By Kate Lunau - Monday, January 12, 2009 - 5 Comments
January 12 (today!) is the most depressing day of the year, according to Dr….
January 12 (today!) is the most depressing day of the year, according to Dr. David Lewis, a British psychologist, who blames financial and health reasons for our general malaise. According to him, this day falls right around the time when people are back to work, worrying about money after Christmas, and coping with ugly winter weather. By Jan. 12, New Years’ resolutions have generally fallen to the wayside, so we feel like a bunch of quitters, too. Not to mention, it’s a Monday.
Dr. Lewis isn’t the first expert claiming to have found the “most depressing day,” but most seem to agree that it falls somewhere in January, making this by consensus the worst month ever. The psychologist suggests taking a hot bath to improve your mood—that, and buckling down till the next stat holiday, which is as soon as next month in some provinces; in others, it’s as far away as Easter.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 12:11 PM - 7 Comments
In the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine researchers reveal that…
In the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine researchers reveal that women who have multiple C-sections at term but before reaching 39 weeks gestation have double the chance of having a baby with serious complications.
In Canada, more than a quarter of women had C-sections in 2006 compared to just 17.6 per cent in 1993. The rise is partly attributed to higher obesity rates and women giving birth later in life. There are also suggestions that some women prefer C-sections as a way of setting predictable delivery dates. C-sections can also be combined with a tummy tuck.
Last summer the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada issued a statement warning against caesarians where possible. It said that unnecessary C-sections put future pregnancies in jeopardy, require longer recovery times for mothers and generally strain the health care system.
A 2007 report by the federal Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System showed that women who had C-sections had three times the rate of “severe illness” compared to those who had planned vaginal deliveries, and they were hospitalized for longer.
SOGC summarized the findings, which were also published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, this way: “…elective C-sections have higher risks of anesthetic complications, major infections, obstetrical wound, and cardiac arrest” and noted that these women “were more likely to require an immediate hysterectomy due to bleeding.”
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 12:38 PM - 3 Comments
The American College of Gastroenterology has just released new recommendations for the treatment of…
The American College of Gastroenterology has just released new recommendations for the treatment of IBS—one of the most common disorders affecting North Americans, and among the least understood.
The college says its doing this now because there’s been an “explosion in knowledge” about the functional illness since its last update in 2002.
We recently devoted a big chunk of the magazine to stories about gut problems including IBS and addressed many of the recommendations the college has made, including the use of antidepressants and probiotics.
Among the recommendations:
-an easing up on the number of tests required before a patient is diagnosed with IBS
-celiac disease should be considered when a patient presents symptoms common to IBS
-antidepressants be recognized and endorsed as a helpful treatment option
-probiotics such as Bifidobacter infantis be looked upon as beneficial
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 4:00 PM - 4 Comments
“Shut up, close your mouth and push.”
But it happened, according to one new…
But it happened, according to one new mom. Other alleged bad moves include:
1. Doc saying, “Sometimes pain is the best teacher.”
2. Doc arriving four hours late for the delivery.
3. Doc making calls on his cell phone during delivery.
4. Doc talking about a) mom hemorrhaging; b) the baby dying; and c) abortion during delivery.
5. Using an unnecessarily big needle to stitch up mom unnecessarily after childbirth.
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 2:53 PM - 4 Comments
It may seem obvious to the cynics (realists? socialists?) among us, but more power…
It may seem obvious to the cynics (realists? socialists?) among us, but more power equals less heart, according to Berkeley researchers.
A study in the December issue of Psychological Science shows that high-powered people feel less compassion and distress when hearing about a person’s suffering than low-powered people.
Powerful people apparently lack empathy and seem less inclined to have a personal relationship with struggling souls. They don’t want to befriend losers.
But the researchers suggest high-powered people suffer the most from their cold apathy: they won’t have anyone to console them when they are sad.
So all of us minions can at least take pleasure in knowing that others are suffering too. Misery does love company. And what’s the holiday season if not a time to wallow in self pity.
(Does that sound too negative? I was going for satire….)
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 11:14 AM - 2 Comments
In the ever-expanding world of genetics a mammoth discovery has just been made.
In the ever-expanding world of genetics a mammoth discovery has just been made.
Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have found an anti-tumor gene.
The gene, called SARI, can suppress the growth and survival a protein that is over-expressed in 90 per cent of human cancers. Basically, SARI shows up at the cancer cell party, infects them, they stop dividing and then die off.
