Public Health

By Alessandro R Demaio, Harvard University

There’s been a lot of discussion about obesity this week. Whether or not it’s a disease (as it is in the USA now) and how this label would positively or negatively influence action taken by society and governments in addressing this large and growing burden.

This conversation is important, but I have noticed very often it ends with confusion. Questions around why we begin talking about obesity - and end discussing mental health, cancer, heart disease or diabetes. To make things even more confusing, the term ‘Non-Communicable Diseases’ might even be mentioned.

Nutrigenomics is a branch of nutrition which believes the food we eat affects our genes - and the Food4Me project had gotten €9 million from the EU to put science to belief.

Proponents are looking at the usual factors, such as age, sex, BMI and physical activity, and trying to match that to the way in which an individual's genes interact with the food we eat. This would enable nutritionists to create a bespoke nutrition plan.

Research is on-going, but they believe there are indicators suggesting the technology could offer a vital tool in the fight against various lifestyle-linked diseases such as obesity, heart disease and Type II diabetes.

Some children are allergic to milk, so they drink milk substitutes such as soy or rice. And almond milk has become a well-marketed fad to due health claims.

But there may be negatives: though many of those products are fortified, children who drink them have lower levels of Vitamin D in their blood than those who drink cow's milk, according to a paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

Vaccines have been associated with autism and various other conditions and diseases. Most recently, the hepatitis B (HepB) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been linked to increased risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other acquired central nervous system demyelinating syndromes (CNS ADS).

A study to seek answers found no long-term association of vaccines with disease and short-term increased risk in younger patients was likely resulted from existing disease, write authors Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, Pasadena, and colleagues. 

State and local vaccination requirements for school entry seek to protect schoolchildren from vaccine-preventable diseases.  But not all parents agree medicine is a good thing and the newest CDC results show what states are leading and what states are lagging in protection for kids.

A systemic disease that causes inflammation in the spinal joints and was thought to have affected members of the ancient Egyptian royal families may have been another condition, according to a new study published in Arthritis&Rheumatology.

The authors refutes claims of Ankylosing spondylitis in royals like King Amenhotep III (1390–1352 BC), finding instead a degenerative spinal condition called diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) in royal Egyptian mummies from the 18th to early 20th Dynasties.

Soda consumption has been linked to obesity but a new study
in the American Journal of Public Health links it to disease independent from its role in fat.

The paper finds that telomeres, the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells, were shorter in the white blood cells of survey participants who reported drinking more soda. The length of telomeres within white blood cells — where it can most easily be measured — has previously been associated with human lifespan. Short telomeres also have been associated with the development of chronic diseases of aging, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer so the link is still circumstantial.

Millions of Americans are continually losing hope on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ability to identify and stop the spread of infectious disease. 

The gold standard agency has been enjoying the respect across the globe due to its archetype virtue of being occupied by world's most renowned health professionals in identifying and dealing with infectious diseases. 

Do you like to keep your fingernails and toenails aesthetically pleasing? You could be putting yourself at risk of serious nail conditions, say researchers at the University of Nottingham who have devised equations to identify the physical laws that govern nail growth and used them to throw light on the causes of some of the most common nail problems, such as ingrown toe nails, spoon-shaped nails and pincer nails.

Writing in Physical Biology, they note that regular poor trimming can tip the fine balance of nails, causing residual stress to occur across the entire nail. That residual stress can promote a change in shape or curvature of the nail over time which, in turn, can lead to serious nail conditions.

The Ebola crisis in Africa is getting a lot of attention but coverage of a regional problem is displacing concern over a more pressing problem worldwide; influenza. 

The pandemic risk from strains of influenza virus is far more worrisome than Ebola. Influenza pandemics arise when a new virus strain – against which humans have yet to develop widespread immunity – spreads in the human population.