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Comment Original Article (Score 1) 62

Took some digging, but here is the original study (paywalled).

Contrary to the click-baity Telegraph article linked, the brains were not shrinking -- there was a correlation between the most strongly linked genes to Alzheimer's and relatively smaller/thinner areas of the brain associated with things like memory and executive function. There was also a correlation between these thin areas and reduced ability of the tested children.

If reproducible, this result would be absolutely shocking. Our current understanding is that the genes in questions (APOE 4) are not even associated with early-onset Alzheimer's, only late-onset, and even then the association is so weak that screening is unjustifiable.

Comment Re:Environmental impacts? (Score 2) 321

Citation required.

Ask and ye shall receive. Here's a meta-review of some of the best and biggest studies comparing vegetarians to health-conscious omnivores. Almost all studies showed a longevity benefit, and pooled they found a significant longevity beneift. This is a nice plot of the risk ratio as the study data is cumulatively pooled.

It goes without saying that this field of research is tricky -- evidence is never iron-clad and you can always find a study or two to support your biases. But, as a medical student and someone interested in nutrition, I'll go out on a limb and say that there is no diet except the Mediterranean diet that has so much supportive evidence of health benefits. (Prove me wrong!) But in any case, this should be enough to at least stop the FUD about vegetarianism causing everything from diabetes to psychosis as per above. It's at least not causing harm.

Now, the question is -- will bacon-loving Slashdot rejoice that a citation request was answered, or continue on with the usual group-think?

Submission + - Repurposing Drugs to Tackle Cancer (theguardian.com)

sackvillian writes: Many slashdotters are aware of the infamous thalidomide birth defect crisis. What might come as a surprise is the incredible success that thalidomide and some analogs have recently found as treatments for cancer, ulcers, lupus, and more. In fact, thanks in part to their success, there's a growing research movement that's attempting to treat cancer with other existing drugs that are commonly used for totally unrelated conditions. Drugs as common as aspirin, for example, which is in the early stages of a clinical trial that will involve over 10,000 cancer patients. As described in the article in the Guardian, at least one major international collaboration has taken this approach: The Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project. However, as most of the drugs are long since off-patent, researchers are having to be creative in obtaining funding for their work.

Comment Re:The Fort McMurray fire was a sign (Score 1) 327

Global warming is a real issue, obviously, but in this case, wrong environmental issue to be going after.

There's at least some merit in laying blame on both:

The current fires in Alberta are unlikely to have been exacerbated by suppression, said Spies. Boreal forests differ from the temperate forests further south in that they have a longer fire cycle, lots of fuel and tend to burn intensely. But their occurrence in the normally wet month of May is highly unusual and “consistent with what we expect from human-caused climate change”, according to a local scientist.

Comment Re:Try the original antibiotic (Score 2) 203

When you are selling an expensive patented antibiotic and competing against less expensive OTC silver, will you spread the joy that silver is more effective?

I'm not sure where you live, but here in Ontario we have a law that all prescriptions must be automatically replaced with generic versions unless otherwise specified by the physician (very rarely). And guess what? There have not been many new antibiotics discovered in the past 15 years, so the vaaaast majority prescribed are generic. We further make use of all sorts of topical antibacterial solutions containing iodine and hydrogen peroxide, for example.

In other words, if there was any validity at all to what you were saying, physicians would jump at the chance to prescribe silver.

Comment Re:No surprise... (Score 4, Informative) 317

I've read hundreds of the best and biggest nutritional studies, and here's my quick and dirty what nutritional "science" has actually proven beyond doubt (mostly from country-country comparisons and massive epidemiological studies):

  • --Trans fats are poison, there's no good amount.
  • --Processed sugar is bad, there's no good amount.
  • --Rapidly digested processed carbs are nearly as bad as sugar.
  • --Red meat is either bad or neutral, but processed red meat is definitely bad -- avoid.
  • --Complex carbs are ho-hum, don't overdo it.
  • --Saturated fats are ho-hum, not bad but better replaced by good unsaturated fats.
  • --Most unsaturated fats (especially in nuts/olives/fish) are great, eat as much as possible.
  • --Fresh fruits/vegetables are great, eat as much and as many different types as possible.

The ideal diet as we currently know it from available evidence is essentially the Mediterranean diet, which is the only intervention that is consistently and clearly linked to longer and healthier lives. Note that an American-Vegan diet with adequate protein intake is closer to it that the typical fast-food, red-meat, fruit/vegetable-free, processed-sugar heavy disaster that most Americans consume.

My point is that I agree mostly with your summary, but it's not as simple as blaming carbs -- many countries that do better nutritionally eat more carbs than the US (though they're typically complex) -- and there's no reason to villainize vegans and worship bacon from a nutritional stand-point like so many in the geek culture do. Except to be instantly modded up to +5, that is.

Comment Re: That's nice (Score 2) 320

In France or Austria, you don't have Catholics try and persecute Protestants.

I guess you intentionally didn't mention Ireland in this sentence?

In Israel, you don't have Reform Jews or Orthodox Jews trying to obliterate each other.

What about the assasination of the Prime Minister of Israel by a Jewish extremist, for starters?

You can find extremist nutters in every religion, but the root of country-wide religious warfare is always economic and political, first and foremost. The difference between Islam and Christianity in terms of modern-day violence has everything to do with the fact that the Middle East has been continually torn up by colonial powers and local warlords, whereas most Christian countries enjoy relative stability.

I'm proudly agnostic, but if you read through any of the holy texts, you'll find more than enough justification for violence if you're motivated to -- Islam isn't unique. It's the readers' lives that are the determining factor in extremism.

