• Marijuana Causes Schizophrenia and Heart Attacks

    Marijuana Causes Schizophrenia and Heart Attacks

    Two new studies showed that marijuana causes schizophrenia and heart stacks. Marijuana use has been increasing significantly in the general population since the 1990’s. Initially many believed that marijuana would be harmless. But increasingly there are medical publications showing the opposite. In the following … [Read More...]

  • World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

    World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

    A CNN article points out that world suicide prevention day is on September 10. Some statistics regarding suicides According to the WHO more than 700,000 People die from suicide every year. In the US suicide rates have risen between 1999 and 2018. President Joe Biden stated: "In 2019, suicide was the 10th … [Read More...]

  • Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

    Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

    A study followed younger patients for 32 years looking for the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. The researchers determined the heart attack and stroke rates when the participants were in their 50’s to 60’s. When on a plant-based diet cardiovascular disease rates fell by 52% … [Read More...]

  • When Stress Becomes Abnormal

    When Stress Becomes Abnormal

    Recently CNN published an article that dealt about when stress becomes abnormal. We all have experienced stress. It makes our heart beat faster and our breathing speeds up as well. But when the stressful situation is over, stress usually subsides also. Some people though have so much stress in their lives that … [Read More...]

  • A New Disease, Long Covid

    A New Disease, Long Covid

    Some of the Covid cases do not resolve; this created a new disease, long Covid. The German news magazine “Der Stern” described this in detail. I summarized this in  English here. The English literature also mentions long Covid. Certainly, physicians learnt from observing the course of many Covid-19 cases. It is … [Read More...]

  • Extreme Heat and Heat-Related Deaths

    Extreme Heat and Heat Related Deaths

    Extreme heat and heat related deaths are closely linked. A record heat wave hit the North West of the US and British Columbia in late June/early July. Many people died from heat stroke and from cardiovascular problems. Here I like to review the medical literature regarding extreme heat and heat related deaths. Also, … [Read More...]

    Oct
    16
    2021

    Marijuana Causes Schizophrenia and Heart Attacks

    Two new studies showed that marijuana causes schizophrenia and heart stacks. Marijuana use has been increasing significantly in the general population since the 1990’s. Initially many believed that marijuana would be harmless. But increasingly there are medical publications showing the opposite.

    In the following I present data how the use of marijuana causes these two documented side effects, heart attacks and schizophrenia.

    Schizophrenia increased since the 1990’s

    A July 21, 2021 study from Denmark included all people of Denmark who were older than age 16 from January 1, 1972 to Dec. 31, 2016. The number of participants were 3 ,595 ,910 women (50.0%) and 3 ,590 ,924 men (50.0%). The total number of individuals in the study were 7,186 ,834.

    Here are the figures of the percentages of cannabis related schizophrenia cases in Denmark according to the study:

    • 1995: 2% of all schizophrenia cases related to cannabis use in Denmark
    • 2000: 4% of schizophrenia cases due to cannabis use
    • 2010: 8% of all schizophrenia cases from cannabis use

    The researchers found that the risk of coming down with schizophrenia heightens with increased cannabis use. Heavy users are more likely to develop schizophrenia than light users.

    Cannabis use disorder

    One subgroup of cannabis users are people with a cannabis use disorder. They use cannabis, but they become tolerant to it. This requires a higher dose of cannabis to achieve satisfaction. But they are unable to reduce cannabis. They spend more and more time to obtain cannabis, use it and recover from the effect. They give up other activities in favor or cannabis and they continue the use despite negative consequences. Researchers found that this group of individuals had the highest risk to develop schizophrenia. The authors of the Danish study found that patients with cannabis use disorder over the past 2 decades have increased their risk for developing schizophrenia by 3- to 4-fold. They feel it is because of the increase in use and the increase in potency of cannabis.

    Heart attacks increased with cannabis use

    A Canadian study assessed a cross-sectional study of 2017 and 2018.

    The study in question was the American Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey of US adults. The authors zeroed into young adults (aged 18–44 yr.) with recent cannabis use and a history of a heart attack. Among 33,173 young adults there were 4,610 respondents with recent cannabis use (17.5%). 61 respondents among the recent cannabis users reported that they had a heart attack, which is 1.2%. In comparison non-cannabis users had a heart attack rate of only 0.8%. The adjusted odds ratio for cannabis users compared to non-users was 2.07. This means that the probability of getting a heart attack when using cannabis was 2.07-fold higher when compared to non-users. Also, the investigators found that a history of a heart attack had a probability of being due to cannabis use with a probability of 2.31-fold.

