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Pharmaceutical Firms Pressure Us To Accept Papers That Make Spurious, Negative Conclusions About Hydroxylchloroquine –Lancet, NEJM

**Lancet Editor Spills the Beans

by Vera Sharav

Alliance for Human Research Protection

Philippe Douste-Blazy, MD, is a cardiologist and former French Health Minister who served as Under-Secretary General of the United Nations. He was a candidate in 2017 for Director of the World Health Organization.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, MD

In a videotaped interview on May 24, 2020, Dr. Douste-Blazy provided insight into how a series of negative hydroxychloroquine studies got published in prestigious medical journals.

He revealed that at a recent Chatham House top secret, closed door meeting attended by experts only, the editors of both The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine expressed their exasperation, citing the pressures put on them by pharmaceutical companies.

He states that each of the editors used the word “criminal” to describe the erosion of science.

He quotes Dr. Richard Horton who bemoaned the current state of science:

“If this continues, we are not going to be able to publish any more clinical research data because pharmaceutical companies are so financially powerful; they are able to pressure us to accept papers that are apparently methodologically perfect, but their conclusion is what pharmaceutical companies want.”

Dr. Richard Horton

Dr. Douste-Blazy supports the combination treatment –hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycin (AZ) for Covid-19 recommended by Dr. Didier Raoult. In April, 2020

Dr. Douste-Blazy started a petition that has been signed by almost 500,000 French doctors and citizens urging French government officials to permit physicians to prescribe hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients early, before they require intensive care.

The issue has become highly politicized; the left-leaning politicians and public health officials are adamantly against the use of HCQ, whereas those leaning toward the right politically are for the right of doctors to prescribe the drug as they see fit.

The journal SCIENCE described the response to French President Emmanuel Macron trip to Marseille to meet Dr. Raoult who prescribes the combination drug regimen and he has documented their effectiveness.

However, public health officials, academic physicians and the media – all of who are financially indebted to pharmaceutical companies and their high profit marketing objectives – vehemently oppose the use of HCQ, and use every opportunity to disparage the drug by derisively referring to President Trump as its booster.

The Lancet Published a Fraudulent Study: Editor Calls it “Department of Error”
by Vera Sharav
Alliance for Human Research Protection

On May 22, 2020, The Lancet published “Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine With or Without A Macrolide For Treatment of COVID-19: a Multinational Registry Analysis”. It was described as an observational study purportedly involving more than 96,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients in 671 hospitals across six continents. What was not disclosed is the fact that the two lead co-authors have significant, relevant financial conflicts of interest that just may have biased the reported findings.

Dr. Sapan Desai

Mandeep Mehra, MD

The database belongs to Surgisphere Corporation whose founder and CEO, is Dr. Sapan Desai, who is a lead co-author of the study. Dr. Desai has refused to disclose the data – for independent confirmatory review. In fact, he refuses to identify the participating hospitals, or even the countries.
Dr. Mandeep Mehra, the lead co-author is a director at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, which is credited with funding the study. Dr. Mehra and The Lancet failed to disclose that Brigham Hospital has a partnership with Gilead and is currently conducting TWO trials testing Remdesivir, the prime competitor of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, the focus of the study.

The Lancet report claimed that COVID-19 “patients treated with hydroxychloroquine (with or without a macrolide) were at increased risk of de-novo ventricular arrhythmia and ‘a greater hazard for in-hospital death.’” Such an alarming finding from an inaccessible dataset should have raised concerns for the editor of the Lancet, about the integrity of the study and the accuracy of the claimed findings. In fact, within days of the Lancet publication, concerns about that dataset were raised on social media, on PubPeer, the post-publication discussion website, and in newspapers.

Within days of publication, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) declared on CNN

“The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy.”

A media blitz against hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) created panic: clinical trials aimed at testing hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 were suspended by International public health institutions including the World Health Organization the UK government regulatory agency and the French government.

The chief scientist at the WHO, Soumya Swaminathan, stated that although the Lancet data weren’t from a randomized controlled trial, the data were compelling because they

“came from multiple registries and quite a large number of patients, 96,000 patients.”

Knowledgeable scientists and experienced clinicians around the world were skeptical
The alarming findings and serious negative impact of the Lancet report led numerous scientists around the globe to scrutinize the report in detail. That scrutiny by legitimate, independent scientists has led to many serious questions about the integrity of the study, the authenticity of the data, and the validity of the methods the authors used.

An Open Letter posted online, is addressed to the authors of the report: Mandeep R Mehra, MD, Sapan S Desai, MD, Frank Ruschitzka, MD, Amit N Patel, MD, and to the editor, Dr. Richard Horton. The letter was signed by more than 200 prominent scientists across the world, including 17 from institutions in Africa.

The scientists question the evidence for claimed serious risks posed from the use of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients. Among the concerns raised by the scientists are the following:

A range of gross deviations from standard research and clinical practices, such as: patients were prescribed inexplicably high daily doses of hydroxychloroquine –far higher than the FDA-recommended doses.
There was no ethics review.
The number of patients reportedly from Australia far exceeded the number of patients in the Australian government database;.
Gross misrepresentation of the numbers of deaths in Australia.
“Both the number of cases and deaths [the claimed 40% deaths in Africa], and the details provide seem unlikely.”
Refusal to identify the hospitals that contributed patient data.
The ratios of patients who received chloroquine (49 %) to those who received hydroxychloroquine (50% ) are implausible; in Australia chloroquine is not available without special government authorization.
The Guardian reported on May 28th that it could not confirm that UK’s health agencies had even provided data for the study.