Comment Re:There's more to it than developing the drugs. (Score 3, Insightful) 165

Clearly because government run medicine is so much better, right?

The US pays its doctors some of the highest salaries in the world, publishes the most and best medical research in the world, and also charges its patients the most in the world.

You can find the best and worst care in the US. For the rich who want the best care -- American or not -- the US is their destination of choice. It's just that the rest of the developed world gives a damn about providing decent care to the vast majority of citizens who are not rich. By focusing on that, they take care of the rank and file and still leave the opportunity for the richest to travel abroad to pay through the nose for better care, so nobody really suffers.

And as the poster below points out, medical tourism is not exactly the best metric of your system's quality. India and Mexico aren't exactly shining models of medical care.

Comment Re:cause Alaska's huge in resources, not in popula (Score 1) 284

If this had happened in Texas (another state that produces a lot of oil, though in general doesn't have all the natural resources Alaska has), those $1.2 billion would amount to... less than $45 for each of it's 27 million inhabitants.

I think that you're forgetting that Texas produces about 8x as much crude as Alaska. If they had setup a similar fund we would be talking about at least $400 per year. Not too shabby.

Now, if either state had followed Norway's lead and kept most of the oil profits for themselves, we would be talking about substantially larger amounts of dividends or savings. Norway's fund is now approaching a trillion dollars in value -- for a country with a population one fifth that of Texas's, and approximately the same level of crude production.

Comment Re:Amazing (Score 1) 492

Given the annaul return from investments in the S&P 500, he would have done much, much better if he simply invested his fortune in 1982, the first year we have a good public number from:

"[Donald Trump's] self-described net worth jumped from $200 million in 1982, to the $8.7 billion he estimated his net worth to be today. ... if Trump had merely invested that $200 million in the S&P 500 (500 of the largest companies in the US), he would have averaged an 11.86% annual return and ended up with $20 billion."

Comment Re:So tired of these stupid articles (Score 5, Insightful) 410

You tell that healthcare costs are down. After the ACA, my healthcare premiums DOUBLED. Fucking... Doubled.

Hello over there, Americans! While you bicker about whether the ACA increased premiums or brought healthcare costs down (or both or neither), the rest of the developed world enjoys per capita overall spending that is a fraction of yours, and with much better overall health outcomes. Maybe you could simply agree that a truly "socialized" system of medicine would be a great improvement on either the pre- or post-ACA American healthcare system and drop the partisan crap?

Submission + - Planned Sequel to Fairphone Promises an Ethical, Repairable Phone

sackvillian writes: An article in Wired reports on the ongoing development of the Fairphone 2, planned for European release in September. The phone is the follow-up to the Indiegogo funded original that inevitably had room for improvement. The manufacturers promise a modular phone with an emphasis on repairability and expandability, with otherwise respectable specs (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2GB RAM, Dual SIM, 8MP camera). All running under a customized Android 5.1. So the inevtiable question arises — would you be willing to sacrifice some performance (and pay a significant premium) for a phone that's repairable, moddable, and ethical?

Comment Re:infertile males? (Score 2) 156

The concern about infertility is real, but what has the experts worry is the cost to IQ:

The new series of reports by 18 of the world’s foremost experts on endocrine science pegs the health costs of exposure to them at between €157bn-€270bn (£113bn-£195bn), or at least 1.23% of the continent’s GDP.

“The shocking thing is that the major component of that cost is related to the loss of brain function in the next generation,” one of the report’s authors, Professor Philippe Grandjean of Harvard University, told the Guardian.

“Our brains need particular hormones to develop normally – the thyroid hormone and sex hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. They’re very important in pregnancy and a child can very well be mentally retarded because of a lack of iodine and the thyroid hormone caused by chemical exposure.”

There's nothing desirable about reduced IQs and massive health costs (unless you make money on healthcare or benefit from a dumb populace, that is).

Comment Re:How is this tech related? (Score 4, Informative) 156

The proposed ban was not based on sound science, just scare tactics from European greenies.

The proposed ban was largely the result of research showing that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have incredible costs to human health. We're not talking some vague feel-good argument about the birds and the bees -- we are talking about lost IQ points and health costs that run into the hundreds of billions:

The new series of reports by 18 of the world’s foremost experts on endocrine science pegs the health costs of exposure to them at between €157bn-€270bn (£113bn-£195bn), or at least 1.23% of the continent’s GDP.

As Ars points out, if even a fraction of the economic loss attributed to these chemicals could be reduced, the net result could easily be far more valuable than even the most wildly optimisitic projections for the value of the TTIP agreement.

Comment Re: How about cutting sugar* (Score 2) 68

But that is clearly not the case. Look at the data for life expectancy by age for the US from 1850-2011. [infoplease.com] Yes, life expectancy at birth was nearly half what it is now but the gap narrows considerably if you survived past 20. That is to say, most of the increase in life expectancy at birth comes from curing the childhood illnesses from which many died very young. And while far fewer people lived to 90-100 than now, living into the 70s-80s was not exactly uncommon.

What makes you think that the same trend applied to hunter-gatherers? The lifestyle of those born in 1850 likely has no resemblance to the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers.

Next question -- ever consider that maybe the roughly 50% of people who died around or before age 20 may be a population that's much more vulnerable to "chronic diseases of civilization"? Maybe the reason there weren't many type-2 diabetics or sufferers of congestive heart failure in their 50s is because the people most prone to such diseases were long since in their graves.

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