Public Health

Acupuncture, like most other alternative therapies, is particular popular for indications that are:

1. chronic

2. associated with a high burden of suffering,

3. not easily treatable with conventional therapies,

4. are frequently resolved without any intervention.

Infertility or subfertility tick most of these boxes. It is therefore not surprising that acupuncturists the world over claim that acupuncture can cure infertility. But is this claim based on evidence or on wishful thinking?

The U.S. Memorial Day weekend ushers in the start of the summer grilling season but  University of Missouri School of Medicine wants to throw some cold water on your flames - by warning the public about the dangers of cleaning with wire-bristle brushes.

Coupled with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declaring hot dogs as hazardous to your health as plutonium, grilling food just got a lot less fun - unless you have any critical thinking.

It's known that many patients die after getting sepsis but it's unclear if the increased risk of death (30 days to 2 years after sepsis) is because of sepsis itself or because of pre-existing health conditions the patient had before acquiring the complication. Patients with more medical problems are more likely to develop sepsis.

Sepsis is a complication of infection. The body releases chemicals in the bloodstream to help fight off infection, but sometimes those chemicals can damage the body, leading to organ failure and a dramatic drop in blood pressure. Sepsis is treated with antibiotics and fluids.

Few alternative therapies are more divisive than homeopathy. Whenever I write about the subject, I get bucket-loads of hate mail. Somehow, homeopathy has the power to touch raw nerves and strong emotions. And it makes fallacies appear like mushrooms after the rain:

·         It has stood the test of time.

Fortifying the U.S. food supply with folic acid was not associated with a decline in certain birth defects that researchers expected to see in California, a finding likely to contribute to an ongoing debate about the future of the fortification program.

The study of more than 1.3 million California births and pregnancies spanning two decades is published in Birth Defects Research Part A. The research examines neural tube defects, which affect a baby's brain and spine, and which were the intended target of fortification with folic acid, a B vitamin. However, neural tube defects were already becoming less common before fortification began, and their decline slowed substantially after fortification was introduced, the study found.

It used to be a truism that when people stopped smoking, they were likely to gain weight, but the reasons for it were cloudy. Did people replace the mechanism of smoking with candy and food, or did nicotine suppress body weight gain independent of food intake. In other words, was it speeding up metabolism

A new paper in Nicotine&Tobacco Research using rats says it is the latter. Caution is always warranted in these sorts of studies, since mainstream media tends to hype animal model findings without ever noting that rats are actually not little people.

In rats self-administering a maximally-reinforcing dose of nicotine, body weight gain during the 20-day study period was attenuated by ~40% despite no change in food intake.  

Slama et al. (2016) recently published a paper on issues relevant to setting regulations for endocrine disrupting substances in the European Union.1   The authors discuss options associated with these issues, briefly described as use of interim criteria, or use of the World Health Organization definition of endocrine disruption by itself or with additional categories of strength of evidence or chemical potency.

Diagnoses of celiac disease (CD), an autoimmune disease, are increasing, no real surprise after not one but two bestselling food books based on suspect studies claimed wheat is poison.

Want to see social inequality and how it impacts obesity? Look at takeout food in your neighborhood - and in the halls of Cambridge.

Yet the halls of Cambridgee are where a new paper claims takeout food is an indicator of social inequality. Obviously elites at Cambridge have a long and cherished history to gaze upon, including one in which a feudal system made sure poor people were never overweight. Today, there is more equality than ever, poor people can afford to be fat, but the Cambridge scholars believe that even cheap food is a way of promoting oppression.

The Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at the University of Cambridge mapped takeout food to obesity and income. Prestige, the kind of paper British comic John Oliver just ridiculed is born: