Posted by: Chris Maloney | November 16, 2015

What Does Added Sugar Do To You?

Eat real food. That’s the goal.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | October 20, 2015

How Common Is Anaphylactic Shock From The Flu Shot?

Short answer: very, very rare.

Longer answer: not as rare as we’d like.

An older study of anaphylactic shock for other vaccines found five cases in almost eight million doses of vaccine given, which works out to less that one in a million chance of getting anaphylactic shock from other vaccines. (See full study here.)

A recently published study for influenza vaccination found the risk of anaphylactic was slightly higher. Slightly more than one in a million, but not quite two in a million. (Study here.)

The take home? Having an anaphylactic shock reaction after a vaccine is about one in a million. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and it may be delayed. “The onset of symptoms among cases was within 30 minutes (8 cases), 30 to less than 120 minutes (8 cases), 2 to less than 4 hours (10 cases), 4 to 8 hours (2 cases), the next day (1 case), and not documented (4 cases).” (study above.)

Posted by: Chris Maloney | October 19, 2015

Setting Aside Your Own Blood For An Operation…And Stool?

The process of donating blood before an operation for your own use is considered a wise one. Even though the blood supply is checked for the things we know about, there are other things we may not know about yet. (Or just be learning...)

Blood makes sense, but stool? (For those of you who’ve missed the microbiome revolution, have a look.) Now there’s a renewed interest in donating your own stool for personal use after chemotherapy destroys all your gut flora. A NYT article says Sloan Kettering in New York is starting a program to donate your own feces to yourself after treatment. The initial results were a decreased risk of dying after treatment, which is a big plus in my book.

If you don’t happen to be a patient at Sloan, you may be able to donate and store your own elsewhere. Openbiome stores fecal material, but the strangest hurdle exists. You can only get your stool out to treat a C. difficile infection, not for “reconstitutional” purposes. Why? Because fecal material is classified as a drug, not as a tissue like blood. OK, poop is a drug. Right. I’m trying to think of a one-liner that can do that one justice.

All of us can improve our diets. But when you create and name a syndrome yourself (and trademark and copyright it) then follow it up by prescribing a diet that you claim improves a wide range of brain illnesses, then you’d better have some evidence to back yourself up.

In looking at Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s website, I can’t help but like her. I also noticed that she doesn’t have any way for patients to schedule with her. According to some online posts about her, she has been touring the U.S. and elsewhere. It’s also mentioned that she has a child with developmental disabilities herself, giving her personal experience in the field.

I also like Dr. McBride’s focus on the gut bacteria and the microbiome. She’s well ahead of her time, and there’s a lot of emerging evidence out there. A recent study on irritable bowl syndrome came up with a lot of what she’s saying, but almost a decade later.

That said, her diet has been out for quite a while now, and autism is a very big research area. What are the results of doing her protocol? It’s hard, because her GAPS does not appear on medline anywhere. I guess when you name and trademark your own syndrome other researchers don’t use that terminology.

The studies on mice and the microbiome are stunning and indicate all sorts of dramatic changes in the brain as a result of changes in the microbiome. Gut transmitting fatty acids may be a causative factor for brain changes. But these are done on germ-free mice in a laboratory setting and may or may not bear a direct relationship to anything that happens to humans.

We do have some preliminary data on the connection between autism and the microbiome. Yes, there is an association, but it isn’t a cause-and-effect relationship. Comparing siblings with-and-without autism, many of each had gastrointestinal symptoms. The symptoms were more common in autistic children, and behavioral problems seemed worse in this group. Autistic children and siblings ate the same food, and “(t)here was no significant difference in ASD (autism spectrum disorder) severity scores between ASD children with and without FGID (functional gastrointestinal disorders). No significant difference in diversity or overall microbial composition was detected between ASD children with NT (neurotypical) siblings.” (study here) So, according to this study, autistic behavior is not determined by either what you eat or by what’s happening in your gut.

Dr. McBride’s initial assumption of an imbalance of bacteria at birth isn’t borne out in a cohort study comparing Caesarian vs. vaginal births. ” no association between planned CS and ASD or ADHD” (study here).

While autistic children have gut disorders at a higher rate than control children, there is little evidence that the gut disorder causes autism. It is more likely that it is a compounding issue for children with other issues. Whether it is more is still under investigation, and all caregivers are involved in creating research guidelines.

We are fortunate to live in a state that is leading the way in the local farm and food movement. The number of young farmers is on the rise. Independent chefs and food entrepreneurs continue to put down roots and build sustainable businesses.

Source: Healthcare uprising in Maine? It’s already happening – PenBay Pilot

Posted by: Chris Maloney | October 6, 2015

Can Adding Bacteria To An Infant’s Food Prevent Asthma?

