Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Medical Conspiracy Theories Popular in USA

My opinion:  I think the main thing that might be driving these theories forward is fear.  The medical landscape is so full of mysteries that people are likely to believe in one conspiracy theory or the other, especially if it is already quite popular.  It may also be driven by anger against the waning healthcare system in general.  I wonder how much research people do into conspiracy theories before they believe in them, and, if they actually have done research, how credible is it?  I wish the authors of this study had accounted for this and asked for a potential cause in their beliefs.  They could at least find out if these beliefs were inherent or not by asking how long the respondent has seriously considered such a theory.  This way, if the respondent indicates that they developed their belief recently, it is clear that a there must be a cause for this and the belief is not inherent.  Lastly, on another note, I wonder if this data isn't accurate because it was done through an online survey.  Are people without easy internet access more likely to believe in conspiracy theories because they cannot view scientific research?  Feel free to give thoughts and/or comments.

Half of Americans believe at least one medical conspiracy theory, study shows

"Our data suggest that medical conspiracy theories are widely known, broadly endorsed, and highly predictive of many common health behaviors."
By JC Sevcik   |   March 19, 2014 at 4:05 PM   | 
A nurse prepares a shot of H1N1 Flu vaccine for a patient. According to a new survey, almost two thirds of Americans have heard the theory that vaccines cause autism and nearly 20 percent believe it. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg
| License Photo
March 19 (UPI) -- Do you believe that vaccines cause autism or that GMOs are being used to shrink the world’s population? Or that the government is preventing access to alternative medicines to benefit Big Pharma? That the government knows cell phones cause cancer but do nothing to stop it? That water fluoridation is suspicious? Or that the CIA infected African Americans with HIV?According to a study released Monday by researchers at University of Chicago, some 49 percent of Americans believe at least one of these medical six conspiracy theories to be true.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, questioned 1,351 adults in an online survey, asking whether they have heard of each of the above theories and whether they agreed or disagreed.
The survey also found that people who believed in conspiracies were more likely to seek out alternative medicine, with only 13 percent of nonbelievers taking herbal supplements compared to 35 percent of conspiracy believers.
Among those who believed conspiracies, 35 percent identified as liberal and 41 percent identified as conservative.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2014/03/19/Half-of-Americans-believe-at-least-one-medical-conspiracy-theory-study-shows/3511395254812/#ixzz2yy33H9YV

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Scientists Capable of Making Artificial Vaginas

My opinion:  I know this seems kind of silly, but its importance cannot be underestimated, especially for others organs that may be grown in the future.  First off, this just goes to show that there may be more to a body part than meets the eye, suggesting that replacements are complicated to make.  However, now that this is made, I'm wondering if the same thing can be done except for male body parts.  What's more, doctors may use this method for sexual reassignment surgery.  Some downsides are that we don't know how these body parts will work in the future.  What if they're easier to break or malfunction as the body grows older?  Nonetheless, this is still a remarkable achievement and it seems to be working well as of now.  Feel free to give comments.

 Scientists grow viable vaginas from girls’ own cells

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine/WFBMC Photography
Eight years after they received implants, four young women report they have functioning sexual and excretory organs
Four young women born with abnormal or missing vaginas were implanted with lab-grown versions made from their own cells, the latest success in creating replacement organs that have so far included tracheas, bladders and urethras.
Follow-up tests show the new vaginas are indistinguishable from the women's own tissue and have grown in size as the young women, who got the implants as teens, matured.
Two of the four implant recipients, who were born with a working uterus but no vagina, now menstruate normally.
It is not yet clear whether these women can bear children, but because they are menstruating, it suggests their ovaries are working, so it may be possible, said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina.
All implant recipients also reported that they are sexually active and satisfied with their arousal and orgasms, according to a press release from The Lancet, the medical journal where information on the implants was published Friday. They report no unusual pain.
The feat, which Atala and colleagues in Mexico describe in the article, is the latest demonstration from the growing field of regenerative medicine, a discipline in which doctors take advantage of the body's power to regrow and replace cells.

