Moderate Drinking Linked to More Potential Health Problems in New Study

There’s a link to heart problems and more in the study. On a personal note, in my view there’s something pretty wrong with society when you can go to a store and find alcohol around in all corners of it — and the alcohol must sell like that, that’s why it’s done. It also reminds me of the alcohol industry recently funding the NIH (which often does amazing work) in their attempts to dissuade concerns about moderate alcohol usage.

Regularly drinking more than the recommended UK guidelines for alcohol could take years off your life, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. Part-funded by the British Heart Foundation, the study shows that drinking more alcohol is associated with a higher risk of stroke, fatal aneurysm, heart failure and death.

The authors say their findings challenge the widely held belief that moderate drinking is beneficial to cardiovascular health, and support the UK’s recently lowered guidelines.

The study compared the health and drinking habits of over 600,000 people in 19 countries worldwide and controlled for age, smoking, history of diabetes, level of education and occupation.

The upper safe limit of drinking was about five drinks per week (100g of pure alcohol, 12.5 units or just over five pints of 4% ABV beer or five 175ml glasses of 13% ABV wine). However, drinking above this limit was linked with lower life expectancy. For example, having 10 or more drinks per week was linked with one to two years shorter life expectancy. Having 18 drinks or more per week was linked with four to five years shorter life expectancy.

The research, published today in the Lancet, supports the UK’s recently lowered guidelines, which since 2016 recommend both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week. This equates to around six pints of beer or six glasses of wine a week.

However, the worldwide study carries implications for countries across the world, where alcohol guidelines vary substantially.

The researchers also looked at the association between alcohol consumption and different types of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, fatal aortic aneurysms, fatal hypertensive disease and heart failure and there were no clear thresholds where drinking less did not have a benefit.

Shell Also Knew About Climate Change Decades Ago

Fossil fuels corporations such as Shell and Exxon studied climate change because there was a realization among them that they were causing it. The new documents also reveal that Shell predicted that it might be sued for this cover up, which is another indication that shows their responsibility for causing the emerging climate crisis seen today.

In response to a Dutch journalist publishing a trove of internal Shell documents revealing what Shell knew about climate change and its risks to both the world’s people and the company’s profit, Greenpeace USA Acting Climate Director Naomi Ages said,

“In 2015, we learned that Exxon knew decades ago about the severity of climate change and hid that knowledge from the public and shareholders. Now, we know that Shell knew too and even anticipated public backlash. Just like Exxon, Shell peddled scientific uncertainty and dragged its feet, maximizing its profits while the climate crisis grew. What makes Shell different from Exxon, is that Shell predicted that it would get sued over this – and, just like climate change, it was right about that too.

“These new reports increase the likelihood of more legal actions against Shell and bolster pending climate lawsuits. It’s time for Shell to reckon with the global costs of catastrophic climate change for which it is responsible.”

Big Tobacco is Increasingly Targeting the Most Vulnerable to Boost Profits

This is simply exploitation of the vulnerable for profit, using arguably the most dangerous consumer products (cigarettes) ever made no less.

The sixth edition of The Tobacco Atlas and its companion website TobaccoAtlas.org finds the tobacco industry is increasingly targeting vulnerable populations in emerging markets, such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, where people are not protected by strong tobacco control regulations. The report was released at the 17th World Congress on Tobacco OR Health in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Atlas, which is co-authored by American Cancer Society (ACS) and Vital Strategies, graphically details the scale of the tobacco epidemic around the globe. It shows where progress has been made in tobacco control, and describes the latest products and tactics being deployed by the tobacco industry to grow its profits and delay or derail tobacco control efforts. In response to an evolving tobacco control landscape, the Sixth Edition includes new chapters on regulating novel products, partnerships, tobacco industry tactics and countering the industry.

