Tag Archives: health news

Nutritionism and the glycemic index


Let me begin by quoting a paragraph from Gyorgy Scrinis, a lecturer in food and nutrition politics and policy at the University of Melbourne. This is from a chapter called ‘Nutritionism and Functional Foods,’ which he contributed to the book The Philosophy of Food. Scrinis went on to publish an entire book on this subject, Nutritionism: The science & politics of dietary advice.

Just prior to the following paragraph, Scrinis has been discussing the dietary advice, from the 1960s to the 1990s, that it was better to eat margarine than butter. (Added emphasis in this and the following quotations is mine.)

The “mistake” of inadvertently promoting transfat-laden margarine is one of several mistakes, revisions, and backflips in scientific knowledge and dietary advice over the past century. Other cases include advice regarding dietary cholesterol, eggs, low-fat diets, and vitamin B. Yet these revisions do not seem to have tempered the sustained and confident discourse of precision and control that continues to pervade nutrition science, nor the willingness to translate limited and partial scientific insights into definitive population-wide dietary advice. I refer to this nutritional hubris as the myth of nutritional precision, as it involves an exaggerated representation of scientists’ understanding of the relationship between nutrients, foods, and the body and a failure to acknowledge the limits of the nutrient-level perspective. At the same time, the disagreements and uncertainties that exist within the scientific community with respect to particular nutritional theories tend to be concealed from, or misrepresented to, the lay public.

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Jamais vu and the hippocampus as GPS


I always thought the main function of the hippocampus was to convert short-term memory into long-term memory. It’s one of the first regions of the brain damaged by Alzheimer’s. If your spouse can’t remember something you discussed 20 minutes ago, you start to worry.

The hippocampus also plays an important role in spatial memory and navigation. That’s why you unfortunately hear of Alzheimer’s patients wandering away from home and not being able to find their way back.

A recent JAMA article, Nobel Prize Winners’ Research Relates to Brain Function and Neurodegenerative Diseases, describes the hippocamcus as our inner GPS. Place cells in the hippocampus (discovered in the 1970s) are associated with locations (even if you’re just thinking about a location), and grid cells (discovered in 2005) create triangular grids that function as a positioning system in space.

Together, place and grid cells allow animals to determine their position and to navigate through their surroundings much like an inner GPS.

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RN #3: Health news: Exercise and depression. Aspirin for primary prevention. New stool sample test.


Reading Notes #3: Some articles of interest I’ve come across while reading NEJM and JAMA. These items all fall into the category of health news.

Bulleted titles in the following list link to the individual items below. Under References I indicate the accessibility of articles: OA means open access, $ indicates a pay wall.


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Daylight saving time and heart attacks

Congress passes daylight savings bill1.6 billion people – almost a quarter of the world’s population – observe the biannual shifts between standard and daylight saving time. Does the loss of an hour’s sleep in the spring affect their health? According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, there’s a statistically significant increase in the number of heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) in the week after we shift to daylight saving time.

Researchers in Sweden extracted statistics from 20 years worth of data on heart attacks. They compared the incidence of heart attacks during each day of the week after we change the clocks (both spring and fall) with the number of heart attacks two weeks prior to and two weeks after the time change.

There are always more heart attacks on Mondays, presumably connected to the stress of going back to work. But the number of Monday heart attacks was significantly lower following an extra hour of sleep in the fall. In fact, except for Fridays, the number of heart attacks was lower for the rest of the week. Following the loss of an hour’s sleep in the spring, heart attacks were up for the entire week, and the increase was especially significant on Tuesday.

Here’s the data displayed graphically.

Monday heart attacks and sleeping in on the weekend

These findings, of course, do not mean that losing an hour’s sleep causes a heart attack, but they do suggest that individuals who are vulnerable to heart problems might want to make the transition to daylight savings time gradual rather than abrupt. Read more


Links: Implants & cancer/Ageism & healthism/Psychiatry/Climate change/War/Inequality

Breast implants and cancerWhen Is Breast Cancer Not “Cancer”? When You’re Funded by Breast-Implant Makers (Bnet)
Plastic surgery trade groups advised doctors on what to tell women worried by new link between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). Say it’s a “condition,” not cancer.

