Profile: The Conversation - Health

Academic rigor, journalistic flair

The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
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NoteStreams By The Conversation - Health

4 Things You Need to Know to Protect Yourself From the Flu

This has been a particularly bad influenza season, starting early especially in the South and West Coast in the U.S. This follows a severe season in Australia during our summer.
I am a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who studies the flu and sits on advisory panels about immunization. Here are some answers to frequent questions I am hearing from people about this year’s flu.
Post by Arnold Monto, Professor, Epidemiology, University of Michigan
The Conversation

Category: Health

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Don’t Hate Your Gut: It May Help You Lose Weight, Fight Depression & Lower Blood Pressure

A universe of organisms living inside you may affect every part of your body, from your brain to your bones, and even your thoughts, feelings and your attempts to lose weight. So how does that actually work?
Jasenka Zubcevic
Assistant Professor, University of Florida
Christopher Martyniuk
Associate Professor of Toxicology, University of Florida
The Conversation
CC BY-ND 4.0

Category: Health

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The Price of a Miracle: Should we Limit Spending on Lifesaving Drugs?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is a familiar quote from the opening of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” but the phrase is also applicable to the specialty drug market in the United States today.
Breakthrough drugs have come through a collective national choice to let drugmakers set prices and reap the profits with limited oversight – as opposed to many other countries with strict controls.
However, this choice has come at a steep price.
Post by C. Michael White, Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, University of Connecticut
The Conversation
CC BY-ND 4.0

Category: Social Awareness

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Why so Many People Regain Weight After Dieting

If you've ever taken weight off to find it creeps right back, you're far from alone. There are many factors to keeping the weight off, including some you may have never even heard of. It all has to do with your resting metabolic rate - and there's now something you can do about that.

The Conversation
CC BY-ND 4.0

Category: Health

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Anosmia: the Disability of Being ‘Noseblind’, Is No Laughing Matter

Anosmia is a complete loss of the ability to smell. Some people lost their sense of smell as a consequence of a nasal condition or brain injury, while others are anosmic from birth.
The Conversation
(CC BY-ND 4.0)

Category: Science

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Why Bruce Springsteen’s Depression Revelation Matters

Springsteen has long been committed to social justice; in writing about depression, he has perhaps undertaken a new cause, one that seeks to combat the stereotypes and stigmas about mental illness that still exist today.
The Conversation
(CC BY-ND 4.0)

Category: Health

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Digital Health Devices Are Great, But Price Widens the Health Gap

The private sector has begun to develop tools to improve chronic disease management with digital health technologies, and that market is growing rapidly.
The Conversation
(CC BY-ND 4.0)

Category: Health

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Why a Four-Day Workweek Is Not Good for Your Health

For most of us, a long weekend is an occasional thing. For some people, however, it's a regular thing. And they're still paid their full-time salaries.
So what's wrong with that?
The Conversation
(CC BY-ND 4.0)

Category: Health

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The Mystery of Breast Cancer

It is almost unique among the common cancers of the world in that there is not a known major cause; there is no consensus among experts that proof of a major cause has been identified.

Category: Science

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Health and Safety Problems From ‘White’ LED Streetlights

New LED-based streetlights are whiter than traditional ones and contain more blue light, which can disrupt people’s circadian rhythms.
The Conversation
(CC BY-ND 4.0)

Category: Social Awareness

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Are We Sleep-Deprived or Just Darkness-Deprived?

The blame for sleep deprivation is often pinned on our fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyle, made possible by electric lighting at all times of day and night.

Category: Health

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Good For Your Health: Generosity

There is some evidence that donating time can improve physical health, but no one has looked at whether donating money has the same effect.

Category: Health

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Unlocking the Secrets of Bacterial Biofilms

Standing on a walkway at Yellowstone National Park, I admired the hues of orange, blue and yellow in the sand of the Grand Prismatic Spring. I’m a microbiologist, and I had come to see the bacterial mats.

Category: Nature

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Why Bullying Needs More Efforts To Stop It

The tragic consequences of bullying have become a regular part of the news cycle. In April, an eighth grade girl in Missouri and a sixth grade boy in Pennsylvania committed suicide. Bullying was an important factor, according to their families.

