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Many, many people wind up taking numerous courses of antibiotics at some points in life. Think of recurrent sinus infections or urinary tract infections or other infections. Or some conditions (e.g. dental or skin conditions) are treated with really long courses of antibiotics  New research (from 36,429 women participating in the long-running Nurses' Health Study)  found that women who take antibiotics over a long period of time during middle-age (40 to 59 years old), but even more so in late adulthood (60 years and over), are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke within the next 8 years.

How increased a risk for cardiovascular diseas? 28% or higher risk (compared to those who didn't take antibiotics)! But looking at the actual numbers it means: Among women who take antibiotics for two months or more in late adulthood, six women per 1,000 would develop a cardiovascular disease, compared to three per 1,000 among women who had not taken antibiotics.

Eight years was the length of the study, so it is unknown if the increased risk persists longer. The authors give a number of possible reasons for these results, but think it might be because antibiotic use results in gut microbial alterations. And the longer the antibiotic use, the more persistent the gut microbiome (microbial community) alterations. Other research studies supports this link (antibiotic use - gut microbe disruptions - increased cardiovascular disease). Another reason to eat in as healthy a manner as possible to feed beneficial gut microbes: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

From Medical Xpress: Antibiotic use linked to greater risk of heart attack and stroke in women

Women who take antibiotics over a long period of time are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke, according to research carried out in nearly 36,500 women. The study, published in the European Heart Journal today, found that women aged 60 or older who took antibiotics for two months or more had the greatest risk of cardiovascular disease, but long duration of antibiotic use was also associated with an increased risk if taken during middle age (aged 40-59). The researchers could find no increased risk from antibiotic use by younger adults aged between 20-39.  ...continue reading "Link Between Antibiotics, Heart Attacks, and Stroke Risk In Older Women"

Great news for those who don't exercise at government recommended guideline levels of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Which may be most of us, perhaps? Hmmm? A recent study found that even light intensity exercise is beneficial to the brain.

The study of 2354 persons (average age 53 years) in Framingham, Massachusetts, found that each additional hour spent in light-intensity physical activity was associated with a larger brain volume - equivalent to approximately 1.1 years less brain aging. Thus, the more activity, the more beneficial. In general, total cerebral brain volume declines at a rate of 0.2% per year after age 60 years - so slowing this process down is desirable.

Both physical activity levels and steps per day was looked at, and both were beneficial to brain volume. The study found that walking 10 ,000 or more steps per day was associated with higher brain volume when compared with persons who walked fewer than 5000 steps per day. But even 7500 steps was better for the brain than 5000 steps. How did they measure brain volume? With brain MRI imaging. 

This study found that light exercise is beneficial to the brain, specifically the brain volume - but note that these benefits are from levels below official recommended guidelines. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans state that 150 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per week is recommended for substantial health benefits (but they also said that "some physical activity is better than none"). In other words, get off your butt and move - any activity and exercise is better than none!

From Science News: Light, physical activity reduces brain aging

Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging ...continue reading "Light Physical Activity Is Beneficial to the Brain"

Recent research is finding scary amounts of a new tick in Staten Island (a borough of New York City). The Asian longhorned tick (or Haemaphysalis longicornis) was only discovered in NJ in 2017, and now it appears that it is spreading rapidly (Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, NY, Conn, Maryland, Pennsylvania). This tick is a native of east Asia (Japan, New Zealand, Australia, etc.), and transmits a number of diseases and infests livestock in eastern Asia.

It is especially worrisome because females can clone themselves. This is because the tick is a parthenogenetic species, meaning that the females can lay and hatch eggs without needing to mate with a male. Each offspring is essentially a clone of the mother tick.  This means that they can be found on animals in really large numbers in varying stages - thousands of ticks on one animal. (The photos are horrifying.) The ticks feed on a wide range of mammals and birds, so it is expected to spread rapidly.

The authors of the study say that the ticks can tolerate a wide range of environmental temperatures ( 28°F to 104°F or −2°C to 40°C ), although they are most successful in moist, warm-temperate conditions. But note that the NYC metro area (which includes Staten Island) always, always has temperatures lower than that every winter! So... it can handle lower temperatures just fine. Unlike deer ticks, this tick can be found in the grass.

According to the CDC, as of March 25, 2019, no harmful germs have been found in the ticks collected in the United States. But researchers are worried about the possibility that soon they will carry the diseases commonly carried by ticks (Lyme, etc.) in the United States. If you find this tick on a person or pet - remove the tick as quickly as possible (the usual tick advice).

Excerpts from Science Daily: New Yorkers brace for self-cloning Asian longhorned tick

Staten Island residents have another reason to apply insect repellent and obsessively check for ticks this spring and summer: the population of a new, potentially dangerous invasive pest known as the Asian longhorned tick has grown dramatically across the borough, according to Columbia University researchers. And the tick -- which unlike other local species can clone itself in large numbers -- is likely to continue its conquest in the months ahead.  ...continue reading "Be On the Lookout For This Tick"

Today's post expands on the problem of superbugs in hospital rooms. Superbugs are microbes that resist many antibiotics and drugs, and are called multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO) in the medical literature. According to the Centers for Disease Protection (CDC): Each year in the U.S. at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of antibiotic resistant infections. Multidrug-resistant microbes are a continuing problem in hospitals and nursing homes.

