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Eating a diet high in salt weakens the immune system's ability to fight harmful bacteria, according to a recent study. We all know that a high salt diet can increase blood pressure, but here is another good reason to lower salt intake.

The study by German researchers showed that a high salt diet can impair the antibacterial response of the immune system, both in mice and in humans. This occurs in an indirect way (through an effect on glucocorticoids), which ultimately results in a reduced or impaired ability of the immune system (through the neutrophils) to kill or control bacteria.

These results were interesting since some earlier studies suggested that higher intake of salt may help fight off parasitic skin infections.

What is a high salt diet? The human volunteers in the study ate an extra 6 grams of salt per day for one week, which is the amount in two fast food meals (e.g. two burgers and two portions of French fries). The World Health Organization recommends no more than 5 grams of salt per day, and the US CDC recommends less than 2300 mg per day. Both organizations say that most people eat more salt than recommended, and the CDC points out that the majority of American sodium intake is from processed foods and restaurant meals.

From Medical Xpress: Too much salt weakens the immune system  ...continue reading "Salt and The Immune System"

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Have you recently lost your sense of taste or smell? Then you may be infected with the coronavirus COVID-19, even if you don't display any other symptoms.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) posted on its web-site that loss of a sense of smell (anosmia) and loss of a sense of taste (dysgeusia) are both symptoms of  COVID-19. Even if there are no other symptoms of COVID-19 - meaning it's a mild case, but it is still infectious and can be spread to others. Reports from South Korea are that about 30% of patients and from Germany that more than half of patients experience this.

It doesn't seem to matter how sick you are, or whether you are congested or not. Nothing seems to help - not nose drops or sprays.  Persons regain their sense of smell and/or taste after a few days or weeks.

It is suggested that loss of sense of smell could be used as a COVID-19 screening tool. Excerpt from the UK ENT group statement posted on the AAO-HNS web-site...continue reading "Loss Of Sense of Smell Or Taste May Indicate You Have Covid-19"

We all know that lead exposure is harmful, especially to developing babies and children. But what about eating meat (e.g. venison) from an animal that has been shot with lead bullets? Does the lead contaminate the meat? This is an important question because hunters provide game not only for their families, but also donate meat (such as venison) to food pantries.

A number of studies over the years have examined this issue and the finding is that YES - using lead-based bullets contaminates the meat. Bullets can fragment into hundreds of small pieces (many are microscopic fragments only detectable with x-rays or chemical analysis), especially if they hit large bones of the animal. These fragments are still there and detectable after processing.

So yes, people wind up ingesting meat with tiny lead bullet fragments, even if they cut away several inches of meat from the bullet's path in the animal. Tiny bullet fragments travel more than 6" inches away, and even 11" away from the bullet path. Studies find that eating meat from animals shot with lead based ammunition results in a spike in blood lead levels - which gradually goes down over months, but also migrates to the bones where it stays.

In 2013 a group of 30 nationally and internationally recognized scientists with lead and environmental health expertise collaborated to create an evidence-based consensus statement called Health Risks from Lead-Based Ammunition in the Environment—A Consensus Statement of Scientists 2013. Along with listing scientific evidence, they ask for the reduction and elimination of lead-based ammunition, in order to protect human and environmental health.

Unfortunately hunters usually do not know this information. It's not publicized, and doctors don't mention it. But hunters should be informed. One can't imagine anyone wanting to deliberately eat meat containing lead fragments. Or wanting to feed it to children or pregnant women.

What can you do? Don't use any lead-based ammunition. Only eat game shot with non-lead ammunition (e.g.copper). The evidence is there that if lead-based ammo is used to kill the animal, then the person eating the animal will ingest some lead bullet fragments.

Excerpts from Environmental Health News: Lead in hunted meat: Who’s telling hunters and their families?  ...continue reading "Do Lead Bullets Contaminate Hunted Meat?"

News stories about the coronavirus called COVID-19 now sweeping the globe have stressed that people over the age of 60, or people immunocompromised in some way, or with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable to the virus. Which led many people to think that in persons younger than 60 getting a COVID-19 infection wasn't a big deal.

