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Apr. 30 2010 — 10:08 am | 26 views | 1 recommendations | 0 comments

Low-Cal Diets Boost Immune System

Picture of an Obese Teenager (146kg/322lb) wit...

Image via Wikipedia

Eating less, at least eating less of some foods, seems to prolong lives, but how? New research funded by the US Department of Agriculture indicates that restricted-calorie diets give a boost to your immune system.

In the study, 46 pudgy but not fat people aged 20 to 40 were fed diets that were either 30% calorie-restricted or 10% calorie-restricted for six months. The diet actually increased the function of T-cells, those rock stars of human immune systems.

Apr. 29 2010 — 6:30 pm | 104 views | 1 recommendations | 0 comments

Where Are Mortality Rates Lowest?

Naomi Watts

Aussie Naomi Watts is perfect and she'll probably outlive us all. Image by Josh Jensen via Flickr

Let’s say you’re a single, straight woman seeking the best odds of finding a long, long, long-term relationship. Wait for the ash cloud to thin and head for Iceland.

And if you’re male and want a lovely mate with the statistically best chance at longevity? Move to Cyprus.

Men aged 15-49 and women in the same bracket have the lowest risk of death before reaching 60 in, respectively, Australia and Cyprus. That’s according to a new study led by Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in the University of Washington.

As a global average, mortality rates over the last 40 years have fallen 34% for women and 19% for men. However, death rates for pretty much anyone living in countries suffering heavily from HIV infection (a lot of African nations, for example) and/or social upheaval (former Soviet nations), have increased, according to the study.

Sub-Saharan Africa death rates have reached levels not seen in the so-called rich countries since 1751 in Sweden.

Interestingly, the risk of dying for men worldwide actually rose from 1990 to 1995, when it started being a little safer to be male again. Mortality risks kept falling through the four decades for women.

In terms of the pace at which mortality rates are declining, Aussies of any gender are improving faster than just about anyone. South Korean women also are experiencing particularly steeper mortality rates.

The report’s summary made available to reporters is all but mute about mortality and the US. It notes disparagingly that the pace at which female death rates have fallen annually is less than 1.5%.

The entire report is scheduled to be posted later tonight at TheLancet.com. Here’s hoping you’re around to take a peek.

Apr. 8 2010 — 7:08 pm | 100 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

This Crab Wears A Broken Bottle For A House; Garbage Isn’t So Bad

a hermit crab using a broken soda bottle for a shell

Look at the little guy doing what we should do: Just pipe down and adapt.

What’s all the fuss? When garbage and pollution are everywhere, that’ll be the new natural.

Take this snippet from (the thoroughly excellent) ClimateShifts.org:

The discussion on the problem of marine litter takes me back to an incident in Sulawesi Indonesia where school kids doing a beach clean thought that the litter was normal and started clearing up all the organic debris instead of the rubbish. Where do you start?

via Climate Shifts » Blog Archive » Marine pollution in SE Asia.

The author, Richard Unsworth answers his own question. Pick up the shells, don’t recycle them, and throw them in a landfill until the landfills overflow with all the stuff that tree-huggers love so much.

Unsworth even throws in a photo that totally makes my case — a hermit crab is using a broken soda bottle as a home. That crab doesn’t see problems. He’s got a brain half the size of a mouse poop, and the only thing he sees is opportunity.

And the crab’s doing us a favor. Of course, that little guy isn’t doing this for us, but just the same, no one’s going to step on that broken bottle. I mean, it’s moving!

Apr. 8 2010 — 5:27 pm | 123 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Should We Move Animals Hurt By Climate Change?

Battlestar Galáctica

Assisted colonization can have ugly side effects, a la Battlestar Galactica. Image by Tom (Todas con licencia CC, Atribución) via Flickr

Scientists perhaps viewing climate change as an inevitably, are drawing up plans to move endangered animal populations from their home turf to areas expected to become more hospitable to the critters.

Altruistic? To be sure. Practical? Perhaps for a few, narrow niches. Dangerous? Very.

In the journal Conservation Letters, University of Notre Dame researchers have proposed “assisted colonization” as one way of saving species doomed by climate change.

Sinister as it sounds, assisted colonization is part of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Still, it’s difficult to hear the phrase and not think of all the bio chaos created by intentional and accidental species introductions. Or, for that matter, history’s many human forced marches resettlements.

Adding a species is the same as extinction in at least one respect: What seems like a tidy, contained event will have uncountable effects and side effects.

One side effect of assisted colonization will be political. If scientists can move an endangered mayfly to a better habitat, commercial interests no doubt will want to use the same logic and policy to move a frog from land coveted by developers, for example.

Saving every species is a lofty goal, while saving every species that can be saved practically is more realistic. In defining practicality, we need to make sure we aren’t masking our guilt with actions that create more chaos.

Apr. 5 2010 — 8:03 pm | 188 views | 2 recommendations | 2 comments

New superbug really loves alcoholics

Acinetobacter baumanni

These superbugs are booze hounds!

How many times has someone on a TV show or in a movie cleaned a bloody wound with a handy bottle of liquor? A few. But what if doing that ended up making the person — and maybe even the improvising doctor — very, very sick?

Get ready for life with a superbug that is so badass that it doesn’t flee from the cleansing power of alcohol. No, Acinetobacter baumanni drinks it up like a Republican fundraiser in a bondage club.

A. baumanni used to be a fairly ordinary bacteria kept in check by antibiotics. But like other once-cowed pathogens, A. baumanni has grown resistant to antibiotics. (Check out the chart at the bottom to see where it attacks you.)

Lindsay Lohan ties one on

She might be a celebrity to us, but to A. baumanni, Lindsay looks like spring break.

And if researchers detect a particularly slurred and nasty attitude from this bug it might be because A. baumanni gets more virulent in the presence of ethanol according to the journal PLoS Pathogens. As we all know, ethanol is the basis for the demon drink.

Of course this means a rather long list of celebrities would be their own disease vector after the bars close. Stay away, Lindsay Lohan.

superbugs draw many targets on our bodies

These are just some of the ways superbugs infect.

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    A journalist, photographer and gentleman, I've covered science, technology, public policy, business and Battlestar Galactica. I travel extensively throughout the US chronicling the beauty of entropy -- something the marketer in me calls entrophy.

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