Consider this: of the trillions upon trillions of cells in the human body, only about 1 in 10 is actually human. The rest belong to microbes, which colonize every inch of you, from the inside of your mouth to the skin between your toes. It’s no wonder, then, that research is increasingly finding that the diversity of these microbes has important effects on health.
The vast majority of microbes — perhaps up to 100 trillion of them — live in our guts. So-called gut bugs help digest our food, assist our immune systems, maintain the health of the intestines, produce vitamins, aid metabolism and extract calories from food (which is why much research has associated gut bugs with obesity).
To better understand the way gut bugs work, a new study has aimed to categorize the lot of them. The study, led by Peer Bork of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, found that the bacteria in our guts falls into one of three distinct ecosystems, or "enterotypes."
"The three gut types can explain why the uptake of medicines and nutrients varies from person to person," Jeroen Raes, a bioinformatician at Vrije University in Brussels and coauthor of the new study, said in a statement. Which means that knowing a person’s enterotype could someday help doctors tailor drug treatments or diets to suit them better.
Or, [Bork] speculated, doctors might be able to use enterotypes to find alternatives to antibiotics, which are becoming increasingly ineffective. Instead of trying to wipe out disease-causing bacteria that have disrupted the ecological balance of the gut, they could try to provide reinforcements for the good bacteria. "You’d try to restore the type you had before," he said.
For the new study, the research team evaluated stool samples from 22 European individuals, extracted the DNA and determined its composition by using DNA analysis and computers. They also compared the results to other published findings from Japanese and American subjects.
Scientists found that each of the three enterotypes was composed of a unique balance of microbe species. The team named each type after its dominant bacteria: Bacteroides, an enterotype that’s known to break down carbohydrates and is better at making vitamins B2, B5, C and H; Prevotella, which degrades mucus and produces more B1 and folic acid; and Ruminococcus, which…
Interesting study – the researchers controlled for exercise, weight, blood pressure, smoking and other factors correlated to vascular events, including strokes. So what might be the problem with diet soda? Perhaps the artificial sweetner itself (Aspartame/Nutrasweet?). Drinking sugary soda was not significantly correlated with an increased risk for vascular events. - Ilene
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It’s not definitive proof of harm, but new research raises concern about diet soda. It suggests that people who drink it every day have higher risks for stroke and heart attack than those who drink no soda of any kind at all.
The findings come from a federally funded study of about 2,500 adults in the New York City area.
Doctors have no explanation for why diet soda might be risky. It could be that people who drink lots of it also fail to exercise, weigh more or have other risk factors like high blood pressure and smoking. However, the researchers took these factors into account and found the trend remained.
According to "Diet Soda May Heighten Risk for Vascular Events," the risk for "stroke, myocardial infarction, and vascular death," were elevated in the group that drank diet sodas every day. "People who had diet soda every day experienced a 61% higher risk of vascular events than those who reported drinking no soda," lead investigator Hannah Gardener, ScD, an epidemiologist from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, told reporters attending a news conference here at the International Stroke Conference.
Specifically, the University of Miami study (which followed more than 2,500 men and women aged 40 and older for an average of about nine years) found that people who drank diet soda daily were 61 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular event than people who drank no diet soda.
That increase in risk held up after controlling for such factors as age, sex, smoking, physical activity and calories consumed each day. Even after the researchers controlled for metabolic syndrome and a history of heart disease, the people who drank diet soda daily had a 48 percent increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack compared to their non-diet soda drinking
One of the most contentious issues in the vast literature about alcohol consumption has been the consistent finding that those who don’t drink actually tend to die sooner than those who do. The standard Alcoholics Anonymous explanation for this finding is that many of those who show up as abstainers in such research are actually former hard-core drunks who had already incurred health problems associated with drinking.
But a new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that — for reasons that aren’t entirely clear — abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one’s risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers’ mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.
Moderate drinking, which is defined as one to three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates in alcohol studies. Moderate alcohol use (especially when the beverage of choice is red wine) is thought to improve heart health, circulation and sociability, which can be important because people who are isolated don’t have as many family members and friends who can notice and help treat health problems.
But why would abstaining from alcohol lead to a shorter life? It’s true that those who abstain from alcohol tend to be from lower socioeconomic classes, since drinking can be expensive. And people of lower socioeconomic status have more life stressors — job and child-care worries that might not only keep them from the bottle but also cause stress-related illnesses over long periods. (They also don’t get the stress-reducing benefits of a drink or two after work.)