On May 29th The New York Times reported that 100 scientists and clinicians raised serious questions about the validity of the The Lancet report findings. It reported that on May 29th Dr. Mehra issued the following statement:

“We leveraged the data available through Surgisphere to provide observational guidance to inform the care of hospitalized Covid-19 patients”

[Perhaps someone can translate what “leveraged the data” means ….? The Times understated the number of scientists who signed the open letter; it is closer to 220.]

Dr. James Watson

Dr. James Watson, senior scientist at the MORU-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand doubts that any research organization could have obtained such detailed massive records for so many people in Africa that quickly. Based on healthcare workers’ descriptions of medical record-keeping, at many hospitals in Africa, he indicated:

“I just find it very hard to believe.”

Dr. Watson contributed concerns regarding the African data to the Open Letter. He had to suspend a just-launched trial of HCQ to comply with UK regulators following the Lancet report.

Dr. Anthony Etyang

Dr. Anthony Etyang, a consultant physician and clinical epidemiologist with the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya, who is also a signatory to the Open Letter, wrote to The Scientist expressing his doubts about the numbers of African patients in the Surgisphere dataset, noting that even private hospitals on the continent have poor medical records.

Rather than investigating the serious issues raised about the integrity of the report, The Lancet editor posted the authors’ claimed to “correction” of the numbers of patients in Asia and Australia on a page designated “Department of Error” – whatever that means!

The nature and number of the serious “discrepancies” that have emerged following the Lancet publication of the Surgisphere “study,” lead one to suspect out-and-out FRAUD.

Catherine Offord

Disputed Hydroxychloroquine Study Brings Scrutiny to Surgisphere, an investigative report by Catherine Offord in The SCIENTIST, May 30, 2020, looked deeper than others and uncovered background information about Dr. Desai and the changes in Surgisphere’s product line and his marketing methods. In 2008, Surgisphere was the publisher of medical textbooks that ran afoul when physicians complained about falsified rave reviews. In 2010, Surgisphere became a high impact, online medical journal, whose website boasts that it

“accrued over 50,000 subscribers spanning almost every country around the world… with almost one million page views per month.”

The Journal of Surgical Radiology had a three-year run; its last issue was published in January 2013.

The Scientist reports that Dr. Desai is named in three medical malpractice lawsuits that were filed during the second half of 2019.

Additional disturbing facts about Surgisphere have been uncovered by a team of investigative reporters — Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Sarah Boseley – for The Guardian.

Surgisphere, the company that provided the database for studies published by two of the world’s leading medical journals – The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine – based on Surgisphere data. The studies were co-authored the hydroxychloroquine studies.

“Surgisphere’s employees have little or no data or scientific background. An employee listed as a science editor appears to be a science fiction author and fantasy artist. Another employee listed as a marketing executive is an adult model and events hostess… until Monday, the “get in touch” link on Surgisphere’s homepage redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, raising questions about how hospitals could easily contact the company to join its database.”

The fiasco of the publication of essentially fraudulent reports in the journals with the greatest impact on both clinical treatment and public health policies, reveals how thoroughly corrupted so-called peer review has become because it lacks external, independent review by scientists who have NO STAKE in the study outcome. It was only after the reports by The Scientist andThe Guardian, that the editors of The NEJM and The Lancet were compelled to issue an: “Expression of concern.” This fiasco demonstrates why intelligent people seek alternative sources for reliable information.

The website, Science Defies Politics exposes numerous scientifically invalid studies that were essentially “hit jobs” against the use of hydroxychloroquine.

WHY are very powerful corporate-government stakeholders so intent on killing a drug with a 70 year track record? Because the drug works against the pandemic; it is readily available, and costs very little. Therefore, it poses a financial threat to both pharma companies and their partners in government and academia, those who are intent on profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As uncovered by Science Defies Politics: 16 of the panel members selected by NIH to formulate the official COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines – including two of the three co-chairs – were paid by Gilead. They issued guidelines that raised fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the use of HCQ combined with AZ, while raising no fear, doubt, or uncertainty about using Gilead’s unproven, unapproved, drug remdesivir; a drug that has shown mediocre performance in clinical trials. Seven of the NIH panelists failed to disclose their financial ties to Gilead. They are listed here.

The medical scientific literature is infested with financially motivated, shoddy, studies aimed at promoting products and, when a life-saving, non-patentable product, proves effective, scientists are hired to author study reports that are designed to tarnish scientists’ reputations, and to proclaim findings that refute legitimate findings. In this case, studies designed to “debunk” the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19.

Examples of countries and physicians who have witnessed the effectiveness of the HCQ – Az combination as a treatment for covid-19, are viewed by corporate-government collaborating partners as posing a major threat to their marketing agendas.

For example, Senegal and India are putting their hopes in hydroxychloroquine, marketed by Sanofi, under the trade name Plaquenil. A Sanofi spokesperson stated:

“We are providing the drug to hospitals and doctors to enable them to carry out clinical trials to determine whether hydroxychloroquine is effective or not, but not to treat Covid-19.”