However, a report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) looking at COVID-19 cases in the United States that occurred during February 12–March 16, 2020, found that surprisingly large numbers of younger adults also require hospitalization. They reported that nearly 40% of younger adults with COVID-19 between the ages of 20 and 54 wind up being hospitalized, and that nearly half of people admitted to intensive care units were under the age of 65. And there were some deaths.

On the other hand, no ICU admissions or deaths were reported among persons aged less than 19 years. Whew...

Still, the authors wrote, “these preliminary data also demonstrate that severe illness leading to hospitalization, including I.C.U. admission and death, can occur in adults of any age with Covid-19".

Excerpt from NY Times: Younger Adults Make Up Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in U.S ...continue reading "Severe Illness From COVID-19 Can Occur In Adults Of All Ages"

Is blood type important in coronavirus COVID-19? A study of 2173 patients from 3 hospitals in China found that not only is blood type important in the risk of contracting COVID-19, but also in whether one dies from it.

The study found that people with type A blood are more prone to being infected with COVID-19, and also dying from it - as compared to people with other types of blood. People with type O blood had the lowest risk of catching COVID-19 and also dying from it.

The researchers pointed out that these same blood type differences occurred in the earlier SARS outbreak (lower risk in those with type O blood, and higher risk in those with type A blood). The researchers felt that "blood type is a biomarker for differential susceptibility of COVID-19" - meaning how susceptible you are to the virus. And that perhaps it is linked to "natural anti-blood group antibodies, particularly anti-A antibody, in the blood".

The study still has to be peer-reviewed, but what an interesting finding! General article describing the research from Newsweek: RISK OF GETTING COVID-19 COULD BE LINKED TO CERTAIN BLOOD TYPES, CORONAVIRUS STUDY SUGGESTS

Original study (in preprint): Relationship between the ABO Blood Group and the COVID-19 Susceptibility

Novel coronavirus COVID-19. Credit: NIAID-RML

Lyme disease is a huge problem in many parts of the United States, with thousands infected each year. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, and is transmitted to humans and animals during the bite of a deer tick.

While about 80% of people with Lyme disease can be treated easily with a course of antibiotics within weeks of the tick bite, up to 20% will still have problems. While there is much controversy over why this is happening, there growing evidence that it it might be due to the existence of drug-tolerant Borrelia  burgdorferi "persisters".

A recent study found that azlocillin (an acylated form of ampicillin which is similar to the antibiotics mezlocillin and piperacillin) successfully kills the persister bacteria. Just keep in mind that the study was done in the lab and mice, and not yet on people.

But the researchers are so excited with the results that they are patenting the compound. So it's early days, yet there seems to be potential. Stay tuned...

From Medical Xpress: Potential treatment for Lyme disease kills bacteria that may cause lingering symptoms, study finds   ...continue reading "New Treatment For Lyme Disease Soon?"

The golden skin glow one gets from a healthy diet and lifestyle is real! A number of studies have found that eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables increases skin yellowness (due to the carotenoids in the food). And recently a new study found that besides a healthy diet, that lifestyle factors such as getting plenty of exercise (being fit), losing excess weight, getting enough sleep, and not being too stressed all add to the healthy yellow (errr... "golden") skin glow.

Researchers at the Univ. of St. Andrews (in UK) found that in a mere 8 weeks an increase in fitness and decrease in body fat were both associated with an increase in skin yellowness. They also found that a change in stress and sleep were further predictors of skin yellowness. Thus you can say that there is a general relationship between health and skin tone.

And yes, we probably have observed that ourselves. People stressed out, not sleeping well, not fit (overweight and not getting enough exercise) may have a different look to them. We may notice that their skin color doesn't look good, that they may look pale or unwell.

In conclusion, the researchers write: "results suggest that increasing cardiovascular fitness and decreasing fat levels produce a healthier skin color". So eat plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, be active (get some exercise), get enough sleep, and lose weight if needed. But you knew that already, yes?

From Medical Xpress: Healthy living gives skin a golden glow  ...continue reading "Healthy Lifestyle Seen In the Golden Glow of Skin"

Watching the coronavirus spread in the USA and the world (see global map), it is clear that the United States is lagging behind some other countries in testing for the coronavirus, as well as slowing down the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, our country, including the CDC, has responded terribly in many ways. So... it is with awe that I read how South Korea is testing for the coronavirus: roadside drive through testing stations, similar to fast food drive thru.

