Last spring, my half-sister Michele called me concerned about her 21-year-old daughter’s mental health, as she’d had several bouts of depression and it appeared another one was coming on. This time, Michele was eager to get in touch with her daughter’s therapist before their next meeting. She had some new—and potentially treatment-altering—information.
“Her tests came back,” Michele told me. “Turns out she’s got a MTHFR-gene mutation. We’re waiting to find out which kind.” This was not a conversation anyone would have had 10 years ago, and it’s not one that many are having now. But if personalized, gene-based medicine keeps expanding into the brain sciences, it might be.
Michele, who works as a medical researcher in Australia, may know more than the average parent about the potential of genetics in treating psychiatric conditions. She had read studies that a mutation in the MTHFR gene may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders. Depending on the variation of the mutation, it could also signify which medications are most useful—with some studies recommending folate supplements instead of, or in addition to, antidepressants.
Obesity is on the rise— as is the incidence of Heart Disease, Diabetes, Stroke and various forms of Cancer. And, shockingly, diseases that had in the past begun in old age are now appearing at much earlier ages.
A groundbreaking scientific study showed how easily (and inexpensively) the rate of occurrence of these and other serious illness could be greatly reduced— but this information is widely ignored.
In this new book, Dr. T. Colin Campbell addresses these issues. Here’s an excerpt from the review:
This gist of T. Colin Campbell’s new book, Whole, (with co-author Howard Jacobson) is this. After publishing his radical landmark The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health in 2005, let’s suppose what he reported there is true. Eight years later, why hasn’t that information and perspective broken through to more widespread awareness? Why hasn’t your doctor or dietitian told you about it, or heard of it, or given it serious consideration? Why haven’t school lunches changed across the board? Whole gives answers.
Three p-words permeate Campbell’s thesis here: profits, power, and paradigms. Power and profits drive the big businesses of livestock and processed food, Campbell argues… (Read it all)
A fascinating article over at CNN about why we’re just not doing as well as our peers. Some snippets:
Despite spending more per person on health care than any other country, Americans are getting sicker and dying younger than our international peers — a problem persisting across all ages and both genders, according to a new report.
In 2011, the National Research Council found life expectancy in the United States was increasing at a slower rate than in other high-income democracies. Shortly after, the NRC and Institute Of Medicine convened a panel of experts to investigate why.
The panel was given 18 months to review recent health studies from 16 “peer countries”: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The panel released its report, titled “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” on Wednesday.
“Our panel was unprepared for the gravity of the finding we uncovered,” chair Steven Woolf wrote in the report’s preface. “We hope that others will take notice.”
This is not a new problem, Woolf noted on a conference call about the report. “It’s been going on since 1980 and it’s getting progressively worse.”
Data from 2007 show Americans’ life expectancy is 3.7 years shorter for men and 5.2 years shorter for women than in the leading nations — Switzerland for men and Japan for women.
As of 2011, 27 countries had higher life expectancies at birth than the United States.
“The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries,” the report states, “but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.”
America does rank well in some health measures, according to the panel. The United States has higher cancer survival rates, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and lower smoking prevalence rates than many of its peer countries. Those Americans who make it to age 75 will survive longer than their peers in the comparison countries.
But that’s where the good news stops.
The report outlines nine health areas where the United States lags behind other rich nations, including infant mortality, homicides, teen pregnancy, drug-related deaths, obesity and disabilities.
Americans have the highest prevalence of AIDS in the group. Seniors are at a greater risk of developing and dying from heart disease. And our children are less likely than children in peer countries to reach their fifth birthday.
But the panel says that’s not all that’s to blame. Studies show even white, insured, college-educated Americans are sicker than their peers in Europe.
The experts gave three other possible causes for the country’s growing health disadvantage:
Though Americans know what’s “good” for them, few act on it. Although we are less likely to smoke and drink heavily than our peers, we consume more calories, have higher rates of drug abuse, are less likely to use seat belts and are more likely to use guns in acts of violence, according to the report.
Most high-income countries report income and education disparities in their health care system. But the panel said Americans benefit much less from social programs that could negate the effects of poverty.
Our environment is also a big contributor to Americans’ poor health, the panel said. U.S. communities are built around automobiles, discouraging physical activity and increasing traffic accidents. Contraceptives are only available by prescription, instead of over the counter. Even stress could play a role — adding to our waistlines, substance abuse and criminal behavior.
We can thank religious activists for some of this. The crusade to limit access to contraceptives, women’s health services and other medical care on grounds of “religious freedom” has no doubt caused harm to Americans.
We can also thank politicians (mainly Republicans) who have been on an apparently endless mission to reduce, cripple or outright eliminate entitlement programs or charity programs or funding to organizations that provide help for those who otherwise could not get it.
The attitude of “American exceptionalism” may also be partly to blame. The notion that America is the best and greatest country in the world has also given rise to an attitude of “I’m an American, no one gets to tell me what to do or how to do it.”
In some cases, this has led individuals to defy rules, laws, safety mandates, etc. simply because they feel said rules are not necessary and shouldn’t apply to them or they’ve simply been conditioned to get a kick out of “sticking it to the man.”
