Monthly Archives: April 2016

The dengerous of mercury

We all know the benefits of a daily dose of physical activity by now. Not only does exercise tone your body so you can wear your favorite jeans, it even helps with your memory. But when it comes to retaining new information, working out may not do much for people who were exposed to high levels of mercury before birth, according to a new study that was just published in thejournal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Most adults get exposed to some level of mercury through their diet, especially if they eat a lot of seafood. The metal often gets into water as a result of industrial pollution, and it makes its way up the food chain when fish eat plankton or smaller fish that are already contaminated. Because it accumulates this way, the United States Food and Drug Administration has set a limit on the amount of mercury (1 part per million) that cannot be exceeded in fish intended for human consumption.

Generally, two groups are more sensitive to the effects of mercury — tiny fetuses, and people who are regularly exposed to mercury. That’s because fetuses’ brains are still developing and methylmercury can easily cross their blood-brain barrier and kill neurons. But the long-term effects of mercury exposure once those fetuses grow up to become adults had not been well understood until now.

“We know that neurodevelopment is a delicate process that is especially sensitive to methylmercury and other environmental toxins, but we are still discovering the lifelong ripple effects of these exposures,” Gwen Collman, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Division of Extramural Research and Training said in a statement.

To see if exercise could help improve cognitive function in adults who had been exposed to mercury in the womb, scientists studied nearly 200 people from the Faroe Islands, where fish is a major component of the diet. The researchers kept track of the participants’ health from the time they were in the womb until they turned 22. At the age of 22, the volunteers also took part in a follow-up exam that tested how much they had been exercising by measuring their VO2 max — the rate at which they used oxygen — a statistic that increases with aerobic fitness. Then they did a series of cognitive tests to measure things like short term memory and verbal comprehension and the speed at which their brain processed information.

The researchers found that higher VO2 numbers were associated with better brain function. But participants with higher prenatal exposures did not experience cognitive improvements when their VO2 max and their fitness increased. Brain benefits were limited to those adults who had had levels of less than 35 micrograms per liter in their umbilical cord blood when they were fetuses.

“We know that aerobic exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but these findings suggest that early-life exposure to pollutants may reduce the potential benefits,” said Collman.

While this doesn’t mean that, if your mom ate a ton of tuna you should give up on exercising entirely, it certainly highlights that we should be even more cautious of the long-term effects of mercury exposure.

MEN SEXUAL DESIRE

They recruited 38 male participants who’d been diagnosed with disorders characterized by a lack of interest in sex. The researchers measured their baseline libido and testosterone, and then divided them into two groups: one got a 30-minute blast of 10,000 lux of white fluorescent light from a box fitted with an ultraviolet filter, immediately upon waking up. The control group got a placebo box with a much dimmer light.

Before the treatment, the men reported their sexual satisfaction at around two out of 10. After two weeks, those who received bright light treatments scored a three-fold increase in their sexual satisfaction, at around six out of 10. The placebo group reported a flaccid 2.7 after staring at their dimmer box.

Testosterone levels also went up, from 2.1 ng/ml to 3.6 ng/ml in the light-treatment group. This boost in testosterone is what jump started their sex lives. “In the Northern hemisphere, the body’s testosterone production naturally declines from November through April, and then rises steadily through the spring and summer with a peak in October,” the study’s lead scientist Andrea Fagiolini said in a press release. “You see the effect of this in reproductive rates, with the month of June showing the highest rate of conception. The use of the light box really mimics what nature does.”

The researchers note that light treatment could offer the benefits of injections or antidepressants typically used to treat lack of sexual desire, without the side effects of medications. But don’t get your pen lights out just yet–this isn’t tabloid, “One Weird Trick” information, but a small study showing potential for larger discussion. For both the more than 30 percent of men and 43 percent of women who experience some sort of sexual dysfunction, light therapy–shown to be helpful in depression and mood disorders–is at least worth a look. Bright light therapy has also shown potential for triggering ovulation in women, so let’s all move to Yuma?

BACTERIAL STDS

There’s little doubt Zika has become the infectious disease of 2016. Since the beginning of the year, public health officials have warned of the two routes of transmission. The first, mosquito bites, is fairly well known although in America has not yet become a major route of spread. The other route, sexual transmission, has become a major focus leading the CDC and other health authorities to sound the alarm.

While the spotlight on sexually transmitted Zika is important to raise awareness, it has distracted from other more prevalent infections. In particular, attention to bacterial causes of disease has waned and for the most part disappeared. Familiar names such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia continue to spread without much mention or concern.

While this action may not seem to have any relevance to the general public, one particular statement stands as an ominous outlook for the future. Antibiotic resistance is rising and in the case of gonorrhea, resistance to thelast line of defense has been seen. In other words, some strains of the bacterium can no longer be treated with these drugs.

The announcement is particularly important for Americans. In 2014, more than 350,000 people were diagnosed with gonorrhea. This represents a ten percent increase since 2010. Making this even more troublesome is the age of those most likely to be infected, namely teenagers and those in their early twenties. This suggests the bacterium is spreading in populations generally possessing fewer details on sexual health. Moreover, the potential for resistance to authority makes spreading awareness and recommendations less likely to succeed.

In terms of antibiotic resistance, over one-third of the isolates demonstrate resistance to more than one antibiotic. While the existence of pan-resistant strains has not been seen in the US, the threat is clear. Though there are no time estimates on the arrival of this particular type of gonorrhea, few will doubt it will be all that long if the rate of spread continues to climb.

Gonorrhea may signal the worst of the STDs but the World Health Organization included two other bacteria in the new guidelines. One is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection while the other is an old world pathogen resurging today. Like gonorrhea, they too are demonstrating a significant challenge due to increased spread and also the threat of resistance to treatment.

Chlamydia is a hard infection to track as most of the time there are no symptoms. But without treatment, the bacterium can grow and eventually cause significant pain in women. The bacterium can also be transferred to the fetus causing birth defects and pneumonia. It’s one of the reasons why annual screening is important.

In America, more than 1.4 million infections are diagnosed each year. This is over 2.5 times higher than it was just twenty years ago. The rise has meant a greater need for antibiotic treatment and unfortunately, an increase in resistance. While the WHO suggests only a few cases of resistance have been identified in humans, in animals, resistant strains are increasing in prevalence. This means caution is needed to be sure treatment is effective and does not inadvertently lead to troubles.

In contrast to chlamydia, syphilis is well known and is easy to spot. The development of bumps and sores is a telltale sign and should be investigated. However, the real trouble arises later when the bacterium spreads throughout the body. The body becomes covered in a rash, the eyes can be affected, and eventually, the brain may suffer, leading to dementia.

The disease was a scourge centuries ago and in America, was a significant concern in the early 1990s as more than 100,000 people were infected each year. That dropped by almost two-thirds by the turn of the 21st century. However, the bacterium is on the rise again and now affects over 63,000 people per year. This is troubling as the rise suggests a greater risk for infection and also for resistance.

At the moment, there is an effective antibiotic treatment for syphilis. However, there is a shortage of this particular drug in America leaving medical professionals with the need to find alternate options. Thankfully, at the moment, resistance has only been observed against one particular antibiotic type called a macrolide. Yet the potential for wider resistance patterns exists and as such, proper treatment is essential.

The state of STDs in America is without a doubt worsening. Yet, as with many infectious diseases, these three are all preventable. All one needs to do is become aware of the means to safer sex and then follow through on these recommendations. Based on the data at hand, those under 25 years of age are most at risk and need to be sure to stay safe. Figuring out how to convince them to click, read, and heed, however, may be more difficult than dealing with antibiotic resistance.