About that tryptophan and turkey making you sleepy–not so fast

turkey-dinnerA tiny handful of countries, most notably the US and Canada, celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. In the USA, the holiday is held on the fourth Thursday in November and more or less starts the so called holiday season which ends with New Year. In most of Canada (excluding the Atlantic provinces), the holiday is held on the second Monday in October.

For trivia purposes only, the other places that celebrate a similar Thanksgiving are Liberia (which is populated by descendants of freed slaves who returned to Africa from the US), Grenada (a small English-speaking island in the Caribbean), Puerto Rico (a Spanish-speaking territory of the USA), and Norfolk Island Australia. Australia?

Generally, the holiday celebrates white English settlers arriving in North America. The tales usually include some peaceful sharing of food between the white settlers and native Americans (a nice myth without much actual historical support) prior to the first winter. Canada’s back story on Thanksgiving is much more complicated, including ships getting stuck in ice and other legends.

In both Canada and the USA, the celebration includes tons of food (per person) including a roast (usually) turkey. Other foods may include mashed potatoes, yams (sweet potatoes), other meats, pies, corn, stuffing, and more food. It is a high calorie meal of epic portions!

There’s a legend that eating this meal, specifically the turkey, fills your body with tryptophan, and you fall asleep.

Nice story, but the science of eating, sleeping and turkeys doesn’t support this myth. Not even close. Continue reading “About that tryptophan and turkey making you sleepy–not so fast”

Worldwide vaccine uptake-2014

vaccines-saves-live-cloud

I make it a point to update this blog with the most current CDC analysis of vaccine uptake in the USA for kindergarten children (usually around 5 years old). Generally, the numbers have stayed stable, at around 95% vaccinated, although there is high variance from state to state, and locality to locality. The weakness in the vaccination uptake in the USA is that some areas may approach 100% vaccinated, but then other areas may be 50%, which makes those areas with low vaccine uptake susceptible to a quick spread of diseases that are not endemic to the USA (such as measles, polio, and others) through that unvaccinated population.

Given the 95% vaccine uptake rate, it begs the questions of why I push so hard for vaccination–because I want to protect the lives of children, and those 5% who aren’t vaccinated are at risk of serious disease and even death. And vaccines are the safest way to protect a child–protect them from death.

Nearly 55% of the readers of this blog are not American (a couple of years ago,this blog got a regular reader from Iran, which meant that all countries were represented amongst this blog’s readers). I have been accused of being a bit American-centric, but at the same time, I was also curious about vaccine uptake worldwide.  Continue reading “Worldwide vaccine uptake-2014”

Rising rates of HPV-related cancer–Gardasil time for boys and girls

hpv-cell-changes-cancerCurrently in the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that preteen girls and boys aged 11 or 12 are vaccinated against HPV. The immunization is also recommended for teenage girls and young women up to the age of 26 who did not receive it when they were younger, and teenage boys and young men up to the age of 21.

As I reported recently, the HPV vaccine uptake has not been as a high as many would like in the US.  A recent retrospective epidemiological study of HPV cancers in Alberta, Canada, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal OPEN, seemed to indicate that HPV related cancers have increased substantially in the study years from 1975 to 2009, prior to the widespread use of the HPV vaccine in Canada. This is another indicator that increasing the rate of HPV vaccination is important. Continue reading “Rising rates of HPV-related cancer–Gardasil time for boys and girls”

Waterloo, Ontario deals with unvaccinated students

The Waterloo Region (an area of southern Ontario, Canada) health department is responsible for the enforcement of a new law (pdf) that requires parents to provide immunization records for their children by 7 May 2013. And according to the CBC, over 1700 high school students received suspensions notices, hand delivered by school principles, this week unless their vaccination records are updated by 7 May.

Of course, the department of health allows medical exemptions for vaccinations, along with the unconscionable religious and personal exemptions to getting children vaccinated. Can’t win them all, but at least this part of Canada is attempting to deal with unvaccinated students by making them provide the records. 

Vaccines save lives.

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

Measles vaccine may be more effective if administered slightly later

A new research study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases has demonstrated that the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) was more effective in teenagers who received their first dose of the two dose series at 15 months rather than at 12 months. The study was based on a more than 750 cases in 2011 of measles were reported in Quebec, Canada. Those individuals had received the routine 2-dose measles immunization schedule which is given at 12 and 18 months of age, which had been in effect in Quebec since 1996. This study assessed the effectiveness of this schedule during this outbreak that occurred during high school. Continue reading “Measles vaccine may be more effective if administered slightly later”

Whooping cough outbreak in British Columbia

According to the CBC, the whooping cough outbreak is still growing in Fraser Valley, British Columbia in Canada. Fifty cases have been reported recently, bringing the total to around 250 cases in one small area. And now there are cases in Vancouver, a large city, where the highly contagious whooping cough infection will spread quickly to those who are unvaccinated, or whose immunity from vaccination has worn off.   Continue reading “Whooping cough outbreak in British Columbia”

Canadian university to offer antievolution degree program next year–not really

UPDATED.

A few weeks ago, Memorial University of Newfoundland’s student newspaper, the Muse, published an article, “MUN to offer creation science program next year.”  It appeared that one of Canada’s top comprehensive universities, which has a some very good science programs in biochemistry and marine biology, had lost all sense of reality and decided to offer bachelor’s and graduate degrees in “Creation Science” (not a science).

The story was picked up by the Canadian University Press Newswire, “University to offer creation science program next year,” though clearly marked as “humour.”  Then it was published in an atheist/skeptical blog, “Canadian University to Offer Creation ‘Science’ Degrees.”  Then I read it, ready to publish it here.

But I have a policy about anything I write.  I go read the original sources to make sure that I’ve got my facts right, something that the pseudoscientific lunatics rarely do.  Memorial University’s website lacked any mention of it, except in the student Newspaper, where it was clearly labelled as “satire.”  Oops.  Very good satire too!

Oh well, I guess right-wing congressmen are not the only ones that get caught by satire.