On May 23rd the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued expanded revised guidelines for use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for COVID-19:

“The Joint Monitoring Group and the NTF have recommended prophylactic use of HCQ in asymptomatic frontline workers, such as surveillance workers deployed in containment zones and paramilitary/police personnel involved in Covid-19 related activities, asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases and all asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in containment and treatment of Covid-19 and working in non-Covid hospitals/non-Covid areas of Covid hospitals/blocks.”

Didier Raoult, MD, PhD — “a Science Star” — as the NYT described him in a recent profile, who has identified 500 novel species of human-borne bacteria; a scientist known all over the world as the discoverer of the first giant virus, a discovery that earned him the Grand Prix, one of France’s most prestigious awards.

Didier Raoult, MD, PhD

Dr. Raoult is the founder and director of the research hospital, the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire Méditerranée Infection (IHU). He is a professor on the faculty of Medicine of Ais-Marseille University, and since 2008, he has been the director of the Infectious and Tropical Emergent Diseases Research Unit), which employs more than 200 people and runs a hospital with 3,700 patients. He has more than 2,300 indexed publications and was classified among the ten leading French researchers by the journal Nature. Dr. Raoult has a reputation for bluster but also for creativity that others lack. As the Times noted, “He looks where no one else cares to, with methods no one else is using, and [he] finds things.”

Since publishing favorable reports about a treatment combination of two cheap, widely prescribed medicines: hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, as a treatment of choice against Covid-19, Dr. Raoult has become the subject of intense demonization by the corporate-influenced medical establishment, the media, and the who resort to this tactic whenever they lack evidence or legitimate grounds to support public health policies that cause people harm. Their fallback tactic is to demonize every doctor who challenges them and refuses to adhere to their financially – driven prescribing decrees.

Dr. Raoult’s latest scientific report about HCQ, Early Diagnosis and Management of COVID-19 Patients: A Real-Life Cohort study of 3,737 Patients, Marseille, France was posted on May 27, 2020,

It is a retrospective study report of the clinical management of 3,737 patients, including 3,054 (81.7%) treated with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (HCQ-AZ) for at least three days and 683 (18.3%) patients treated with other methods. Outcomes were death, transfer to the intensive care unit (ICU), ≥ 10 days of hospitalization and viral shedding.

“Treatment with HCQ-AZ was associated with a decreased risk of transfer to the ICU or death (HR 0.19 0.12-0.29), decreased risk of hospitalization ≥10 days (odds ratios 95% CI 0.37 0.26-0.51) and shorter duration of viral shedding (time to negative PCR: HR 1.27 1.16-1.39). QTc prolongation (>60 ms) was observed in 25 patients (0.67%) leading to the cessation of treatment in 3 cases. No cases of torsade de pointe or sudden death were observed.

Conclusion
Early diagnosis, early isolation and early treatment with at least 3 days of HCQ-AZ result in a significantly better clinical outcome and contagiosity in patients with COVID-19 than other treatments.”

In France, doctors who have followed the research of Dr. Raoult, and have themselves witnessed the effectiveness of the HCQ-AZ combination, are suing the government. They demand the right to treat their patients with these drugs before easing of the lockdown. They seek to prevent complications and deaths from a second wave of Covid-19.

Violaine Guerin, MD

Dr. Violaine Guérin, an endocrinologist who conducted a trial on 100 doctors infected with COVID-19, and their families, reported her study findings that demonstrated the effectiveness of prescribing HCQ combined with azithromycin at the first sign of symptoms. The drugs substantially reduced the viral load of Covid-19:

“Taking hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin on the outset of flu symptoms can prevent Covid-19 from getting worse. We can treat people now before they end up on a ventilator.”

Her findings replicated those Dr. Didier Raoult.

Dr. Guérin recommends prescribing hydroxychloroquine for health workers infected by the coronavirus, which is outside of its approved uses. Health unions in France warned that almost 12,000 health care professionals out of 550,000 – roughly a quarter of the country’s health force – were sick with Covid-19. Dr. Guérin recommends its use on compassionate grounds, stating:

“From the very beginning, doctors have been calling for the right to self-prescribe because they are the ones on the frontline of the coronavirus battle. We cannot waste time when we can treat Covid-19 now, as long as this is done in the early stages of the virus and patients are screened for pre-existing medical conditions.”

Soon after this favorable study was published, the Minister of Health Olivier Veran in bald political arm twisting fashion, asked the highest health authority to review its authorization for the use of HCQ to treat Covid, suggesting further restriction.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran

Read the full article at AHRP.org.

Coronavirus

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EXPOSED: Reasons Mosquitoes Bite Some More Than Others, Nothing About Smell Of Sweat

9. Not Wearing Mosquito Repellent: According to the CDC, insect-borne illnesses are increasing like crazy. While there were 27,000 a year in 2004, there were a whopping 96,000 in 2016 — and mosquito bites in particular can lead to life-threatening infections, including dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. To protect yourself, make sure you always have insect repellent on hand to fight off the blood-sucking pests: ones that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone as an active ingredient will keep them away.All mosquitos use carbon dioxide as a long-range indicator that a host is nearby
There are more than 3,000 different species of mosquito.

