The health effects of pot – What do we know?

The good news and the bad news

A few years ago my state, Washington, legalized marijuana. I voted in favor.

Since then I’ve wondered if that was a good idea. Tax windfall aside, what do we really know about the health effects of pot, good or bad?

Recently, one of my favorite health news sites, Healthcare Triage, posted this video: What we know about pot in 2017

Dr. Carroll presents a good summary of available research on the health effects of pot. Unfortunately, as he points out, there just isn’t enough quality research being … Continue reading

Rats, cell phones and cancer

rats, cell phones and cancerScary headlines sell news

Last week the media blitzed us with headlines that linked cell phones with an increased risk of brain and heart cancers.

Don’t believe everything you read in a headline!

That news story was based on a study out of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that looked at the effect of cell phone radiation on rats.

Most journalists, if you bothered to read the entire article, did point out that the study was not perfect and it did use rats, after all, and not humans.

However, if you just read the headlines or skimmed … Continue reading

Is drinking good for you?

wineIf, like me, you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, or a cold beer on a hot day, or a cocktail when out with friends, you probably think a small to moderate amount of alcohol is part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

So the continuous push-pull in the media about the benefits of alcohol (“Moderate drinking helps you live longer!”) versus the harms (“Moderate drinking increases your risk of death!”) must confuse you as much as it does me.

Why can’t these researchers decide??

Well, there are a lot of problems with this kind of research. First, these … Continue reading

Sunshine for health!

sunshine03Just in time for spring and summer fun in the sun, the results of a large and long-term study on the hazards of avoiding the sun were published last week in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Usually all we hear about are the bad things about too much sun exposure—skin cancer, melanoma, wrinkles, sunburns, etc.

But this study out of Sweden, which followed 30,000 women for 20 years, found:

Nonsmokers who stayed out of the sun had a life expectancy similar to smokers who soaked up the most rays, according to researchers who studied nearly 30,000 Swedish women over

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Blueberries for brain health

blueberriesFor years I’ve heard that blueberries are good for brain health. Which is great, because I love blueberries and try to work them into my diet several times a week.

So I was happy to read the results of some new research that supports the connection between blueberries and the human brain.

Most blueberry studies to date have been performed on animals, but two recent studies—funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the blueberry industry—used human subjects.

One study used adults over the age of 68. Half ate the equivalent of 1 cup of blueberries daily for … Continue reading

Vitamin D doesn’t help knee arthritis

A few years ago vitamin D was being touted as the latest and greatest miracle supplement. Low vitamin D levels were linked to all kinds of conditions—autoimmune diseases, heart disease, chronic pain, osteoporosis, some cancers, and more—so doctors started prescribing high-dose supplements.

Or people just bought vitamin D supplements at the store and dosed themselves. Sometimes way over the recommended upper limit of 4,000 IU/day.

Multiple research studies, however, have found little help from vitamin D supplements in treating or preventing most of these conditions.

Most recently is a well-done study out of Australia, published in last week’s Journal of Continue reading

Nexium and increased dementia risk

nexiumI’ve previously posted that Nexium and similar acid-reducing drugs, the PPIs (proton pump inhibitors), have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack .

Now, a new study has confirmed a connection between PPIs and dementia.

The patients receiving regular PPI medication…had a significantly increased risk of incident dementia compared with the patients not receiving PPI medication…

The avoidance of PPI medication may prevent the development of dementia.

The study specifically looked at PPI use in patients age 75 and older, who are frequently taking several prescription medications.

This is an important study, because as the health news Continue reading

Smoking pot hurts your brain

A couple years ago my state, Washington, legalized pot.

It’s been a boon for tax revenue, for sure (almost $83 million in the first year). And the state reports that it has saved millions of dollars by freeing up law enforcement resources.

Judging from the lines in front of the pot stores (green crosses are everywhere!), pot is really popular here, across a wide range of ages.

But apart from its commercial success, and the fact that it’s given us more stoned drivers, the law concerns me because it seems to promote the idea that smoking pot … Continue reading

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

A friend and I were discussing the documentary That Sugar Film the other day and she asked me about the claim in the movie that artificial sweeteners were bad for you, too, because they actually made you eat more.

I couldn’t recall exactly what was said in the film, but decided to do a little research on my own to answer her question.

The FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), neotame, sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (Sweet One) and stevia (Truvia).

Because they are “low-energy” sweeteners and don’t contain any calories, it seems a no brainer … Continue reading

“That Sugar Film”

that sugar filmIt probably wasn’t the best idea to watch this documentary just a few days before one of the most sugar-laden holidays of the year.

On the other hand, I will definitely be more conscious about how much sugar I eat and will hopefully avoid a huge sugar hangover—that slightly sick, tired, yucky feeling I get after eating too many sweet foods.

That Sugar Film is one of several sugar documentaries that have come out recently that attempt to show us just how bad sugar is for our health.

Related story from Time: Sugar is definitely toxic, a new study saysContinue reading

Antidepressants and autism

Women who take common antidepressants while pregnant have a slightly higher risk of their children developing autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This study was just released by JAMA Pediatrics.

Use of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of ASD in children, even after considering maternal depression. Further research is needed to specifically assess the risk of ASD associated with antidepressant types and dosages during pregnancy.

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, include Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) and Sertraline (Zoloft).

They are by far the … Continue reading

Evidence based – “Is that a fact?”

is that a factIf, like me, you’re interested in science and putting a little more “evidence-based” into your health, check out Is That a Fact?: Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life by Dr. Joe Schwarcz.

Dr. Schwarcz, a chemist as well as a radio host and a best-selling author, brings some much-needed attention to the overabundance of health information found on the internet and in the media.

As he says in the book’s introduction:

We suffer from information overload. Just Google a subject and within a second, you can be flooded with a million references.

The University of Google is

Continue reading

Good news! Bacon probably won’t kill you

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was going to classify red meat and processed meats (bacon, hots dogs, salami, pepperoni, etc.) as cancer causing agents.

I mentally thought about all the bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni pizzas, and pastrami sandwiches I have fed my son through the years. What kind of a mother am I? (In my defense, my son’s had WAY more fruit and vegetables than average.)

Thank heavens Dr. Aaron Carroll over at Healthcare Triage understood my pain and made this great video to reassure me that I am not the worst mother ever!

Use home pesticides with caution

Every fall my house becomes a mine field of spider webs. When I go out the front door, I immediately step face-first into a big, black, eight-legged bug. Yuck.

Whether it’s spiders preparing for the winter, or fleas and mosquitoes enjoying the wetter but still warm late-summer days, insects are just more bothersome in the fall.

I remember in my childhood my mother used to carry around a huge can of Raid and practically spray it in our faces when she saw a wasp or fly or spider.

Um, that’s not a good idea.

A recent study published in PediatricsContinue reading

Sacrificed – On the shoulders of giants

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of medicine and nursing. That’s why I have a degree in medical history as well as nursing.

So I was delighted when the folks at Fusion sent me this YouTube video with an invitation to put in on my blog:

The Doctor Who Jammed a Catheter Into His Heart

 

In just a couple minutes it tells the interesting tale of Dr. Werner Forssmann, who in 1929 had the crazy idea to thread a catheter through his arm and into his heart (he wasn’t allowed to experiment on … Continue reading