    Cannabinoid receptors

    Researchers found endogenous cannabinoids in the brain that function as messenger molecules. They need to activate their targets, the cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found mainly in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are located mainly in the immune system. Reproductive organs have their own cannabinoid receptors. The lining of the uterus contains only CB1 receptors. Ovaries and testicles both use CB1 and CB2 receptors. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from smoking or ingesting marijuana is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. It stimulates these cannabinoid receptors also. But compared to the body’s own cannabinoids THC is much stronger. This leads to more pronounced effects that concern many physicians.

    The overwhelming response of the cannabinoid receptors to THC leads to a blunting of the signals of the body’s own cannabinoids. This causes a breakdown in communication between neurons and body cells.

    Marijuana Causes Schizophrenia and Heart Attacks

    Marijuana Causes Schizophrenia and Heart Attacks

    Conclusion re. marijuana causes schizophrenia and heart attacks

    Legislators in Canada and many of the states in the US legalized the use of marijuana. As a result, the cannabis use in the younger age group of adults (between 18 to 44 years) has increased significantly. This means that more and more people are exposed to THC from cannabis, which overstimulates the body’s own endocannabinoid system. As explained this leads to a breakdown of communication between neurons and body cells. In time diseases like heart attacks and schizophrenia can develop, a fact overlooked by the media and the public. The overuse of marijuana leads to more than a 2-fold risk to get a heart attack and a 3- to 4-fold risk of coming down with schizophrenia. These are the facts right now. But with further increased use of cannabis researchers will likely find many other diseases that THC can trigger.

    Sep
    19
    2021

    World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

    A CNN article points out that world suicide prevention day is on September 10.

    Some statistics regarding suicides

    According to the WHO more than 700,000 People die from suicide every year.

    In the US suicide rates have risen between 1999 and 2018. President Joe Biden stated: “In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 34.”

    This was further underlined by a study from the CDC. It pointed out the emergency room visits started to climb in May 2020 for attempted suicide in youth. The CDC stated: “The mean weekly number of these visits was 26.2% higher during summer 2020 and 50.6% higher during winter 2021 compared with the corresponding periods in 2019”.

    Triggering factors that make people commit suicide

    Suicidal thoughts start when a vulnerable person encounters stressful events. The life situation can become so painful that in their way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. There are huge differences of opinions: what may be meaningless to one person, may feel devastating to another.

    Common triggering factors are as follows.

    • Illness and physical discomfort
    • Conflicts with family or friends
    • Illness of family members
    • Death of family member or friend
    • Loneliness

    In a study 50% expressed two of these 5 triggers, 37.5% expressed one of the 5 triggers. 12.5% expressed three of the 5 triggers.

    With the Covid-19 epidemic there are new pressures on people. They cannot freely move around or travel. He/she may have lost a friend or relative to Covid. And people may be anxious about their own survival. I described this here before.

    Biochemical changes in the brain with depression

    In the past low serotonin levels in the brain were thought to be the main cause of depression. But researchers realized later those medications that increased serotonin levels did not always help depression. They found that dopamine and norepinephrine are also important brain transmitters that play a role in depression. When dopamine levels are low, depression occurs. Similarly, when norepinephrine is low, the patient can develop depression. On the other hand, in bipolar disorder the brain produces too much norepinephrine, which causes manic episodes. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-chemistry-of-depression-1065137 The physician needs to take a thorough history and note from that which brain transmitter system would be mainly affected. This helps the physician later to decide which antidepressant to choose from to rebalance the brain transmitters.

    How to detect stress signals

    There are a number of risk factors, which the CDC has outlined, for which the health professional or a family member wants to look in order to assess the suicide risk.

    Does the patient have a history?

    People with a mood or anxiety disorder, or with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder are at a higher risk of developing depression and suicide.

    Did the person experience a loss?

    A loss can be a death in the family, a loss of a job or the loss of an important person in a relationship. This is particularly bad when there is social isolation and a lack of support. With Covid-19 millions of people have suffered the loss of a job, social isolation and having to quarantine.

    Is it easy for the distressed person to get a gun?

    Firearms are a common means for people to kill themselves. When there is easy access to a gun, there is a high probability that the person uses it in times of distress.

    History of previous suicide attempt

    When a person attempted to commit suicide, but failed, there is a higher risk for them to repeat a suicide attempt and succeed. Also, there is a copycat phenomenon when the news comes out that a famous personality committed suicide. For instance, when the comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014 there was a 10% rise in suicides in the following months all over the US.

    Belief system that honours personal sacrifice

    Some religious or cultural groups consider suicide a noble solution to a personal dilemma.

    A person from this background is at a much higher risk to commit suicide.

    Warning signs of pending suicide attempt

    There are a number warning signs that point to a higher risk of possibly planning suicide.

