Archive for September, 2009
Officially the nastiest PSA of all time...
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Hepatitis” is from the “Diseases and Ailments” section of the Health edition.
On March 21, 2002, international sex symbol Pamela Anderson announced that she was taking an indefinite break from her career in order to undergo treatment for hepatitis C, an infectious disease that affects the liver. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread from blood-to-blood contact, and between 60-70% of individuals infected with the virus remain asymptomatic during the “acute” phase of the infection (which refers to the first six months after infection with HCV). However, once the disease progresses to the “chronic” phase, it can lead to irreparable scarring of the liver and cirrhosis (which can eventually give rise to liver failure or cancer). In developed countries, the vast majority of people with hepatitis C contracted the virus through needle sharing during injecting drug use.
Thanks to the implementation of rigorous blood-screening practices, there has not been a single documented case of transfusion related hepatitis C in the United States for over a decade. However, hepatitis C is far more prevalent in developing countries, where blood- screening protocols are frequently inadequate and injection equipment is often poorly sterilized. Hepatitis C also may be transmitted sexually, albeit rarely, because the virus is only transmitted via contact with infected blood (and not via seminal or vaginal fluid, like HIV).
It is estimated that 270-300 million people are infected with hepatitis C globally. Research on hepatitis C is made uniquely difficult by the fact that it is an exclusively human disease; animals can be infected with the HCV virus, but they do not develop the disease. Unfortunately, this creates a major obstacle for researchers interested in developing a vaccine or new medical treatments for the virus. Currently, infected individuals are treated with powerful antiviral drugs that cause a host of side effects, such as flu-like symptoms, hair loss, low blood count, fatigue, mood swings and depression. 51% of infected people are cured after treatment with anti-viral medications. Infected people with persistent infections often experience liver failure, which may require a liver transplant. Sadly, even a successful transplant does not conquer the virulent virus; it always eventually reemerges and infects the new liver.
What Do You Think? »
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Organ Transplants” is from the “Medical Milestones” section of the Health edition.
In August 2009, four men were arrested in Israel for failing to report millions of dollars of income earned as middlemen for Israelis seeking organ transplants in China and the Philippines. To make matters worse, the main suspect admitted that the lion’s share of organs were coming from Chinese death row inmates, including those condemned to death for their religious beliefs or political affiliations. For Israelis, and many Jews in the rest of the world, these arrests brought to light a number of complex moral and religious issues related to organ donation.
“Jews don’t like to donate organs,” says Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, one of the founding members of the Beth Din of America, the equivalent of the Supreme Court of the Jewish justice system. “They don’t donate at the rate of other social groups.” This observation is supported by fact; the percentage of Israeli’s with a donor card (“ADI” cards) is a paltry 8%, as compared to other Western countries where an average of 30-40% of people are listed as organ donors. Religious laws that dictate that a person should not be buried without any missing organs are cited as one of the main reasons that Jews have traditionally been averse to organ donation. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a massive shortage of transplant organs in Israel, which has led to countless preventable deaths. It has also given rise to illegal organ trafficking from foreign nations, and “transplant tourism” has become a widespread phenomenon.
Started by a family who lost their son while he waited for a kidney transplant, the Israeli organization ‘Adi’ is committed to promoting the importance of organ donation, by stressing its underlying moral imperatives. Thanks to its tireless campaign, Israelis can now elect to carry donor cards. However, some members of the orthodox community are so adamantly opposed to these measures that they have created “life cards” which contain the explicit instruction that the individual’s organs should not be harvested under any circumstances. This is unfortunate, in light of the fact that organ donation advocates estimate that Israel would be able to immediately double the number of organ donations each year, thus making major inroads in transplant waiting lists, which currently stands at 1,000 patients and counting.
What Do You Think? »
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Vitamin A” is from the “Lifestyle and Preventative Medicine” section of the Health edition.
It has been estimated that as many as 2 billion people suffer from Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in developing countries, and that it is responsible for as many as 1-2 million deaths annually. Tragically, VAD also causes blindness in an estimated 500,000 children in these countries each year, as Vitamin A plays a crucial role in the development of the vision cycle. In response to this problem, a group of scientists developed a type of genetically modified rice in the late 1990s, fortified with beta-carotene, which they dubbed “golden rice,” (because of its yellow color). Golden rice is a variety of Oryza sativa rice, which is produced by biosynthesizing beta-carotene, a precursor of pro-vitamin A (which is already present rice, albeit in smaller amounts).
