Food allergies are on the rise among American children
January 16, 2018

As modern medicine continues to find ways to treat and prevent illnesses from occurring, at least one issue affecting children is on the rise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, food allergies in children have risen by 50 percent over the past couple of decades with peanut or tree nut allergies more than tripling during roughly the same period. Complicating matters further, about 30 percent of children with a food allergy are allergic to more than one type of food.

It’s important to identify food allergies so that steps can be taken to avoid that food and prevent harmful reactions. Food allergies can cause severe reactions like anaphylaxis, a serious, fast acting reaction that causes an itchy rash, swelling of the throat and tongue, breathing problems, vomiting and light-headedness. A dose of epinephrine is usually required to mediate the symptoms.

About 200,000 people seek medical attention for food allergies each year, and roughly 40 percent of children with allergies will experience a serious incident at some point. Events are most common outside the home when it is more difficult to determine the ingredients of prepared food and cross-contamination is more likely.

There are a lot of theories for why allergies are on the rise and one idea gaining traction is the hygiene hypothesis. CNBC explains that this theory speculates that a lack of exposure to allergens, bacteria, and other infectious agents early in a child’s life can cause the immune system to register food proteins as a germ in the body. Although not conclusive, the FDA is currently investigating this theory, along with others, to help explain the sudden rise in allergies among American children.

It is possible for many allergies, such as milk, wheat, and eggs, to resolve themselves during childhood, but it is uncommon for allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and fish to go away on their own. As of yet, there is no medical cure for food allergies at any age, and the only real way to avoid issues is to avoid the problem foods.

100 years of insulin treatments save countless lives
January 13, 2018

The disease diabetes has been identified for thousands of years, but only in the last 100 has there been a truly life-saving treatment: Insulin.

Insulin was discovered in 1921 at the University of Toronto.

Its discovery was one of the most sensational developments in medicine, effectively treating a disease that relentlessly reduced millions to blindness, coma and death. In his book, The Discovery of Insulin, author Michael Bliss writes that the first attempts to use insulin on comatose diabetics created what seemed to be a miracle: Comatose patients awoke and returned to life.

Until insulin was identified, there were many different types of treatment, all mainly useless. The most effective was an extreme diet. Patients managed to live a few years longer after starting the diet, but ultimately died of starvation. Doctors who used the diet in the 1920s were later reminded of their patients when they saw pictures of inmates at Nazi death camps. Some people managed to live on the diet long enough to raise a child, for example. But even one morsel off the diet could kill them. Bliss gives the example of a messenger boy who managed to exist on the diet until one day he couldn’t resist picking and eating a handful of cherries. He was dead in a week.

It is generally agreed that insulin was first identified by Dr. Fred Banting, but many years of research before and after by many other scientists and doctors contributed to making insulin a reality.

Making it readily available was another problem. Insulin could not have been provided in quantities for the thousands, if not millions, of people who desperately needed it without the participation of drug companies such as Eli Lilly and Connaught Laboratories, to name just two.

During the time insulin was known but could not be manufactured in sufficient quantities, patients died, knowing a treatment existed but that it just could not be made fast enough.

Senior Health: The diet that is good for your brain
January 12, 2018

Researchers looking for a way to keep brain function healthy have combined the best parts of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet to make the MIND diet.

The diet itself is easy: Eat more foods in 10 categories and eat less of five specific foods, according to

The 10 MIND diet foods:
– Six or more servings per week of kale, spinach, cooked greens or salads.
– Eat at least one non-starchy vegetable per day in addition to the green leafy vegetables.
– Twice a week, eat berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
– Five servings of nuts per week.
– Use olive oil to cook.
– Three servings of whole grains daily: Oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread or pasta.
– Once a week, eat fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, trout and mackerel.
– Four times a week eat beans, lentils and soybeans.
– Eat chicken or turkey twice per week. Avoid having them fried.
– Drink one glass of wine daily but no more.

The five foods to avoid:
– Butter and margarine. Eat less than 1 tablespoon daily.
– Cheese. No more than once per week.
– Red meat. No more than three servings per week of beef, pork, or lamb.
– Fried food. No more than once per week.
– Pastries and sweets. No more than four times per week.

