Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Possible Answer to the Asthma Mystery?

A couple days back, I posted on the mysterious Asthma epidemic. As I was reading through my sources today, I noticed an interesting study that may shed light on one of the causes. (I'd bet that there are a number of different reasons that Asthma is on the rise.)

This is a bit complex, but bear with me. A new
Australian study reported by EurekAlert is looking into the connection between fat intake and how well your immune system works.

Here's how fat may affect the immune system. Some white blood cells, the ones that trigger immune response (they're called dendritic cells), rely on a fat binding molecule called "aP2" to do their job. If aP2 is over-activated -- say, by a high-fat diet -- your immune system gets thrown out of whack.

"Over-activation of dendritic cells can trigger inflammatory diseases," reports EurekAlert. Inflammatory diseases include asthma, atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

As our intake of fats has changed in the past few decades, "there has been in an increase in inflammatory diseases."

Once again, the study is just looking into this connection. Conclusive evidence of a link between fat intake and the functioning of your immune system has yet to be found.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Mysterious Asthma Epidemic

According to a recent column at the New York Times, asthma rates are up 60 percent among children since 1980, and no one seems to know why. In children under the age of 5, asthma rates have soared 160 percent between 1980 and 1994. In total, 20 million Americans suffer from asthma.

Why the spike? No one seems to know. According to the Times…
  • It's not genetics. The rise in rates has occurred too fast.
  • It's not cigarette smoke. Parents smoke less these days.
  • It's not air pollution. Air pollution is down in the U.S. since 1980.
  • It's not obesity. Studies have failed to find a link.
  • It's probably not the changing diet of expecting mothers. Studies have also failed to find a link there.

Two other interesting theories, that have not yet been proven, are hyper-hygiene and antibiotics. Regarding hygiene, it could be that homes are so clean these days, kids immune systems are not developing properly. As far as antibiotics, maybe increased use in recent decades is changing body chemistry for the worse. This reminds me of earlier concerns that antibacterial soap may cause super-germs to develop.

Whatever it is, it could be years before scientists figure out what's going on. One suggestion for researchers: when in doubt,
blame TV.

Monday, December 18, 2006

ANOTHER Outbreak of Food Poisoning

Remember how I wrote that food poisoning is the big story of the year in health? Well, leave it to the Olive Garden to put an exclamation point on it. In Indianapolis, at least 370 diners at the Italian food chain have reportedly fallen ill with a nasty norovirus, reports MSNBC.

While no one has died from the illness, which causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever (
according to a CNN report), twice as many people have been sickened than the spinach / E. coli outbreak in the Fall.

After
a quick trip to Wikipedia, I learned that noroviruses are transmitted via the “fecal-oral route.” And this usually occurs when food service workers don’t wash their hands. From there, the virus may get to either food or liquids. For waterborn outbreaks, the “often overlooked culprit” is ice machines, reports Wikipedia.

Does anybody recall that story from February, where a middle school kid’s science experiment found that, “70 percent of the time, ice from fast food restaurants was dirtier than toilet water?” Read
the full story at ABC News, and next time you eat out, do think twice about how bad you want your beverage to be cold.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"Stunning" Drop in Breast Cancer Reported

Research by the MD Anderson Cancer center reveals breast cancer rates dropped 15 percent between August 2002 and December 2003, reports the New York Times. Around that same time, hormone therapy for menopause was found to increase risk for cardiovascular disease, so many women stopped the treatment. And scientist doubt this is merely a coincidence.

"Scientists know that hormones can fuel the growth of estrogen positive tumors, which carry receptors for estrogen on their cell surfaces," reported the Times. And estrogen-positive tumors make up 70 percent of all breast cancer cases.

“Everyone kept saying, What is it [that's causing breast cancer]? What’s in the environment?” one researcher told the Times. “The best explanation is hormone therapy.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cut Protein, Lower Cancer Risk?

Researchers from Washington University (St. Louis) found people with low protein intake had lower levels of hormones linked to cancer risk. The study included three groups: distance runners, vegetarians and "sedentary adults who ate a typical American diet," reported Scientific American. Surprise, surprise, the vegetarians came out ahead in this study.

While the runners also had low levels of hormones lined to cancer, the vegetarians had a lower level of a particularly risky hormone, IGF-1, which encourages cell growth and division. According to the SciAm report, "high IGF-1 levels in the blood have been linked to breast, prostate and colon cancers."

Before you put down the pork chops and pick up some kale, understand the Washington University study was a very, very small. It only included 63 people. One researcher told SciAm that the results are just a "first step" towards a better understanding of the relationship between protein and cancer.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Possible Link Between the BBQ and Cancer

Okay, I know it's not barbecue season, but this story is relevant anyway. It has to do with how you cook your food and your risk for developing cancer.

First of all, this is nothing new. However, I have found that every time I try and explain this to people, they roll their eyes and tell me I'm an idiot. I may be that. But it's true: the higher the temperature you cook your food at, the worse it can be for you.

That means cooking over an open flame is as risky as it gets. And people hate to hear that, because people love barbecue anything.

So here's the latest bad news, barbecue lovers. According to a study reported by Reuters, "women who favor flame-broiled foods may be at much higher risk for developing breast cancer than women who do not." Worse yet, it doesn't take much. Women who had barbecued food more than twice a month were 74 percent more likely to develop brest cancer.

"Cooking meat at high temperatures in direct heat over an open flame can lead to the production of cancer-causing chemicals known as heterocyclic amines, or HCAs," one researcher told Reuters.

But it's not just the open flame. In general, meat consumption had a negative health effect. Women consuming more than 64 grams per day had a 43 percent higher risk of breast cancer.

Now there is some good news. And it's called aspirin. That's right. Just take a pill with your next flame-broiled feast and you'll be fine. According to the Reuters report, "aspirin completely attenuated the increased risk of breast cancer [from flame-broiled food]."

I can see it now, right there on a bottle of A1 Sauce at the store, a big yellow sticker that says in bold, red writing, "NOW WITH ASPRIN!"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Story of the year: food poisoning?

Food poisoning is back. This time it's green onions in Mexican fast food restaurants. In Iowa, 14 are hospitalized after eating at Taco Johns. Across four other states, 47 people were sickened after eating at Taco Bell. In all cases, green onions are suspected of transferring E Coli to unsuspecting diners.

If you recall, 3 people and 200 people got sick after eating tainted spinach during the summer. Taken together, these outbreaks have stolen national headlines. So this year seems to be shaping up as the year of food poisoning. And that comes as something as a surprise to me, considering it's the 100 year anniversary of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle."

While Sinclair focused on the horrors of the meat packing industry, it appears as though produce is the big monster this year. Produce? Fresh, innocent, leafy greens? Yup. In fact, I heard on the radio this weekend that most food poisoning comes from produce. And the type of E. coli that hit diners at Taco Bell last week actually can not be removed by simply washing the green onions. They need to be cooked.

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.