Contributor: James Anderson
Secreting Thick, Copious Mucus
First it was a mouse with a human ear growing on its back. Then a man in China grew a nose on his forehead (pictured). In both of these cases the appendages were intentionally produced for the purpose of transplantation by plastic surgeons. But in a recent case a woman in the U.S. who received stem-cell therapy for a spinal injury eight years ago has grown a nose-like non-cancerous tumor on her back, complete with copious mucus secretion. The tumor was the result of the stem-cell treatment, in which olifactory stem cells from her nose were implanted in her spine with the hope that they would grow into nerve cells and cure her injury. Surgeons removed the tumor to allieviate pain, and also to drain the copious accumulating mucus at the tumor site.
Also Oxy, Aveeno, Clean & Clear
Proactiv and several other over-the-counter acne treatments may be implicated in life-threatening allergic side effects, including shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and fainting, warns the FDA. Warnings included on packages warn of minor reactions, such as itching, swelling, and redness, but the more serious reactions are not currently noted on product literature. Products suspected of causing the side effects are acne treatments containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, such as Proactiv, Neutrogena acne products, MaxClarity, Oxy, Ambi, Aveeno, and Clean & Clear, sold in various forms including creams and cleansing pads. The FDA warning is based on 131 incident reports received over the past 17 months. Nearly 60 people have been hospitalizd, but no deaths have been reported.
Healthy Folks Don't Need It
The FDA is warning that the daily use of aspirin to ward off heart attacks and stroke can be dangerous for some patients and should only be done in consultation with a physician. Aspirin has become a popular self-administered treatment because of studies that should it lowers heart attack risk. But the FDA cautions that there are potential side effects: As a blood thinner aspirin is not appropriate if you take prescription blood thinners like warfarin, dabigatran (Pradaxa), and rivaroxaban (Xarelto). In addition, aspirin used on a daily basis may cause or aggravate stomach and duodenal ulcers. In general health professionals do not recommend prophylactic use of aspirin for those in otherwise good health.
Bombing 1,000s of Tons of Sarin?
Short of a boots-on-the-ground invasion of Syria, the United States does not have any good options to destroy Syria's stock of chemical weapons. The U.S. military has specialized weapons that can puncture storage tanks as well as incinerate them. But the thought of sarin liquid flowing across the desert or sarin smoke billowing into the atmosphere is making chemical warfare experts nervous. The CBU-107 puncture bomb would only be safe if the sarin is stored in a wind-free area away from populated areas; the BLU-119/B CrashPAD includes a secondary white phosporus explosion that might or might not burn up all the sarin in a tank. Ironically some activists have called the U.S. military's widespread use of white phosphorus explosives a violation of the international ban on chemical warfare.
Deadly New Hajj Cough Virus
A treatment for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has been successfully tested on monkeys by a team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. MERS is caused by a recently discovered coronavirus, a virus in the same class as SARS, and one of only half a dozen such viruses to affect humans. Almost half of its victims die. According to institute director D. Anthony Fauci, a cocktail of two current antiviral drugs, ribavarin and interferon alfa-2b, when given to monkeys soon after infection with the MERS virus, seemed to reduce lung damage, improve breathing, and slow down the virus's growth. The study was small and the results preliminary, but given that no other treatments exist for the disease, Dr. Fauci feels the new treatment should be considered as an option.
A Scientific Non-Event
"The French Higher Biotechnologies Council and the French National Agency for Food Safety also investigated the study in response to a government request to look into it, and concluded Monday that it was garbage."
- Martin in the comments
Six French scientific academies issued a joint statement on Friday condemning a recent study that labeled a Monsanto seed product as being "cancer corn." The academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, sciences, technology and veterinary studies said that the researchers mischaracterized their results, hyped their mischaracterizations, spread public fear without basis, and in general produced a study that was a "scientific non-event." Earlier this month the European Union's food safety watchdog organization said the study lacks "scientific quality." In September articles in New Scientist and various online scientific and journalism publications criticized the unconventional manner in which the study's release was orchestrated for maximum publicity but minimum scientific oversight.