The details of this scientific discovery were first published in “Science” in 2000, and immediately provoked considerable controversy from environmental, political and anti-globalization activists. Environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, are opposed to the use of golden rice, believing that it is a “Trojan horse” that will open the floodgates for the widespread use of GMOs throughout the world. Some humanitarian groups have argued that golden rice only addresses a symptom of the larger problems faced by developing countries, such as poverty and loss of biodiversity in food crops. They believe that an emphasis on fortifying agricultural foodstuffs will allow for the continued indifference to more important sustainability issues.
While studies of golden rice indicate that its consumption did not have the potential to eliminate blindness and VAD related deaths on its own, it is a promising complement to other supplemental sources of the vitamin. Moreover, scientists unveiled a new type of golden rice in 2005 that purportedly produces up to 23 times more beta-carotene than the original.
However, advocates of the golden rice project face many additional battles before these crops can be grown for consumption. There are currently more than 70 patents that are involved in the creation and eventual distribution of golden rice, creating a legal maze of nearly epic proportions. To add insult to injury, radical anti-GMO groups are responsible for a rash of “decontamination” raids on genetically modified crops throughout Europe. In response to these raids, reserves of golden rice are now being kept in grenade-proof greenhouses in Switzerland. Thus, thanks to greed and the vitriol of special interest groups, it is safe to say that golden rice will not be filling the bowls (or saving the eyesight), of the world’s poor in the near future.
What Do You Think? »
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Birth Control” is from the “Sexuality and Reproduction” section of the Health edition.
Despite statistics that indicate that more than half of teenagers engage in premarital sexual activity, abstinence-only education programs received a whopping $1.3 billion in federal funding between 2001-2007. This is startling, considering the lack of evidence that these programs actually achieve their purported goals of decreasing adolescent sexual activity, preventing teen pregnancy and reducing the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s). Despite the fact that there is scant evidence supporting the efficacy of abstinence-only programs, no federal funds are currently dedicated to supporting comprehensive sexuality education, which stresses the benefits of abstinence while also providing information about contraception. In fact, “a full 35 percent of all U.S. school districts with a district wide policy to teach sex education require their schools to offer abstinence-only-until marriage courses.”
In response to the controversy elicited by the dearth of funding for comprehensive sex education under the Bush administration, Congress ordered a comprehensive study on the efficacy of abstinence-only programs in 2007. The findings were damning: abstinence-only programs were found to be ineffective at delaying or preventing sex and actually facilitated a rise in teen pregnancy. To the relief of sane people everywhere, President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2010 budget would mark a dramatic policy change with respect to federal funding of sex education. If approved, Obama’s budget would shift a significant portion of federal funding currently earmarked for abstinence-only education into pregnancy prevention programs, which would include information about contraception in their curricula. His budget would technically still allow for abstinence-only education programs to receive federal funding (if they can present compelling research indicating that their program is effective in pregnancy prevention). However, in light of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, abstinence-only advocates undoubtedly face an uphill battle….
What Do You Think? »
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Muscular Dystrophy” is from the “The Mind” section of the Health edition.
Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of genetically inherited, incurable degenerative muscle disease that disproportionately affects males. It is characterized by progressive muscle weakness and death of muscle and cell tissue. Nine distinct diseases are always considered MD, including Duchenne, Becker, limb girdle, congenital, facioscapulohumeral, myotonic, oculopharyngeal, distal, and Emery-Dreifuss, but there are over 100 diseases that have similar symptoms. Most forms of MD affect the entire body system, including the heart, endocrine glands, gastrointestinal and nervous system, skin, eyes and other organs.
MD is usually a death sentence, and the degeneration of an affected person’s condition can only be slowed through the use of physiotherapy and medication. However, scientists have recently discovered a specific type of stem cell that has be found to repair damaged muscle cells in mice suffering from MD. Moreover, these cells have also been shown to develop into different types of tissue, such as cartilage.
