Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Urine Trouble

Heads up for what promises to be an interesting program on Radio 4 this evening.  Urine Trouble:
  • You have a headache and take a pill. The headache is gone, but what about the pill?

    What we flush away makes its way through sewers, treatment works, rivers and streams and finally back to your tap. Along the way most of the drugs we take are removed but the tiny amounts that remain are having effects. Feminised fish in our rivers, starlings feeding on Prozac-rich worms, and bacteria developing antibiotic resistance; scientists are just beginning to understand how the drugs we take are leaving their mark on the environment.

    The compounds we excrete are also telling tales on us. Professor of Chemistry, Andrea Sella, gets up close and personal with music festival toilets to find out what the revellers are swallowing, and hears from scientists who are sampling our rivers to learn about our health.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Decline Effect

If you've read Ben Goldacre's Bad Science or Bad Pharma then you'll be aware of the deep rooted problems in medical research.  But it gets worse.  It seems that the truth is a 'perishable commodity', as articulated in Everything We Know is Wrong (available on iPlayer):
  • "Every day the newspapers carry stories of new scientific findings. There are 15 million scientists worldwide all trying to get their research published. But a disturbing fact appears if you look closely: as time goes by, many scientific findings seem to become less true than we thought. It's called the "decline effect" - and some findings even dwindle away to zero.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Medieval Hospital Food

Today the Guardian asks whether medieval hospital food was superior to that provided today.  What jumps out is this bit:
  • "It’s important to remember that for most patients in the past there was much less division between “medicine” and “food” than is the case now. The dominant humoral understanding of the body explained disease as an imbalance of the major fluids of the body, of hot, cold, wet and dry “qualities”. These imbalances could be cured by altering diet, environment, exercise patterns and sleeping habits, as well as with medicines and bloodletting – so a personalised diet might be part of a course of medical therapy."
Their understanding seems in part to be right, but for the wrong reasons!

Moving Home and Microbes

An incredible finding from the Home Microbiome Study and featured in New Scientist:
  • "You may forget your toothbrush next time you go away but you can't leave your microbes behind. Millions of bacteria hitch a ride with you, making themselves comfortable wherever you go. Within only a few hours, they will have colonised a hotel room; give them 24 hours and they can take over an entire house."
Gut flora and discussion about how microbial life impacts our health has long featured on these pages, but this really blows me away.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Guerrilla Swimming


It's approaching 1700hrs on a hot and sultry Friday afternoon.  I look over the office partition in to the next bay and get a nod from a co-worker.  The guerrilla swim is on!

Allergies: Modern Life and Me



BBC2's Horizon aired last night, covering allergies.  Explicitly they looked at the gut mircrobiome and bacterial populations in and around humans and their principle habitats.
  • Changes to the bacteria that live inside all of us are responsible for increasing the number of people with allergies, suggests new research. In this episode of Horizon, the show investigates this claim by conducting a unique experiment with two allergic families in order to find out just what it is in the modern world that is to blame. With a raft of mini cameras, GPS units and the very latest gene sequencing technology, the show discovers how the western lifestyle is impacting their bacteria. Why are these changes making people allergic? And what can be done to put a stop to the allergy epidemic?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Dairy Farming 2500BC

Looks like dairy farming is much older than previously thought according to the Proceedings of the Royal Society B,
  • "By analysing the traces of food left caked in ancient pottery, researchers have revealed that Neolithic settlers in Finland may have been consuming dairy foods as early as 2500 BC.
    Since the end of the last Ice Age 12000 years ago northern latitudes have been settled by humans. For millennia these people survived on fishing, hunting and gathering. Early Neolithic settlers in Northern Europe had begun establishing farming economies across Britain and southern Norway, thanks to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. However, some researchers doubt whether further North in Finland, where the climate was more extreme, farming was being practised as early.

    The researchers behind this paper set out to establish the diets of early Finnish cultures by analysing preserved lipid molecules caked onto pottery recovered from sites in Finland. The pottery includes piece of Comb Ware pots from around 3900-3300 BC, Corded Ware vessels from around 2500 BC, Kiukainen ceramics from between 1500 and 2300 BC and Early Metal Age pottery from 1200-500 BC. By analysing food residues left embedded in the pottery the team can determine what sorts of diets these Neolithic cultures may have had."
 I certainly don't shy away from it, enjoying goats cheese in particular in an episodic faschion, and some milk in coffee most days.