Category: Social Awareness

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Why It’s Impossible To Actually Be a Vegetarian

Clearly, animals eat plants. What’s not so clear from this picture is that plants also eat animals. They thrive on them, in fact (just Google “fish emulsion”). In my new book, “A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism,” I call it the transitivity of eating. And I argue that this means one can’t be a vegetarian.

Category: Food

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Food Fraud is Still Hard to Detect – So Follow the Money

Food mis-labelling is widespread, as is the practice of substituting premium commodity products in whole or in part with cheaper ingredients.

Category: Arts

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Sharapova, Drugs And The Nature Bias

How safe is too unsafe for a competent adult athlete to consent to before we need to create a blanket ban?

Category: Sports

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Can Kitchen Chaos Influence Overeating?

Anyone who has ever tried to cut back on sweets has probably heard that all it takes is “mind over matter.”
But new research by Lenny Vartanian of UNSW Australia and Kristin Kernan and Brian Wansink of Cornell University is shedding light on the way your mindset interacts with your environment to influence eating behavior – specifically, unhealthy snacking.

Category: Lifestyle

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Are There Health Risks For Raising a Vegetarian?

An increasing number of blogs by “ethical mums” have sparked discussions about the appropriateness of imposing vegetarianism, veganism or pescatarianism on their children.
Some view these diets as restrictive and query whether the removal of meat or even all animal products from a child’s diet is healthy given their extra dietary needs for growth and development.

Category: Food

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Before Antibiotics, How Did Doctors Treat Infections?

The development of antibiotics and other antimicrobial therapies is arguably the greatest achievement of modern medicine.
Alternative therapies have been used to treat infections since antiquity, but none are as reliably safe and effective as modern antimicrobial therapy.

Category: Science

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The Science Of Post-Holiday Weight Loss

If you – or someone you care about – are embarking on post-holiday weight loss, understanding the body’s physiological responses to excess kilojoule intake could give you the edge for a successful New Year’s resolution.

Category: Science

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Screen Time Changes The Way Kids Tell Stories

Recently, at a child’s birthday party, I overheard a conversation between parents discussing their concern about “screen time.”
Phones, computers, iPads and the good old television are all around us. And this can be a source of anxiety for parents, caregivers and teachers. A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the amount of time young children spend viewing television and movies and playing on handheld devices is increasing.

Category: For Teachers

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Can Listening to Music Help You Sleep?

By now, you’ve surely heard that Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. In our always-on society, a solid chunk of nightly rest seems, well, like a dream. We shave the edges of sleep to keep up, exchanging extra waking hours for compromised health, productivity and safety.Despite this, we actually know how to sleep better; the list of empirically supported, low-cost, simple behavioral tweaks is extensive, whether it’s avoiding alcohol as bedtime approaches or just going to sleep at a regular hour. Though changing habitual behavior is easier said than done, one of these tweaks may be as simple as putting in your earphones and pressing play.

Category: Science

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Fitness vs. Fatness: Which Matters More?

There is a longstanding debate in the research community about the importance of fitness versus fatness in health. Are exercise and improving fitness more important than eating well and maintaining a healthy weight?

Category: Health

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Why Does Our Balance Get Worse As We Age?

All of us have taken a tumble at some point in our lives. But as we grow older, the risks associated with falling over become greater: we lose physical strength and bone density, our sense of balance deteriorates and we take longer to recover from a fall. Alarmingly, this process begins around the age of 25. The reasons for this are varied and complex, but by understanding them better, we can find ways to mitigate the effects of old age.

Category: Health

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Outsourcing Clinical Trials to Developing Countries

As the death toll from the African Ebola crisis peaked, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan delivered a scathing attack on the “profit-driven” pharmaceutical industry and its unwillingness to develop a vaccine “for markets that cannot pay”. In reality, markets rather than moral concern drive research and development of drugs.

Category: Social Awareness

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Eating vs. Juicing Your Fruits & Veggies

Juices can be a convenient and tasty way to get some of the health benefits of these foods – but how do they compare nutritionally?