    • A person may talk about wanting to die or kill themselves.
    • Searching online for ways to kill oneself or buying a gun.
    • Feeling trapped or feeling unbearable pain.
    • Talking about feeling hopeless and having no reason to live.
    • Stating that they feel they are a burden to others.
    • Drinking more alcohol and using more drugs.
    • Acting agitated or anxious. Reckless behavior.
    • A person withdrawing or isolating themselves.
    • A person sleeping too much or too little.
    • Extreme mood swings.
    • Talking about seeking revenge or showing rage.

    These are all red flags that should alarm you to ask for help. Not all of these alarm signs are present all the time with people who are considering to attempt suicide. When you have suicidal thoughts in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. For Spanish crisis support call: 888-628-9454.

    World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

    World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

    Conclusion

    World suicide prevention day is on September 10. This reminds us every year that suicide is a colossal problem of society. Stress, loss of health, losing a loved one, a broken marriage and financial loss can all contribute to depression. If patients with mental distress do not receive timely intervention and treatment, the life situation can become so painful that in the patient’s way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. The key is for the loved ones in the circle of friends to pay attention to the warning signs and bring the suicidal person to the attention of the psychiatric health professionals. Sometimes an in-patient admission to a psychiatric facility may be required to interrupt the negative thinking pattern. Ignoring the warning signs can have devastating consequences. Prevention is the only way to avoid suicide.

    Sep
    04
    2021

    Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

    A study followed younger patients for 32 years looking for the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. The researchers determined the heart attack and stroke rates when the participants were in their 50’s to 60’s. When on a plant-based diet cardiovascular disease rates fell by 52% compared to a control group with a meat containing diet. One subgroup changed the diet from a regular diet to a plant-based diet over 13 years. This reduced the risk ratio by 61% for heart attacks and strokes when assessed later.

    Details of this study

    There were 4946 adults as participants of this 32-year study. They were recruited in 1985 and 1986, at which time none of them had cardiovascular disease. The study completed in 2018. The results were published on Aug. 4, 2021. The researchers assessed the plant-centered diet quality using a tool with the name “A Priori Diet Quality Score” (APDQS). The higher the score, the higher the quality of the food. This means the person consumed nutritionally rich plant foods, limited amounts of high-fat meat products and less healthy plant foods.

    Although a plant-rich diet consisted primarily of nutritionally rich plant foods, small amounts of animal products were also allowed. This involved low-fat dairy products, non fried poultry and steamed or grilled fish. This made the diet tastier and ensured that people would stick to this diet for decades.

    Improvements of heart attack rates with plant-centered diet

    After 32 years 289 cases of cardiovascular disease developed. The researchers compared participants with the highest food quintile to participants with the lowest food quintile. As mentioned, the risk for participants on a plant-based diet was 52% lower to get a cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a subgroup changed from a higher risk (fatter meals, meat, less vegetables) diet to a lower risk diet (lean fat, lean poultry, vegetables). Physicians followed this subgroup for 13 years and the risk ratio for heart attacks and strokes fell by 61%.

    Comparison to other diet studies

    There are other studies that looked at the effect of diet changes on the risk of developing heart disease. One such study examined 86 cross-sectional studies and 10 prospective studies in a meta-analysis. Vegetarian diets reduced deaths from heart attacks by 25% and brought down the incidence of total cancer rates by 8%. A vegan diet reduced the risk of total cancer by 15%.

    In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. The question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with 12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

    Another study from Spain

    Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

    What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

    Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

    The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

    More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

    An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

    As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which otherwise increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that there is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

    No processed food means healthier living

    The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

    Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means that the limit is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. After dinner go for a walk!

    Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

    In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

    A 2012 study from Spain has found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

    How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

    Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil increases the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles have the name HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles. This cleans out plaques from arteries more effectively than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

    Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

    Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

    Conclusion

    Several large, well-controlled studies showed that there are pronounced effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. Heart attack rates and mortality rates were reduced by 25% to 73% on a Vegan diet or a Mediterranean diet. When people combine a plant-centered diet with regular physical exercise they also live longer. One of the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil. It contains polyphenols that lower total and LDL cholesterol. It also increases the larger particles of HDL cholesterol with the name HDL2. HDL2 is more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL cholesterol from arterial plaques.

    What you can eat on a plant-centered diet

    A plant-centered diet incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Instead of large portions of beef and sausages shift to seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines), walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed. The statistics clearly showed the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife with a reduction of heart attacks and mortality.

    Some of the text above was published previously here.

    Aug
    21
    2021

    When Stress Becomes Abnormal

    Recently CNN published an article that dealt about when stress becomes abnormal.