Cinnamon and blood sugar
January 11, 2018

Researchers are studying the spice cinnamon to see if it helps control blood sugar, as folk treatments suggest.

A review of 11 trials of cinnamon supplements in people with type 2 diabetes found that people using the supplements — while taking prescribed diabetes medications — showed some small improvement in blood sugar levels.

However, researchers stress the findings are not conclusive since other factors, such as exercise, cinnamon quality, and adherence to medications were often not accounted for.

The researchers concluded that the spice deserved more research but stressed that there is no evidence that cinnamon alone can control type 2 diabetes.

The review was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Cure for type 1 diabetes? New business aims at trials
January 4, 2018

A new startup company has raised $114 million to develop a treatment for type 1 diabetes.

Semma Therapeutics will use the new funding to begin human trials of their stem cell therapy, which has already been tested on animals.

Semma plans to use stem cells to make beta cells, which manage blood sugar. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks cells that are responsible for sensing glucose in the blood. Today, management of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, is done through insulin. However, this new effort would effectively cure type 1 diabetes by replacing the beta cells in the body, which would start the production of insulin.

Diabetes affects more than 300 million Americans. About 1.25 million have type 1.

These new beta cells would be built from embryonic stem cells. Embryonic cells have the potential to become any type of cell found in the body. In this new method, embryonic cells are exposed to growth factor to make them grow into beta cells, according to Business Insider.

Semma would take the newly grown beta cells and insert them into an implant about the size of a plastic bandage. The implant could then be placed under the patient’s skin. Since the cells stay in the device, they wouldn’t interact with the immune system which might kill them. However, they would spark the production of insulin to control blood sugar.

This cell therapy could reach far into medical treatment, creating all sorts of regenerative medicine.

Don’t drink too much coffee!
January 3, 2018

Many people rely on a daily dose of caffeine to get their day started, but according to the Mayo Clinic, there are risks associated with drinking too much coffee too often.

When used in moderation, caffeine is prized for its ability to help people stay alert. Once the intake surpasses about 400 milligrams, about four cups of brewed coffee, however, users might experience more harm than good.

Side effects of excessive use can include headaches, irritability, nervousness, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, upset stomach, and more depending on the person. Some people can be more sensitive to the effects as well, and these symptoms might present themselves with even light or moderate consumption. Likewise, a sudden increase in the amount consumed can cause harmful effects even in people that haven’t noticed any problems in the past. Interactions with certain drugs, like ephedrine or echinacea, can increase the effects of caffeine and lead to more severe health risks like heart attack, seizure, or stroke.

Despite the fact that caffeine is often used to help wake people up in the morning, it can also work against a tired individual by disrupting their sleep cycle. Excess consumption, or consuming caffeine late in the day, can delay sleep or limit its therapeutic value. Repeating this cycle for long enough can result in a cumulative sleep debt that starts to cause issues with daytime alertness and focus. Limiting consumption to the morning hours is one of the best ways to help avoid this problem.

Experts say that even the worst side effects of caffeine aren’t typically life-threatening, but according to USA Today, it is possible to have too much. It is estimated that a lethal dose of caffeine could be found in somewhere between 50 and 100 cups of coffee, depending on weight, so it is unlikely for a coffee drinker to be in any real danger. If a person is consuming the raw, powdered form of caffeine, however, then as little as a teaspoon could kill.

Health Seasonal
What BLOOD TYPE are you?
January 1, 2018

Photo by Jody Lane/American Red Cross

January is National Blood Donor Month, and the American Red Cross encourages everyone to contribute to this important work. Knowing your blood type is an important part of donating. There are different blood types because not all blood has the same kinds of red blood cells in it.


You’ve probably heard about blood types from your doctor (or at least your favorite television drama about doctors): A positive, O negative, etc. But what do these labels actually mean? Both the letter and the positive or negative symbol refer to antigens that either are or are not present on the surface of your red blood cells. A-type blood has A antigens, B-type blood has B antigens, AB has both, and O has neither. Whether your blood type is positive or negative depends on the presence or absence of another antigen called the Rh factor.


