Disease

It's impossible to keep up with every "alternative fact" or crazy conspiracy theory on the Internet. By the time a lie has circled the globe, the Truth has just put its shoes on1. For some reason, people find falsehoods much more entertaining and believable than the truth.

I thought that I had heard every possible vaccine conspiracy theory out there: Vaccines cause autism. Vaccines aren't necessary and are pushed on us by greedy pharmaceutical companies. Vaccines are used for mind control. Bill Gates is using vaccines to control the human population.

So, even I was slightly surprised to discover yet another vaccine conspiracy theory. A couple days ago on Facebook, I came across the following comment:

"The key to surviving the flu is to get a...

Pancreatic cancer.

When news of this type of diagnosis is mentioned, those two words strike fear and dread in most every adult – whether family member or friend – who knows anything about cancer and survivability of its different forms.

That, of course, is because pancreatic cancer is the most aggressive, least treatable form of the disease and in a large majority of cases it reduces the victim's life expectancy to a matter of months. In short, more than any other cancer, those two words carry the approximate weight of a death sentence.

Why is this type of cancer so ravenous and what makes it accelerate so rapidly? German researchers say they have discovered the answer to this question, and they've traced the cancer's aggressiveness to a key factor in its earliest...

Mention high blood pressure and most of the diet-conscious among us think "lower salt intake" to manage it. And there has been controversy about who should decrease their salt consumption and by how much — as we've previously discussed. What's less often addressed is the role of potassium (K+) in the management of hypertension (HTN). However, a recent review in the American Journal of Physiology addresses the possibility that diets higher in K+ may well be as important a means of reducing the toll of HTN — thus decreasing the prevalence of cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

Led by Dr. Alicia A. McDonough, a...

My colleague, ACSH Senior Nutrition Fellow Dr. Ruth Kava, wrote about a recent study on trans fats and their possible role in reducing heart attacks and stroke. The study made use of a statistical technique called Difference-in-Difference (DID) and it's worth explaining the underlying concept, because it was not a prominent feature of the statistics course I took in school.

Observational studies are different than experiments. what most people think of as science, in that they observe a population over time. Observational studies, often case-control or cohort studies, can be difficult to interpret, in part, because of difficulty in truly identifying the...

One of the more controversial moves during the administration of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the banning of synthetic trans-fatty acids (TFAs) from NYC eateries (in 2007) because of concern about deleterious influences on blood cholesterol. Other New York State counties, mostly surrounding the NYC area, followed suit, and that eventually led the FDA's ban of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs — the sources of synthetic TFAs) which is set to take effect in 2018. Synthetic TFAs can still be used in bakery products. e.g. breads. cakes, pies and pastries as well as other foods in which a solid or semi-solid type of fat was desired but most other products have voluntarily stopped using them.

Dr. ...

A few years ago we profiled a meta-analysis in The Lancet that supported the notion that even healthy adults could benefit from taking statin drugs (which lower LDL or 'bad' cholesterol). The benefit for the people studied was the reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events such as health attack or stroke. Since then, more studies have investigated this use of statins for so-called primary prevention, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has reviewed the data and agreed that this use of statins is valid for certain adults. Their recommendations are presented...

Bacteria are living infectious microbes that exist in the environment independent of hosts, although some clearly exist in host organisms (the gut microbiome). Some of the truly massive plagues in human history were bacterial in origin. These bacteria include anthrax, TB, cholera, Yersinia (bubonic - pneumonic plague), typhus, syphilis (a gift from the new world native peoples), gonorrhea, tetanus, salmonella, Lyme disease, C. difficile, Legionnaires’ disease, typhoid fever, leprosy, rheumatic disease and various forms of bacterial pneumonia and meningitis. As can be seen from the two lists below, bacterial organisms were the major diseases killing us in 1850. By 1900, sanitation had changed that list considerably, but bacterial infections were still the top three killers prior to the...

Iceland is a small island in the North Atlantic Ocean with a total population of about 330,000. Its relatively small size belies what may turn out to be its great importance to the world's aging population. Because the country was essentially isolated for centuries, its people became more inbred. This means that genetically speaking, native Icelanders are more similar to each other than are members of more diverse populations, and genetic researchers can use this similarity to more easily identify rare mutations in various genes. They've done so with genes that affect the onset of Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

For example, in 2012 Icelandic researchers found a variant of a gene (APP) that protects against AD. It's rare — even in...

Smallpox, rabies, Spanish flu, polio, AIDS and Ebola are all viruses that evoke great fear, having demonstrated catastrophic impacts on humans, including wiping out entire populations.  The evolution and emergence of viral infectious diseases is without bounds. Viruses parasitize every living organism, including bacteria (phages) and plants. Human pathogenic viruses frequently require a zoonotic host. The original animal viruses subsequently evolve to become very communicable among animals, including humans.  Humans find themselves living knee deep in an animal cesspool of ever-evolving viral diseases. According to WHO, the 2016 top 10 list of emerging infectious diseases are: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever,...

Prion diseases are rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals. They are distinguished by long incubation periods, characteristic spongiform (Swiss cheese) changes in brain and spinal cord tissues associated with neuronal loss, and a failure to induce inflammatory response.

These diseases are 100% fatal; they appear to arise spontaneously in humans (sporadic) or the causative factor is found in family genetics (inheritable). However, these diseases can also be transmitted to humans eating meat contaminated with BSE or human neuronal material harboring prions, or by contact with brain-derived therapeutic factors like human growth factor extracted for pituitary glands harvested from cadavers. 

Surgical instruments used in neurosurgery on...