Yet, perhaps surprisingly, only a fraction of them actually feed on human beings – and, even when they do, they discriminate when choosing who’s their next meal.

Some people end up covered in bites, while others escape with only a nibble or two. So why does this happen? And what factors might influence the mosquito’s choice?

Here, as detailed in The Conversation, Richard Halfpenny, a lecturer in biological sciences at Staffordshire University, explains what makes us worth biting.

WHAT ARE THE OLD WIVES’ TALES?

There are many old wives’ tales on the matter, some more plausible than others.

Some think that blood type, having fair skin, being sweaty and even eating foods with garlic or apple cider vinegar can influence biting rates one way or the other.

For the most part, these don’t appear to have much influence when scientifically tested.

What we do know, however, is that all mosquitos use carbon dioxide as a long-range indicator that a host is nearby.

This initially alerts them, then – when they get closer to us – lactic acid, which is much more prevalent in human odour than other animals, further attracts them.

Other significant attractants are carboxylic acids, acetone and sulcatone.

Of course, this doesn’t tell us why some are generally bitten more than others, it just explains why humans end up as a mosquito’s meal and not a bird, cow or lizard.

 

The human skin’s microbiota 

The best evidence for what motivates a mosquito’s choice between different people is the variation in our skin microbiota.

We have an estimated 1m bacteria per square cm of skin, often comprising hundreds of species.

The odour this emits from our pores and hair follicles is the critical factor in telling mosquitoes how tasty we’d be.

In other words, mosquitoes don’t select somebody for their inner biology, but rather for the micro-organisms that live on their skin.

The composition of our skin microbiota mostly depends on our environment – what we eat and where we live.

Everything we touch, eat, drink and wash with has the potential to introduce new microbes, but the genetic variation is also thought to affect how hospitable our skin is to the various species of microbes.

This may be through the genetically controlled production of proteins in the skin that acts as barriers and prevents microbes from establishing and growing on the skin, or through more mundane aspects such as a person’s tendency to sweat or how oily their skin is.

It’s worth remembering that, as pure sweat has no discernible odour, sweating itself may not be responsible for attracting mosquitoes.

Rather, the variation in the chemical composition of sweat, and sweat production rates between people might result in beneficial conditions for some microbes that can attract mosquitoes.

While we’re pretty sure that mosquitoes choose their human hosts according to the bacteria which live on our skin, it’s less clear why they prefer the odour signature of some skin’s microbial life over others.

If we could learn this secret, perhaps we could change our skin’s bacterial composition to make ourselves less appetizing targets.  (Daily Mail)

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Viagra Could Cure Age-related Blindness, Restores Sight – Scientists

Viaga-blindness

 

Scientists have determined that Viagra, the blue pill commonly prescribed in the treatment of impotence, could also stop age-related blindness and restore sight.

A two-year trial led by scientists at the Columbia University in New York suggests that the anti-impotence drug could stop age-related macular degeneration in its tracks.

The researchers say that tests show the anti-impotence drug may stop further loss of vision for patients being robbed of their sight and could even repair the damage that’s already been done.

“Recent research has found the condition is partly caused by reduced blood flow to the choroid, a vital layer of tissue that sits in front of the retina – and some small earlier studies had suggested Viagra can improve blood flow to this tissue,” the research states.

In the Columbia study, five elderly patients with age-related macular degeneration were given two Viagra pills a day for two years. The results, published in the journal Ophthalmologica, revealed that the drug improved vision for one participant and completely halted deterioration for the others.

“Some drugs can already slow progression of age-related macular degeneration and increase vision in some cases, but the medicines have to be injected into the back of the eye every month,” the research states.

The researchers said: “Viagra offers significant potential for vision retention and recovery. It is notable that patients remained visually stable and there was a significant improvement in vision in one participant.”

The original research paper can be read here: https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/486105

(Punch)

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People With Depression Are More Likely To Use Certain Words – Scientific Study

Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi
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From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

Traditionally, linguistic analyses in this field have been carried out by researchers reading and taking notes. Nowadays, computerized text analysis methods allow the processing of extremely large data banks in minutes. This can help spot linguistic features which humans may miss, calculating the percentage prevalence of words and classes of words, lexical diversity, average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and many other metrics.

So far, personal essays and diary entries by depressed people have been useful, as has the work of well-known artists such as Cobain and Plath. For the spoken word, snippets of natural language of people with depression have also provided insight. Taken together, the findings from such research reveal clear and consistent differences in language between those with and without symptoms of depression.

Content

Language can be separated into two components: content and style. The content relates to what we express—that is, the meaning or subject matter of statements. It will surprise no one to learn that those with symptoms of depression use an excessive amount of words conveying negative emotions, specifically negative adjectives and adverbs—such as “lonely”, “sad” or “miserable.”

More interesting is the use of pronouns. Those with symptoms of depression use significantly more first person singular pronouns—such as “me”, “myself” and “I”—and significantly fewer second and third person pronouns—such as “they”, “them” or “she”. This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words.

We know that rumination (dwelling on personal problems) and social isolation are common features of depression. However, we don’t know whether these findings reflect differences in attention or thinking style. Does depression cause people to focus on themselves, or do people who focus on themselves get symptoms of depression?