It Gets Worse (NYT)
Robert Crawford’s healthism is alive and well. Review of Susan Jacoby’s Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age. Jacoby sees a new ageism that doesn’t just stigmatize old people for their years, but blames them for physical ills that no lifestyle adjustments or medicine could have prevented.

Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy (NYT)
The new emphasis on efficiency in medicine has produced a significant loss of intimacy between doctors and patients. No specialty has suffered this loss more profoundly than psychiatry.

The divided self, hidden values, and moral sensibility in medicine (Lancet)
A thought-provoking essay by Arthur Kleinman. Medical decision-making is so over-simplified that we ignore the complexity of conflicting emotions — in both patients and doctors. A corrective would be medical education that includes the study of the humanities. Why don’t medical journals in the US write about this? Read more


Links: Vampire facelifts/Happiness/Neuroenhancers/Climate change/…

Vampire facelifts‘Vampire Face-Lifts’: Smooth at First Bite (NYT)
Plumping out nasiolabial folds with your own blood platelets. Not tested. Not FDA approved. “This is another gimmick that people are using to make themselves stand out on the Internet in a real dog-eat-dog part of medicine.”

The Corporate Pursuit of Happiness (Fast Company)
Stanford business school teaches students the virtues of marketing by promising happiness. Happiness is just “another commodity deployed to sell something.” See The duty to be happy.

A Ban on Brain-Boosting Drugs Is Not the Answer (Chronicle)
A large number of undergrads use neuroenhancers. Is this unfair competition? The way to stop their use is to change the culture of competition in college and engage students in learning for learning’s sake.

Can a group of scientists in California end the war on climate change? (Guardian)
The Berkeley Earth project says it is about to reveal the definitive truth about global warming. Data will be public and offer a “more precise number” on global warming. Read more


Links: Cosmetic surgery/Sleep/Aging/Health care greed/…

Teenage girls want cosmetic surgery
Teenage girls want more than make-up to boost their confidence
Girlguiding UK urges teenage girls to think twice about cosmetic surgery (24dash)
UK national survey finds half of women age 16-21 would consider cosmetic surgery. More than one in 10 age 11-16 would think about cosmetic surgery to change their looks. Almost half think the pressure to look attractive is the most negative part of being female.

Culture of greed upsets attempts at health care reform (Boston Globe)
No kidding. Blue Cross CEO gets $8.6 million for leaving the company. “I am stunned by the arrogance of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the entire health insurance industry to allow this type of transfer of income from the working class to the wealthy.

U.S. Bioethics Panel to Review Clinical Trials Around the World (Science Insider)
Prompted by revelations of US experiments on Guatemalans in the 1940s that exposed test subjects to syphilis and gonorrhea, bioethics panel to review rules that protect clinical trial participants from harm and unethical treatment, both domestically and internationally.

E. coli found on 50 percent of shopping carts (MSNBC)
The Fox News headline on this story featured the finding that 72% of carts had “fecal matter.” There are similar statistics on those bowls of free food samples in grocery stores. There’s more E. coli on carts than in supermarket restrooms. Nobody cleans the carts. But bacteria are everywhere – doorknobs, countertops, car seats. “My guess is that there are more bacteria on a car seat than on a shopping cart.” Read more


Links: Dogs help children read/Becoming an MD/Overdiagnosis/Misdiagnosis/Patient modesty/An MD’s compassion

Listening dog helps children readThe dogs who listen to children reading (Guardian)
“Listening dog” encourages children to read aloud. “It helps with their self-esteem in reading out loud because he is non-judgmental. He doesn’t judge them and he doesn’t laugh at them.” Greyhounds are the dog of choice. Adopt a greyhound website.