Quick, what do you know about Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira,Veillonella, and Rothia? Not much? Join the rest of us. But these four bacteria, FLVR for short, can really impact a child’s chances of developing asthma if given in the first three months of life.

Think of it as a bacterial gut vaccine or gut grass seed to avoid inflammation later in life. But why do we need them now? Asthma rates have been increasing dramatically in recent years. “Increased use of prenatal and perinatal antibiotics, increased urban living, and formula feeding in infancy may all play a role.”

The researchers were so impressed by their findings, they are hustling to patent their results. Currently, you can’t buy this mix anywhere, and your pediatrician is unlikely to know anything about it. Part of the problem is that we all have been taught to fear bacteria. “We need to revisit our relationship with bacteria,” Turvey says. “Our species have coevolved with them, and they’re really important for our health.”

My own contribution to increasing our knowledge has been a short book, Tending Your Internal Garden, in which I point out some current myths about our bacterial internal world and even some possible solutions.

Last year 118 children were paralyzed in the U.S. The only association (for most of the children) was a recent respiratory infection. At the time, enterovirus D68 was targeted, but less than 20% of the children had the virus present at the time of testing.

A recent report of the CDC cites Enterovirus C105 as another possible cause. The enterovirus C family includes 11 enteroviruses (previously Coxsackie A viruses) as well as the polioviruses. The most recent report is of a six-year-old girl who lost function in her right arm after a respiratory infection. Enterovirus C105 was found in her respiratory tract, and her MRI showed swelling in her spinal column.

Although the patient was started on immunoglobulin treatment, it had little effect. She has gradually regained the use of her arm over the eight months since her infection. (report here)

Posted by: Chris Maloney | September 28, 2015

Is Dr. Oz Right About Using Coconut Oil For Everything?

I love coconut oil. It takes great, and you feel vaguely virtuous for using a “healthy oil.” But I have misgivings about giving it a completely free pass and using it for everything. In Dr. Oz’s recent “99 Amazing Uses for Coconut Oil” he recommends it for everything from your morning coffee to treating cuts to everything you cook. It’s even good for a nursing mother’s nipples, introducing infants to coconut oil right along with mother’s milk.

Much of the hype surrounding coconut is because. “coconut oil comprises medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). MCFA are unique in that they are easily absorbed and metabolised by the liver, and can be converted to ketones. Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source in the brain.” (cite here) These health benefits are compared to the ill-effects of saturated fatty acids. But more recent analysis of the “data revealed that dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are not associated with CAD and other adverse health effects or at worst are weakly associated” (cite here) So we’re using coconut to avoid something else that tastes as good and may not be any worse for us. In a trial of different fats versus transfats, all of them worked: “each 1% energy replacement of TFAs with SFAs, MUFAs or PUFAs, respectively, decreased the total cholesterol” (cite here)

Coconut isn’t just a replacement for saturated fats. “The parts of its fruit like coconut kernel and tender coconut water have numerous medicinal properties such as antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antidermatophytic, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, (and) immunostimulant…The coconut palm is, therefore, eulogised as ‘Kalpavriksha’ (the all giving tree) in Indian classics” (cite here) I guess we should use it for everything.

But this magical tree doesn’t necessarily result in the expected benefits. Natives who consumed lots of coconuts did not have more heart disease, but also did not have less of it. (cite here) When calves are fed either coconut oil (CO) or tallow: “Feeding on the CO diet induced an 18-fold increase in the hepatic concentration of triacylglycerols” (cite here)

Sometimes coconut and palm oil are discussed as equally healthy. Palm oil clearly is not. “for every additional kilogram of palm oil consumed per-capita annually, IHD mortality rates increased by 68 deaths per 100,000 (95% CI [21-115]), whereas, in similar settings, stroke mortality rates increased by 19 deaths per 100,000” (cite here) In rats, coconut oil benefits rats “suffering” from heated palm oil.(cite here)

Rather than an all-or-nothing approach to any foodstuff, it’s better to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each. In a rat trial of the heart: “The cardiac mitochondria from rats fed with coconut oil showed the lowest concentration of oxidized proteins and peroxidized lipids.” We could conclude “Yes! Coconut oil is great!” The researchers went on: “The fish oil diet leads to the highest oxidative stress in cardiac mitochondria, an effect that could be partly prevented by the antioxidant probucol.” We could conclude that fish oil is a terrible choice, so why are all of our doctors recommending it? But the next sentence tells a different story: “Total and LDL cholesterols decreased in plasma of rats fed fish oil, compared to olive and coconut oils fed rats.” So now we have a better picture of what the oils do in rats. We don’t have that clear a picture about what happens in humans, regardless of the current fad. (cite here)

Posted by: Chris Maloney | September 28, 2015

New Prion Disease Connected To Parkinsons: How Many Are Affected?