Contaminated with Fungus
The back pain drug implicated in the meningitis deaths of 5 people was made not by a pharmaceutical company, but rather by a Massachusetts pharmacy, and the practice is perfectly legal and not regulated by the FDA. The New England Compounding Center mixed up the steroid for injection into the spine, and it has sold 17,000 vials to clinics in 23 states. The FDA found that the the drug, which has sickened an additional 30 people, is contaminated with a fungus. If you have recently received a steroid spine injection and feel at all unwell, you need to get to a doctor immediately. Why do doctors use these DIY drugs? Compounding pharmacies make specialized drug cocktails not available from big pharma, as well as cheaper versions of big pharma products. The NECC has a long history of problems.
Monsanto's NK603 GM Corn
The European Union's food safety watchdog organization has determined that a recent French research paper claiming that GM corn caused cancer in rats lacks "scientific quality," and suffers from design, analysis, and reporting deficiencies. The judgment of the European Food Safety Authority echoes earlier criticism by New Scientist and others. The EFSA said it would reconsider the matter if the researchers would make more data available to them, but lead author Gilles-Eric Seralini says that he will keep his full data data secret because he feels that earlier studies considered by the EFSA that favored GM corn were also not completely transparent. Although most European consumers avoid GM food products, GM animal feed imported from the U.S. and South America is widely used.
Olifactory Politics of Smoking
"Smoking in the city is a sensorially transgressive practice that leads to the generation of sensuous effluent." Thus reports a recent jargon-filled study published in the journal Urban Studies. According to the apparently non-native English speaking researcher from the University of Singapore, "stigmatizing sensory impressions of moral defilement" are ascribed to "socio-spatial stratifications of odorous bodies" who fashion "more palatable moral and olfactory presentation of the self." Nate Berg at the Atlantic did a deep dive into the impenetrable jargon of the paper and attempted to translate it into regular English. According to Berg, the paper finds that non-smokers try to avoid smokers in public places because they stink, while smokers are self-conscious about their smell. O.K.
Press Manipulation via Embargo
Scientists and journalists are piling on in criticizing a recent French study that found high cancer rates in rats fed genetically modified corn. Investigations by Embargo Watch, Ars Technica, New Scientist, numerous scientist bloggers, and Reuters journalist Carl Zimmer have turned up ethical lapses in how the study was released and reported. Journalists were prohibited from contacting other scientists before writing, and scientists have found problems with multiple aspects of how the study was done. Zimmer called the embargo NDA a "rancid, corrupt way to report about science." A UC Davis researcher said "there is very little scientific credibility to this paper." Ars Technica characterized the study as "a tool for political ends." The small journal that published the study has gone mute.
Affect Blank Stare & Look Crazy
Yale sociologist Esther Kim rode the bus for three years over thousands of miles in a quest to learn the rules that govern social conduct in confined spaces, so-called nonsocial transient behavior. Kim was able to verify that "Avoid sitting next to anyone" is rule #1. But she came up with practical tactics you can use to repel others from sitting next to you when the bus starts to fill up: Adopt a crazy-looking blank stare; pile coats and bags on the seat next to you; avoid eye contact; lean against the window and stretch your legs out; pretend to sleep; and sit in the aisle seat with headphones on. Interviewing fellow passengers, she determined their goals included: Avoiding fat, sweaty people; attracting "normal" people if you can't keep the adjacent seat empty; and staying safe.
2 Pickle Per Sandwich Rule
Our favorite test kitchen chef, Serious Eats's Kenji López-Alt, says he doesn't like to mix his food with his politics, but to somewhat decrease his consumption of Chick-fil-A's "awesome, crispety-crunchety, spicy-sweet and salty, juicy" chicken sandwiches, he's developed a clone recipe. Thankfully, the Chick-fil-A sandwich is relatively simple: toasted, buttered bun, pickles, and fried chicken breast. Helpfully, Chick-fil-A discloses the ingredients on its website. By massaging milk-moistened coating into a brined chicken breast, López-Alt managed to reproduce the "unparalleled juiciness" of the original. Why isn't López-Alt completely boycotting Chick-fil-A? The store's upbeat and friendly staff means he "can't help but feel just a little more gay after stepping into a Chick-Fil-A."