The last post was on the contamination of privacy curtains around beds in hospitals and nursing homes. A recently published study (by the same Univ. of Michigan Medical School researchers) goes further in looking at microbes in hospital rooms. They looked at 3 main multidrug resistant organisms: vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),  and resistant gram-negative bacilli (RGNB). And yes, they found them in many rooms and on some patients' hands and nostrils.

In the study, a total of 399 patients (average age 60.8 years) were followed as they entered 2 hospitals in Michigan during 2017. Fourteen percent of patients were already colonized with an MDRO when sampled within 24 hours of admission to the hospital - with 10% already having an MDRO on their hands, 7.5% in their nostrils, and 3.5% on both hands and nostrils. Room surfaces were sampled within the first 24 hours of a patient arriving at the hospital room - twenty-nine percent of rooms harbored an MDRO on the surfaces sampled. Six percent of the patients acquired an MDRO on their hands during their hospital stay. Luckily there were no deaths during the study.  

These microbes are frequently shed by patients and staff, and then they contaminate surfaces for days - which means that other people (patients, visitors, and hospital staff) are at risk of getting (acquiring) these microbes when they touch these surfaces. Surfaces that patients and staff frequently touch are: bed control and bed rail, call button, television remote, bedside tray table top, phone, toilet seat, and bathroom door knob.

The researchers stated that their study shows that patient hands are an "important reservoir" of microbes and play a "crucial role in the transmission of pathogens in acute care hospitals". Thus there is a need for "patient hand hygiene protocols" - in other words, wash the hands frequently.

From Medical Xpress: 'Superbugs' found on many hospital patients' hands and what they touch most often

For decades, hospitals have worked to get doctors, nurses and others to wash their hands and prevent the spread of germs. But a new study suggests they may want to expand those efforts to their patients, too.  ...continue reading "Patients Both Spread and Acquire Multidrug Resistant Microbes In Hospitals"

A new study found that the privacy curtains around beds in hospitals and nursing homes may be contaminated with deadly bacteria, such as MRSA. The University of Michigan Medical School researchers found that about 22 percent of samples from privacy curtains tested positive for multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Unfortunately, these curtains (usually plastic or cotton) are rarely washed or replaced - perhaps every 6 months or when they are noticeably dirty. According to the researchers, other places with lots of bacteria in hospital and nursing home rooms are bedside table tops, toilet seats, bedrails, , and TV remote controls.

From Medical Xpress: Privacy curtains could be reservoir of deadly bacteria: study

Hard-to-clean privacy curtains in hospitals and nursing homes worldwide may be contaminated with deadly drug-resistant bugs, according to findings to be presented Saturday at an infectious diseases conference. More than a fifth of 1,500 samples taken from six post-acute care nursing facilities in the United States were laced with one or more dangerous bacteria, including the hospital bug MRSA, researchers found.  ...continue reading "Hospital and Nursing Home Privacy Curtains and Deadly Bacteria"

Two years ago a study was published showing good results in 18 children with autism who received fecal transplants. Fecal transplants involves giving stool (along with all the microbes in the stool) from a healthy donor to a recipient. After getting fecal transplants, the children (ages 7 to 16) had significant improvements in their gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. abdominal pain, indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation, and stools), autism related symptoms, and in their gut microbes.

But how did they do long-term? The short answer: great. In fact, the children continued to improve over the next 2 years. Most of their gut symptoms continued to improve, their autism symptoms continued to improve, and their gut microbes kept improving over time - with significant increases in bacterial diversity (considered good), and with more Bifidobacteria and Prevotella. A professional evaluator found an average 45% reduction in core autism symptoms (language, social interaction and behavior) at two years after the initial treatment (compared with before the original treatment).

It has long been known that many persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and research shows that children with ASD have distinctive gut microbiomes (as compared to neurotypical children). Researchers believe there is a link between the gut and brain (the gut-brain axis), so a therapeutic approach could be to "modify" the gut microbes. Which is what the researchers did - in a 10 week process they call Microbiota Transfer Therapy (MTT). First they gave antibiotics, then a bowel cleanse, a stomach-acid suppressant, a fecal transplant (FMT) followed by many days of low purified doses taken orally.

From Science Daily: Autism symptoms reduced nearly 50 percent two years after fecal transplant

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism, up from one in every 150 in 2000.  ...continue reading "Reductions In Autism Symptoms Two Years After Fecal Transplants"

For a few years I've been noticing that studies of vitamin D have had mixed results for a number of medical conditions. A number of times initial studies found an association with low levels of vitamin D and a number of medical conditions, but follow up well-designed studies are just not finding the same results with vitamin D supplementation - or results have been mixed. Also, in some studies, what initially looked like vitamin D being protective for some cancers and multiple sclerosis, now looks like it's sunlight that is giving the protective results. In some cases, vitamin D levels are a proxy for sunlight exposure (the more sunlight exposure, the higher the vitamin D levels in the person). The following 6 studies recently published highlight this same trend of mixed results.