In 2016 alone, tobacco use caused over 7.1 million deaths worldwide (5.1 million in men, 2.0 million in women). Most of these deaths were attributable to cigarette smoking, while 884,000 were related to secondhand smoke. The increase in tobacco-related disease and death has been outpaced by the increase in industry profits. The combined profits of the world’s biggest tobacco companies exceeded US $62.27 billion in 2015, the last year on record for all the major companies. This is equivalent to US $9,730 for the death of each smoker, an increase of 39% since the last Atlas was published, when the figure stood at US$7,000.

“Every death from tobacco is preventable, and every government has the power reduce the human and economic toll of the tobacco epidemic,” said Jeffrey Drope, PhD, co-editor and author of The Atlas and Vice President, Economic and Health Policy Research at the American Cancer Society. “It starts by resisting the influence of the industry and implementing proven tobacco control policies. The Atlas shows that progress is possible in every region of the world. African countries in particular are at a critical point — both because they are targets of the industry but also because many have opportunity to strengthen policies and act before smoking is at epidemic levels.”

“Tobacco causes harm at every stage of its life cycle, from cultivation to disposal,” said Dr. Neil Schluger, Vital Strategies’ Senior Advisor for Science and co-editor and author of The Atlas. “It is linked to an ever-increasing list of diseases, burdens health systems, and exacerbates poverty, especially when a breadwinner falls ill and dies from tobacco use. At a conservative estimate, there are more than 7 million tobacco-related deaths and global economic costs of two trillion dollars (PPP) each year, not including costs such as those caused by second-hand smoke and the environmental and health damages of tobacco farming. The only way to avert this harm is for all governments to vigorously implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and to enforce the proven strategies that reduce tobacco use.”

Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke costs the global economy more than two trillion dollars (PPP) every year — equivalent to almost 2% of the world’s total economic output. More than 1.1 billion people are current smokers, while 360 million people use smokeless tobacco. Low and middle income countries represent over 80% of tobacco users and tobacco-related deaths, placing an increased share of tobacco-related costs on those who can least afford it. A growing proportion of that burden will fall on countries across Africa in the future, if governments do not implement tobacco control policies now to prevent it.

[…]

“The ultimate path to improved tobacco control is political will,” said José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies. “Strong tobacco control policies deliver a significant return on investment, and The Tobacco Atlas offers the best and most recent data on the tobacco epidemic as a resource for governments to pursue effective strategies. The answer does not lie with the industry: as The Atlas makes clear, there is a complete disconnect between the tobacco industry’s claims about harm reduction and its actual work to grow tobacco use among vulnerable populations. Governments must be accountable to their citizens in reducing tobacco use and improving health. They must prepare to rebuff the tobacco industry’s challenges to legislation, seek the appropriate assistance to build capacity, and be transparent about the industry’s inevitable approaches. We urge governments, advocates, organizations and people who care about health, the environment and development to stand together to reduce this man-made epidemic in pursuit of a healthier planet.”

The Common Drug That Can Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

This should help millions of people since diabetes still doesn’t have a cure. It’s nice to see that people at risk for this disease now have the potential to prevent it with medication.

There’s new hope for stopping Type 1 diabetes in its tracks after researchers discovered an existing drug can prevent the condition from developing – and the same techniques used here could also be applied to other diseases.

The drug in question is methyldopa, currently on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential drugs having been used for more than 50 years to treat high blood pressure in pregnant women and children.

By running an analysis of thousands of drugs through a supercomputer, the team of researchers was able to pinpoint methyldopa as a drug able to block the DQ8 molecule. The antigen is found in a proportion of the population and has been implemented in auto immune responses.

It appears in some 60 percent of people at risk from developing Type 1 diabetes.

“This is the first personalised treatment for Type 1 diabetes prevention,” says one of the team, Aaron Michels from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “This is very significant development.”

Based on the supercomputer calculations, the scientists found that methyldopa not only blocked the binding of DQ8 but didn’t harm the immune functions of other cells, which is often the case with drugs that interfere with the body’s immune system.

Overall, the research covered a period of 10 years – after the supercomputer analysis, the drug was tested in mice and in 20 patients with Type 1 diabetes through a clinical trial. The new drug is taken orally, three times a day.

