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Some good news for those with Rh negative blood (whether it is A, B, AB, or O), and also for those with type O blood. A large Canadian study found that both the O and Rh- blood groups are associated with a slightly lower risk of COVID-19 infection and also severe COVID-19 illness and death. In other words, both are somewhat protective from the new coronavirus, especially O-negative blood.

Among 225,556 Canadians who were tested for the virus, the risk for a COVID-19 diagnosis was 12% lower and the risk for severe COVID-19 or death was 13% lower in people with blood group O versus those with A, AB, or B, researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers point out that some other studies had a similar finding regarding type O blood. Interestingly, the O blood group is associated with a decreased risk for venous thromboembolism (blood clots in the veins) - which can be a big complication of COVID-19.

How many people have O negative blood? One study of 3.1 million American blood donors found that O− was seen in 8.0% of White non-Hispanic donors, 3.9% of Hispanic donors, 3.6% of Black non-Hispanic donors, and 0.7% of Asian donors. So not that common in the US.

From Medscape: More Evidence for Lower Risk With Certain Blood Groups

A large study adds to evidence that people with type O or Rh−negative blood may be at slightly lower risk from the new coronavirus.  ...continue reading "Some Good News About Having Rh- Blood"

It is shocking that the same virus can result in the majority of people with COVID-19 having minimal or no symptoms, but others really suffering or even dying from it. We now know that after developing a COVID-19 infection, some people seem to be ill with symptoms for weeks and even months. This has been referred to as "long-COVID" or "long-haul COVID".

How frequently does this occur? The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) is looking into this issue, and currently estimate that: 1) About 1 in 5 respondents testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 5 weeks or longer, and  2) About 1 in 10 persons testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer. (That's a lot!!!)

Using data from the ONS Infection Survey on hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, the report found that during the last week of November 2020 about 186,000 people in England were living with Covid-19 symptoms that had persisted for between five and 12 weeks. The most commonly reported symptom was fatigue, followed by a cough, headache, loss of taste, loss of smell, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Coronavirus emerging from cells.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also discusses "long-term effects of COVID-19" on its web-site. They mention the most common long-term symptoms as: fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, chest pain, but also list other symptoms such as "brain fog" (difficulty with thinking and concentration), intermittent fevers, headaches, and also less frequent more serious long-term complications (e.g. kidney injury, inflammation of the heart muscle).

The good news is that people generally report slow improvement over time. There are now popular support groups on Facebook (e,g, Survivor CorpsCovid-19 Support Group (have it/had it), Long Covid Support Group, and Long Haul Covid Fighters). Fiona Lowenstein started a Covid-19 support group (Body Politic Covid-19 support group) for people living with the virus. Medical centers that are treating long-term COVID symptoms (e.g. NYU Langone).

Another helpful source of information is Paul Garner, professor of infectious diseases at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He has documented his battle with long-term Covid-19 symptoms in the British Medical Journal blog (also June 23 follow-up), and the need for "pacing" during recovery to prevent relapses. [twitter.com/paulgarnerwoof?lang=en ]

We are still in the early days of understanding COVID-19 and its effects. A year ago we were only aware of an emerging virus in China. And now it's global pandemic.

It's hard to believe in this month of cold and snow, but climate scientists are saying that 2020 is almost tied with 2016 to be the hottest year on record. This past decade has been the hottest ever recorded, and the last five years were the hottest since 1880.

Note that with each new broken heat record, the baseline is now set higher. The heat increases have no end in sight, and so the future will be hotter. This is climate change change.

One example: This summer Phoenix, Arizona experienced a record-breaking 145 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The city also had 15 days above 115 degrees F (double the previous record).

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From National Weather Service, October 14, 2020

At what point will it be too hot for humans? It's up to us - governments, corporations, individuals - to make decisions to control what happens in the future and to stop the runaway heat increases.

Yale Climate Connections (YCC) has all sorts of climate related articles.  (Example:November 2020 among warmest Novembers on record, NOAA and NASA report)

Graph of global (land and ocean) temperature increases over time from 1880 to 2020 at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Excerpts from NPR: 2020 May Be The Hottest Year On Record. Here's The Damage It Did

With just a few weeks left, 2020 is in a dead-heat tie for the hottest year on record. But whether it claims the top spot misses the point, climate scientists say. There is no shortage of disquieting statistics about what is happening to the Earth. ...continue reading "This Was A Really Hot Year"

There is much concern nowadays about all the many chemicals we are exposed to in our lives. These include pesticides, heavy metals (e.g. lead, mercury), and chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors (hormone disrupting chemicals), such as BPA and phthalates. These chemicals are all around us and are linked to all sorts of health effects, including chronic diseases and reproductive effects - such as infertility, declining sperm counts, adverse effects on the developing baby, and endometriosis.

There is an excellent 7 part series of webinars that one can watch called Generation Chemical: How Environmental Exposures are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development. Big names in the field discuss the latest science on the impact of harmful chemicals and pollutants on female and male reproductive health, pregnancy, and development, starting from preconception and through  life.