This finding is so exciting because it takes us one step closer to developing a powerhouse gene therapy program to fight cancer.
The researchers made their discovery by introducing SARI into cancer cells via a virus. Next they will work on developing better ways to deliver SARI.
The study is published in the Dec. 8 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
With this kind of formidable work being done, it’s a tragedy we face a shortage of geneticists, as I learned from one of Canada’s best, Dr. Albert Chudley, president of the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists and prof at University of Manitoba.
By Cathy Gulli - Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 4:49 PM - 10 Comments
More than half of parents report that their child’s pediatrician doesn’t ask if they…
More than half of parents report that their child’s pediatrician doesn’t ask if they have any worries about the mental and emotional well-being of their kid.
This study by University of Michigan researchers puts in perspective how little attention is paid to the anxieties that plague children. They suggest that doctors often don’t ask because they aren’t equipped to deal with mental health issues.
Proof that a dialogue between pediatricians and parents is useful: among parents who do talk with a doctor about their child’s problems, 62 per cent seek additional help from mental health professionals.
Unfortunately, the report showed that many parents don’t know where to turn. They either couldn’t find a provider, the services were too expensive, or they couldn’t get an appointment soon enough.
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, December 8, 2008 at 11:57 AM - 3 Comments
When doctors use formal medical terms to describe conditions rather than common words patients…
When doctors use formal medical terms to describe conditions rather than common words patients become more worried about their health problems, shows a study by McMaster University.
The research, which was published in the online journal Public Library of Science: ONE, found that medical terminology makes conditions sound more severe to patients than lay terms. They also sound rarer.
Participants were surveyed about 16 disorders, including high blood pressure versus hypertension; excessive sweating versus hyperhidrosis; impotence versus erectile dysfunction; and gastro esophageal reflux disease versus chronic heartburn. The scientists found that when patients are diagnosed using the medical term, they may think they’re sicker than they actually are.
By Cathy Gulli - Friday, December 5, 2008 at 6:30 PM - 4 Comments
Last spring we put together the popular “How healthy are you?” package. One of…
Last spring we put together the popular “How healthy are you?” package. One of the most stunning trends we reported on showed that people under 25 have, by far, the highest rates of psychological problems compared to any other age group, according to data gathered by Scienta Health.
A new study in BMC Medical Education shows that med students are no exception. Researchers at ABC Regional Medical School in Brazil have found that 38 per cent of the 481 students they examined had at least 10 depressive symptoms. It was most dire among females.
Last week at the Canadian Family Physicians Forum in Toronto, experts from the College of Family Physicians of Canada spoke about the stress many medical residents face before they even start working. A report showed that more than a third of med students say their debt load after school will be over $80,000. Family docs, as it happens, earn 33 per cent less than other medical specialists.
And then there are all the stresses of actually working in our overstretched medical system, which we wrote about last January.
So who’s taking care of our doctors?
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 4:45 PM - 7 Comments
Why do we eat fast food? In a six-month study, researchers put that question…
Why do we eat fast food? In a six-month study, researchers put that question to 605 people who frequently do (at least once a week). Perhaps unsurprisingly, most reported eating fast food because it’s… fast. But some of the other answers are even more telling.
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 4:42 PM - 2 Comments
Next time you go to the dentist, ask her about your heart.
Next time you go to the dentist, ask her about your heart.
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital have found that people who’ve had periodontal (gum) disease are at higher risk for heart disease. Continue…
By Cathy Gulli - Friday, November 14, 2008 at 4:17 PM - 4 Comments
For anyone who is (or is married to, let’s say) a sports-viewing fanatic, this…
For anyone who is (or is married to, let’s say) a sports-viewing fanatic, this research is exceptional in its irony.
Scientists at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock found that hardcore fans are more at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and premature death than sports apathetics.
That’s because they usually eat more fast food and refined grains and have breakfast less often than non-sports fans. Not surprisingly then, people who really take their teams to heart also have a higher body mass index and drink more.
Interestingly, the researchers point out that previous studies have shown that sports fans are usually more psychologically healthy than people who don’t like watching games. That’s partly because they bond over the shared experience of rooting for the same team.
The message for fans who sorely lack the physical vigor of their favourite athletes: funnel some of that enthusiasm into playing sports rather than just watching them.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 12:45 PM - 0 Comments
There could soon be an HIV vaccine manufacturing facility on Canadian soil.