From: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/11/scientists-grow-viablevaginasfromgirlsowncells.html

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Doctors Produce 3-D Skull, Save Patient

My opinion:  I know there are medical miracles, but then there are medical miracles!  This really is quite the invention, and it all happened because of 3-D printing.  Still, I have some concerns for the new skull.  If part of it breaks, is it possible to replace that part with another 3-D reproduction?  Also, the skull is clear.  Can hair grow out of it, or can it at least be made to look like a real skull?  I'm very glad that the patient has healed, but what would people think of you if they saw that you had a plastic skull?  Nonetheless, a very fine and amazing idea!  It's just important, however, to try and fix the smaller problems as well, at least at some point.  Any thoughts?  Feel free to comment.

Medical First: 3-D Printed Skull Successfully Implanted in Woman

Another day, another advance in 3-D printing technology.
Doctors in the Netherlands report that they have for the first time successfully replaced most of a human’s skull with a 3-D printed plastic one — and likely saved a woman's life in the process.
The 23-hour surgery took place three months ago at University Medical Center Utrecht. The hospital announced details of the groundbreaking operation this week and said the patient, a 22-year-old woman, is doing just fine.

Image: 3-D printed skull UMC Utrecht
Doctors at UMC Utrecht in the Netherlands replaced the top part of a woman's skull with a 3-D printed plastic one.

The woman, whose name wasn’t released, suffered from severe headaches due to a thickening of her skull. She slowly lost her vision, her motor coordination was suffering and it was only a matter of time before other essential brain functions would have atrophied, Verweij said in a press release issued by UMC Utrecht.
Verweij noted that in some brain operations it’s common for part of the skull to be temporarily removed to reduce pressure on the brain, then put back later or replaced by an artificial implant. In this case, doctors inserted nearly an entire plastic skull that was manufactured with the help of Anatomics, an Australian medical device company that specializes in 3-D printing,

From: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/medical-first-3-d-printed-skull-successfully-implanted-woman-n65576

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Does Vitamin D Help Depression?

My opinion:  I think this whole vitamin D prophecy may be easy to believe in, especially with all the hype from drug companies.  But depression is a physiological illness that is very difficult to heal, and frankly, a vitamin pill probably will not do the trick.  I have read, however, that being malnourished can trigger depression.  On a related note, the article notes that vitamin D supplements appeared to work best with people who were vitamin D deficient.  Perhaps taking of overhaul of one's eating patterns would be an effective supplement to antidepressants, as this study seems to imply.  Additionally, studies need to investigate if vitamin pill supplements are better or if actually eating foods with vitamins are better.  Finally, I'd be really curious to see if drug companies promote research that benefits them, while not mentioning other research that harms them.  It's kind of like how colleges say they are all #1, but each one uses a different scale.  Anyone with any prior knowledge on this?  Feel free to comment.

Vitamin D supplements 'do not reduce depression'

Sunday 23 March 2014 - 12am PST

Past studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency may lead to depression. In response, other studies propose that increasing vitamin D levels with supplements may reduce depressive symptoms. But new research, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, has found no evidence that vitamin D supplements reduce depression.
The research team, led by Dr. Jonathan A. Schaffer of the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York, NY, conducted a systematic review of clinical trials that looked at how vitamin D supplementation affected depression.
The team identified seven trials involving 3,191 participants that looked at the effects of vitamin D supplementation against depression and compared this with no vitamin D supplementation.
The investigators say that almost all trials were "characterized by methodological limitations" and only two studies included participants who had clinical depression at study baseline.
The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation itself had no overall impact on depression.
However, further investigation revealed that for patients with clinical depression, particularly those who were taking standard antidepressant medication, vitamin D supplementation may help reduce depressive symptoms.
But Dr. Schaffer says that before this association can be confirmed, new trials that monitor the effects of vitamin D supplements in these patients need to be conducted.

From: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274295.php

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Pay-to-Play" Meetings Help Get Drugs on Market

My opinion:  Frankly, I'm not surprised that this is going on.  Everybody knows that drug companies pay doctors to promote their products, but now it is apparent that they can use money to get past the FDA.  This may be even worse than before, as now drugs are on the market that are potentially very dangerous.  I am wondering what other methods there are to getting around obstacles.  I know that drug companies often withhold possibly bad experimental data, but perhaps there's more.  What if they pay lobbyists to pass more lenient drug laws?  Do you have any opinions or additions to this?  Feel free to comment.

