The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.
Crisis as Scientists Reveal Cocoa Bean Extinction Is on the Horizon
A chocolate shortage is on the horizon as the cacao tree, on which cocoa beans are grown, can only survive in humid rainforest conditions. The delicate plant is under threat as rising temperatures is sucking moisture from the soils where the tress grow. This has led experts to believe that by 2050 the plant will be impossible to grow—particularly in the Ivory Coast and Ghana where more than 50% of the world’s cocoa is produced. As a result, farmers will have little choice but to move their cacao trees to higher grounds, but competition for places will be fierce as there is limited spaces. Via Express UK.
Hazards of the Post-New Year’s Rush to Gyms
January is a boom time for the fitness industry, as millions of guilt-ridden Americans flock—at least temporarily—to health clubs to try to shed excess pounds acquired over the holidays. “People eat too much, drink too much, and everyone wants to come back to the gym,” said Jose Velasquez, 40, a restaurant worker who regularly works out at an LA Fitness gym in the District and has seen the post-holiday boom-and-bust phenomenon again and again. But for the inexperienced, the gym can pose unexpected hazards. Many fitness wannabes are not familiar with how to use exercise machines and other equipment and can easily sustain head, eye, back, neck, hip, leg, and ankle injuries. Via Washington Post.
3 Brain Technologies to Watch in 2018
Technologies to detect brain activity—fine, we’ll come right out and call it mind reading—as well as to change it are moving along so quickly that “a bit of a gold rush is happening, both on the academic side and the corporate side,” Michel Maharbiz of the University of California, Berkeley, told a recent conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here are three fast-moving areas of neuroscience we’ll be watching in 2018. Via Scientific American.
Fear of Needles May Chip away at Vaccination Rates
The reasons people may skip vaccines such as the flu shot are many. They can include apathy or being too busy. They can include people believing that they won't get sick to fearing vaccines. But recent research suggests another reason some may skip shots: fear of needles. And it's a fear that may be preventable. "People who are afraid of needles are less likely to get vaccines, less likely to fully vaccinate their kids, less likely to give blood, and less likely to get a flu shot," says Dr. Amy Baxter, lead study author and clinical associate professor at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Her study found that teens were more likely to fear needles if they had received multiple vaccine injections at a single "well child visit" when they were 4 to 6 years old. Via NPR.
"Best Diets" Ranking Puts Keto Last, DASH First
If you're a fan of the "fat-burning" keto diet, you'll be fired up about its ranking in the 2018 list of best diets from U.S. News and World Report: It's tied for last, along with the relatively unknown Dukan diet. Both stress eating a ton of protein and minimal carbs, putting the dieter into "ketosis," when the body breaks down both ingested and stored body fat into ketones, which it uses as energy. People on such diets often deal with fatigue and light-headedness as they adjust to a lack of carbohydrates. Though the experts on the U.S. News and World Report panel that created the list said eating that way isn't harmful short-term, they ranked the diets poorly on long-term weight loss success, ease of use and overall impact on health. For the relatively new keto diet, the experts were especially concerned about extremely high fat content—about 70% of daily calorie intake—as well as unusually low carbohydrate levels: only 15 to 20 net carbs a day. The 201520 dietary guidelines for Americans suggest that 45% to 65% of daily calories come from carbs but less than 10% from saturated fat. Via CNN.
Mayo Clinic News
Researchers Gather Health Data for "All Of Us"
Federal taxpayers are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a quest for blood samples, medical information, and fitness readouts from a million Americans. It's called the All of Us precision medicine initiative, and it's the biggest push ever mounted to create a huge public pool of data that scientists—and anybody else who is interested—can mine for clues about health and disease. The plan is to recruit a million Americans to sign up for a program that will not only gather all sorts of medical data about them but will also follow them for at least a decade, possibly much longer. Their electronic medical records could end up in huge databases. The physical samples of blood and urine will end up in an industrial park in Rochester, Minnesota. Mine Cicek, an Assistant Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic, leads me into a vast building with more than an acre and a half of floor space. "This used to be an old warehouse, but when we moved in three to four years ago, we really built a laboratory, and it's in the space," she says. Via NPR.
Does a "Strong" Immune System Ward off Colds and Flu?
The difference may be genetic, though the specifics aren’t well understood, said Pritish Tosh, M.D., an infectious diseases researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Someone might have a particular genetic ability to generate antibodies against certain types of viruses like the flu, for instance, he said. Via NY Times.
The Dangers of Frostbite, and How to Prevent It
Frostbite occurs in several stages: frostnip, superficial frostbite, and severe frostbite. According to Mayo Clinic, if you're experiencing any of these conditions, seek medical attention: Signs and symptoms of superficial or deep frostbite—such as white or pale skin, numbness, or blisters. Increased pain, swelling, redness or discharge in the area that was frostbitten.Via KTTC.
Will We Cure Alzheimer's? U.S. Epidemic Is Worsening but New Treatments Could Help.
In the past decade alone, Mayo Clinic’s Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., said, the ability to look at living brains and see changes associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms has come far. For years, the only way to gain close enough access to a person’s brain to find evidence of amyloid plaque or neurofibrillary tangles was to perform an autopsy after that person died. Now, it’s possible to see these signs in live brains. With these new imaging technologies, doctors are revisiting how they decide who does and doesn’t have the disease. The problem of categorizing Alzheimer’s patients has made things more difficult. Via Newsweek.
Top Tests and Health Checks for the New Year
A new year often brings resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle—from being more active to losing weight, quitting smoking, and eating better. “If you are aiming for a more healthful 2018, the most important things to know are your numbers—including your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, and cholesterol,” says Vandana Bhide, M.D., a Mayo Clinic internist. Via Mayo Clinic News Network.