Style

The style of language relates to how we express ourselves, rather than the content we express. Our lab recently conducted a big data text analysis of 64 different online mental health forums, examining over 6,400 members. “Absolutist words”—which convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities, such as “always”, “nothing” or “completely”—were found to be better markers for mental health forums than either pronouns or negative emotion words.

From the outset, we predicted that those with depression will have a more black and white view of the world, and that this would manifest in their style of language. Compared to 19 different control forums (for example, Mumsnet and StudentRoom), the prevalence of absolutist words is approximately 50% greater in anxiety and depression forums, and approximately 80% greater for suicidal ideation forums.

Pronouns produced a similar distributional pattern as absolutist words across the forums, but the effect was smaller. By contrast, negative emotion words were paradoxically less prevalent in suicidal ideation forums than in anxiety and depression forums.

Our research also included recovery forums, where members who feel they have recovered from a depressive episode write positive and encouraging posts about their recovery. Here we found that negative emotion words were used at comparable levels to control forums, while positive emotion words were elevated by approximately 70%. Nevertheless, the prevalence of absolutist words remained significantly greater than that of controls, but slightly lower than in anxiety and depression forums.

Crucially, those who have previously had depressive symptoms are more likely to have them again. Therefore, their greater tendency for absolutist thinking, even when there are currently no symptoms of depression, is a sign that it may play a role in causing depressive episodes. The same effect is seen in use of pronouns, but not for negative emotion words.

Practical implications

Understanding the language of depression can help us understand the way those with symptoms of depression think, but it also has practical implications. Researchers are combining automated text analysis with machine learning (computers that can learn from experience without being programmed) to classify a variety of mental health conditions from natural language text samples such as blog posts.

Such classification is already outperforming that made by trained therapists. Importantly, machine learning classification will only improve as more data is provided and more sophisticated algorithms are developed. This goes beyond looking at the broad patterns of absolutism, negativity, and pronouns already discussed. Work has begun on using computers to accurately identify increasingly specific subcategories of mental health problems—such as perfectionism, self-esteem problems, and social anxiety.

That said, it is of course possible to use a language associated with depression without actually being depressed. Ultimately, it is how you feel over time that determines whether you are suffering. But as the World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% since 2005, having more tools available to spot the condition is certainly important to improve health and prevent tragic suicides like those of Plath and Cobain.  (Quartz)

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How Flawed Science Helped Turn Chocolate Into Health Food |RN

Julia Belluz
a man in a suit and tie                 © Provided by Vox.com  

A small and preliminary study was hyped to claim that chocolate fights Alzheimer’s.

Have you heard? Dark chocolate will do everything from boost your cognition to reduce your cardiovascular disease risk and even help you lose weight! Or so the chocolate science hype machine will tell you.

Several months ago, we got to wondering how chocolate candy had earned such a powerful health halo. So we dove into the science behind these claims about chocolate and cocoa to find out more.

In an original Vox analysis, we discovered that food companies like Nestlé, Mars, Barry Callebaut, and Hershey’s — among the world’s biggest producers of chocolate — have poured millions of dollars into scientific studies and research grants that support cocoa science. Of the 100 Mars-sponsored studies on cocoa, chocolate, and health, 98 had conclusions that were favorable to the candy maker in some way.

That’s an uncannily high number. And it raises questions about the quality of the studies, given that Mars and other chocolate makers can use the positive findings to market their products. Industry-sponsored studies are more likely than independent research to yield conclusions that favor the funder’s products.

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In our review of the research, we found studies that were well-designed, well-executed, and that produced seemingly reliable results. (This was particularly true for the science on cocoa’s effects on blood pressure.) But some of the other claims don’t stand up as well when you look closely at the evidence.

One study in particular about cocoa staving off cognitive decline jumped out at us because it had sparked a small fracas on PubMed Commons, a site where researchers can comment on published studies. Several researchers took the time to critique everything from the study’s design and statistical analysis to how it was reported in the journal where it was published, Nature Neuroscience.

This Mars-sponsored study, led by researchers from Columbia University, was published in 2014. The researchers had wanted to test whether taking cocoa supplements might enhance a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus that deteriorates with age and is associated with age-related memory loss. They concluded that cocoa supplements — particularly the micronutrients called flavanols in them — can indeed boost cognition in older adults.

The research didn’t come out of a vacuum. Previous studies, particularly those focused on aging in rats, suggested flavanols might prevent cognitive decline. But upon closer examination, it became clear that this particular study was very small and preliminary — and that there were several problems with its design that made its results unreliable. That didn’t stop the chocolate hype machine, though. The paper was trumpeted by the Columbia University press office and large media outlets as more evidence that cocoa and chocolate can fight Alzheimer’s.

Ultimately, the study shows how scientists and the media have seized upon the narrative that chocolate is a health food — even when only the thinnest evidence supports the wishful claim.

