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Yikes! Just two weeks later, a post has outdated information. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is now found in 28 states - not 27 as I posted December 30, 2021. The additional  state where a wild white-tail deer has been found to have CWD is Alabama. Yes, the disease is spreading!

Chronic wasting disease is an always-fatal prion disease similar to "mad-cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle. This disease is only found in cervids - deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. Medical opinion is that there is a species barrier, a "thin molecular barrier" preventing crossing over of the prion disease to cattle and humans.

Why the concern?  The concern is that this disease will jump to humans, especially in people who eat contaminated meat. No human cases have been detected, but health officials warn people to avoid eating meat from CWD infected animals.

Therefore hunters are advised to bring  hunter harvested heads of deer, elk, and moose for testing. In Alabama it's at drop-off freezer or sampling stations.

In chronic wasting disease there is a long incubation period, followed by the brain becoming progressively like a sponge - riddled with holes, along with deterioration in brain function, behavioral changes, and eventually death. A horrible slow death. There are no treatments or vaccines.

One scary thing about CWD is that once it gets into the soil, it stays there for years, and high heat, disinfectants, and radiation don't kill it. Yikes! Dr.Zabel at the Colorado State Univ. Prion Research Center suggested a few years ago that controlled burns (fires) of infected fields or areas could eliminate the prions left behind by infected animals (from animal mucus/saliva, urine, and feces, and decaying carcasses) on plants and soil.

An article with advice for how hunters can protect themselves, and a map of where CWD is found in the US.: 5 Ways Hunters Can Prevent Spreading Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease Resource Center monitoring the situation and publishing information and research on its site is CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease and Policy). From the Jan. 14, 2022 news scan, CIDRAP:  With positive test in a deer, Alabama becomes 28th state to detect CWD

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected for the first time in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) confirmed last week.  ...continue reading "Chronic Wasting Disease Now in 28 States"

Eye. Credit: Wikipedia

Eating a handful of dried goji berries appears to have health benefits for the eyes - they may prevent or slow down age related macular degeneration (AMD). Goji berries contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are essential components for eye health, and are associated with a reduced risk of cataract development and AMD.

University of California researchers found that 14 healthy middle-aged adults  eating a handful (28 grams or 1 ounce) of dried goji berries 5 days a week for 90 days increased the density of protective pigments in their eyes (macular pigment optical density or MPOD). This is an optical biomarker for AMD. Their skin carotene scores also increased.

However, the 13 persons taking lutein and zeaxanthin in the form of dietary supplements (6 mg lutein and 4 mg zeaxanthin) did not have these beneficial changes in the eye. Their skin carotene scores also did not increase. These results are similar to many studies finding the same thing - eating actual foods has many health benefits, but not dietary supplements.

Dried goji berries. Wikipedia

Bottom line: Eat more servings of foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.

Foods with high levels of both lutein and zeaxanthin include: dried goji berries, parsley, spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, corn, basil, leeks, egg yolks, pistachios, peas, broccoli. Slightly lower levels are in: lettuce, green and red peppers, carrots, kiwi, grapes, squash, pumpkin, corn tortillas, corn chips, Einkorn wheat, and durum wheat.

Most fruits (tangerines, raspberries, papayas, peaches, oranges, cherries, blueberries) also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, but in smaller amounts.

From Science Daily: Dried goji berries may provide protection against age-related vision loss

Regularly eating a small serving of dried goji berries may help prevent or delay the development of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, in healthy middle-aged people, according to a small, randomized trial conducted at the University of California, Davis.  ...continue reading "Goji Berries Benefit Eye Health"

Once again research finds health benefits from consumption of olive oil. A recent large study found that consuming more than 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil per day lowered the risk of death from heart disease, cancer, neurogenerative disease, and respiratory disease.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers also found that increasing intake of olive oil in the diet (replacing margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with 2 1/4 teaspoons or 3/4 tablespoons olive oil) lowers risk of early death in general. The study participants were followed for 28 years, and diet was assessed every 4 years.

Earlier studies found that the best kind of olive oil to consume is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Extra virgin olive oil is considered anti-inflammatory, and contains oleocanthal, which has anticancer effects. Health benefits are both if eaten as is (e.g., dunk bread, in salad dressings) or cooked (e.g. roast vegetables, in sauces, cooking foods) - and this result was also found in this recent study.

From Science Daily: Higher olive oil intake associated with lower risk of CVD mortality

Consuming more than 7 grams (>1/2 tablespoon) of olive oil per day is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer mortality, neurodegenerative disease mortality and respiratory disease mortality, according to a study publishing today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study found that replacing about 10 grams/day of margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil is associated with lower risk of mortality as well.  ...continue reading "Olive Oil Lowers the Risk of Death From Several Diseases"

After reading the recent post on the always fatal prion disease known as "chronic wasting disease" spreading in wild deer and elk in the U.S., a reader asked whether chronic wasting disease (CWD) is also found in cattle. Or whether it could cross over to cattle, and so wind up in the beef we eat. Excellent question.