18 Stethoscopes, 1 Heart Murmur and Many Missed Connections (NYT)
A woman (journalist/author) with a clearly audible mitral valve click volunteers to let second year med students listen. Interesting observations on doctor/patient relationship, learning to be a doctor.

Prostate Guideline Causes Many Needless Biopsies, Study Says (NYT)
Support for H. Gilbert Welch’s contention in Overdiagnosed. Turns out medical guideline on P.S.A. velocity (the rate of change in readings from year to year) is not associated with disease, as previously assumed.

100,000 NHS patients given wrong diabetes diagnosis, says report (Guardian)
50,000 people told they had diabetes when they did not. A similar number misdiagnosed with Type 1 when they had Type 2 and vice versa. Errors due to mistakes by medical staff and lack of understanding of the condition by doctors. Read more


Links: Birthing your own grandchild/Welch’s Overdiagnosis/Al Qaeda/Cats/Polar bears

Woman gives birth to own grandchild61-year-old woman gives birth to her own grandchild, and so what? (Practical Ethics)
The news is that it’s not news. Euthanasia, divorce, same sex marriage, in vitro fertilization — the common perception of these practices has changed radically in the last 30 years. Comments from Italian bioethicist.

Creeping sickness: Our epidemic of diagnosis (New Scientist)
Review of H. Gilbert Welch’s new book, Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health. (Just got my copy) Today people have pre-diseases: pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, pre-hyperlipidemia, pre-osteoporosis. Healthy people with no symptoms are urged to seek treatment.

Overdiagnosis and the dangers of early detection (BMJ)
Ray Moynihan reviews H. Gilbert Welch’s new book. Overdiagnosis is one of medicine’s biggest problems, causing millions of people to become patients unnecessarily, producing untold harm, and wasting vast amounts of resources. Many of the big and costly medical conditions of our time are not in fact diseases, but rather are risk factors portrayed as diseases. “These decisions [about the definition of a disease and guidelines of its treatment] affect too many people to let them be tainted by the businesses that stand to gain from them.”

Cats Adore, Manipulate Women (Discovery)
Cats attach to humans, particularly women, as social partners, not just for the sake of obtaining food. They hold some control over when they are fed and handled, functioning very similar to human children in some households. “A relationship between a cat and a human can involve mutual attraction, personality compatibility, ease of interaction, play, affection and social support. A human and a cat can mutually develop complex ritualized interactions that show substantial mutual understanding of each other’s inclinations and preferences.” I can so relate to that. Read more


Links: History of modesty/Hygiene hypothesis/Men into boys/Koch brothers/Obese pets

Patient modesty mothers and sonsHistory of Modesty, Part 2 (Patient Modesty & Privacy Concerns)
Part two of my post on the history of patient modesty is up as a guest post on the Patient Modesty blog. I discuss how, in the 19th century, doctors got patients to accept a much more invasive physical exam than what patients were used to.

Greater Germ Exposure Cuts Asthma Risk (WSJ)
Another example of the hygiene hypothesis. Children living on farms have a lower risk of asthma than children who don’t because they are surrounded by a greater variety of germs. Key is exposure to diversity of germs, not just more of them. “You have to have microbes that educate the immune system. But you have to have the right ones.”

Where Have The Good Men Gone? (WSJ)
This is sure to get lots of attention. From Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys. “Today, … with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing. … Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man.”

Judge Tosses Suit Against Health Care Law (NPR)
Yeah! Suit was against universal mandate, but on narrow grounds: that it violates religious freedom of those who rely on God to protect them. The judge expressed doubts that plaintiffs can really determine they’ll never need health care. Read more


Links: Cerrie Burnell/Widow’s Lament/Drug shortages/Insurance profits/Cholesterol & women/Kochs

Cerrie BurnellTV presenter Cerrie Burnell: ‘I don’t care if you are offended’ (Guardian)
Born without a right forearm, Burnell now sings, dances, and presents on children’s show. Some parents objected (it frightened their kids). Others suggested long sleeves. “Ultimately, I don’t care if you’re offended.”