The cocoa study was short, small, and focused on narrow outcomes that don’t matter to the real world

Before we dive into what made this Nature Neuroscience study suspicious, let’s look at what it was about. The researchers randomly assigned 37 people to one of four groups for a period of three months:

  1. A group that got a high daily dose (900 mg) of cocoa flavanol supplements as well as one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  2. A group that got the same high dose of cocoa flavanol supplements but without the exercise
  3. A control group that got a low dose of cocoa flavanols (10mg) with the one hour of aerobic exercise four times per week
  4. Another control group that got the low cocoa flavanol dose but without the exercise

So basically, the study participants either got a lot of cocoa flavanols or not, and added regular exercise to their lifestyles or not.

The researchers wanted to test whether cocoa flavanol supplements might stave off cognitive decline in the dentate gyrus region of the brain, which is associated with age-related memory loss. They also wanted to see if exercise had any effect on memory, since previous studies had suggested it might.

In the study, they found that exercise had no impact on brain function — but cocoa flavanols did. “Dietary cocoa flavanol consumption enhanced [dentate gyrus] function in the aging human hippocampal circuit,” they concluded. They also made extremely bold statements in the paper, even suggesting that the effects they saw in the high-flavanol group demonstrated that cocoa could reverse age-related memory decline by as many as three decades.

Columbia University’s newsroom touted the research as demonstrating that “dietary flavanols reverse age-related memory decline.” The research was then picked up by media outlets, including the New York Times, which trumpeted chocolate — not just cocoa dietary supplements — as a memory aid.

But here’s the thing: The study never actually proved that cocoa supplements, and especially not chocolate, could prevent memory decline. It was too small, too narrowly focused, and too short-lived to tell us anything important about real memory loss with aging, said Henry Drysdale, a doctor and fellow at Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine.

To track memory decline, the main outcomes the researchers used over a 12-week period were an fMRI test that looked at increases cerebral blood volume, as well as a cognitive function test — the Modified Benton — which was developed at Columbia to measure dentate gyrus function. The researchers who validated the test found that people’s performance on the ModBent worsened with age, so they had reason to believe that this test would be a good marker of whether flavanols could make a difference here.

“Saying if you eat cocoa supplements now you’re going to have better memory in three months is not relevant to real-world [age-related memory decline],” said Drysdale, who co-founded Oxford’s COMPare Trials project which examines the quality of clinical trials.

If you really want to answer that question, you’d run the trial for several years and you’d need a group of study participants that’s bigger than 37 people. Instead of only tracking the study participants’ brain waves in an MRI machine (which is not a measure of cognitive ability), or using an object recognition task (the ModBent) to test memory, you’d also want to measure outcomes that matter in people’s lives, like, whether those taking cocoa could remember what they did that morning or that they had a doctor’s appointment next week better than the people who didn’t take the cocoa, Drysdale added.

This trial only demonstrated that supplements seem to enhance brain function over a period of weeks, and only according to a very specific (and not very widely used) test of cognitive function. That is far from valid proof that cocoa is a memory enhancer.

The researchers did other things that made the results unreliable

Drysdale and other researchers who were not involved with this study also took issue with it for much nerdier reasons. There are problems with how the study was reported that made its results less likely to be reliable — and even less worthy of the hype.

For one thing, the published version of the study looks different from what the researchers originally said they’d set out to do for this trial.

To understand why this matters, let’s step back for a moment.

Before researchers embark on clinical trials, they’re supposed to name (or “pre-specify”) which health outcomes they’re most interested in on a public database, like ClinicalTrials.gov.

For an antidepressant, these might include people’s reports on their mood, or how the drug affects sleep, sexual desire, and even suicidal thoughts. Researchers then group the outcomes into “primary” and “secondary” categories — the primary outcomes being the ones they think are most important — and describe precisely how and when they are going to measure these things.

Scientists are then supposed to broadly stick to this plan when they run their trial, and report on their findings in a journal. If they deviate from their plan, they need to be transparent about it and explain why they did so in the final journal article.

The idea is that researchers won’t just change their plans along the way, or publish positive or more favorable outcomes that turn up during the study, while ignoring or hiding important results that don’t quite materialize as they were hoping. (That’s a sneaky practice called “outcome switching,” and it’s a big problem in science.) Following these steps also enhances the chances that the findings researchers report on are real, not the result of tweaking a study’s design to get splashier conclusions.

But this didn’t happen in the case of this cocoa study.

ClinicalTrials.gov has a handy version control function that lets you see all the changes that were made to a clinical trials registry over time. It shows that the researchers for this cocoa study changed their outcomes over time, and also failed to clearly pre-specify them before starting the trial. They then didn’t report about the changes they made in their final study, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience.

For example, if you look at the earliest version of their ClinicalTrials.gov report, from 2010, the researchers stated that the primary outcome they were interested in was an fMRI test that measures cerebral blood volume. The secondary outcome they were going to look for was “neurocognitive function” — but they didn’t say which test they’d use to measure neurocognitive function. In the published trial, the ModBent appeared as a second primary outcome along with the fMRI.

“If you don’t pre-specify your method of measurement of an outcome — in this case ‘neurocognitive function’ — you are free to choose, consciously or unconsciously, from a range of possible outcomes,” said Drysdale. “You can then pick the outcome that makes your chocolate look good. That’s not to say authors will always do this with vaguely pre-specified outcomes, but the option is there.” In this case, the researchers settled on the ModBent task as their primary outcome (in addition to the fMRI).