Coronavirus roadside drive through testing in South Korea. Credit: CNN

The drive through roadside testing sites are safe, easy, efficient, and a cost effective way to test people for the coronavirus. The procedure only takes a few minutes with people remaining in their cars, hundreds of people are screened at each site daily, and results are back within a few days.

Another plus is that in South Korea the coronavirus testing is paid for by the government (universal health care!), which results in people not being afraid to go for testing. Unfortunately, in the US, not only are there not enough tests available, but currently you are responsible for all your medical costs, including testing. Which is too much money for many, many people.

Can the United States do this someday soon? Look at the video, Incredible! From CNN on March 3, 2020: Free drive through coronavirus testing in South Korea.

Short story (with photos) from Business Insider:  See the drive-thru clinics South Korea is using to test patients for coronavirus

Worried about the new coronavirus? And trying to find accurate information about its spread? As you probably know, the novel coronavirus is called COVID-19 and is now spreading throughout the world, with numbers increasing daily.

There is one great site with a coronavirus global map that is updated numerous times every day. It has been developed by Johns Hopkins University researchers, and actually posts information down to the county and city level, including number of cases, deaths, and recovered. But please note that it really should be viewed on a computer, and not cell phone. Lots of detailed global information. Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE

Interestingly, one can see how some countries are dealing much better with the coronavirus than others. For example, Singapore (about 5.7 million people, and among the best healthcare systems in the world) has 117 documented cases at this time, with 78 recovered, but ZERO deaths. Which means a 0% death rate there. [Note: Unfortunately, the U.S. health care system is not ranked that well - not even in the top 20 globally]

The NY Times has a much simpler tracking map for the United States, with fewer details, along with an explanatory article.

We now know that most people (at least 80%) with the coronavirus don't have symptoms at all or only minor symptoms (whew!), but this allows the virus to spread "stealthily" through communities. So keep in mind that any map with "reported cases" is only recording those who have sought both medical care and been tested.

The goal is to try to slow down the spread of the virus until effective antivirals are available and good treatment protocols are in place. Studies are now ongoing (with results hopefully in a few weeks), with many thinking that the best antiviral may turn out to be remdesivir. Of course other drugs and vaccines are in development. Even older drugs such as chloroquine (an anti-malarial) are being looked at.

Best protection advice: 1) wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, 2) keep your fingers away from your face - especially the eyes, nose, and mouth, 3) try to keep a social distance of at least 3 feet (better 6 feet) from other people, and 4) cough and sneeze into your elbow, or into a tissue which you then dispose of into garbage or a plastic bag. Stay home if feeling sick. And stay calm!

And for a little humor regarding the mass stampede for supplies and resulting bare shelves. (Make sure to look at photos): Costco completely out of divination supplies, thanks to artist  And: Coronavirus panic-buying in Australia is weirdly, obsessively focused on toilet paper.

Novel coronavirus COVID-19. Credit: NIAID-RML

Chemicals of all sorts are frequently discussed on this site, especially those causing harmful health effects (e.g.pesticides, flame retardants). Developed countries depend on all sorts of chemicals and "chemical technologies", and they are present in most manufactured products. But how many chemicals manufactured by the chemical industry are actually out there? What do we know about them?

Around the year 2000 it was estimated that there were about 100,000 chemicals, but this was just looking at the United States, Canada, and Europe. Now a new estimate, looking at countries throughout the world, found about 350,000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals that are registered for production and use.

Very little is known about about health or environmental effects of many (most) of them. Some estimate that about 3% of chemicals might be of "concern" (e.g. serious health effects), but that means about 6000 chemicals! Harm (adverse effects) to humans and ecosystems is called "chemical pollution".

The international team of researchers were concerned with one one of their findings: that the identities of many chemicals remain publicly unknown because they are claimed as confidential (over 50,000 chemicals) or they are "ambiguously described" with missing details (up to 70,000). So only the manufacturers know if or how dangerous the chemicals are. Yikes!

From Futurity: The Worlds 'Chemical Diversity' Tripled in Just Twenty Years  ...continue reading "Little Is Known About Health Effects Of 350,000 Chemicals Now In Use"