The genetic defect that causes MD makes it impossible for the body to synthesize crucial proteins necessary for muscle metabolism. The muscle tissue typically degenerates so rapidly that affected children are usually relegated to a wheelchair before they are 10 years old. MD also affects the respiratory system and the heart, leading many people with the disease to die from cardiac insufficiency or dyspnoea.
Until the recent stem cell breakthrough, most attempts to perform muscle cell transplants on patients with MD were ultimately rejected by their immune system. Thus, these new findings raise hope that more effective treatments can be developed from this new technology. However, researchers urge cautious optimism, emphasizing the fact that the cell type discovered in the mouse has yet to be isolated in humans.
What Do You Think? »
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “The Pritikin Program” is from the “Drugs and Alternative Treatments” section of the Health edition.
After Nathan Pritikin suffered an acute angina in 1957, he began to research the link between nutrition and heart disease, and embarked on a strict low-fat diet and rigorous exercise regimen to combat his cardiac condition. The subsequent improvement in his heart ailment convinced Pritikin that, “the degenerative diseases are not diseases…they are environmental poisoning from the food we eat. Specifically, I refer to the toxic amounts of fat and cholesterol.” Pritikin was so convinced of the efficacy of his program that he founded the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Barbara, California in 1978, where he offered a supervised, month-long diet and exercise training course for $4,800.00. Bolstered by the success of the center, Pritikin published a book based on his diet plan in 1979, titled “The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise.” The book became an overnight sensation, and helped turn Pritikin into one of the most influential diet gurus of the early 1980s.
The Pritikin Program called for its adherents to restrict their diets to include only unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood and very lean meats. The diet prohibited the consumption of fried foods, alcohol and caffeine, and mandated at daily aerobic exercise regimen of at least 30 minutes a day. The program was notoriously strict with respect to daily caloric intake, recommending that men consume a mere 1,200 calories per day (women were only allowed a paltry 1,000 calories a day to subsist on). The medical establishment was slow to support Pritikin’s findings, in part because he was not a credentialed doctor. However, several studies published since 1975 have found that the Pritikin Plan is in fact effective in helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
Critics of the Pritikin Program contend that the strictness of the diet makes it very difficult for people to stick to it for long enough to really benefit from its claims. A 2005 UCLA study found that the program was in fact effective in improving cholesterol levels and combating obesity. However, they also reported that the program was deficient in essential vitamins, such as Vitamin D, E and B12. Moreover, its low emphasis on the consumption of meat and dairy also significantly raised the risk of iron and fatty acid deficiencies amongst followers of the diet. Thus, doctors and nutritionists recommend many of the pillars of the Pritikin Plan, such as its emphasis on whole low fat foods and commitment to exercise, while rejecting its strict caloric restrictions as both unrealistic and unhealthy.
What Do You Think? »
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “Colitis” is from the “Diseases and Ailments” section of the Health edition.
Colitis is the term used to describe a chronic, autoimmune digestive disease that involves the inflammation of the colon. While it is considered an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) because it affects the lining of the large and small gastrointestinal system, it should not be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The colon is a long, muscular tube that drives undigested food towards the anus for elimination from the bowel. The undigested food winds its way through the intestine, until it eventually reaches the inner layer, or mucosa, where it mixes with mucus and bacteria residing in the colon (and where water and electrolytes are reabsorbed into the bloodstream). Colitis involves the inflammation of this mucosal layer, and causes the symptoms associated with the disease. This inflammation can be caused by a variety of different factors, including acute and chronic infection, inflammatory disorders, lack of circulation (ischemic colitis) and past radiation treatments of the large bowel.
The signs and symptoms of colitis include: acute abdominal pain and tenderness; rapid weight loss; joint pain; decreased appetite; fatigue; diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Some people suffering from colitis also experience gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, reflux, Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and abdominal cramping. Gastroenterologists commonly diagnose colitis by performing a flexible colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, wherein a flexible tube is inserted into the rectum for the purpose of obtaining biopsies of various portions of the colon, which may reveal signs of inflammation. However, a diagnosis of colitis can be made a number of ways, including X-rays of the colon, stool samples, blood work, abdominal MRI or CT scan and by administering a barium enema.
Depending on the severity of the disease, colitis may be effectively treating using antibiotics and general non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medications. Surgery is only indicated in severe cases, or if a person suffers from regular flare-ups that are resistant to pharmaceutical treatments.
What Do You Think? »