I asked the authors on the study why they failed to fully pre-specify their outcomes, and why they didn’t report all the changes they made in their original plan in the final version of the report, like they’re supposed to do. They said they were new to entering clinical trials data on registries, and that they didn’t realize they had to declare changes they had made to their study design in the final study. Whatever the reason, though, these errors in reporting are likely to make their findings less reliable, said Drysdale.

If you look at the most recent version of their clinical trials registry, it was published in January 2015, three months after they published their Nature Neuroscience article. “So they went back after article was published in Nature and changed their clinical trial registry. There is no mention of this in the trial report,” Drysdale added.

To be clear, this cocoa study is not unique. Hype in research is on the rise, and outcome switching is common — as prevalent in industry-sponsored research as it is in independent academic research. But the paper shows how, consciously or unconsciously, studies can be tweaked and exaggerated in ways that can yield misleading conclusions.

Dark-chocolate

“The bigger concern is that people are trying to do a better job of selling the research itself and not just telling what the straight out answer is,” University of Toronto nutrition researcher Richard Bazinet said. This study only showed that over a period of three months, in a small group, according to a very narrow test that taps a very specific region of the brain, cocoa supplements enhanced cognition. That became “chocolate fights Alzheimer’s” — a message Mars surely appreciated.    (Vox.com)

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Eight Things That Attract More Mosquitoes Bites |The Republican News

Mosquito-feeding

 

New research has revealed that mosquitoes prey on their victims due to a number of factors.

They also say that the species of mosquitoes you are exposed to can determine whether or not you are going to be bitten.

So, why do mosquitoes bite you? These reasons…

• Beer. Some studies reveal that mosquitoes are attracted to beer drinkers, though this is only relevant to one type of mosquito.

• Type O Blood. If you have Type O blood running through your veins, you’re prime candidate for mosquito bites! Research published in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that mosquitoes were 83.3 percent more likely to land on type O carriers than type A carriers. Again, this appears to apply to one particular species of mosquito.

• Pregnancy. In 2003, an experiment was conducted in eastern Sudan to see if mosquitoes were more attracted to pregnant women than non-pregnant women. The results, published on NCBI, found that out of the 18 women, the nine pregnant women attracted significantly more mosquitoes, especially ones that were carrying malaria. This could be because of raised temperature and how women’s body odour changes during pregnancy. Again, only one species of mosquito is attracted to pregnant women.

• Gender. Interestingly, only female mosquitoes bite, as the nutritional value of blood helps develop their eggs. They also seem to prefer to bite more men, but women are more badly affected by a bite. Women reportedly get bigger and itchy bites, but men are more likely to be attacked.

• Genes. There is also the belief that mosquitoes could be attracted to you because of your genetic makeup. An indicator of this could be if you have a bad reaction to a bite, such as the size of the bite or the intensity of the itchiness.

• Carbon dioxide. This one is quite hard to avoid, as your body naturally produces around 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide a day, which is breathed out through your lungs. Well, you have to breathe, so you can’t avoid mosquito bites by withholding your breath. Good news, though: Mosquitoes tend to prefer people who emit more than the standard levels of carbon dioxide—a situation that is common among pregnant women and overweight people.

• Lactic acid. Mosquitoes love the lactic acid that the body produces when you work out. The acid is released as you sweat, making you a prime target, especially if you are hot and tired.

• Bacteria. If you have lots of different bacteria on your skin, mosquitoes will be less attracted to you. The chemicals that build up your natural smell could repel them. A study published in PLOS showed that a group of people with a more diverse colony of bacteria were less likely to attract mosquitoes than those with less. (Punchng.com)

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Where Would Men Look At A Woman To Show They Like Her – Study Reveals

Karen Fratti
Apparently, if someone is looking at this part of your body, they don’t like you THAT way© klublu/Shutterstock Apparently, if someone is looking at this part of your body, they don’t like you THAT way  

There’s apparently a very simple way to tell if someone is into you or not, according to a new study. Researchers at Wellesley College and the University of Kansas did a joint study and found that if a man looks at a woman’s face, they don’t like a woman in a romantic way. When they looked at the chest or hip region, that meant they had hearts in their eyes. And you thought eye contact was the most important thing! The research was intended to figure out how to tell if someone thought a person was “attractive,” so if someone is looking at your face, they might still like you. Just possibly not in a sexual way.

The study gathered 105 heterosexual undergraduate students for subjects and asked them to look at photos of men and women and to answer whether they wanted to be buddies or date a person. The researchers then tracked their eye movements. While the study was peer-reviewed, it’s important to remember that it only looked at heterosexuals college students.

But it certainly is something to think about. The researchers noted that the men looking at a woman’s chest and hips are actually in line with past research that found that men tend to consider a woman’s reproductive abilities when choosing a mate. It’s apparent evolution. It still feels gross, though.

Moreover, the study shows that it really depends on what you’re already looking for in a relationship. Men, across the board, looked at the chest and hips whether or not they were looking for love. Meanwhile, women looked at the head but looked at it longer if they were considering just being friends with a man. They also checked out legs and feet when they just had pure thoughts about a person.

“Research on attraction tends to assume there is a fixed set of characteristics that make a person desirable. This new study shows that what people look for in a prospective relationship partner depends on their relational goals. The same person who makes a highly desirable friend may not make a good mate,” Angela Bahns, the study’s co-author and an assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley, wrote in a statement.