The studies and medical discussions that I read all agreed that: chronic wasting disease is only found in cervids - deer, elk, reindeer, and moose. Medical opinion is that there is a species barrier, a "thin molecular barrier" preventing crossing over of the prion disease to cattle and humans. Several studies that specifically looked at this issue back this up. Whew, what a relief!

A 2017 study by Canadian researchers reviewed 23 studies looking at "transmissibility" of CWD to humans. They did not find any evidence of transmission of CWD prions to humans in the U.S or Canada, and no evidence supporting the possibility of transmission of CWD prions to humans. However, they did not rule out the possibility that a CWD prion more readily transmissible to humans could emerge over time given sufficiently extensive human exposure, or if a variation in CWD prion strains develops.

A good study by Univ. of Wyoming researchers actually had deer sick with CWD and healthy cattle living side by side for 10 years - sharing food, water, paddocks, and with constant interaction. Another group of 12 calves were given orally (by mouth) 45 g of prion tissue from CWD infected deer and kept indoors (2 per room) in an isolation building after that point. (Note that eating only 1 g of such prion tissue makes deer sick with CWD). There was also a healthy control group not exposed to CWD in any way. All brains were examined after death - and all cattle brains were normal.

Interestingly, this 2018 study did mention that if CWD prion material is injected into cattle brains (which was done in some other studies), then they do go on to develop CWD - but that is not how cattle would be exposed to it naturally. Which is why they did the study trying to mimic natural conditions in which any potential transmission could occur - and found no transmission of CWD.

But...scientists are concerned with possible transmission of CWD prions to humans occurring at some point, for example if variation in CWD prion strains develops. Keep in mind that CWD is spreading year by year throughout the US (which should be of special concern to hunters).  There are many, many questions at this point.

Excerpts from Elizabeth S. Williams et al. (2018) in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases: CATTLE (BOS TAURUS) RESIST CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE FOLLOWING ORAL INOCULATION CHALLENGE OR TEN YEARS' NATURAL EXPOSURE IN CONTAMINATED ENVIRONMENTS

Abstract: We conducted a 10-yr study to establish whether chronic wasting disease (CWD) was readily transmissible to domestic cattle (Bos taurus) following oral inoculation or by cohousing cattle with captive cervids in outdoor research facilities where CWD was enzootic.  ...continue reading "Chronic Wasting Disease Does Not Spread to Cattle and Humans"

Sperm quality and sperm count is diminished for months after an unvaccinated man is infected with COVID-19. Yikes!

A study conducted by a team of Belgian researchers analyzed samples of sperm from 120 unvaccinated men (average age 35 years) in the first two months after they had recovered from COVID-19 infection. They found that in the first month after infection 37% of the men had reduced sperm counts and 60% had reduced sperm motility (how sperm moves). Over time there was improvement, but even after 2 months sperm count was lower in 6% and reduced sperm motility in 28%.

The only good news was that there was no evidence of the virus in the semen - which means that the semen isn't infectious after recovery. By the way, severity of the infection (with symptoms, including fever) did not correlate with the effects on sperm.

The researchers felt that by 3 months the sperm should be back to normal, but they are also doing a follow-up study to confirm this.

Bottom line: The first 2 months after COVID-19 infection is not the time to try to conceive a baby (due to suboptimal sperm). The study results are also a good argument for getting vaccinated!

From Medscape: Sperm Count, Motility May Be Low for Months After COVID-19

Sperm quality is impaired for months in some men after recovery from COVID-19, researchers have found. ...continue reading "COVID-19 Has An Effect On Sperm Quality"

Chronic wasting disease has spread even further among wild game this past year in the US, and for the first time has been detected in Idaho (in 2 mule deer bucks). This is an always-fatal prion disease similar to "mad-cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle. The concern is that this disease will jump to humans, especially in people who eat contaminated meat.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) should be of concern to all hunters or people who eat wild-caught game (deer, elk, moose, reindeer). No human cases have been detected, but health officials warn people to avoid eating meat from CWD infected animals.

In chronic wasting disease there is a long incubation period, followed by the brain become progressively like a sponge - riddled with holes, along with deterioration in brain function, behavioral changes, and eventually death. A horrible slow death. There are no treatments or vaccines.

It is clear that chronic wasting disease is slowly spreading and infecting wild game across the United States, since it was first detected in wild deer in 1981. It has been found in 27 states and 4 Canadian provinces. This year CWD was found in new regions, far from where it had been detected earlier. It is unknown how this spread is occurring.

For example, it was found in hunter-harvested deer in Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge (Arkansas), which is 70 miles from where it was earlier detected in Mississippi, and 200 miles from another spot in Arkansas.

