except that here, at least, parents will be able to detect the flaw in the logic. A cause has to precede its effect. This test of causality fails in two regards. First, demographically - the rise in autism diagnoses occurred well before internet use became widespread. Second, in individuals: autism is typically evident by 2 years of age, long before children become avid users of Twitter or Facebook.” Greenfield made the mistake of answering with, “I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That's all. Establishing a causal relationship is very hard but there are trends out there that we must think about.” This resulted in a storm of jokes called greenfieldisms. The first was ' I point to the increase in esophageal cancer and I point to the The Brady Bunch. That's all.” After many funny examples there finally was 'I point to the increase in Greenfield's paper's citations and I point to the increase in autism. That's all. Autism is caused by Greenfield herself.'  More seriously, the autism organizations were very angry and disappointed in her remarks and pointed out that aside from ignorant remarks on cause of autism, social networks were very useful to many autistic people and their use should not be discouraged.
  3. Greenfield claimed to be misrepresented and attacked because of the press headlines and what people said she said, not what she has actually said. This resulted in a number of long lists of verified quotes and excerpts showing that she did make the connections she was now denying. The argument lost its politeness and scholarly atmosphere and became very personal in some quarters.

I view Greenfield as an example of those people (in their late middle and old age) who are sure the world is going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket. The society is failing, education is going down hill, the language is being killed, kids are acting badly and on and on. This is very common. Greenfield's problem is that people get to hear her grumpy-old-ladygrumbling and take it seriously. My advice is to take remarks by Greenfield with a grain of salt and to ignore nasty personal remarks made about her.