- It’s a Mad, Mad World – 15 New Mental Illnesses
- So, Is Coffee OK, Doc?
- This Slimming Pill Kills
- This Is What 2000 Calories Look Like..
- Bird Flu in China – Is There Nondisclosure?
- The Alarming State of Healthcare Security
- The World’s Best Restaurant Gets Knocked Out By Food Poisoning
- Say No to HRT
- So What Is the Mediterranean Diet?
- New Drugs – How To Assess If They’re Effective
IF THE LATEST MANUAL IN PSYCHIATRY is anything to shout about, ladies and gentlemen, we have quite a number of new mental illnesses to worry about. And maybe throw out a couple of outdated ones out of the window.. _The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders_, or DSM for short, lists these changes. The American Psychiatric Association released its revised fifth edition of the manual recently, which serves as the official authority on mental health diagnoses (and related insurance claims). Among the new entries are: COMPULSIVE HOARDING- A PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR THAT IS CHARACTERIZED BY THE EXCESSIVE ACQUISITION OF AND INABILITY OR UNWILLINGNESS TO DISCARD LARGE QUANTITIES OF OBJECTS THAT COVER THE LIVING AREAS OF THE HOME. READ MORE HERE.
EXCORIATION (SKIN-PICKING) DISORDER- UNDER THE GROUP OF OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDERS, THIS CONDITION IS CHARACTERIZED BY CHRONIC PICKING AND SCRATCHING OF THE SKIN THAT CAN CAUSE WOUNDS AND SCABS. THE CONDITION CAN BE ASSOCIATED WITH OTHER DISORDERS INVOLVING COMPULSIVE EATING, BUYING AND STEALING. THE PROBLEM IS OFTEN TREATED WITH ANTIDEPRESSANTS, ANTI-ANXIETY DRUGS OR OTHER MEDICATIONS.
CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL- PEOPLE WHO ARE GRUMPY BEFORE THEY’VE HAD THEIR MORNING COFFEE MAY WELCOME CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL TO THE MANUAL AS A LEGITIMATE MENTAL AFFLICTION. A CONTROVERSIAL ADDITION, THE NEW DIAGNOSIS DIRECTLY REFLECTS OUR INCREASING DEPENDENCE ON CAFFEINE, FROM THE PROLIFERATION OF STARBUCKS OUTLETS TO THE GROWING ARRAY OF NON-COFFEE ENERGY DRINKS AND CAFFEINE-INJECTED ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES.
SOCIAL (PRAGMATIC) COMMUNICATION DISORDER- WITH THIS ADDITION TO THE MANUAL, PSYCHIATRISTS CAN NOW MORE PRECISELY DIAGNOSE SPEECH AND WRITTEN LANGUAGE PROBLEMS THAT ARE UNRELATED TO AUTISM. INDEED, WHILE SYMPTOMS OF THIS DISORDER, WHICH MUST DATE BACK TO CHILDHOOD, INCLUDE “INAPPROPRIATE RESPONSES IN CONVERSATION” AND DIFFICULTY COMMUNICATING, THE DIAGNOSIS CAN ONLY BE MADE AFTER AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS HAVE BEEN RULED OUT. THESE PROBLEMS OFTEN HAMPER PEOPLE’S SOCIAL LIVES, ACADEMIC CAREERS AND JOB PERFORMANCE.A FEW ENTRIES IN PREVIOUS EDITIONS HAVE BEEN TAKEN OUT. “SEXUAL AVERSION DISORDER,” FOR EXAMPLE, HAS BEEN RETRACTED FROM LEGITIMATE DIAGNOSES BECAUSE OF “RARE USE AND LACK OF SUPPORTING RESEARCH,” ACCORDING TO THE APA. BY THE WAY, AS AN ILLUSTRATION OF CHANGING TIMES AND HOW TIME CHANGES SOCIETY'S VALUES, UNTIL THE 1970S, THE MANUAL LISTED HOMOSEXUALITY AS A DISORDER.