Yes, it's in depth, but also eye-opening. For example, the evidence is now raising the questions: Are fertile people healthier? Does poor sperm quality mean poorer health? Or earlier death? Research suggests that sperm count and quality are "canaries in the coal mine" for male health - evidence of harm to men from environmental and lifestyle influences.

Also, keep in mind that while you can't totally avoid harmful chemicals, you can really minimize your exposure and the levels measured in you. Avoiding Harmful Chemicals gives good ways to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals. This is especially important for both males and females if thinking about conception or pregnant.

SEVEN PART WEBINAR SERIES: 1) Introduction. Oct. 29, 2020. Discussed declining sperm counts that have been occurring worldwide over the last few decades - 52.4% decline in 38 years among men from Western countries, and the decline is still continuing. Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on men's and women's fertility, conception delay, pregnancy loss, some diseases, and endometriosis. ...continue reading "Top Scientists Explain How Harmful Chemicals Are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development"

Vegan diets may be popular, but there is concern whether someone following a vegan diet can get all necessary nutrients from the diet and whether this impacts health in a negative way. This is because a person following a vegan diet avoids all animal foods - which means no dairy, no meat, no eggs, no honey, no fish, no shellfish, and no insects. This can mean difficulties in getting enough protein and some nutrients, for example choline (necessary for the brain), vitamin B-12, and calcium.

A recent study by University of Oxford researchers examined this issue by following about 55,000 people for 18 years: meat eaters, vegans, vegetarians (avoid meat, but eat dairy and /or eggs), and pescatarians (a vegetarian diet, but also eats fish). They found that when compared to meat eaters, vegans had a higher risk of fractures in their bodies (number of total fractures), and especially hip, leg, and vertebral fractures. Vegetarians and pescatarians also had a higher risk of hip fractures when compared to meat eaters, but a lower risk than vegans.

Other studies have shown that vegetarians have lower bone mineral density (BMD) than non-vegetarians, and that both calcium and protein intakes are linked to bone health. In this study and other studies, vegans had substantially lower intakes of calcium than the other dietary groups (since they do not consume dairy), and both vegetarians and vegans had lower protein intakes than meat and fish-eating groups.

Bottom line: Research finds diets rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, some fish, meat, eggs, and dairy (similar to the Mediterranean diet) as healthy and providing all nutrients. Pregnancy and childhood are times when one should be especially careful about getting all needed nutrients.

From Science Daily - Vegans, vegetarians and pescetarians may be at higher risk of bone fractures

Compared with people who ate meat, vegans with lower calcium and protein intakes on average, had a 43% higher risk of fractures anywhere in the body (total fractures), as well as higher risks of site-specific fractures of the hips, legs and vertebrae, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.  ...continue reading "Vegan Diets and Increased Risk of Bone Fractures"

Every study I've seen in the past decade finds that eating berries has health benefits. A recent study from Finland adds to this by finding that eating some blackcurrants after a meal has beneficial effects on blood glucose levels. This beneficial effect occurred even though the blackcurrants were eaten as a puree with a little sugar (because they are sour berries).

The study found that one didn't have to eat a lot of the blackcurrants - 75 grams or 2/3 cup, which was eaten as a puree. Since this study was done with 26 young healthy volunteers, they did not find an effect on inflammatory markers - which were good to start with.

Other studies have found similar beneficial blood sugar level effects from eating other kinds of berries. Berries are rich in polyphenolic compounds, and dark colored berries are especially rich in anthocyanins. The blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum) were chosen for this study because blackcurrants are native to Finland, and both grow in the wild and are cultivated there. Cassis liquor is made from blackcurrants.

From Science Daily: Blackcurrants are favorable for glucose metabolism

Blackcurrants have a beneficial effect on post-meal glucose response, and the required portion size is much smaller than previously thought, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows.  ...continue reading "Benefits Of Eating Blackcurrants For Dessert"

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a new high in 2020 - and this in spite of the COVID-19 world-wide lockdowns. Yikes!

In May 2020 the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere reached a peak of 417.1 ppm (parts per million)! The carbon dioxide levels slightly fluctuate daily (on November 30, 2020 they were at 413.81 ppm at the Mauna Loa Observatory). But over the years they have been rising (an average of 2.37 ppm per year in the last decade), and are now at levels not experienced in several million years!

This is of concern not just because the earth is warming (resulting in more extreme weather), but also what higher and higher carbon dioxide levels might do to our thinking processes. Think of a "stuffy room" where it is harder to think - this can already occur starting at about 600 ppm of CO2, and known to occur at 945 ppm and higher (in rooms with many people in them). While current CO2 levels are below that, we are faced with the possibility that if they keep rising we will get there eventually - and there will be no escape from the "stuffy room" feeling!

Yes, there is research on this topic - studies suggest that at high levels of carbon dioxide our thinking gets worse. A University of Colorado study reports that a growing body of evidence finds that as CO2 levels increase, there are effects on thinking (cognitive functioning), including decision making, planning, and complex strategic thinking. As carbon dioxide levels rise to 945 ppm and higher, the effects are even more significant, especially with mentally demanding tasks.

