US flu deaths and ineffective vaccines

Despite more people having had injections this season than last, 5 year old Keira Driscoll is the 56th child nationwide to have passed away from flu this season. She died in hospital after developing what is being dubbed as a ‘deadly’ strain of the flu, influenza A. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 8,000 people have been hopitalised with the flu since the start of October, and 19 children died in the first week of the year alone – proving that the “vaccines have been largely ineffective.” The CDC have also reported that more than three quarters of people who have had the injection this year will get the virus anyway. The 23% of effective injections is one of the worst performances since the government started tracking how well vaccines work in the 2004-2005 season. 

Research carried out in several countries has found that people who receive flu vaccines year after year can sometimes show reduced protection. It was found that the seasonal flu vaccination almost doubled the risk of infection with pandemic flu, and protection was greatest among those who hadn’t been vaccinated previously. Another study has linked the flu vaccine to increased respiratory infections – do you fancy being 5.5 times more likely to suffer an incident of respiratory illness?

Good news for gut microbe research in EU

My New Gut is an EU-backed project investigating the human microbiome to better understand how gut microbial populations are affected by nutritional inputs – and its effect on human health factors like obesity and metabolism. Project leader, professor Yolanda Sanz said that the way they have designed the studies means that she expects them to be able to make “progress in the identification of bacteria that together can work for our metabolic health…” The project aims to look at nutrient metabolism and energy balance, the influence of environmental factors, and specific gut microbiome components and any contribution to obesity, eating disorders and co-morbidities. The partners also want to ultimately develop new food ingredients and food prototypes to reduce any risks of metabolic- and brain-related disorders. They believe that by “…developing microbiome-based dietary recommendations and interventions [they] could provide cost-effective methods to reduce the socioeconomic burden of diet- and brain-related diseases in Europe, particularly, obesity and chronic-metabolic and behavioural disorders.”

Over-the-counter drugs linked to dementia

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine has linked common, over-the-counter drugs with an anticholinergic effect to dementia. These drugs block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine and are used for conditions such as insomnia, depression, hay-fever, and dementia. Wikipedia sports a long list of their potential side effects, including dementia symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and disorientation. The US study showed that higher doses were linked to higher dementia risk in elderly people, and the risk appeared when people took drugs every day for three years or more. The researchers suggest that doctors and pharmacists should be cautious in their approach and consider alternative treatments, or give the lowest dose for the shortest time possible. Dr Doug Brown, from the UK's Alzheimer's Society, said, “More robust research is needed to understand what the potential dangers are, and if some drugs are more likely to have this effect than others.” He also reported that the charity is funding more research in this area.

Glyphosate weedkiller used to feed the convalescing

US laboratory, Microbe Inotech, tested liquid samples from hospital feeding tubes and found they contained glyphosate. The samples were collected and sent by supporters of Moms Across America, a “National Coalition of Unstoppable Moms” working to raise awareness about GM, pesticides and health. The Pediasure Enteral Nutritional Drink is used on pediatric wards to feed patients in critical care and was found to be loaded with GM corn syrup, soy, and sugar. All of these have been linked with inflammation, and are sprayed with glyphosate during the growing season and at harvest as a drying agent.

Sitting increases disease risk, regardless of exercise

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concludes “Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.” Senior author, Dr. David Alter, said, “There is a strong and consistent link between sitting time and a host of diseases.” People who were the most sedentary were more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, breast, colon, ovarian and other cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The pattern did tend to be more pronounced for people who also reported less time exercising but regardless of physical activity level, prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with bad health outcomes. The researchers suggest a few different strategies such as encouraging people to stand up from their desk every half an hour, or stand during TV commercial breaks, but stress that there will need to be considerably more research done to fill in those gaps and know for sure whether sitting directly causes disease. Either way, Alter believes, “…just because one does their 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day doesn’t ensure their health … we need both, we need exercise and need to be sitting less.”

International Yoga Day!

Following a successful address by Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to the UN General Assembly, 21st June has been declared as the International Yoga Day. Modi described yoga as “India’s gift to the world” and said “It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” The issue was raised in a televised interview with Mr Modi and his US state visitors, Barak and Michelle Obama. It's viewed as a bit of a coup for India and, during the interview, Michelle Obama announced she was already a regular practitioner of the 4,000-year old discipline. It was unclear as to whether President Obama himself was a regular. However, during the visit, the US President said that he and his wife were looking forward to the first International Yoga Day. All in all, 177 nations supported the proposal, and Modi is keen to also establish India’s traditional medicine, Ayurveda. 


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