USDA Grilled by Cattlemen
A USDA internal memo suggesting that department staff consider going meatless on Mondays triggered a firestorm of criticism from the beef industry. "The production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well), has a large environmental impact," says the memo, in part. A spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association called the memo "an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption." Texas agricultural commissioner Todd Staples demanded that the "treasonous" memo writer be fired. Author and nutirionist Marion Nestle's first reaction on hearing of the memo was, "It’s pretty unbelievable that USDA would support Meatless Monday." The final upshot of all this was that the USDA tweeted that the memo had been released without proper clearance and has been removed.
Extruded Vegetable Proteins
Although most people don't know this, the term "vegetarian" does not refer to someone who eats vegetables (that would be a "produceatarian"). A vegetarian is defined as someone who primarily eats pasta and fake meat. And there's a brand new fake meat for vegetarians coming out that is getting raves from early tasters: fake chicken strips from Beyond Meat. According to Slate's Farhad Manjoo (a vegetarian manqué), the new faux chicken "initially resists and then yields to your chew, leaving a faint fatty residue on your palate," just like real chicken. (Manjoo reports that the only giveaway is that, because the fake chicken breaks apart in your mouth easier than real chicken, you don't get bits stuck in your teeth.) The fake chicken even fooled New York Times food writer Mark Bittman.
Englishman Phil Inkley is convinced he's suffering from an affliction called Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, essentially an allergy to electronic emissions from cell phones, WiFi, and other modern gadgets. His symptoms include nosebleeds, headaches, heart palpitations, tinnitus, and fatigue. To escape the EMFs (electromagnetic fields) that trigger his EHS (yes, there's a de rigueur "3-letter disease abbreviation") Phil lives in the middle of the woods in a camper. Phil complains that "people think it's all in your head": indeed, Wikipedia reports on double-blind studies of EHS victims showing they can't distinguish real from fake EMFs. Former Norwegian prime minister and WHO director general Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland once said she had EHS, but seems to have backed off on the claim.
Public Enemy #1 for Obesity
In 1964 U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry published "Smoking and Health," a report that brought the medical evidence for the serious health dangers of cigarettes firmly into the public consciousness. It was a publicity coup for anti-smoking forces at the time, and on Friday anti-soda pop forces petitioned current Surgeon General Regina Benjamin's boss HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to appoint a commission to compile a similar report on the deleterious health effects of sugary soda pop beverages. Is soda really in the same ballpark as tobacco in its threat to Amercan health? The more than 100 organizations, health departments, and prominent individuals who added their names to the petition think so. Among the signatories were the American Heart Association and the Muskegon Family YMCA.
New Zealanders Are Also Lazy
Of 119 countries ranked by the physical inactivity of their citizens in a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet Malta tops the list and Bangladesh rates as most active. But what you're really interested in is how us "major countries" rank, right? Here it is: The UK, Japan, and Italy are lazy at #7, #11, and #17, respectively. The United States is not as bad as we might have feared at #46 (less lazy than New Zealanders at #28). France and Germany are #66 and #73. Russia comes in at #91. Greece is sweating at #106. There doesn't seem to be a hard and fast relationship to wealth or development, but there is a slight tendency for less developed countries to be more active. How accurate is this data? Who knows. It can't be easy to collect comparable data like this worldwide.