But don’t be totally offended if your crush is checking out your feet or ear lobes and not your chest. Maybe they’re just highly evolved and know that female partners aren’t just for mating.   (Hello Giggles)

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Ancient Sub-Saharan Africans Possibly Interbred With Unknown Hominins, Study Shows

Human ancestors living in Sub-Sahara Africa may have interbred with unknown “ghost’’ species of early hominins, a study on the evolutionary history of a salivary protein has indicated.

“This unknown human relative could be a species that has been discovered such as a subspecies of Homo erectus, or an undiscovered hominin,’’ Omer Gokcumen, assistant professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said in a recent statement.

“We call it a “ghost’’ species because we don’t have the fossils,’’ he added.

The new research is among the most recent genetic analyses indicating that ancient Africans also had trysts with other early hominins.

The research team traced the evolution of an important mucin protein called MUC7 that was found in human saliva, examining its gene in more than 2,500 modern human genomes.

“When we looked at the history of the gene that codes for the protein, we see the signature of archaic admixture in modern day sub-Saharan African populations,’’ Gokcumen said.

The research team found that a group of genomes from sub-Saharan African populations had a version of the gene that was wildly different from versions found in other modern humans, even beyond the differences between modern humans and the Neanderthals or Denisovans.

The finding, published in Britain’s Molecular Biology and Evolution journal, showed that the ancestry of Homo sapiens is more complicated than originally believed.

The study showed that genes mutate during the course of evolution.

Thereby researchers calculated that the ancestors carrying Sub-Saharan MUC7 variant interbred with the “ghost’’ hominin species as recent as 150,000 years ago after the two species’ evolutionary path diverged from each other some 1.5 to 2 million years ago.

The new studies also found that the MUC7 gene helps give spit its slimy consistency and binds to microbes, potentially helping to rid the body of disease-causing bacteria.

(Source: Xinhua/NAN)

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Ebola: Federal Ministry Of Health Orders Compulsory Test For Fever Patients

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Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole 

Eniola Akinkuotu

The Federal Government has asked every health official in the country to test every fever patient – showing symptoms of bleeding – for the Ebola Virus Disease.

It also asked all port health officials to step up inspection of all persons coming into the country.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said this in a statement by the Director, Media and Public Relations, Mrs. Boade Akinola, on Saturday.

The statement came less than 24 hours after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of Ebola in Congo, describing the outbreak as “a public health crisis of international importance.”

The ministry of health said, “The health minister directs all Nigerian health workers to maintain a high index of suspicion by screening all haemorrhagic fever patients for Ebola

“Similarly, the minister encourages members of the public to observe a high level of personal hygiene which includes regular hand washing and to also report all cases of fever to the nearest health facility.”

The minister said he had directed health workers to increase efforts at ports of entry.

He added, “The Federal Government in response to the announcement by the WHO on confirmed cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has directed port health officials to step up inspection activities and to report any sick person or suspects to ensure that Epidemiologists in the states conduct relevant tests.

“The symptoms to look out for include: fever, fatigue, weakness dizziness and muscle aches. Patients with more severe cases show bleeding under the skin, internal organs or even from bodily orifices like mouth, nose and ears.”

The minister also urged Nigerians not to panic as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is on the ground and equipped to secure the health of citizens.

He said the CDC had for a while been strengthening states’ capacities to detect, manage and respond to hemorrhagic fevers including Lassa fever.

Adewole called on states to begin social mobilisation and media awareness efforts via television, radio, print and social media.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association has called on doctors nationwide to immediately report suspicious cases to the Federal Government.

Speaking with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, the President of the NMA, Prof. Mike Ogirima, said doctors across the nation should begin to take precaution and report suspicious cases.

He said, “The Federal Government already has adequate experience on dealing with this because of the first outbreak so we advice them to consolidate.

“We also want to advise them to quickly set up and put in measures to prevent any case and even if by chance we have any case within the country, we should control the spread.

“We advise Nigerians to take care and stick to universal basic precautions such as regular washing of hands, avoid over-crowding, report suspicious cases immediately to the nearest health centre.

“We also advise our members all over the country to be on the alert and to make sure that they are well prepared and have the proper gadgets to face any challenge.” (Punchng.com)

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Scientists Discover Why Hair Turns Gray And Goes Bald |The Republican News

 

Tara John
                  © Getty Images
Scientists have pinpointed the cells that cause hair to turn gray and to go bald in mice, according to a new study published in the journal Genes & Development.

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center accidentally stumbled upon this explanation for baldness and graying hairs-at least in mouse models-while studying a rare genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on nerves, according to a press release from the center.

They found that a protein called KROX20 switches on skin cells that become a hair shaft, which then causes cells to produce another protein called stem cell factor. In mice, these two proteins turned out to be important for baldness and graying. When researchers deleted the cells that produce KROX20, mice stopped growing hair and eventually went bald; when they deleted the SCF gene, the animals’ hair turned white.

“Although this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumors form, we ended up learning why hair turns gray and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair,” said lead researcher Dr. Lu Le, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in a statement.

More research is needed to understand if the process works similarly in humans, and Le and his colleagues plan to start studying it in people. “With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems,” he said.    (TIME)

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