Antigens are essential to how your body identifies and deals with infections. If a patient is given a blood transfusion of the wrong type, the body’s antigens will identify the donated blood as a harmful invader and activate the body’s immune system to reject it. This is why people with type O, which has neither A nor B antigens, can donate to anyone, but type A can only donate to others with type A. If you don’t know your blood type, ask your doctor for information so you can help those in need by donating blood.

Studies: Smart phones drain the brain
December 30, 2017

As phones get smarter, people get dumber; at least that is what recent studies conclude.

Smart phones make people less capable of focusing, learning, and problem solving. People are relying on the phone, and not their brain, to store and analyze information, according to a recent ABC News report.

In fact, Apple says their users unlock their phones an average of 80 times per day.
Attention is a precious commodity for the human brain and a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that hearing a phone’s buzz or beep while engaged in a challenging task causes people to lose focus and produce sloppier work.

Further studies, like one in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, showed that hearing a phone ring without the ability to answer it caused a spike in blood pressure, a quickened pulse, and a decline in problem-solving ability. These findings support the claim that phones can diminish focus, logic, learning, and problem solving by distracting users even when the devices are in the background.

When it comes to intelligence performance, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, formed an experiment to see how the presence of a smart phone would affect scores on an IQ test among their subjects. During the test, each third of the subjects were asked to either leave their phones outside the testing room, leave them in their pockets, or place them on the table in front of them while taking the test. The results showed that performance was highest among those who left their phones outside and lowest among those who left them in view on the table. Secondary tests by the same team revealed that performance dropped the most among subjects who relied on their phones the most in their day-to-day lives.

A big part of the reason for this mental decline, according to the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, is that phones force the mind to work harder at paying attention. When a person tries to suppress the need to check a smart phone, it actually diverts cognitive resources to that task and leaves less on the table for the work at hand.

Study: Social media causes fatigue in kids
December 27, 2017

Despite the convenience of full time online connection, it is likely causing youth extra stress and fatigue.

According to Dr. Bratt of the Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis, social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can wear people out because of its continually updating nature. Notifications pour in at all hours of the day and night, and the fear of missing out creates a false sense of urgency among users. Absorbing all of the information can make a person feel overwhelmed, and over time this leads to anxiety and trouble sleeping.

Further research in the Journal of Youth Studies recently analyzed the night-time activities of school children ranging from 12 to 15 years old; specifically how often they were checking messages on social media. In the study, 20 percent of subjects said that they ‘almost always’ woke up in the middle of the night to check their accounts. These same students were three times more likely to say that they were tired during school and were also not as happy, on average, as the rest of the children. Researchers at San Diego State University have shown that this reduction in quality sleep can lead to lowered performance in school because students are not able to concentrate and pay attention as easily.

A recent study from the Council on Communications and Media found that social media can also trigger negative emotions that can lead to a lowered sense of well-being, jealousy, and perceived social isolation. This isolation has even caused what some researchers have dubbed ‘Facebook depression’ because of how teens and tweens have been shown to exhibit the classic symptoms of depression after spending a considerable amount of time on the site. Depression can lead to other health issues including a lack of sleep and fatigue.

Holiday weight gain? Not as bad as one would think
December 18, 2017

People gain weight during the holidays, but not as much as they think, according to dietitian Cynthia Sass.

Sass points to a 2009 study from Texas Tech University that followed 48 men and 100 women for six weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas. On average, the subjects gained one and a half to two pounds each.

While this gain isn’t terrible, it tends to stay on. Sass says weight creep is responsible for adults gaining 10 to 20 pounds over a 10 year period.

If you want to avoid that extra pound or two, Sass recommends drinking two cups of water before meals. One study found that adults who followed this prescription were able to shed 40 percent more weight during a 12-week diet period. Drinking water also makes us less hungry.

Finally, budget your carbs. Holidays are carb heavy with potatoes, cakes, pies, breads, and cookies. Try to choose just one carb item each day so you can indulge, but not at every single meal. If banana bread is on the menu for lunch, skip the toast and potatoes at breakfast and dinner.