Monday, December 31, 2012

Diet and Healthy Aging

A NEJM article points out that calorie restriction promotes longevity in many creatures, including dogs, monkeys, fish, mice, spiders, beetles, nematode worms, fruit flies, and yeast. Understanding the common mechanisms that seem to exist might lead to improved healthy aging for humans, and the evidence so far suggests that reduced caloric indicate is the key. For example, a 20-year study in monkeys showed that experimental animals receiving 30% less of the unrestricted diet of the controls were healthier as they aged (less diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy) and had fewer age-related deaths. This sounds good, but the probability that we would not be able to stick to such a restricted diet means we’re never likely to know if dietary restriction can extend healthy human life.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Science and Evolution....

A Forbes article this year notes that only 40% of Americans believe in evolution. It’s quick to offer hope for improvement, however. Only 18% of Americans still believe the sun revolves around the earth, and a mere 500 years was all that was necessary to reach that figure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Attention chocolate lovers: food for thought.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a strong correlation between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel laureates in various countries.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Calories from sugar-sweetened drinks do matter.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is a big contributor to the obesity epidemic. Such beverages are the largest single calorie food source in the United States. Salty and fast foods are often consumed at the same time with these nutrient-poor drinks. In addition, these drinks are associated with chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Schools are under fire for making them available, but the greatest consumption of these beverages occurs at home. Families should team up to reduce intake. If nothing else, replacement with sugar-free beverages should reduce fat accumulation, weight gain, and some chronic diseases.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Micronutrient supplementation: more is not better.

A recent editorial in the NEJM reminds of a truism that once an adequate concentration of a nutrient has been achieved, additional intake has no effect. So, unless one has a known deficiency of a nutrient, there is no good reason to take in more of it. When attracted by purported benefits of supplements, one should also beware of potential ill effects and unnecessary expense.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Goosey Goosey Gander wanders no more…

The summer edition of Sanctuary, the journal of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, presents a series of articles on bird flocks. There one can read a remarkable “explanation” for the current huge population of yearlong resident Canada geese that haunt our playing fields, open parks, and golf courses. Years ago, the rapid decline and threatened extinction of the species along the Atlantic coast was blamed on extensive market hunting. In response, instead of banning or restricting the shooting, they clipped the wings on midwestern geese and brought them here where they remained and raised their young year round. Now hunting, herding dogs, and coyote decoys can’t get rid of them!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good News for Coffee Drinkers

This week’s New England Journal of Medicine reported a study of 5, 148,760 person-years that showed “coffee consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality.” Drink up!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Noninvasive testing for paternity in pregnancy

A recent letter in the NEJM describes a noninvasive test to determine paternity in pregnancy. (N Engl J Med 366; 18 May 3, 2012 page 1743.) 5% of raped women become pregnant, but whether the rape or consensual intercourse caused the pregnancy is often uncertain. 80% of unintended pregnancies are terminated before 10 weeks, making it likely many rape victims terminate pregnancies before testing for paternity. The invasive tests carry a risk of miscarriage, but here the authors report a maternal blood test that in correctly determined paternity in all 30 cases studied. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Masters on Easter was a curious juxtaposition.
Maureen Dowd contrasts the inclusionary message of the Jesus story with the exclusionary nature of the Augusta National Golf Club.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Something to chew on...
If you happen to be a fan of Carl Hiassen (or not), try his latest book for kids of all ages. 


It's a fun read. I even laughed out loud!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Human Genome Mapping

It took 3 billion dollars and 10 years to sequence the human genome, and now it looks like later this year it’ll cost about a $1000 and can be done in a matter of weeks. Smaller portions will be even cheaper and faster. (You can find out your mongrel dog’s breed mix for $60 dollars in 2 weeks.) A huge amount of information is accessible and maybe a computer can handle it, but I worry that these “advances” may move doctors farther away from the patient.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sharing medical research results

The National Institutes of Health spend more than 3 billion dollars a year on clinical trials, yet sharing the results doesn’t happen in a timely fashion, if at all. According to researcher Joseph S. Ross, 54% of the studies are unpublished 30 months after completion and 33% remain so after 51 months. The NIH doesn’t require publication, so Ross suggests this change: withhold a final percentage of the current grant and any future grants until the studies are published. Sounds like a plan. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Medicine demystified: acupuncture.