Category: Food

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Behind the Hype and Hopes of Stem Cell Research and Therapy

The words “stem cell research and therapy” evoke a number of responses. In emotionally vulnerable patients, a sense of hope. In scientists, a great deal of excitement about future prospects. In the case of legal experts and ethicists, a need to ensure that patient safety and a spirit of distributive justice are maintained. And in the minds of entrepreneurs, an opportunity to develop a profitable business. Stem cells are the building blocks of our bodies. They are able to differentiate into the more that 200 cell types that make up our bodies. From a fertilized egg to a fully fledged human being which contains billions of cells, the purpose of stem cells during development in the womb is to ensure normal structure and function.

Category: Science

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Brain Tumors that Effect Children

Malignant brain tumors are the most common cause of cancer death in children. And the most common of these are called medulloblastoma. Although these tumors can occur in both children and adults (they account for between a fifth and a quarter of all tumors diagnosed in the brain and spinal cord), they are ten times more frequent in kids. Still, most people have not heard of medulloblastoma, most likely because it’s much rarer than cancers more typically associated with childhood, such as leukemia.

Category: Childrens Cancer Awareness

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Health Problems in Adults Treated for Childhood Cancers

Children who survive cancer treatment are much more likely to suffer health problems when they are adults, according to a new study. Researchers who looked at more than 1,700 survivors of childhood cancer and found that almost all (98%) had one or more health conditions. What conditions people suffer from depended on what kind of cancer they had and what kind of treatment they received as a child later in life. But the most common conditions the researchers found were abnormalities in the lung, heart and endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production, as well as cognitive (thinking) skills. Conditions ranged from mild to severe, and other effects included hearing loss and visual impairment.

Category: Childrens Cancer Awareness

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Conversation on the Cancer Ward

Everyone who works in oncology is only too aware of the flick of the wheel of fortune that transforms happiness into its opposite.

Category: Childrens Cancer Awareness

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How Our Obsession with Hereditary Cancers Started

Featured on Time’s May 27 2013 cover, titled “The Angelina Effect,” the actress was celebrated for promoting awareness about the connection between genetics, risk and health to the extent that doctors anticipated being overwhelmed by a “stampede of women” requesting genetic testing for their BRCA status. The discovery of the BRCA genes (and the resulting genetic tests) in the early 1990s is often touted as the watershed moment when genetics and heredity became important to cancer. This is not, however, the case. We did not suddenly recognize that some cancers are hereditary once we could test for gene mutations.

Category: Health

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Why Excess Iron Can Be Dangerous

Iron is a most versatile element. It is essential to many of the enzymes that are the engines for life, and in mammals is also used to carry oxygen on hemoglobin in blood. Remember Popeye and his spinach: all that iron made him strong. But the very quality that makes iron so useful also makes it dangerous. Iron can easily lose or gain one electron going from the ferrous (Fe++) to the ferric (Fe+++) state, back and forth indefinitely. This is how it carries oxygen, for example. It also means it can be a potent pro-oxidant – it catalyzes the production of free radicals which can destroy cells and tissue, and thereby contribute to cancer and heart disease.

Category: Health

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Can Millenials Pay Attention to Classwork While Texting, Tweeting and Being on Facebook?

It’s hard not to notice the connection of today’s youth to technology. Fused to their smartphones around the clock, they prefer screens to paper and text message to speech; they consider leaving voicemail an act of interpersonal aggression. They seem to focus differently too: skimming and sampling their way through multiple streams of data, they look like they’re taking it in all at once. Some educators call them “digital natives,” reflecting the idea that tech is at the core of who they are and how they function.

Category: Health

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What The ‘Dad Bod’ Phenom. Says About Our Culture

Everyone, it seems, has been talking about “dad bod” – what defines it, who possesses it and whether or not women actually love it. It all began with an innocuous article on a college news website, penned by a Clemson University student named Mackenzie Pearson. “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out,” she wrote. “While we all love a sculpted guy, there is just something about the dad bod that makes boys seem more human, natural, and attractive.”

