Vaccine to block gluten sensitivity in celiac disease

Celiac disease (also known as coeliac disease in British English speaking countries) is an autoimmune disorder that afflicts the small intestine of certain  individuals who are genetically predisposed to it. The disease afflicts between 1 in 1,750 and 1 in 105 people in the United States (or about 200,000 to 3,000,000 people) and usually, but not always, results in chronic diarrhea, low pediatric weight gain, and fatigue. This disease is caused by a reaction to a gluten protein found in wheat, and similar proteins found common grains such as barley and rye

Upon exposure to gluten, the immune system causes an inflammatory reaction of the lining the small intestine. This interferes with the absorption of nutrients. The only known effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. This disease should not be confused with wheat allergy, which is also caused by a reaction to wheat proteins. Continue reading “Vaccine to block gluten sensitivity in celiac disease”

GMO corn causes cancer–Myth vs. Science (recent news)

Background

Genetically modified crops are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and all types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes. The major controversy surrounds the use of DNA recombination-introducing genes from one species into another. Despite all of this controversy, there is an amazing lack of data that shows that GMO foods are unsafe. In fact, there are secondary reviews that show it is safeContinue reading “GMO corn causes cancer–Myth vs. Science (recent news)”

Organic foods–are they healthier? Are they worth the extra money?

Note: this article has been updated and re-published. Please view and comment there.

Organic foods have been increasingly popular these days moving from local co-ops and farmer’s markets to large retail chains that specialize in organic foods (such as Whole Foods) to general large retail chains who dedicate portions of their produce sections to organic produce. Even dairy and meat sections of most supermarket chains have sections that contain organic products.

So what are organic foods? They are usually crops, meat or other animal products (milk, cheese, honey) which have been produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, as well as genetic modification and certain preservation techniques such as food irradiation. Also the meats and animal products are produced without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic farming was pioneered in the early part of the 20th century based on the unproven idea that chemical pesticides and fertilizers supposedly had a negative effect on flavors and nutritional values of foods. Over the years, organic farming has grown into a huge business based on the supposed health and flavor benefits, but also on the the potential benefits that organic agriculture may have on the environmental impact of agricultural chemicals. In addition, there is a lot of concern about the persistence of pesticides on our food sources. Continue reading “Organic foods–are they healthier? Are they worth the extra money?”

Calorie restricted diets and the effect on aging

There has been a belief that has been promoted over the years that very low calorie diets can promote lifespan. It was based on a 1934 research study from Mary Crowell and Clive McCay, at Cornell University, who observed that laboratory rats fed a severely reduced calorie diet, while maintaining micronutrient levels, would result in lifespans of up to twice as long as control groups. Their findings were later repeated by Roy Walford, and his student Richard Weindruch, through a series of experiments with mice. In 1986, Weindruch reported that restricting the caloric intake of laboratory mice proportionally increased their life span compared to a group of mice with a normal diet. The calorie-restricted mice also maintained youthful appearances and activity levels longer and showed delays in age-related diseases. The results of the many experiments by Walford and Weindruch were summarized in their book, The Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction. Continue reading “Calorie restricted diets and the effect on aging”

Eggs and your arteries–yolk or no yolk

Here we go again. The popular press gets ahold of a scientific study, misinterprets it, and runs a scary story. Of course, it’s much worse if the scientific study published in a respected journal seems to also misinterpret the study. As I mentioned before, a true skeptic needs to critically analyze whatever is written in the press by going to the original study whenever possible; but what happens if that study requires some critical analysis? Well, I never said it was easy. If you want easy, denialism is really easy!

So back to the eggs. All across the news during the past week or so, you probably saw a story that eating egg yolks cause arteriosclerosis, a chronic condition in which an artery wall thickens as a result of the accumulation of fatty materials such as cholesterol. Some people may have already believed that anecdotally, but a new article published in AtherosclerosisEgg yolk consumption and carotid plaque, concluded that, 

Our findings suggest that regular consumption of egg yolk should be avoided by persons at risk of cardiovascular disease. This hypothesis should be tested in a prospective study with more detailed information about diet, and other possible confounders such as exercise and waist circumference. Continue reading “Eggs and your arteries–yolk or no yolk”

Eating like our great ape relatives

Lately, I’ve had some interesting conversations with my friend Cathy, who is an artist and designer, about a whole raft of topics in medicine and science. She proclaims she has no scientific background, but she’s intensely curious about science and about what I write, so what else could a blogger want? Recently, we were discussing what constituted a good diet. I was trying to cut through what was myth and what was science, but sometimes it can be difficult to do so. My thoughts have always been that the human physiology is amazingly resilient, and as long as you have no chronic diseases, there is nothing one can do that will make the situation much better or much worse. Yes, maintaining levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, iron, and others, are critical, but in the modern world, it’s almost impossible to miss out on those micronutrients. Continue reading “Eating like our great ape relatives”

High fructose corn syrup–myth versus science

Like monosodium glutamate (MSG), the additive that everyone avoids, except there is absolutely no evidence that it does anything to anyone, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has evolved to become the current pariah of the food industry. Even the name sounds a bit chemical, with that “high fructose” leading you to believe it has to be bad. But is it? 

That’s where we need to look at the science, because the answers to the questions are quite complicated and quite simple.

Continue reading “High fructose corn syrup–myth versus science”

Colon detoxification is full of…it

Listen to the radio for a few minutes. Or watch late night television for a bit. Through the commercials hawking insurance with talking geckos, promoting treatments for erectile dysfunction, and, exhibiting the coolest, fastest, most fuel efficient car, you will run across the reason for all that ails you: your improperly cleaned colon. The treatment is called colon cleansing, and sometimes, detoxifying. It’s one of those silly alternative medicine ideas that hangs around without one single bit of evidence supporting it. Continue reading “Colon detoxification is full of…it”

Cancer prevention–supplements

Potential causes for cancer are numerous. Infections. Radon gas. Cigarette smoking. Sun exposure. Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes. Although many causes can be easily eliminated, such as stopping smoking, testing your house for radon, getting an HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus infections, and wearing sunblock to reduce the risk of melanomas, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer. In fact, some hereditary cancers, such as those individuals who carry genes that are implicated in breast and ovarian cancers, may not be preventable at all. Continue reading “Cancer prevention–supplements”

MSG-fussing about nothing

In science, there is nothing more annoying than a pseudoscientific myth that is propagated to the point where everyone believes it’s a fact.  For some odd reason, foods are the center of the pseudoscience universe.  Eat organic.  Avoid GMO (genetically modified) crops.  High fructose corn syrup will kill you.  Keep salt off of your food.  Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that.  Drink this.  Don’t drink that.  Yet, where is the science?  Are organic foods really healthier for you?  Will GMO foods harm you? 

Of all the annoying myths, there’s one that is the most bothersome.  MSG, or monosodium glutamate, gets the most exposure as an evil additive to foods.  Yet, what is the evidence?  Does it really do anything? Continue reading “MSG-fussing about nothing”