Joyce Carol Oates’s Widow’s Lament (NYT)
“A Widow’s Story: A Memoir.” She “has assembled a book more painfully self-revelatory than anything Oates the fiction writer or critic has ever dared to produce.” Touches on the power balance between artist and spouse.

Drug shortages prompt hospitals to use older treatments, pay more when they do find a supply (LA Times)
Manufacturing issues, quality-control problems limit supply of about 150 drugs, many used to treat cancer or needed in surgery. These are critical drugs for which there are limited alternatives. Hey! Medicine is not just another business like selling cars.

Profits keep rolling in for big insurers despite reform (Amednews)
“The operating environment for commercial insurers continues to improve as federal agencies issue guidelines with softer language and delayed compliance dates,” says health care investment analyst. Not what I wanted to hear. Read more


Links: Sociable robots/MSG/”Fresh”/Male pregnancy/Pubic hair fashions/Climate change

Paro the seal sociable robotA Soft Spot for Circuitry (NYT)
Paro the seal, a sociable robot, accomplishes its lifelike interaction through hidden sensors that monitor sound, light, temperature and touch. Sociable robots are now being used as therapy for the elderly. “We as a species have to learn how to deal with this new range of synthetic emotions that we’re experiencing — synthetic in the sense that they’re emanating from a manufactured object.”

If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache? (Guardian)
History of Japanese discovery of the fifth taste, ‘umami’ (translated ‘savoury,’ ‘deliciousness’) and the manufacture of MSG. How MSG got a bad reputation in the US and how the food industry fought back. Fascinating.

What’s the Matter With Corn Syrup? (NYT)
Review of documentary “Fresh” on industrial farming and its devastating toll on soil, health and livestock. More folksy in tone than “Food, Inc.” and more focused on practical solutions. Addresses class barrier to healthy eating.

The Case of the Pregnant Seaman (PLoS Blogs)
Scientists have now shown that normal, healthy men often undergo real bodily changes when they’re expecting children. What for years was considered a disorder of the mind is actually a natural physiological reaction to impending fatherhood. Read more


Links: Planned Parenthood/Sleep/Internet empathy/Tobacco in China/Doctors who tweet

Planned parenthood opposition in CongressHouse votes to defund Planned Parenthood, national health-care law (WaPost)
In votes on amendments to federal spending bill, House Republicans block federal funding of Planned Parenthood and cut off funds to implement health care law. Republican congresswoman took the floor to relate her abortion.

The Fact-Free Far Right: Laura Ingraham’s Lies are Dangerous to Our Health (RH Reality Check)
Fox: Planned Parenthood makes most of its money from abortions. Fact: It’s 15% and not federally funded. PP’s main services: contraceptive delivery, testing/treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, screening for cervical and breast cancer

Sleep and heart risk link is uncertain (NHS)
The association of both long and short extremes of sleep with poor cardiovascular health is of interest, but the “mechanisms that underlie these associations are not fully understood”. The association may be a by-product of other factors.

Is the internet killing empathy? (CNN)
Serene Branson migraine. Have our brains become so desensitized that we’ve lost all perspective on appropriateness and compassion when another human being apparently suffers a medical emergency? Are we a society of detached voyeurs? Read more


Links: Superbugs on meat/Insomnia/Longevity gene/Severe weather & climate change/Baby animals

Superbugs on chickenFDA Report: Alarming Amounts of “Superbugs” in Supermarkets (Bnet)
Superbugs (bacteria resistant to antibiotics) in meat are a much more common and widespread problem than anyone would like to admit, according to federal government report. Chicken breasts, ground turkey, ground beef and pork chops tested.