There could soon be an HIV vaccine manufacturing facility on Canadian soil.
Today, the University of Western Ontario announced it’s one of four Canadian organizations under consideration by the federal government to build such a facility, which would create clinical trial lots of vaccine candidates. In fact, UWO researcher Dr. Chil-Yong Kang has already developed an experimental vaccine, for use in toxicology tests and eventual human trials; but because no Canadian facilities existed, he did his work in the U.S. “Had a facility been available in Canada, the vaccine could have been produced here,” UWO says.
In 2007, the Canadian government collaborated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative. One of CHVI’s priorities is to build a pilot-scale HIV vaccine manufacturing facility. This priority is shared by the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, which has identified a lack of appropriate facilities as a major roadblock towards efforts to create a vaccine. To that end, Canada will be spending $61.1 million, and the Gates Foundation $28 million, over five years.
Later today, Dr. Kang is expected to announce more details on his work. Stay tuned.
“Kang’s vaccine uses a killed whole HIV-1, much like Jonas Salk’s killed whole polio virus vaccine. The HIV-1 is genetically engineered so that it is non-pathogenic and can be safely injected, and can be produced in large quantities, according to university officials.”
Sumagen Canada Inc, a subsidiary of Curocom of Korea, is fully funding Dr. Kang’s work on this vaccine.
By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 11:28 AM - 2 Comments
In the current issue of Maclean’s, I wrote about a global effort to track…
In the current issue of Maclean’s, I wrote about a global effort to track all the bacteria that live in the human body—a monumental undertaking, since they outnumber our own cells by ten-to-one. It may gross people out to think we’re literally crawling with bugs, but a growing body of research suggests they’re crucial to our health: by now, microbes have been implicated in everything from periodontitis, to obesity, to premature labour.
Today, a new study caught my eye: it looks like bacteria even affect the taste of the food we eat. In the human mouth—where each tooth seems to have its own unique bacterial colony—microbes create food odours from odourless components, allowing us to fully taste fruits and veggies, a Swiss team is reporting.
Some fruits and vegetables release their characteristic odours only after being swallowed, researchers report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (to be published Nov. 12). The team performed sensory tests on 30 trained panelists using grapes, onions and bell peppers, and found that the food’s odourless compounds are processed by bacteria in the mouth, which creates this so-called “retroaromatic” effect. “The mouth acts as a reactor, adding another dimension to odor perceptions,” they said.
Queen’s University’s Dr. Elaine Petrof recently told Maclean’s, “Everyone talks about going to the Amazon rainforest to look for new species. But we’ve got all this stuff inside our own bodies that we don’t know anything about.” As our research into the human microbiome continues, there’s no telling what we could find.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, November 10, 2008 at 1:53 PM - 9 Comments
It’s been more than two years since Health Canada approved Gardasil, a vaccine that…
It’s been more than two years since Health Canada approved Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Today, Gardasil is approved for women aged 9 to 26, and by now, countless young women have received the vaccine. This fall, for example, Ontario is once again offering it to all Grade 8 girls, free of charge. Supporters of the HPV vaccine say it’s a great step forward for women’s health: after all, the virus causes between 90 and 98 per cent of all cervical cancer, which is the second most common cancer among females worldwide.
But it’s not just women who are at risk from HPV, which infects at least 50 per cent of sexually active women and men. In fact, some types of HPV-associated cancer are now on the rise among men. It’s got some people wondering if men shouldn’t get vaccinated, too.
By Cathy Gulli - Friday, November 7, 2008 at 3:59 PM - 3 Comments
Women’s magazines have long had a bad rap as the source of female insecurity,…
Women’s magazines have long had a bad rap as the source of female insecurity, what with all those images of beautiful models. (Or articles suggesting all kinds of unbeautiful things women do, like make orgasm faces, but that’s another matter.)
Turns out, lad mags have a similar effect on men. But it’s not male models who cause them anxiety—it’s the female ones.
University of Missouri researcher Jennifer Aubrey explains it this way: guys don’t feel pressure to be as attractive as other men; they just want to be hot to women.
So across the board, pictures of female models make men and women feel like crap. And yet, they dominate the covers and pages of most magazines. Why again?