Senators Allege That Drug Companies Paid To Help Get Approval For A Dangerous New Painkiller

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg

Ever since a coalition of doctors came out against the controversial new painkiller Zohydro, health officials have been questioning how the drug got approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the first place. Now, two senators are questioning the ethics of a series of meetings between drug companies and federal regulators, MedPage Today reports.
Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and David Vitter (R-La.) want answers about what they call "pay-to-play" meetings in which pharmaceutical manufacturers allegedly shelled out thousands of dollars to meet with FDA officials who oversee safety regulations on painkillers. The senators suggest these meetings might have helped Zohydro get approved by the FDA despite an advisory committee voting against it.

From: http://www.businessinsider.in/Senators-Allege-That-Drug-Companies-Paid-To-Help-Get-Approval-For-A-Dangerous-New-Painkiller/articleshow/31624328.cms

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Battling Bad Medicine - What You're Missing from The Title of this Article

In the video TED talk (link below), Ben Goldacre discusses some of the problems with research discoveries in our day and age.  What really gets to me is that, obviously not all studies can be accurate.  But when I see them in the title of an article, I often take it for granted - seldom do I actually read the article, and even if I do, so much information is being withheld.  It would be interesting to see if a study could possibly be done on the effect of title reading - how does it affect people's minds, and do they discuss the title as if they actually believe in it? 

Anyway, that's similar to some of the issues addressed by Goldacre.  Apparently, there was once a study that determined that eating salads and vegetables could increase the lifespan, but since green-eaters often engage in many healthy habits anyway, it is impossible to know if the vegetables actually do this.  Not all factors can always be considered, and in some studies, very few are at all, which is why they're inaccurate.  More importantly, Goldacre mentions that drug companies often withhold information from being released.  I loved Goldacre's analogy to this - if you flip a coin numerous times and withhold 50% of the data, it is possible to convince another person that the coin has two heads.  So how come the government can't force them to release the data?  Is anything really that accurate at all, as far as we know?  Feel free to comment AND watch the video!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fruit Juice Worse than Natural, Solid Fruits

My opinion:  I think to some people this may already be obvious, but it still is remarkable how much sugar they put into these drinks.  I've actually tried some fruit juices that are unsweetened, and they taste much, much different than the others.  Perhaps one could experiment by making a small glass of orange juice from regular oranges, and then comparing this to the orange juice bought at the store.  An alternative to pure fruit juice is simply to put a little bit in a glass, and then fill the rest up with water.  I've been doing this with fruit juices for years, and frankly, I think it tastes better when it isn't sickeningly sweet.  Lastly, it's important to remember that eating the equivalent in regular fruit isn't likely to do much harm to the body.  I think this is because these are more complex sugars that are slowly processed and don't cause blood sugar spikes, but in juices, they likely add simple sugars to the mix.  Any thoughts?  Feel free to comment.

Fruit juice is not a low-sugar alternative to sugar-sweetened drinks

Dr. Gill says "there seems to be a clear misperception that fruit juices and smoothies are low-sugar alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages."
Prof. Sattar explains:
"Fruit juice has a similar energy density and sugar content to other sugary drinks, for example: 250 ml of apple juice typically contains 110 kcal and 26 g of sugar; and 250 ml of cola typically contains 105 kcal and 26.5 g of sugar."
He says research is beginning to show that unlike solid fruit intake, for which high consumption appears linked either to reduced or neutral risk for diabetes, high fruit juice intake is linked to raised risk for diabetes.
Pieces of fruit and fruit juice
"One glass of fruit juice contains substantially more sugar than one piece of fruit."
"One glass of fruit juice contains substantially more sugar than one piece of fruit; in addition, much of the goodness in fruit - fibre, for example - is not found in fruit juice, or is there in far smaller amounts," he adds.
Also, although fruit juices contain vitamins and minerals that are mostly absent in sugar-sweetened drinks, the levels of nutrients in fruit juices many not be enough to offset the unhealthy effect that excessive consumption has on metabolism, says Dr. Gill.
In their paper they refer to a trial where participants drank half a liter of pure grape juice every day for 3 months. And the results showed that despite grape juice's high antioxidant properties, it led to increased insulin resistance and bigger waists in overweight adults.

From: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/272438.php