While vitamin D levels increased from high dose vitamin D, there was no change in bone bone mineral density (BMD) in older adults during the 12 months of the study. No adverse effects form the vitamin D supplementation was reported [the older adults received 12,000 international units (IU), 24,000 IU, or 48,000 IU once a month]. From Science Daily: Vitamin D supplements are of no benefit to the over 70s

There is little benefit for those over 70 taking higher dose vitamin D supplements to improve their bone strength and reduce the risk of falls, new research has revealed.

High doses of vitamin D (4000 international units) appeared more beneficial than low dose vitamin D (400 international units) supplements in advanced colorectal cancer patients. From Medical Xpess: High-dose vitamin D shows benefit in patients with advanced colorectal cancer

...continue reading "Recent Vitamin D Studies Have Mixed Results"

A recent study examined whether consuming sugary products (including sugary drinks) causes an improvement of mood and alertness - a "sugar rush" - and found that to be a total myth. After reviewing 31 studies (in which 1259 individuals participated), the researchers found that people do not get a "sugar rush" with an improvement in mood from consuming sugary products - instead it makes people feel less alert and more tired within an hour of ingestion

From Science Daily: No such thing as 'sugar rush'! Sugar worsens mood rather than improving it

Sugar does not improve mood and it can make people less alert and more tired after its consumption -- according to a new study by the University of Warwick, Humboldt University of Berlin, and Lancaster University.  ...continue reading "No Such Thing As A Sugar Rush"

A diagnosis of a lifelong progressive disease such as multiple sclerosis is one that everyone wants to avoid. So there is much speculation and research looking at what causes it and possible ways to avoid getting it. Some earlier research suggested that zinc  and iron may play a role (e.g., finding that zinc levels are lower in those with multiple sclerosis). Thus the results of this long-running study of more than 170,000 female nurses (Nurses' Health Study and Nurses' Health Study II) was informative.

The researchers found no association with intake of any of the following minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese, copper) and multiple sclerosis risk. As the researchers Concluded: "Our findings suggest that mineral intake is not an important determinant of MS risk.

In case you're wondering about what is protective - a number of studies have shown that people who get more sun exposure have a lower risk of MS.

From Science Daily: Do minerals play a role in development of multiple sclerosis?

Some studies have suggested that minerals such as zinc and iron may play a role in how multiple sclerosis (MS) progresses, once people have been diagnosed with it. But little was known about whether zinc, iron and other minerals play a role in the development of the disease. A new study shows no link between dietary intake of several minerals and whether people later develop MS.  ...continue reading "Mineral Supplements and Multiple Sclerosis"

Are all foods contaminated by the herbicide glyphosate? The weed-killer glyphosate, which is in Roundup, keeps turning up in foods - basically in every food studied. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and its use keeps increasing - which means we are increasingly exposed to more glyphosate residues in foods. What does this mean for our health? Along with other health effects (e.g. endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, alters the gut microbiome), there is increasing evidence that glyphosate herbicides are carcinogenic (cancer causing) - especially linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Studies detect glyphosate in most adults in the US, including pregnant women. Since glyphosate herbicides are so widely and heavily used by farmers (greater than 88.6 pounds per square mile in the US midwest!!, according to the USGS), then it is difficult to avoid glyphosate residue in foods. The US government is not helping the situation - they have been refusing to test for glyphosate in foods for years, and they have twice raised the allowable glyphosate residue levels in foods when asked to do so by Monsanto (the manufacturer of Roundup). The only way to avoid glyphosate is to eat organic foods - it is not allowed in organic food production. 

A recent Canadian government study looked at whether glyphosate was found in 200 honey samples from western Canada. Glyphosate was detected in 197 of the 200 samples! Even though beekeepers do not use glyphosate in beekeeping, the bees were picking it up in their search for nectar and bringing it back to the hives. Which means whenever one eats the honey, that person is also getting some glyphosate residues. A little here, a little there... we're getting  some everywhere...

Excerpts from an article by journalist Carey Gillam for Environmental Health News:

Weed killer residues found in 98 percent of Canadian honey samples

Study is the latest evidence that glyphosate herbicides are so pervasive that residues can be found in foods not produced by farmers using glyphosate. As U.S. regulators continue to dance around the issue of testing foods for residues of glyphosate weed killers, government scientists in Canada have found the pesticide in 197 of 200 samples of honey they examined.

The authors of the study, all of whom work for Agri-Food Laboratories at the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said the prevalence of glyphosate residues in honey samples - 98.5 percent - was higher than what was reported in several similar studies done over the last five years in other countries.  ...continue reading "Pesticide Residues In Honey"