Some states have detected quite a few cases of CWD in wild deer over the years (e.g. Minnesota). It has also detected in Finland, Norway, South Korea, and Sweden.

A Chronic Wasting Disease Resource Center monitoring the situation and publishing information and research on its site is CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease and Policy). Make sure to look at the Tweets (Twitter).

One scary thing about CWD is that once it gets into the soil, it stays there for years, and high heat, disinfectants, and radiation don't kill it. Yikes! Dr.Zabel at the Colorado State Univ. Prion Research Center suggested a few years ago that controlled burns (fires) of infected fields or areas could eliminate the prions left behind by infected animals (from animal mucus/saliva, urine, and feces, and decaying carcasses) on plants and soil.

An article with advice for how hunters can protect themselves, and a map of where CWD is found in the US.: 5 Ways Hunters Can Prevent Spreading Chronic Wasting Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several chronic wasting disease pages, including prevention and transmission.

Here is some of what CIDRAP says on their site about CWD: ...continue reading "Chronic Wasting Disease Now In 27 States"

Intermittent fasting works! A recent study reviewed 130 studies and found that intermittent fasting could help reduce weight, body mass index (BMI), body fat, bad cholesterol, fasting blood sugar, and blood pressure.

Two types of intermittent fasting appear to be best and the most effective for weight loss: modified alternate-day fasting and the 5:2 diet. Modified alternate-day fasting is alternating days where one day you eat as usual, but no more than 600 calories the next day. The 5:2 diet is similar, but involves 2 days per week of zero or very low-calorie eating and 5 days of normal eating.

Less effective were time-restricted eating (can only eat during certain hours of the day, and fast the remaining  12 to 24 hours), and zero calorie alternate-day fasting (no food consumed every other day).

A second study (scroll down) found that while the 5:2 diet was initially effective, people had trouble keeping to it long-term.

At this point the medical advice is: find a type of intermittent fasting that you can stick with, and try it!

Excerpts from Medscape: Intermittent Fasting Works, at Least in the Short Term

Intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss and other health benefits, at least in the short-term, new research suggests.  ...continue reading "Intermittent Fasting Has Health Benefits"

Some good news for women who had a Covid-19 infection during pregnancy - one small study found reassuring results about the growth and development of the babies. The Northwestern University researchers found that at the 6 month checkup the babies overall had normal growth patterns and developmental milestones. This is great, great news!

Yes, it was a small study (33 low-income women and their babies). Three infants (10%) did receive development-related referrals (one had an underlying genetic diagnosis) - but the "referrals not higher" than what the physicians said they normally see. More good news: none of the babies tested positive for COVID-19.

From Science Daily: Normal 6-month outcomes in babies of women with COVID-19 during pregnancy

Babies born to women who had COVID-19 during pregnancy showed reassuring patterns of growth and development at 6-month follow-up, according to a study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern Medicine in partnership with Erie Family Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that serves a diverse and low-income patient population.  ...continue reading "COVID-19 During Pregnancy and Some Reassuring News About the Baby"

As we get older, we may notice that we're forgetting things, or we're having trouble remembering names, or... And we wonder if we're starting to "lose our mind" and developing dementia.

A recent study has good news - even in persons labeled as having Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), 2 1/2 years later about half had improved and no longer fit the criteria of mild cognitive impairment. Back to normal! (Other studies have similar results.)

The big question is why do so many improve, and why do others get worse?

This study conducted by Columbia University researchers was part of a long-term study looking at aging in older adults living in New York City (thus the study was "community based"). All 2903 participants (white, black, and Hispanic) did not have Mild Cognitive Impairment or dementia at the start of the study (the baseline), were followed for 6 years, and evaluated (including physical and neurological tests) every 18 to 24 months.

After an average 2.4 years follow-up after MCI diagnosis: 12.9% of individuals progressed to dementia, 9.6% declined in functioning (but did not meet the criteria for dementia), 29.6% continued to meet MCI criteria, and 47.9% no longer met MCI criteria. This last group was now "cognitively normal". (!!)

The  researchers found that the presence of the APOE4 gene (which increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease) and having more medical problems ("medical burden") increased the risk of MCI. On the other hand, more years of education, more leisure activities (e.g., reading, socializing, taking walks), and higher income decreased the risk of developing MCI. But MCI across several domains, being a carrier of the APOE4 gene, depressive symptoms, and antidepressant use increased the risk of progression to dementia

Bottom line: Older adults should try to be active, get exercise (walking counts!), have a healthy lifestyle, socialize, and be busy - it's good for mental health. Studies also find participation in arts, crafts, and using computers all lower the risk of older adults developing MCI.

From Medical Xpress: 'Mild cognitive impairment' in older age often disappears, study finds

A diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) might worry an older adult, who could see it as a stepping stone to dementia. But a new study suggests one does not necessarily lead to the other.  ...continue reading "Mild Cognitive Impairment In Older Adults Can Improve"