SOME PATIENTS ASKED recently whether coffee was good for one’s health. They had apparently noticed that there has been the shift in marketing strategy by coffee-makers in promoting it as a rich source of anti-oxidants, and therefore beneficial to health. YES, coffee is a rich source of anti-oxidants, like chlorogenic acid and melanoidins, the latter being the most important component of roasted coffee. Some of the other beneficial effect of drinking coffee include: * Reducing the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Read _“A Cup of Coffee a Day will Keep Alzheimer’s Away”._ * Protecting against diabetes. Moderate consumption may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle aged women. * Preventing liver disease and the formation of liver and kidney stones. * The beneficial effects of caffeine in coffee on alertness, attentiveness, and wakefulness. NO, Among other things: * Unfiltered coffee (as in Turkish coffee and _kahawa_) raises BLOOD CHOLESTEROL. Filtered coffee, as in instant coffee, does not do so as diterpenes, responsible for raising cholesterol, are removed by filtration. * Coffee consumption is also associated with an increase of plasma HOMOCYSTEINE, a risk factor for coronary heart disease. * Caffeine in coffee can increase the risk of ELEVATED BLOOD PRESSURE and hardening of the arteries, as well as PALPITATIONS. * 4 cups or more will hasten OSTEOPOROSIS, especially in those with low calcium intake in the diet. * Coffee increases HEARTBURN, _aka _gastro-eosophageal reflux disease (GERD). What about heart disease? The verdict’s not in just yet..on one hand, _diterpenes_ cause a rise in cholesterol and homocysteine but this seems balanced by the beneficial anti-oxidant properties. As of now, there is no convincing evidence that coffee leads to heart disease, period. I ought to clarify here that we are talking about coffee, just plain coffee. The pendulum swings the other way when we consume coffee with additives, like milk and sugar. The _latte _at the local Starbucks will add on quite a substantial amount of fats, sugars and calories (260 to be precise, see here). Compare that to the ZERO CALORIES OF PLAIN BLACK COFFEE!Related Articles * Well: This Is Your Brain on Coffee (well.blogs.nytimes.com) * The Pros and Cons of Coffee (restaurantequipmenttogo.com)
THE DEATH OF a medical student who took a banned slimming pill, dinitrophenol, commonly called _DNP,_ raises the point that most, if not all, slimming pills that are currently available, are a major hazard to health. In fact, to date, the US FDA has only approved two new weight-loss pills (in 2012) after the previous approval of Xenical in 1999. Such are the difficulties faced by pharmas in securing approval for a safe and efficient medicine to lose weight. Parents of medical student who died after taking banned weightloss aid warn others of dangers (dailyrecord.co.uk)
THE EFFECTS OF THE CURRENT OUTBREAK of the H7N9 avian influenza in China has been as varied as causing the sales of KFC to drop and causing the stock-prices of rubber-glove manufacturers to be on the uptrend..but there's no mistaking the fact that to date, there has been 9 deaths and 28 confirmed cases (see here). But a mystery is brewing..the first known human case was in eastern China on Feb. 19, but this was not announced to the public until March 31, some 6 weeks later. This delay in announcement is even being questioned by the heavily censored news media, such as the Communist Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League. Was there deliberate concealment by the health authorities? The answer may not be that straightforward. Possible reasons for the delay may include that the new virus strain shows unusual properties and that Chinese laboratories might have been doing tests to detect the previous H5N1 strain instead. To recap, the H5N1 outbreak struck in 2003 where a total of 247 people died. Measures instituted at that time included the controversial administration of several million vaccines to the chicken population at a significant economic cost. This could also be a reason why the news has been suppressed.
Sales of KFC have dropped in China since the outbreak, although there is no evidence that the virus can be spread via properly cooked food._Avian influenza _(also called avian flu, bird flu) is a flu virus that infects poultry but can be transmitted to man by direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments. It is generally classified of low virulence (it does not spread to man easily). There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food. You can get more info from the WHO Fact Sheet here. Related Articles * China finds bird flu in five new sites-OIE (healthnexercise.com) * KFC parent Yum says China sales hit by bird flu (cbsnews.com)
IT DOESN'T HAPPEN OFTEN, but when you're one of the top restaurants in the world and your customers end up with food poisoning, that becomes a tsunami in the culinary world. Given two stars by the _Michelin Guide _and voted by_The S Pellegrino and Acqua Panna World's 50 Best Restaurants _as the best restaurant in the world for three years running, the _NOMA _restaurant in Denmark has been serving exotic dishes that include foraged Nordic ants, fermented grasshoppers, live shrimp and locally sourced carrots in malt soil at around 5,000 Danish krone (£580) for a 12-course set menu for two including appetisers, treats to finish, wine pairing and a tour of the kitchen to meet some of the 50 chefs. The _NOROVIRUS_, which causes stomach flu and viral gastroenteritis, is spread by several ways: * Consuming contaminated food or drinks. * Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting hands or fingers into your mouth. * Having direct contact with another person who is infected e.g. sharing food or eating from the same utensils as someone who is ill. * Aerosol spread (when vomiting disperses virus particles into the air). The virus has been responsible for several outbreaks in the last few months, as in the UK during last winter and on several cruise ships, the last one being yesterday (see here). Such outbreaks in restaurants are nothing new. 3 years ago, I wrote about a similar Norovirus outbreak at the famed _FAT DUCK_ restaurant in the UK, where 240 people fell sick and survived the ordeal. So will the world's best restaurant be forced to close its doors? Highly unlikely, as the Fat Duck has showed, as it still enjoys booming business. But will it retain its title for this year when results are announced next month? We shall see.. Related Articles * 'World's best restaurant' apologises as 63 diners fall ill (abc.net.au)