Superbugs in Canadian chicken? Yes, and US too (Wired)
15% of bacteria on chicken breasts and ground turkey are resistant to 4 or more classes of antibiotics. Drug-resistant bacteria in food won’t diminish until we reduce the amount of drugs that food animals receive while they are raised.

An insomniac learns to make the most of getting the least sleep (WaPost)
Insomnia affects 1 in 3 Americans. For one in 10 it’s chronic. “Are you getting adequate sleep when you are up for an hour or two a night or truncating your sleep on either end?” Sleep expert says no. There’s a cost to overall health.

Can relaxation drinks put you to sleep? (Health News Review)
Gary Schwitzer gives 4 stars to story on drinkable melatonin, valerian, other supplements. “The public should understand that behavior change will nearly always trump a pill (or supplement, etc.) for long-term efficacy and health effects.” Read more


Links: Patient modesty history/Value of life/Human clones for body parts/UK health inequalities

Modesty catHistory of Patient Modesty – Part 1: How Bodily Exposure Went from Unacceptable to Required (Patient Modesty & Privacy Concerns)
I have a guest post today on the #1 medical privacy blog. Part one describes what medicine used to be like before it was based on modern, anatomical theories of disease. Well into the 19th century, doctors did not expect patients to remove their clothes.

U.S. Raises Value of a Life, and Businesses Fear Impact (NYT)
How much should the government spend to prevent a single death? Environmental, consumer, and worker protection standards have been going up, despite protests from business.

How Never Let Me Go gave up and died (Guardian)
Film about human clones created for their body parts misses the point: the acquiescence of the weak to their exploitation by the strong. Film’s organ donors are comparable to “the lackeys of capitalism [who] compete to become employee of the month.”

A close call on health inequalities (Guardian)
BMJ study, plus Sir Michael Marmot’s. There’s more to life expectancy than a simple north-south divide of UK. Wealth determines health. Some of the starkest differences occur not between regions but between neighbors. Read more


Links: Hygiene hypothesis/Grief/Computers vs. humans/ Tobacco for the poor/Genetics via Lady Gaga

Girl playing in mud - hygeine hypothesisWhy Keeping Little Girls Squeaky Clean Could Make Them Sick (NPR)
The hygiene hypothesis: children exposed to lots of germs early in life less likely to develop allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders. Women have higher rates of these disorders. Is that because girls are held to higher standards of cleanliness?

Grief, Unedited (NYT)
Memoirs on the loss of a spouse, such as the latest from Joyce Carol Oates, don’t teach us about typical mourning experience. Most older people whose spouse dies from natural causes recover much more quickly than we have come to expect. For many, acute grief subsides less than six months after the loss. By the author of The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss.

A Fight to Win the Future: Computers vs. Humans (NYT)
As machines simulate skills that were once exclusively human, designers are faced with the challenge of rethinking what it means to be human. It’s not just about putting people out of work. Read Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, where she argues that we’re in danger of preferring sociable robots (Paro, Nursebot, My Real Baby) to real human beings. This article is about IBM’s Watson and artificial intelligence vs. intelligence augmentation.

The Computer Made Me Do It (NYT)
Review of Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personalityby Elias Aboujaoude and Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the Worldby Jane McGonigal. Two opposing views. Read more


Links: Cosmetic surgery as investment/DSD/Never let me go/Losing a spouse/Kissing

Cosmetic surgery as an investmentWhen cosmetic surgery is a marker of ambition (Guardian)
Why aren’t people more concerned about the medical risks of cosmetic surgery? We’re increasingly socialized to believe we must invest in ourselves to improve our chances and opportunities in life, whether it’s paying for higher education, looks or both.

The Tale of Tea with Jim the Third (Bioethics Forum)
Alice Dreger on the story of a man with a disorder of sex development (formerly termed “intersex”). One patient heard his urologist say to the nurse, outside the door, “I don’t deal with this shit.” The biggest issue is not surgery, hormonal treatments, or lack of psychological support for families. It’s shame and how no one deals with it.