            In checking back to see if modern medical science has succeeded in explaining how acupuncture works, it turns out our understanding has become more complicated. At first it looked as if a “simple” electrochemical activation changes how the nervous system perceives pain, but now it seems the needle simultaneously stimulates multiple body systems. The blood circulatory, lymphatic, and electromagnetic bio-information systems are activated as well.

            ‘The more you know, the less you know.’ (Paraphrased from Lao Tzu, Socrates, George Bernard Shaw, Don Henley…)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Modern medicine demystified: the doctor-patient relationship.

Doctors and patients are more aware nowadays that attention should be directed to the patient as opposed to the disease. “Patient-centered care” is the describer used for this approach. The patient’s values are paramount, and the doctor should comply with them. Sometimes, there is one obvious best way to go, but when that’s not the case, the doctor’s job is to work with the patient to help him/her understand the options, pro and con. The patient should recognize the right and responsibility to actively participate as well. In this way, shared decision making can evolve.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Modern medicine demystified: the doctor-patient relationship.

A patient’s welfare used to be a doctor’s primary concern, and a patient’s rights were secondary. Consideration of those rights now drives medical decision-making, and the patient, not the doctor, makes the decisions. You get to do what you want to do. That’s appropriate, but you should be careful. A ton of medical information is available to most of you, thanks primarily to the computer, but often it’s plain wrong, out-dated, or simple marketing. Acting upon such misinformation may do you more harm than good. You can manage your own care, but don’t do it without help. Take advantage of your doctor’s medical knowledge to assist you in developing your preferences. Before you decline or demand care, use your doctor as an educated consultant and make your decision an informed one.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Building a mystery: another excerpt

Ahead of him, every square inch of sand was smooth, like fresh poured cement scraped flat with a board. The ocean had denied Grandfou his moment of glory; it had scrubbed the beach. Between Sunday morning and now, those nonidentical twins, flood tide and ebb tide, had eradicated any signs of human traffic. After the rising tide had set-up a short drag to the dory and the murderer rowed off with his cargo, it ran farther up on the beach to erase the tracks. After the receding water had finished its further mopping, the whole process recycled just to make sure the clean-up job was complete. Such are the moonstruck machinations of spring tides.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stranger than fiction: more body parts

A body in Arizona is missing its head, hands, and feet:

The cops there don't think they connect with the LA parts.

Which killer is the copy cat? When I wrote my book, I had no idea that adding up body parts was such a common problem.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

The extremes of the Annisquam River

See how narrow the river can be at low tide and how the Annisquam Yacht Club stands high and dry.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Building a mystery: another excerpt

Long ago, as the North American continent rose out of the ocean, a cut of Atlantic water split a large chunk of land away from the New England coast. This separated landmass persisted as an island, but when Captain John Smith arrived in 1614, he mapped and labeled it as a cape. Later cartographers corrected his map, but never corrected his label. To make matters worse, when they added the divisive waterway, they called it a river. It did not qualify as such, however, since it was open to the ocean at both ends and its direction of flow reversed with each change in tide. Even today’s official U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey charts have perpetuated this inaccuracy by accepting Eel River as its name. Because it flowed and was narrow, it did seem like a river. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A great location for a mystery

Let’s begin exploring Annisquam. Here’s what sits at the tip of the peninsula as seen from across the river on Wingaersheek Beach. It’s a long shot, it’s low tide, but it’s a good place to start because the fluctuating Annisquan River is crucial to the community and the novel.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Building a mystery: an excerpt

Although the peninsula offered the murderer many escape routes by water, there was but one exit by land. This was the strip of sand-covered rock connecting the peninsula to the cape. Competing for this sliver of terrain were an obvious church and an unobtrusive road. The former shielded the latter from view, so incursion onto the peninsula became a specific, conscious, and swift decision. By forcing a hairpin turn to leave the highway, the pairing was a belt and suspenders defense against intrusion. … 
This main road divided shortly after the church to form a loop that ringed the peninsula. Heading south, hugging the cove that broadened into the harbor, the road crawled clockwise down to the tip of the point. There, turning abruptly to the north, it snaked up alongside the river to coil back in a full circle just before the church. … 
In effect, the village was caught within a lasso of black macadam. To escape this noose by land, the killer would have had to flee across the isthmus.