AT ONE TIME, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely prescribed to any woman reaching menopause and asking for it, in an effort to prevent fractures,osteoporosis, dementia and other chronic diseases. That was fine but recent developments have advocated the reverse - only women with severe symptoms of menopause like flushing,headaches and excessive sweating are given a short course to relieve the symptoms. Otherwise, HRTs are now not advised at all. What is the evidence for the change in stance? The US funded Women’s Health Initiative, known as WHI, was halted in 2002 when initial results showed women taking a combination of estrogen and progestin had a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke than women who received a placebo( or 'dud' pill). This marked a drastic shift in opinion, so that now, these combination pills are no longer advocated. Indeed, even oestrogen-only pills are now taboo. You can find more facts about HRT here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/women/index.htm For alternatives to hormone therapy, see here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/women/pht_facts.pdf
THE FACT THAT the Mediterranean Diet has led to lower rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer has been known for decades; and the latest study highlighted over the media recently (see here) is on the back of several similar studies done over the years. I had written about one such study in an earlier blog posting in 2008 (see here). So how many more studies do we need before the guidelines on healthy eating habits are changed by governments from the low-fat high carbohydrate that is so widely advocated? Even in those countries where a greater awareness of what constitutes healthy eating exists, the end-product may not be what the consumer paid for - olive oil is adulterated and/or filtered, garlic is taken as a pill than a freshly-crushed clove and even red wine is not aged and commercially processed so that it is lacking in polyphenols. monounsaturated fat - includes VEGETABLES, WHOLE GRAINS, FISH, LEGUMES, FRUIT, AND MODERATE RED WINE, IF SO INCLINED. The main cooking fat is olive oil - pure unfiltered virgin olive oil is preferable, although the quality varies quite a bit commercially. It is interesting to note that this oil has been around since time immemorial and its benefits mentioned by most of the world's major religions, whether its the Muslim Hadith ("Consume olive oil and anoint it upon your bodies since it is of the blessed tree"), the Catholic church ("Oil of the Sick") or the Jewish Talmud which states that frequent consumption of olive oil is good for one's memory. But behind the benefits of this diet, a more stark message is revealed: that the typical 'Western Diet' is the antithesis, with processing, additives and chemical substitutes causing many of the lifestyle diseases it is supposed to prevent. Related Articles * Mediterranean diet proven to reduce risk of heart disease (newsfixnow.com)
READING THE MEDIA, many are fascinated as to the plethora of new drugs claiming to provide a ‘cure’ against diseases which hitherto were considered incurable. Why, new drugs have even pervaded the social media – pharma companies have started posting widgets on _Facebook _in a bid to attract readers. Recently, FDA cautioned the drug company Novartis for overstating the benefits of a drug without pointing out the ill-effects (see here). Social Media as a Marketing Tool - even Big Pharmas Use It This rampant form of advertising naturally may confuse the public about the efficacy of new medications. In fact, its sometimes difficult to know the validity of claims made in the media. HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO EVALUATE THE VALIDITY OF MEDICAL NEWS ITEMS THAT YOU MAY COME ACROSS.. * It is a fact that competition is intense among medical journals, research bodies and medical journals to attract media attention. Media themselves compete with each other to come out with the latest. Try to read the same news from several sources. OBVIOUSLY, IF THE ITEM IS REPORTED IN JUST ONE OBSCURE SOURCE, IT SHOULD CARRY LESS WEIGHT. * Look for key-words like _suggestive _or _may_ (as opposed to _will_) as this does not always indicate a _cause and effect _meaning. Many people make hard-core assumptions based on such words. * It is the nature of scientific studies that, for a given topic, several would say one thing and a few would say the complete opposite. It is for the trained professional and their peer-groups to make an informed decision to advise consumers. Bear in mind that space is a premium with the mass media and such reports usually omit vital details which will affect accuracy. * Separate the wheat from the chaff..make sure the website you’re looking at is a reliable one! * Personally, I feel reports originating from researchers and pharma companies should not appear in the mass media without vetting by an appropriate professional body so as to convey the proper perspective to the audience at large. So if a news report originates from a known professional body, this should carry a lot of weight; as opposed to a solitary item in a nondescript health magazine.