While it’s not a full cure (work on that continues), methyldopa could help delay, or even limit the onset of Type 1 diabetes – a disease that currently starts mostly in childhood.

“We can now predict with almost 100 percent accuracy who is likely to get Type 1 diabetes,” says Michels. “The goal with this drug is to delay or prevent the onset of the disease among those at risk.”

That 100 percent prediction rate is made possible by looking at a variety of genetic and biological markers, including autoantibodies in the blood. Those at risk could now be put on a course of treatment to ward of the development of diabetes.

With diagnosed cases of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes on the rise in the United States – and the Type 1 condition believed to affect around 1.25 million people in the US alone – such treatments could make a huge difference.

Accounting for about 5-10 percent of people with diabetes, Type 1 involves the body’s own immune system attacking the pancreas, stopping the production of insulin and hampering the absorption of glucose and the production of energy.

In Type 2 diabetes, the body can’t process the insulin it does make properly.

Methyldopa is far from the first drug to show benefits in treating health issues other than the ones it was first designed for, but we now have better ways to spot these extra powers: this idea of identifying certain molecules and then applying modern-day computing power to find drugs that block them could work in other situations too.

“This study has significant implications for treatment of diabetes and also other autoimmune diseases,” says one of the researchers, David Ostrov from the University of Florida.

“This study suggests that the same approach may be adapted to prevent autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus and others.”

The research has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Selected Links for Feb. 10, 2018

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Various links from around the web.

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How to Know When a Child’s Flu Turns Serious

Daniel Ellsberg Interview on Denial About Nuclear War

The Legacy of Internet Pioneer John Perry Barlow

Climate Change

With US Carbon Footprint Set to Grow by 2050, Fossil-Free Movement ‘Our Only Hope’

To Help Save Humanity, A Six-Step Guide to Combat Fossil Fuel Industry’s Climate Lies

Climate change is increasing flood risks in Europe

Polar bears could become extinct faster than was feared, study says

Antibiotic Overuse

Insane drug cocktails in India net drug makers millions and pose global threat

Huge levels of antibiotic use in US farming revealed

50+ Groups Back Landmark Effort to Halt ‘Out of Control’ Factory Farming in Iowa

Technology

Uber and Lyft, Driving Drivers into Poverty and Despair

Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

Private Censorship Is Not the Best Way to Fight Hate or Defend Democracy: Here Are Some Better Ideas

Newly Released Surveillance Orders Show That Even with Individualized Court Oversight, Spying Powers Are Misused

Google Chrome to Mark HTTP Sites as “Not Secure” Starting July 2018

Screen-addicted teens are unhappy

Stealing data from air-gapped computers in Faraday cages

Chinese police are using facial recognition sunglasses to track citizens

Political Economy

Fueled by Broken Social Contract, Study Finds Inequality and Despair Driving US Life Expectancy Down

Article on Millennials Organizing in Unions

Amazon warehouses don’t lead to broad job growth, study finds

The Rise and Fall of the Stock Market: What to Expect

U.S. Politics and Government

Congress Puts Aside Partisan Differences For Good Of Military Contractors

Academic audit finds about $21 trillion of unauthorized military spending from 1998-2015

The threat to America’s public lands is increasing

Majorities Say Government Does Too Little for Older People, the Poor and the Middle Class

Citing U.S. Prison Conditions, British Appeals Court Refuses to Extradite Accused Hacker Lauri Love to the U.S.

Doctors floored by epidemic levels of black lung in Appalachian coal miners

Scientific Research

Scientists Rank 9 Drugs on Dangerousness by Looking at Emergency Room Visits

11 Health And Fitness Myths

New ‘4-D goggles’ allow wearers to be ‘touched’ by approaching objects

Viruses — lots of them — are falling from the sky

Scientific Research Into Happiness

I am unsure how much I agree with the conclusions of this happiness research, but it is interesting to read nonetheless.

Over the past two decades, the positive psychology movement has brightened up psychological research with its science of happiness, human potential and flourishing.

It argues that psychologists should not only investigate mental illness but also what makes life worth living.