But even after controlling for nearly all imaginable variables — socioeconomic status, level of physical activity, number of close friends, quality of social support and so on — the researchers (a six-member team led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin) found that over a 20-year period, mortality rates were highest for those who had never been drinkers, second-highest for heavy drinkers and lowest for moderate drinkers.
The sample of those who were studied included individuals between ages 55 and 65 who had had any kind of outpatient care in the previous three years. The 1,824 participants were followed for 20 years. One drawback of the sample: a disproportionate number, 63%, were men. Just over…
Time waits for no man, the old truism goes, but in recent years scientists have shown that it does seem to move more slowly for some. Molecular biologists have observed that people’s cells often age at different rates, leading them to make a distinction between "chronological" and "biological age."
But the reason for the difference remains only vaguely understood. Environmental factors such as smoking, stress and regular exercise all seem to influence the rate at which our cells age. Now, for the first time, researchers have found a genetic link to cellular aging — a finding that suggests new treatments for a variety of age-related diseases and cancers.
The field of "biological aging" has in recent years focused on the long molecules of DNA contained in human cells called chromosomes. All chromosomes have protective caps at either end called telomeres. Each time a cell replicates itself (as it does before it dies), the telomeres shorten, like plastic tips fraying on the end of shoelace. Shortened telomeres have been linked to a host of age-related illnesses such as heart disease and certain cancers. (Scientists have yet to study whether telomeres influence a person’s appearance). Last year’s Nobel prize in medicine was awarded to three American scientists for their work in the field, and many scientists now believe telomeres are the closest we may come to identifying a biological clock — and our best bet for one day learning how to stop or turn back that clock.
To better understand the aging discrepancy, a team of researchers in Britain and The Netherlands scanned more than 500,000 genetic variations across the human genome. Using a population of nearly 12,000, they then attempted to pinpoint a genetic link to telomere length. (See how to prevent illness at any age.)
In a significant breakthrough, the team successfully identified that a particular gene sequence was associated with differences in telomere length between individuals. What’s more, the sequence was clustered near a gene called TERC, which is already known to play a role in the production of an enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase repairs telomeres when they shorten. "That was very exciting for us," says Professor Nilesh Samani, a cardiologist at the University of Leicester who co-led the research, published last week in Nature Genetics. "It gave us great…
Cosmopolitan dug through their archives to find a June 1982 issue featuring a very naked chap by the name of Scott Brown playing centerfold model. Flattering, in a certain light, but possibly problematic for Brown, who is running for Ted Kennedy’s United States Senate seat in Massachusetts. “Vote for Brown. He Has One Hell of a Stimulus Package,” the lady mag suggests as a slogan.
BOSTON (AP) – The race to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has turned into a proxy battle over the fate of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
A once-pedestrian contest between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown has coarsened with a week to go, as the two have cast themselves as custodians of the pivotal Senate vote to determine the bill’s fate.
"As the 41st senator, I can stop it," Brown said last week during a debate, highlighting his potential to be the breakthrough Senate vote that upholds a GOP filibuster.
How could a Republican win in a state that Obama carried by more than 20 points. It’s simple. Republicans are motivated by the chance to pull a gigantic upset and torpedo healthcare reform. Democrats aren’t so motivated, so the conventional wisdom is that the makeup of the electorate will be way different than it was last election day.
The remote, snow-swept expanses of northern Sweden are an unlikely place to begin a story about cutting-edge genetic science. The kingdom’s northernmost county, Norrbotten, is nearly free of human life; an average of just six people live in each square mile. And yet this tiny population can reveal a lot about how genes work in our everyday lives.
Norrbotten is so isolated that in the 19th century, if the harvest was bad, people starved. The starving years were all the crueler for their unpredictability. For instance, 1800, 1812, 1821, 1836 and 1856 were years of total crop failure and extreme suffering. But in 1801, 1822, 1828, 1844 and 1863, the land spilled forth such abundance that the same people who had gone hungry in previous winters were able to gorge themselves for months.
In the 1980s, Dr. Lars Olov Bygren, a preventive-health specialist who is now at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, began to wonder what long-term effects the feast and famine years might have had on children growing up in Norrbotten in the 19th century — and not just on them but on their kids and grandkids as well. So he drew a random sample of 99 individuals born in the Overkalix parish of Norrbotten in 1905 and used historical records to trace their parents and grandparents back to birth. By analyzing meticulous agricultural records, Bygren and two colleagues determined how much food had been available to the parents and grandparents when they were young.
Around the time he started collecting the data, Bygren had become fascinated with research showing that conditions in the womb could affect your health not only when you were a fetus but well into adulthood. In 1986, for example, the Lancet published the first of two groundbreaking papers showing that if a pregnant woman ate poorly, her child would be at significantly higher than average risk for cardiovascular disease as an adult. Bygren wondered whether that effect could start even before pregnancy: Could parents’ experiences early in their lives somehow change the traits they passed to their offspring?