Human prion diseases are rare. So when, for the first time in fifty years, a new one is discovered, you’d think there would have been more media coverage.

The last time we had a new prion disease, Creutzfeldt–Jaekob disease, (CJD), it was associated with cannibalism and more recently mad cows. This one is connected to an orphan disease, Multiple system atrophy (MSA). It looks sometimes like Parkinsons and sometimes like something else.

Having Parkinsons is a poor enough diagnosis, but having MSA Parkinsons is worse. Rather than simply having your nerve cells fill with alpha-synuclein, MSA Parkinsons patients have the alpha-synuclein fill up their oligodendroglia, the cells that help sheath your nerves in protective myelin. So not only do you have Parkinsons symptoms, you have all the symptoms of an immune system that is shorting out, much like multiple sclerosis.

Currently, there are no treatments or cure, so this disease is managed by cobbling together treatments from other areas as supportive measures.

But researchers noticed a strange behavior in the plaques of MSA patients: ““toxic α-Syn aggregates exhibit prion-like behavior spreading from cell to cell.” This month they announced that, indeed, MSA was a prion based illness. Mice who were injected with Parkinsons plaques did not develop the disease, but mice who were injected with MSA plaques all got the illness. The researchers concluded: ” α-synuclein is the first new human prion to be identified, to our knowledge, since the discovery a half century ago that CJD was transmissible.”

Now we need to think about how many current patients with Parkinsons might have MSA. Differentiating the diagnosis takes a lot of testing, and many patients with symptoms may not have had that testing but simply been diagnosed with Parkinsons. One of the basic realities of prion diseases is that common sterilizing practices (autoclaving) are not effective at removing all infectious material.

At the same time, there may be a treatment for people who currently have MSA Parkinsons. Just last month a team of researchers found that polythiophenes (chemicals that make samples glow during experiments) bind preferentially to prions. Infected mice exhibited an 80% increase in survival. They were building on previous research by another group.

So, in the span of two months, we have a new terrible specter of a surgerical and blood passed infectious prion and a possible treatment for many currently affected individuals.

Posted by: Chris Maloney | September 22, 2015

Understanding Evangelical Atheism: Coming Out Of The Closet.

In Phil Zuckerman’s book, Atheism and Secularity, (p.95) he describes atheists and agnostics as a tiny minority. But my experience of atheists is that they describe themselves as far more prevalent and under-represented because too few of them will speak out. They also think of themselves as more intelligent, creating the need to evangelize their truth to the rest of us.

To compile his information about atheists, Zuckerman used members of the Bright movement, founded in 2003 by Futrell and Geisert. The Bright movement is currently maintained by Daniel Dennett (Tufts) and Richard Dawkins. A Bright maintains a naturalistic worldview free of mystical and supernatural elements. There are 40,000 Brights in over 140 countries.

Zuckerman’s information places atheists at 2% of the U.S. population, while agnostics hold 4%. Agnostics were more educated than atheists or believers. Over half of atheist and agnostics continued to identify themselves as belonging to a religion despite their lack of belief. They also continue to attend church services, giving credence to the idea of “being in the closet” about their atheism.

But this contradiction is also maintained in their personal spiritual life. Only a third of atheists and agnostics claim they never pray. Many continue to attend weekly religious services despite minimal external pressure.

While more liberal than believers, atheists are almost twice as likely as agnostics to be against homosexuality. Atheists who continue to continue to attend church services are more than twice as likely to acknowledge homophobia as those who do not.

Despite this, atheists or agnostics are almost three times as likely as believers to be homosexual. (p.98) Zuckerman explores the subject of homosexuality within the Bright community, noting that over 7% of online conversations revolved around homosexuality both as a moral issue and as a model for Brights themselves to come out of the closet and go main stream.

Coming out of the closet for atheists may be a daunting task according to Robert Altemeyer’s The Atheists. They face a much larger group in the U.S., Evangelical Fundamentalists, who roughly outnumber them as 36% of the population to their 3%. The U.S. is the worst place to be an atheist, 3% vs. 9% in Canada and as high as 19% in France.  In the U.S. being an outspoken atheist can cost you friends and job prospects, as well as alienate your family and relatives.

So the next time you meet an atheist, spend a moment in their shoes. They see around them a world defined by religion. Even the books written by atheists for atheists are largely defined by arguments against God and religion, not positive discussions of a positive, humanistic atheist world view. For the most part an atheist expects derision and argument as well as prejudice and discrimination. It makes sense that an atheist might be a little disagreeable, a little argumentative, so let them vent a little without taking it personally. Be polite and change the subject if you find the religious discussion objectionable.

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