There are also physical effects of rising carbon dioxide exposure in humans: increased CO2 in the lungs, in the blood, and in the brain (which is associated with reduced oxygen and brain activity), increased sleepiness and anxiety (both of which harm cognitive function), and acidosis (lowered blood pH - which leads to symptoms such as restlessness and a rise in blood pressure). One study in juvenile rats found "reduced levels of neuroprotective growth factor", which harmed brain development and impaired learning and memory.

What about babies and children? Developing fetuses? The elderly? The sick?  All unknown. Also, studies looking at effects are short term, but our future (if not changed) will have us exposed to higher and higher levels of CO2 all the time.

Further information: Scientists from NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography monitor the values at the Mauna Loa Observatory and found that monthly carbon dioxide (CO2) values at Mauna Loa first breached the 400 ppm threshold in 2014. Go look at the graph and click on all the links. Yes, it's scary unless we all make a huge effort to cut global CO2 emissions.

World Meteorological Association: Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite COVID-19 lockdown

NOTE: The atmosphere  is the air and gases in it that surround the earth.

Many people wonder whether eating organic foods has health benefits. Yes - studies have found some benefits, such as lower pesticide residue levels in the body in children and adults, and that eating organic foods is linked to a lower risk of cancer. A recent study conducted in France found that one benefit of eating organic foods may be a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.

University of Paris researchers found that the more a person ate organic foods, especially plant-based organic foods, the lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For each 5% increase in the proportion of organic foods in the diet, the risk of type 2 diabetes decreased by 3%. Those eating the highest amount of organic foods had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, when compared to those eating the least.

They point out that their findings are similar to a recent US study which found that persons reporting purchasing organic foods had a 20% lower prevalence of diabetes (when compared to people not purchasing organic foods). Animal studies find that exposure to several types of pesticides can increase the risk of diabetes. Some types of pesticides, such as pyrethroids, organophosphates, and organochlorides are endocrine disruptors and can result in metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

A nice discussion of the study, from Beyond Pesticides: Food For Thought: Eating Organic Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The study. From the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (IJBNPA): Prospective association between organic food consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: findings from the NutriNet-Santé cohort study

Many people have noticed that marijuana (cannabis) has gotten stronger over the past decades, and now a study agrees. The THC in marijuana is what gives a person a "high", and those levels have really increased since 1970. That means what was smoked at Woodstock back in1969 was much milder than what is being smoked today.

An international group of researchers reviewed studies of THC and CBD concentrations in cannabis from 7 countries for the past 50 years. They found that THC (delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol) concentrations  increased steadily over the years, but the cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations remained stable. They attribute this to high-THC strains of cannabis being sold nowadays.

The researchers point out that studies show that: "Human laboratory studies show that THC administration causes dose‐dependent increases in intoxication, cognitive impairment, anxiety and psychotic‐like symptoms." Which means - be careful when smoking marijuana! It's strong!

By the way, there are many terms used to describe cannabis or marijuana nowadays, including weed, pot, and chronic.

From Science Daily: Cannabis strength soars over past half century

New research shows that over the past 50 years street cannabis across the world has become substantially stronger carrying an increased risk of harm.  ...continue reading "Marijuana Is Much Stronger These Days"

As women age, they may try all sorts of things to reduce or prevent facial wrinkles. A recent study from the University of California researchers suggests that eating 1/2 cup (85 g) mangoes four times a week may reduce facial wrinkles in older fair-skinned women. Unexpectedly however, 1.5 cups (250 g) four times a week for 16 weeks had the opposite effect - it increased facial wrinkles!

Why would it have that effect? The researchers thought that probably the carotenoids, flavonoids, and antioxidants in the Ataulfo mangoes had the beneficial skin effect in the 1/2 cup group. [Note: Other fruits also contain these.] But that perhaps the high levels of sugar in the 1.5 cup mango group had a negative effect on the skin ("increased sugar intake may have led to glycation of collagen fibers, thereby disrupting the collagen structure" of the skin).

However, cardiovascular measures were better in the higher mango intake group, such as lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Keep in mind though, that only 36 postmenopausal women (between the ages of 50 and 70) participated - so all the results can only be considered "preliminary".

Bottom line: Eat a variety of fruits - they are healthy for you! Research suggests that fruit, in general, is good for the skin. But perhaps eat mangoes in moderation.

From Futurity: Can eating mangoes reduce women's facial wrinkles?

Mangoes, like other orange fruits and vegetables, are rich in beta-carotene and provide antioxidants that may delay cell damage. A new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, finds eating Ataulfo mangoes, also known as honey or Champagne mangoes, may have another benefit—reducing facial wrinkles in older women with fairer skin. The study was published in the journal Nutrients.

Postmenopausal women who ate a half cup of Ataulfo mangoes four times a week saw a 23 percent decrease in deep wrinkles after two months and a 20 percent decrease after four months.  ...continue reading "Eating Some Mangoes May Help With Facial Wrinkles"