Drink Only When You're Thirsty
Funding over decades from sports drink makers, including Gatorade, for body hydration studies has influenced researchers and compromised the integrity of scientific literature on the topic. According to an investigation by editor Deborah Cohen at the British Medical Journal a number of scientifically questionable assertions have been accepted as true by athletes, ordinary people, and even by medical personnel, including: (1) athletes and active people should "prehydrate" before activities, (2) thirst is not a reliable indicator of your need for fluids and you should drink before you feel thirsty, and (3) you should train your gut to accommodate more liquid than would normally be comfortable. Ms. Cohen blames not only Gatorade but also the U.S. military for the spread of these beliefs.
Pet Owners Need Respite
Two percent of Japan's dogs and cats are covered by pet health insurance, and owners are opting for more blood tests, drugs, surgery, and advanced treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, according to the Kyodo News. More and more Japanese are acquiring dogs and cats, particularly smaller breeds that can be kept indoors. And with veterinary diagnosis and treatment options increasing these animals are living longer and reaching geriatric ages where they need more attention than younger pets, often from owners who themselves are seniors. Hank, a shiba inu breed dog had a stroke two years ago, and owners Akira Ishii, 57, and his wife sleep next to the dog, turn him over to prevent bedsores, soak his pet food, and take him for walks in a pet stroller. Medicine has cost them almost $1,000.
City Mandates GPS Spy Units
As if being only the third largest U.S. city after New York and Los Angeles were not enough of an indignity, Chicago also lags behind the big two in trendy food trucks. In fact, arguably even Seattle beats out Chicago in food trucks these days. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is butting up against the political muscle of the anti-food truck Chicago restaurant industry by pushing through an ordinance that would finally allow food trucks to cook food in the truck itself, as well as creating food truck zones and allowing trucks to operate on private property and in parking spaces. Nevertheless, the environment is still extremely unfriendly to food truck operators. They must stay 200 feet away from any restaurant and buy $600 GPS units to install in each truck so that the city can enforce this provision.
Condition Is Medium Rare
Hours after being bitten by a lone star tick Michael Abley of Surry, Ill., swelled up in itchy hives, experienced shortness of breath, and passed out. His condition was diagnosed as red meat allergy, an allergy to mammalian meats discovered in 2006. According to the NIH the condition is rare in the general population and does not happen to everyone bit by the lone star tick. The most famous victim of red meat allergy is novelist John Grisham, who contracted it in 2002. During one of his early allergy attacks Grisham suddenly became so hot and itchy he frantically stripped down to his boxer shorts, turned up the car air conditioner to the max, and drove to the hospital. Red meat allergy victims can still eat chicken and fish, unless they also have a poultry allergy or fish allergy.
United States Edges Out Mexico
Americans drink an average of 170 liters of soda per year, the most of any country in the world. Mexicans come in second at 146 liters, according to a new analysis by Slate.com and the New America Foundation. The only other countries to exceed 100 liters are Chile, Argentina, Uraguay, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, and Canada. Indians and Indonesians drink only three liters per year. Data was not available for all countries, including most of Africa. This ranking comes in the wake of New York Mayor Bloomberg's initiative to ban large servings of soda at eating establishments in New York City. There are about 85,000 calories in 170 liters of soda, which if not otherwise burned off would result in a weight gain of about 25 pounds per year.
A Satirical Expression
The owner of New York's 666 Burger food truck admits that his $666 Douche Burger is a publicity stunt designed to poke fun at expensive hamburgers with too many toppings. The Douche Burger has a fois gras-filled Kobe beef patty wrapped in six sheets of gold leaf, topped with lobster, truffles, caviar, Gruyere cheese melted with champagne steam, and a barbecue sauce made from $600 per pound Kopi Luwak coffee beans, gathered from the fecal matter of the wild Asian palm civet, a cat-sized mammal native to Indonesia that eats and excretes the beans. Food truck owner Franz Aliquo told Bloomberg that it is "the most expensive, disgusting burger ever," and he's only sold one so far. His normal 666 Burger sells for $6.66 and features a bun branded with a pentagram.