Why “Disorders of Sex Development”? (Alice Dreger)
Dreger discusses the change in terminology from “intersex” to “Disorders of Sex Development” (DSD). The term “intersex” was a moving target. “DSD” gives patients a means to talk openly about what’s happened to them, without shame. “Intersex” did not.

Hermaphrodite (Lancet)
The unease generally provoked by sexual ambiguity exposes our continuing discomfort with transgression of binary categories, whether the boundaries are broken by anatomy, sexuality, or non-conformity with gendered stereotypes of identity. Read more


Chocolate has antioxidants but is that a good thing?

Chocolate antioxidants Valentine's dayChocolate is a perennial favorite as a health topic. Readers are eager to learn of medical research that justifies something they want to do anyway.

WebMD recently ran an article called “Is Chocolate the Next Super Food?” The excuse for this particular article was a study that found the antioxidant activity of dark chocolate was higher than that of various “super” fruits (blueberry, acai, cranberry, pomegranate).

The article’s very last paragraph did mention — very casually — that the number of calories and fat grams in a serving of dark chocolate exceeds those of fruit juice. There was nothing but praise, however, for the ability of the antioxidants in chocolate to fight free radicals. The wisdom of the widespread consumption of antioxidants has recently been questioned. Getting the word out on that subject may prove awkward for WebMD, a site littered with ads for antioxidant supplements.

Free radicals fight toxins and cancer

Health and science journalist Sharon Begley had an excellent article on antioxidants and free radicals – “Antioxidants Fall From Grace” – in a recnt Newsweek. (emphasis added) Read more


Links: Handedness/Spare parts baby/Thinspiration/Vaccine/Ripeness/Sore muscles

Left handed parrotHere’s why you’re right-handed or left-handed (MSNBC)
It depends on eye dominance. In recent U.S. history, the majority of presidents have been left-handed (Ford, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, Obama). Scientists haven’t yet found a link between hand preference and an individual’s abilities. Study based on eye and foot preferences of parrots (see left-footed parrot, right).

France’s first genetically-engineered baby born (M&C)
The headline is misleading. This is the first “savior sibling,” “spare parts baby” (think “My sister’s keeper”) in France. An embryo was screened both for lack of disease and being a sibling match. Genetic engineering implies something was changed, not just selected.

Anorexics are finding ‘thinspiration’ on Web (The Daily)
Pro-ana and pro-mia (bulimia) websites went underground a decade ago, but are now making a comeback on microblogging platform Tumblr. New sites deny extreme weight-loss is an eating disorder. Claim it’s a healthier lifestyle.

Flu breakthrough promises a vaccine to kill all strains (Guardian)
Scientists at Oxford have successfully tested a universal flu vaccine that could work against all known strains of the illness. Targets proteins. Would not need expensive reformulation every year. Read more


Links: Veggies & skin color/Individual mandate/Diet soda/Healthy eggs?/DTC ads

Vegetables give skin golden glowHow vegetables can give you that golden glow (Guardian)
Carotenoids, stored in fat under the skin and found in tomatoes, peppers, plums and carrots, can give Caucasian skin a healthy-looking golden glow – a look equated with attractiveness.

Is Health Care Reform Unconstitutional? (NY Review)
One of the best discussions I’ve read on the subject. Constitutionality won’t be an issue. Health care opponents simply looking for a way to prevent government from imposing a collective solution to a social problem.

Do diet sodas really cause stroke? I’m dubious. (Food Politics)
People who drink diet sodas every day are apt to do many other things – like eat a lousy diet. Those who drink any kind of soda daily, whether or not it’s diet, are probably not the most healthy minded.