The founding father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, describes happiness as experiencing frequent positive emotions, such as joy, excitement and contentment, combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose.

It implies a positive mindset in the present and an optimistic outlook for the future.

Importantly, happiness experts have argued that happiness is not a stable, unchangeable trait but something flexible that we can work on and ultimately strive towards.

[…]

Recent research indicates that psychological flexibility is the key to greater happiness and well-being.

For example, being open to emotional experiences and the ability to tolerate periods of discomfort can allow us to move towards a richer, more meaningful existence.

Studies have demonstrated that the way we respond to the circumstances of our lives has more influence on our happiness than the events themselves.

Experiencing stress, sadness and anxiety in the short term doesn’t mean we can’t be happy in the long term.

Two paths to happiness

Philosophically speaking there are two paths to feeling happy, the hedonistic and the eudaimonic.

Hedonists take the view that in order to live a happy life we must maximise pleasure and avoid pain. This view is about satisfying human appetites and desires, but it is often short lived.

In contrast, the eudaimonic approach takes the long view. It argues that we should live authentically and for the greater good. We should pursue meaning and potential through kindness, justice, honesty and courage.

If we see happiness in the hedonistic sense, then we have to continue to seek out new pleasures and experiences in order to “top up” our happiness.

We will also try to minimise unpleasant and painful feelings in order to keep our mood high.

If we take the eudaimonic approach, however, we strive for meaning, using our strengths to contribute to something greater than ourselves. This may involve unpleasant experiences and emotions at times, but often leads to deeper levels of joy and contentment.

So leading a happy life is not about avoiding hard times; it is about being able to respond to adversity in a way that allows you to grow from the experience.

Growing from adversity

Research shows that experiencing adversity can actually be good for us, depending on how we respond to it. Tolerating distress can make us more resilient and lead us to take action in our lives, such as changing jobs or overcoming hardship.

In studies of people facing trauma, many describe their experience as a catalyst for profound change and transformation, leading to a phenomenon known as “post-traumatic growth”.

Often when people have faced difficulty, illness or loss, they describe their lives as happier and more meaningful as a result.

The ConversationUnlike feeling happy, which is a transient state, leading a happier life is about individual growth through finding meaning.

It is about accepting our humanity with all its ups and downs, enjoying the positive emotions, and harnessing painful feelings in order to reach our full potential.

Scientists Find Where Nicotine Addiction Can be Blocked in the Mouse Brain, Providing an Advance to Blocking It in the Human Brain

Humans and mice have some similar enough brain structures that make this a relevant advance in giving people increased control to stop the scourge of nicotine addiction.

Brain researchers have pinpointed a small group of brain cells that are especially responsive to nicotine, and which might be the main culprits in driving addiction to the substance.

By tweaking these neurons in mouse brains, scientists were able to curb nicotine addiction in the animals. Not only have their results solved an important piece of the nicotine addiction puzzle, but they could also lead us towards new treatments for the problem.

Nicotine is one of humanity’s most popular drugs – it’s considered to be the third most addictive substance we know. And because it holds such a sway on our brains, it’s extremely difficult to quit.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is a leading cause of preventable death, with about 1,300 people in the US dying every day due to cigarette smoking or smoke exposure.

Which is why a team led by researchers from The Rockefeller University has been digging around brain chemistry to identify potential new drug targets that could help curb the addiction.

They focussed on two small brain regions located in the midbrain – the evolutionary older part of vertebrate brains, and one of the many brain features we share with mice.

These two interconnected regions – the medial habenula and the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN) – are known to be involved in drug dependence, and also contain the receptors that nicotine binds to once it enters the bloodstream and crosses into the brain.

[…]

Even though so far we only have seen these results in mice, we do share similar brain structures with these animals, so the researchers are confident we can learn something about human addiction here.

“What all of this tells us is that the habenula-IPN pathway is important for smoking in humans,” says Ibanez-Tallon.

Now that the researchers know where to look, they’ll be further investigating how to manipulate the Amigo1 neurons in order to discover new ways to target nicotine addiction.

The study has been published in PNAS.