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 3:56 PM - 8 Comments
Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that the most effective…
Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that the most effective anti-smoking ads either induce fear or disgust—not both. When the two reactions were elicited simultaneously the viewer was overwhelmed, and the ad backfired.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 11:47 AM - 11 Comments
When people are suffering through a problem, they go see religious leaders for help…
When people are suffering through a problem, they go see religious leaders for help more often than psychologists or counsellors. But a new study by Baylor University researchers shows that church clergy often dismiss or deny mental illness—even after it’s been diagnosed by a health professional. And sometimes they encourage people to stop taking medication.
Of 293 Christians who sought support from their local church after they or someone they love were diagnosed with a mental illness, nearly one third of them were told that the real problem was entirely spiritual—they sinned too much, didn’t have a strong enough faith, or the devil was involved.
The consequences for the individual are huge: interrupting treatment can be dangerous, says one of the study authors. Mental illness is generally not a problem that goes away by itself. And to make matters worse, the comfort or encouragement people would otherwise get from their faith may be compromised in these situations. The study shows that people whose mental illness wasn’t taken seriously by their religious community actually stopped going to church as often and said their belief in God was damaged.
By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 12:30 PM - 1 Comment
About one in 12 Canadians will get their appendix removed during their lifetime. Yet…
About one in 12 Canadians will get their appendix removed during their lifetime. Yet over a century after appendicitis was first discovered, we still don’t know what causes it—and so, not too much has changed about how it’s treated. “We operate on people in 2008, just like we needed to operate on them in 1908,” says the University of Calgary‘s Dr. Gilaad G. Kaplan.
New research suggests air pollution could be the culprit. Kaplan’s team looked at over 5,000 Calgary adults hospitalized for appendicitis between 1999 and 2006. They compared them to Environment Canada data on levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, and found that more air pollution was associated with more appendicitis. This study is the first to show such a link, Kaplan tells Macleans.ca.
Unsurprisingly, the risk seems to be highest in the summer months, when Continue…
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 4:29 PM - 10 Comments
The premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, was in to talk with Maclean’s this week….
The premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, was in to talk with Maclean’s this week. (The entire interview will be posted on our website tomorrow.)
I asked him about a recent study that ranked Saskatchewan second last out of 10 provinces for the quality of its health care—Newfoundland faired the worst. He said the number one obstacle facing the medical system is . . . a shortage of doctors and nurses!
The interesting remedy: poach nurses from the Philippines. Because English is a first language there and nurses are educated in a similar style as the ones in North America. The province is hoping to attract hundreds of Filipino nurses to its hospitals. Already 300 have been signed and some of them have even arrived and begun work. That, says Wall, will help alleviate all the other problems facing Saskatchewan’s health care system, like long wait times. Other places such as this New Brunswick community are doing this as well.
With all the red tape over accrediting foreign-trained doctors let’s hope this strategy works. Another option: let’s also invest significantly in our medical schools and start turning out more health care workers here. The Canadian Nurses Association says that “Canada has consistently graduated fewer nursing students than it did 30 years ago, despite a 39 per cent increase in the Canadian population over that same time period.”
By Alex Shimo - Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 10:26 AM - 4 Comments
Ever seen a face in the clouds? Then you’re probably already well aware of…
Ever seen a face in the clouds? Then you’re probably already well aware of our tendency to anthropomorphize. Scientists at the University of Vienna – from EFS Consulting and Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology – studied this trait in relation to how we humanize our cars. Continue…
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, September 22, 2008 at 4:18 PM - 1 Comment
Take this test by Phillip Hodson of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy …
Take this test by Phillip Hodson of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy to find out where you fall on the gender spectrum.
Also, read about Diane Schroer—once David Schroer and a former military commander. A U.S. federal district court just ruled that she was sexually discriminated against by the Library of Congress. David was fired after he informed the library that he was going to switch genders.
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, September 22, 2008 at 3:04 PM - 1 Comment
You know when you go to the museum and use an audio guide to…
You know when you go to the museum and use an audio guide to help you appreciate things you can’t really see? Well, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a similar device for blind people.
It’s called the “Talking Points urban orientation system.” The mobile device uses Bluetooth technology to pick up info from the surrounding environment and relays it to the user—anything from the location of the nearest police station or park to the big sale happening at a store around the corner. Continue…
By Alex Shimo - Monday, September 22, 2008 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
Botox’s smoothing of wrinkles is well-known. What about it’s impact on the body’s athleticism?…
Botox’s smoothing of wrinkles is well-known. What about it’s impact on the body’s athleticism? Can the cosmetic treatment help fitness?
Well, that depends. Continue…