Category: Health

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Drug Policy: Elitism Unites Russell Brand & Iain Duncan Smith

You would be forgiven for thinking that Russell Brand, that radical left-winger and advocate of revolution, and Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative secretary of state for work and pensions, didn’t have anything in common. But they do: their hatred for heroin substitute methadone. Brand and IDS come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. But in Brand’s BBC3 documentary End the Drugs War and IDS’s recent “personal” article in the Sunday Telegraph calling for the methadone industry to be in the sights of those fighting drug addiction show, they find common cause.

Category: Health

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Many People Use Drugs: Why Most Aren't Addicts

Drug use is common, drug addiction is rare. About one adult in three will use an illegal drug in their lifetime and just under 3 million people will do so this year in England and Wales alone. Most will suffer no long-term harm. There are immediate risks from overdose and intoxication, and longer-term health risks associated with heavy or prolonged use; damage to lungs from smoking cannabis or the bladder from ketamine for example. However most people will either pass unscathed through a short period of experimentation or learn to accommodate their drug use into their lifestyle, adjusting patterns of use to their social and domestic circumstances, as they do with alcohol.

Category: Health

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Health Risks: Beneath Painted Beauty in Nail Salons

The desire for beautiful nails has fueled an entire nail salon industry that’s growing rapidly, with storefronts cropping up on every major street across the nation. Yet, the recent articles from the New York Times exposed an industry that’s left workers struggling both with unlivable wages and with damaged health. Everyone who enters a nail salon can be affected, yet the workers are the ones left entirely unprotected.

Category: Health

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Feast then Famine: How Fasting Affects Stress

Intermittent fasting (also called alternate day fasting) has become a popular diet. In most versions of intermittent fasting, people fast or eat very little a few days each week and then eat normal amounts during the remaining days. Fasting is something that human beings have practiced throughout history, often out of circumstance rather than choice. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were probably expert fasters, indulging in feasts in times of plenty, and then facing long periods of scarcity in between. With this in mind, it makes sense that our bodies' cells could perform well under the harsh conditions of feast and famine.

Category: Health

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The Guilty Pleasure of Watching Trashy TV

Many Americans have a conflicted relationship with the media they watch. In particular, those who think of themselves as “cultured” tend to have a negative view of certain “low-brow” contemporary television shows. Scripted shows like Two and a Half Men and Reign are described as “banal” and “dumb,” while the latest crop of “trashy” reality shows – The Bachelorette, Keeping Up with the Kardashians – are to be enjoyed only by “hate-watching” them. Nonetheless, these very same shows are watched by millions of people each week. The popularity (and profitability) of reality TV has reshaped the landscape of television. In fact, many TV producers are purposely making “bad” shows to appeal to a certain type of viewer.

Category: Health

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What’s the Best Way to Repel Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes need blood to survive. And what better place to get a good meal than a slow, tasty human. Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying. Every year around 5,000 Australians get sick following a mosquito bite. Most commonly the infection is Ross River virus but there is annual activity of dengue viruses in north Queensland and there are occasional cases of the rare, but potentially fatal, Murray Valley encephalitis virus. Spraying insecticides may kill some mosquitoes around our backyards but it won’t completely protect us from mozzie bites.

Category: Health

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Foods that Change your Risk of Cancer

If you believe cancer is a disease that strikes from nowhere with little in your control to prevent it, you’d be mistaken on both counts. Most cases of cancer are considered preventable by positive nutrition and lifestyle choices. Six new nutrition cancer prevention guidelines published today in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reinforce some sound advice, but also include a surprise or two. So what do these six new cancer prevention recommendations tell us? And how much notice should we take?

Category: Health

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Crossing the Line and Crossfit

It’s a known fact that exercise is addictive. But CrossFitters – those who take part in CrossFit’s brutal workouts and stringent diet – are infamous for their fanatical devotion to their fitness philosophy. They can be found doing pull-ups and heavily weighted squats, flipping tires or hitting them with a sledgehammer, climbing ropes, tossing medicine balls, and “going Paleo.” The CrossFit movement has been labeled a cult – even a religion – and the movement’s popularity has skyrocketed; by 2014 there were 7,000 CrossFit-affiliated gyms (or “boxes,” as CrossFitters call them), up from just 13 in 2005. But, really, the zealousness of CrossFitters is not new.

Category: Health

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