My American wife has commented in the past about how seriously we take driving with seat belts in Canada. She said she was stunned at the negative reaction she received from my Canadian friends when she related a story about driving on a highway without a seat belt on.
American cities, especially in the South, are not as pedestrian/cyclist friendly as they should be. This trend seems to be slowly changing, but it will take awhile to see long term health benefits in the population as a result.
Nearly everyone ages 15 to 64 should be screened for HIV even if they’re not at great risk for contracting the virus, according to new guidelines proposed by an influential panel of medical experts. If the panel ultimately adopts those recommendations, Medicare and most private health insurers will be required to pay for the tests.
The draft guidelines were written by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group that operates under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services to advise the government and the nation’s physicians on the medical evidence for preventive health measures.
Posted online Monday on the task force website for a four-week period of public comment, the guidelines also recommend that doctors offer HIV tests to people under 15 or over 64 if they are at high risk for contracting HIV and — in advice that has not changed — to all pregnant women.
The recommendations, which would apply to all but very-low-risk populations, are a clear shift toward broader testing for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The task force’s 2005 guidelines suggested routine HIV screening only for adolescents and adults at increased risk, including men who have sex with men, injection drug users, people who trade sex for drugs and those who have multiple sexual partners.
Ezra Klein explains how Obamacare slows down the race to the bottom to create a level playing field:
Businesses try to cut costs. One way they do that is by skimping on employee pay and benefits. The Affordable Care Act, at least in the short-term, will raise costs on businesses that have pursued that particular cost-cutting strategy.
As Slate’s Matt Yglesias has noted, that makes the Affordable Care Act an intervention on a particularly worrying change in the economy. In recent years, corporate profits, measured as a percentage of the U.S. economy have been hitting record highs, even as the share of those profits that go to workers have hit record lows.
The health-reform law won’t reverse that trend, but for the businesses that are doing the most to drive it — the ones that have cut costs and boosted profits by paying their workers very little and refusing to offer them decent health insurance — the Affordable Care Act will force them to contribute a bit more toward their workers’ health care or raise their prices. And if they choose the latter route, then fine: It levels the playing field between them and their competitors who haven’t taken a low-road approach to paying their workers. That gives pizza companies that do pay their employees well a slightly better position in the marketplace than they have today.
[…] both Democratic and Republican presidents used to think the proper role for business in the American health-care system was to pay most of the cost of their employee’s health-care insurance.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the principle is different, and much less onerous: Employers don’t need to offer health care, and they don’t need to pay for most of the cost of their employee’s health care, but if their employees are taking advantage of public subsidies, then the employer should have to pay a penalty equal to about 1/8th the cost of the average employer-provided health-insurance plan.
Eating red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, according to a new study, and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk.
The analysis, published online Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine, used data from two studies that involved 121,342 men and women who filled out questionnaires about health and diet from 1980 through 2006. There were 23,926 deaths in the group, including 5,910 from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 from cancer.
(Reuters) - More than 26,000 working-age adults die prematurely in the United States each year because they lack health insurance, according to a study published ahead of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.
The study, released on Wednesday by the consumer advocacy group Families USA, estimates that a record high of 26,100 people aged 25 to 64 died for lack of health coverage in 2010, up from 20,350 in 2005 and 18,000 in 2000.
That makes for a rate of about 72 deaths per day, or three per hour.
The nonprofit group based its findings on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a 2002 Institute of Medicine study that showed the uninsured face a 25 percent higher risk of death than those with coverage.
The findings are in line with a study by the Urban Institute think tank that estimated 22,000 deaths nationwide in 2006.
Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said the group released the study to illustrate the potential human toll behind a high court ruling that could overturn the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the end of next week.
“Lives are truly on the line,” said Pollack, who supports the reform law. “If the Affordable Care Act moves forward and we expand coverage for tens of millions of people, the number of avoidable deaths due to being uninsured will decrease significantly.”
Trillions of bacteria living in and on the human body play a vital role in preserving health. But C-section births, antibiotics and excessive hygiene have been disturbing our microbial balance and possibly contributing to intestinal ailments, obesity, allergies and autism.
Deep in the Amazon basin, where traditional hunter-gatherers still live, researchers gave the indigenous population a lesson in biology. They used posters to explain to the inhabitants of the rain forest that a human being is never alone. Invisible, tiny creatures known as bacteria live on and inside our bodies — and they can be quite useful.
The lesson was part of a project to research the bacteria of the local people. “When we asked them for samples of their feces, the people laughed,” said one of the participating biologists, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, from the University of Puerto Rico. Researchers succeeded in winning their trust, and the inhabitants of 10 huts allowed them to take swab samples, not only from their stool, but also from their hands, feet, noses and mouths.
The search for microbes aims to shed light on the nature of mankind’s original bacterial flora. These indigenous test subjects have had almost no contact with outside civilization. Their bacteria are a virtually unadulterated product of evolution. Microorganisms help digest food, supply the body with vitamins, train the immune system and ward off harmful pathogens.
But how do these tiny benefactors fair when their host is exposed to a Western lifestyle? To answer this question, researchers not only took swabs from the traditional people living in the rainforest, but also from people in more highly developed locations in the Amazon basin, in larger settlements, in the Peruvian provincial capital Iquitos, and in Manaus, a Brazilian city with a population of nearly 2 million.