The Updated Egg: Less Cholesterol, But Is It a ‘Healthy’ Food? (Time)
Eggs now have less cholesterol and more vitamin D than they did in 2002. May be due to better chicken feed. “The impact of dietary cholesterol consumption on blood cholesterol levels isn’t fully understood.” Read more


Links: Awake cosmetic surgery/Dentist demographics/more

Awake cosmetic surgeryNipped, tucked and wide awake? (MSNBC)
Awake cosmetic surgery can be performed by doctors with two days of training and no hospital privileges. “This is just a gimmick by people who can’t operate their way out of a wet paper bag.”

Awake Cosmetic Surgery–The Pros and Cons (EmpowHer)
Growing trend alarms doctors. Presented to patient as a benefit. No side effects (or cost) of anesthesia, but requires near toxic levels of lidocaine. Selecting a cup size during surgery is like “making a decision while drunk.”

Wall Street Ogles Breast Augmentation as New Market Indicator (CBS)
Plastic Surgery Indicator correlates forehead and face lifts, lipo, breast augmentation with positive direction of NASDAQ, S&P, Dow-Jones. Explanations? More money to spend, more job-seekers, increased consumer confidence.

Which Countries Have The Most Dentists Per Capita? (Business Insider)
Greece has 127 dentists per 100,000 inhabitants. US has 60 (ranks 15th out 30). Mexico 10. Hat tip to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution. Read more


Links: Female infanticide/Goodbye Darvon/End-of-life talks/more

Riwayat the filmThe tyranny of tradition (Lancet)
Review of film written by two doctors: “Riwayat” (traditions). Indian practice of killing baby girls. 10 million girls aborted in last 20 years, even though prenatal sex determination outlawed in 1994.

Physicians Say Good Riddance to ‘Worst Drug in History’ (Medscape Today)
Pain reliever propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet): “No single drug has ever caused so many deaths.” Small benefits, big risks, addictive. Banned in UK 5 years ago due to suicide risk.

Don’t let anyone stop talk about end-of-life wishes (MSNBC)
Arthur Caplan on recent policy statement “imploring” doctors to discuss end-of-life choices with patients. “Sadly, in the hands of some conservative politicians trying to revoke the new health care law,” these discussions are discouraged.

Doctors in distress (Lancet)
Male doctors are 1.4 times more likely to commit suicide than other men, and female doctors are 2.3 times more likely to do so than other women. The problem starts in med school, but exact cause is unknown. Read more


Misc Links 2/6/11

Alone Together Sheryl TurkleHit Send, Take a Bow (WSJ)
Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. Precisely because there is so much opportunity for digital communication, we are losing the ability to make simple, genuine connections with actual human beings. “A behavior that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological.”

Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget? (NYT)
All of this amped-up productivity comes with a growing sense of unease. Too often, people find themselves with little time to concentrate and reflect on their work. Or to be truly present with their friends and family. “Nobody seems to actually pay full attention; everybody is doing a worse job because they are doing more things.”

You are not the boss of you (Wash Post)
Review of Daniel Akst’s “We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess.” The reviewer pans the book, but the example of over-medicalization that he disses strikes me as spot on.

Health information remains high on the list of popular uses for the Internet (Wash Post)
Search for health information is the third most common activity on the Internet for Americans. (1st is email, 2nd is using search engines) “In many ways, the Internet has become the de facto second opinion.” Read more


Misc Links 2/5/11

Cloned dogDog cloning is not as cuddly as it looks (New Scientist)
Review of Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend. Dogs are very difficult to clone due to opaque eggs. Requires large canine population, which Korea had, since canines are on the menu there.

Role of Age, Sex, and Race on Cardiac and Total Mortality Associated With Super Bowl Wins and Losses (Clinical Cardiology)
A Super Bowl loss for individual’s favored team triggered increased deaths in both men and women, especially in older patients. A Super Bowl win reduced deaths more in people age 65+ and women.

Twitter Can’t Save You (NYT)
Review of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. The Internet’s contradictions and confusions are just becoming visible through the fading mist of Internet euphoria.