It was a heretical idea. After all, we have had a long-standing deal with biology:…
John asks: "Why is the government trying to spread its public health message through children rather than parents?" Perhaps because a significant proportion of the nation’s parents distrust it and the pharmaceutical companies, so going straight to the kids may be a viable option. – Ilene
Remember when tobacco companies were accused of targeting children with advertisements and promotional items featuring cartoons?
Everyone thought it was terrible because children could be convinced smoking was cool by cartoons.
(Or something. This never made a whole lot of sense since we’ve never really had a child smoking problem in the United States. Sure sometimes kids will take a puff or two as an experiment but real smoking didn’t stop until much later and there was never any evidence that teenagers were convinced to start smoking because of cartoons.)
The thing that really creeped most people out was that the use of cartoons seemed aimed at undermining parental authority and influence, getting between kids and their mom and dad. Oh, and the fact that most people are convinced that smoking is deadly.
So what should we make of this advertisement promoting flu shots? Believe it or not, flu shots are pretty controversial. There are a lot of people who believe that serious health issues are associated with the shots, although the evidence for this seems scant. Many more people just don’t think the risk of childhood flu is really worth the quite common side effects, limited risks and cost of getting the shot.
And a few of us have figured out that you can pretty effectively be a free rider when it comes to vaccinations. When my brother enrolled his daughter in pre-school, he was told that chicken pox shots were mandatory. As a Roman Catholic, he objected to the vaccine on pro-life grounds (lung tissue from aborted fetuses are used to generate the vaccine) and pointed out that if everyone else at school was vaccinated, there’s no way his daughter would catch or spread the chicken pox. She was effectively but indirectly vaccinated.
In any case, the risks and benefits of getting a flu shot seem to be something that should be left up to parents rather than decided by bureaucrats. Certainly, the image of the
There is plenty of economic data this week and earnings season is in full swing. Despite this, I suspect that news from Europe will dominate the market discussion.
I expect market participants to be watching closely for The Message from Europe.
Prior Theme Recap
In last week’s WTWA I predicted that there would be a focus on the message from corporate earnings reports. That was very accurate for the week as a whole. The big exception was the ECB celebration and commentary on Thu...
The middle class has shrunk consistently over the past half-century. Until 2000, the reason was primarily because more Americans moved up the income ladder. But since then, the reason has shifted: There is a greater share of households on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
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Last week, the S&P 500 put an end to its streak of weekly losses, despite giving back some gains on Friday. Thursday provided the big catalyst, with the ECB’s announcement of its bold new monetary stimulus plan. Investors were cheered and soothed for the moment. And U.S. fundamentals still look strong. But with Greece trying to turn back time, with volatility elevated (and likely to continue as such), and with the technical situation still dicey, the near term outlook is still worrisome.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart...
It's time again for my weekly gasoline update based on data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Rounded to the penny, Regular dropped two cents and Premium three. Regular is at its lowest price since April 2009.
According to GasBuddy.com, Hawaii has the highest average price at $3.23. The highest continental average price is in California at $2.45. Missouri has the cheapest Regular at $1.78....
An interview with John Ehlers of Stock Spotter and Mesa Software
Ilene: John, in our last discussion about trading systems in general and yours in particular (Can trading be reduced to cycles, stresses and vibrations?) you mentioned Monte Carlo simulations and their use in measuring performance. Can you explain more about how you measure the performance of a trading system?
John: Let's start with comparing trading with gambling. The two have several things in common. In both ...
So as I was saying yesterday (Bitcoin: The Biggest Clown Show In History?), Bitcoin has several obstacles on the path to potential success as an alternative currency. But I forgot to mention hacking and theft at Bitcoin exchanges and other technical problems. This is related to the lack of government backing and the fact that the value of Bitcoins is based entirely on confidence.
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PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
Stocks got off to a rocky start on the first trading day in December, with the S&P 500 Index slipping just below 2050 on Monday. Based on one large bullish SPX options trade executed on Wednesday, however, such price action is not likely to break the trend of strong gains observed in the benchmark index since mid-October. It looks like one options market participant purchased 25,000 of the 31Dec’14 2105/2115 call spreads at a net premium of $2.70 each. The trade cost $6.75mm to put on, and represents the maximum potential loss on the position should the 2105 calls expire worthless at the end of December. The call spread could reap profits of as much as $7.30 per spread, or $18.25mm, in the event that the SPX ends the year above 2115. The index would need to rally 2.0% over the current level...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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