Stanford University Researchers
The cancer toll from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor accident after the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake will be about 130, according to a new paper in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. An additional 242 might have died had the reactor area not been evacuated, although ironically the evacuation itself is blamed for 600 deaths of elderly and infirm evacuees. This paper echoes the UNSCEAR report earlier this year that found that the health impact from Fukushima would be low. Over 15,000 died directly as a result of the Tohoku tsunami. Putting Fukushima in perspective, New Scientist pointed out last year that most nuclear deaths are among uranium miners, coal particulate matter kills 13,000 annually in the U.S., and hydroelectric dam failures killed 230,000 in China in 1975.
Wacky Wansink Is Back
"So … they're saying to use green plates on red tablecloths if you want to increase your veggie intake?"
- Rodrigo in the comments
Diners serve themselves smaller portions when the color of the food contrasts with the color of the plate that it's put on, and the effect is magnified when the plate color is close to the color of the table. These are the conclusions of Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University and Dr. Koert van Ittersum of Georgia Tech from an experiment they performed on unwitting attendees at a college alumni dinner (although the subjects probably knew in general that some sort of study was planned). Prof. Wansink had previously determined that larger plates lead to larger portions. The researchers believe that a plate that is similar in color to the food put upon it makes it harder for diners to judge the portion size, while a table that blends in with the plate reduces the urge to fill up the plate.
Liver Disease, Domestic Violence
The standards setting body for public health specialists in the U.K. is proposing that alcohol packaging include the same sort of graphically explicit health warnings that cigarette packages have in the U.K. and other countries. Alcohol is linked to various cancers, stroke, heart disease, liver disease, accidents, infertility, and violence, and dozens of other conditions, says the Faculty of Public Health. Currently much of the alcohol packaging in the U.K. includes warnings like "Drink Responsibly," and admonitions for pregnant women to abstain. Warnings of the sort proposed by the FPH would be the first worldwide if adopted. Kenya's proposal for warnings to cover 30 percent of packaging is tied up in court. But U.K. government sources say the proposal is unlikely to be acted upon.
Credit Yin & Yang and Qi Energy
Traditional Chinese Medical practitioners are recommending acupuncture as a treatment for obesity, and at least one American foreign student in China is endorsing the method. Olivia Garcia says that acupuncture succeeded for her where diet restriction, exercise, and pills failed. "I lost 22 pounds in two months and felt really healthy too," she says. How might acupuncture help slim down patients? Chinese physicians interviewed by China Daily said it can reduce appetite and increase metabolism by targeting the thyroid, mouth, stomach, and spleen from common acupuncture points. Not only that, but acupuncture can put a patient's yin and yang back into balance and restore the flow of qi energy, say the physicians. The catch? Acupuncture needs to be accompanied by healthy eating and exercise.
California Sting Operation
An undercover Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy visited a suspected pill mill in the city of Glendora seeking prescriptions for narcotic pain medicine and muscle relaxants, with only some X-rays of a German Shepherd from a local veterinary clinic as evidence of her claimed back and neck injuries. She walked out with the prescriptions shortly thereafter. The doctor, Rolando Lodevico Atiga, was arrested on suspicion of prescribing addictive drugs without medical justification. According to the deputy, Atiga let her decide which drugs he would prescribe, and examined and commented on the X-rays, which included the dog's name, Recon, and the name of the veterinary clinic. "That's the hip joint right there," the doctor reportedly said. The dog's tail was clearly visible in the X-rays.
Chips Must Come with Fish
Food vendors at Olympics venues for the 2012 games in London have been ordered not to serve French fries because McDonald's, a major Olympics sponsor, has been given exclusive rights to sell fried potatoes. However, London organizers did manage to squeeze out one exception to the ban. Because fish and chips ("chips" being British-speak for fries) are a traditional take-out food in Britain and could hardly be banned at a British Olympics, other vendors will be allowed to sell fries only if they accompany fried fish. The food service facility within the Olympic Park has posted a sign explaining the issue, complete with a threat to remove fish and chips from the menu entirely if food service staff are hassled by diners for not serving a la carte french fries.