Health reform repeal will lead to single payer, Medicare for all (KevinMD)
Dr. Kevin Pho’s opinion: Should Conservatives succeed in repeal, that, ironically, would be the first steps towards a Medicare for all, single payer system, which would be an infinitely worse proposition for opponents. Read more


Misc Links 2/4/11

Child in imaging machinePicture This: The Average US Child Has Nearly 8 Imaging Tests by Age 18 (JAMA)
That excludes dental x-rays. First large, population-based study examines the use of radiography, computed tomographic (CT) scans, and other imaging procedures in pediatric populations. 42% of children get imaged.

Close Look at a Flu Outbreak Upends Some Common Wisdom (NYT)
A study of the 2009 swine flu epidemic found that children did not catch the flu by sitting near classmates, adults probably were not infected by their children, and closing schools had little effect. Disease spread through child’s network of friends.

How Long Moms Work Linked To Slight Increase In Kids’ Weight (NPR)
Weight gain is small: a pound for each five months of work. Gain may be due to more fast food. “The problem is not maternal employment or working moms. It’s the constraints that working families feel.”

Women MDs Lose Ground in Starting Salaries (MedPage Today)
For new doctors entering the work force, women earned almost $17,000 a year less than men, regardless of their specialty. Between 1999 and 2008, the pay gap increased by a factor of five. Read more


Misc Links 2/3/11

Couple kissingThe mysteries of kisses (New Scientist)
Review of The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us. At its most basic level, an exploratory kiss offers a reproductive advantage, providing genetic and hormonal information to those who pucker up.

Virginia to seek expedited Supreme Court review of suit over health-care law (Wash Post)
In a rare legal request to bypass appeals and get early intervention, Virginia attorney general asks Supreme Court for immediate review. Read more


Misc Links 2/2/11

Marion Nestle What to eat2010 Dietary Guidelines, deconstructed (Food Politics)
Marion Nestle digests the new 95-page “policy document.” Being a vegetarian is no longer high risk. Change the food environment. “Eat less cake, cookies, ice cream, other desserts, and candy.” That’s pretty explicit.

How Often Does the Oldest Person in the World Die? (Village Voice)
Every six months, more or less. The world’s oldest person in the world died on Monday at the age of 114 years, 195 days. The honor is now held by a woman 37 days younger. Eight out of ten of the last “winners” have been 114, with the other two living to 115. Read more


Misc Links 2/1/11

Tiger gets hip replacementTiger, tiger, moving right: Pioneering hip operation gives Girl a new start (Guardian)
Eight-year-old Malayan tiger received world’s first prosthetic hip. Expected to live another 12 years. Malayan tigers are an endangered species, with only 500 living in the wild.

Better communication leads to better care (American Medical News)
Patients should speak up when they have concerns about patient modesty, and doctors should listen. Read more


Misc Links 1/31/11

Labrador retrievers sniff cancerDogs can be trained to sniff out bowel cancer, Japanese researchers say (Guardian)
Specially trained Labrador retrievers are nearly as good at identifying cancer as a conventional colonoscopy. Their sense of smell can pick up minute traces of chemicals circulating in the human body.

Florida judge rules against Obama’s health reform (Guardian)
Conservative judge in conservative part of conservative state ruled health care reform unconstitutional. He argued that, because the bill includes the requirement that everyone buy insurance, the whole bill is unconstitutional. “Congress could require that people buy and consume broccoli at regular intervals,” he wrote. Read more


Misc Links 1/30/11

2030 The future of medicineBack to the future—and to the drawing board (Lancet)
We live longer and can treat the diseases of old age. But this creates the potential for an economic catastrophe: ever-increasing demand met by ever-increasing supply. Review of 2030 – The Future of Medicine: Avoiding a Medical Meltdown.

FDA regulation and non-approved use of drugs (KevinMD)
An intelligent argument from a doctor on why he prescribes off-label. The FDA’s policy is medicine’s equivalent of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and encourages doctors to be snitches.
Read more