    We all have experienced stress. It makes our heart beat faster and our breathing speeds up as well. But when the stressful situation is over, stress usually subsides also. Some people though have so much stress in their lives that they never completely recover from any stressful situation. They develop chronic stress, which can lead to physical illnesses or mental disease. I have previously written about “stress drives our lives”. In the following I am reprinting the next 5 paragraphs.

    Heart attacks and strokes when stress becomes abnormal

    In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for an average time of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There was a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours in comparison to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. Researchers noted a dose-response curve for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

    Stress drives some of us to substance abuse

    In order to cope with stress many of us “treat” daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

    Next, many people still smoke, although scientists have proven long time ago that it is bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

    Overeating is another common problem. Comfort food relieves stress, but it causes us to put on extra pounds. As you know it is easier to put weight on than to take it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This can lead to further deterioration of your health.

    Diabetes can occur when stress becomes abnormal

    Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition, unhealthy eating habits in an attempt to cope with stress can cause weight gain. Insulin resistance causes high blood sugars and diabetes.

    Korean immigrant study

    In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. They had an elevated waist/hip ratio.

    A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless. It is easy to see the connection between stress and disease!

    Australian study showed that anxiety can cause diabetes

    An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

    A 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder had a 1.53-fold risk to cause diabetes. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

    Infertility may develop when stress becomes abnormal

    Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Physicians identified stress as at least one of  the contributing factors. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

    Alzheimer’s disease and stress

    2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

    Psychologists assessed the stress score in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. Women who had stress on one, two or three examinations suffered from higher dementia rates later in life. Researchers compared this to a group of women who did not have any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after three stressful episodes.

    Hormone system affected by stress

    I have written an article before about how stress affects our hormone system.

    I am reprinting excerpts from this here (the next 4 paragraphs).

    Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk about how stress affects our hormone system. He presented his talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Understanding the Stress, Thyroid, Hormone Connections & Prioritizing Systems”.

    Dr. Heyman emphasized in particular that there is a triad of hormonal connections that is important to remember: the thyroid hormones, the stress hormones (adrenal glands) and the pancreas (insulin production). It seems like we need a balance of these hormones for optimal energy production and circulation. Under stress our sugar metabolism can markedly derail, we develop obesity and fatigue. But when balanced, we experience vitality and wellbeing.

    Metabolic activation pathways

    Dr. Heyman projected a slide that showed the metabolic activation pathways. Likewise, he stated that a number of different factors could influence the hormone system:

    • Diet: trans fats, sugar, too many carbs, food allergies.
    • Drugs: drug-induced nutrient depletion (over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs).
    • Physical exercise: frequency and type matters.
    • Environmental exposure: chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, molds, and pollens.
    • Stress: physical stress, psychogenic stress.
    • Genetics: methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase enzyme deficiency (MTHFR mutation), APOE genes, lack of vitamin D
    • Disease: past or present conditions, active disease or syndromes.

    Target areas within your system

    The target areas in your system are the

    • Pancreas, where blood sugar can rise because of insulin resistance. In particular, too much insulin production causes inflammation, hormone disbalances, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries through plaque formation.
    • Thyroid gland, which depends on TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) for activation. Autoantibodies can also affect it negatively.
    • Brain: decrease in serotonin resulting in anxiety, depression and food cravings; decreased melatonin causing sleep disturbances; increased ghrelin and decreased leptin secretion leading to overeating and obesity.

    Other target areas of stress

    • Liver/kidneys: both of these organs are important for detoxification; the liver produces thyroid binding globulin, which when increased can lower the free thyroid hormones.
    • Immune system (gut, lymph glands): the Peyer’s patches in the gut mucosa produce a large portion of the immune cells; lymph glands, the bone marrow and the spleen supply the rest. A leaky gut syndrome can affect the whole body, in addition causing inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
    • Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands: this is the main axis of the stress reaction. A brain under stress activates the hypothalamus. It sends a cascade of activating hormones via the pituitary gland and likewise activates the adrenal glands. Finally, this leads to cortisol overproduction, and release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the center of the adrenal glands. High blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and more can finally develop from this.

    Treatment suggestions to cope with stress

    There are thyroid supplements that can support the function of the thyroid gland. Similarly, there are several supplements to support the adrenal glands.
    Chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil and others are useful to support the pancreas. Relaxation methods like self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi and others are very useful to counter stress. If you can change your job to evade stress, take the opportunity and find another job with less stress. See a health professional and discuss what you can do to become more stress-resistant. If you are overweight or obese, see a dietitian to help you lose weight. Aerobic exercises like running for 30 minutes on a treadmill can help reduce stress. Various relaxation methods mentioned earlier also can counter stress. They help you to block out worrying about the past and the future, but instead focus on what is positive in the present.

    When Stress Becomes Abnormal

    When Stress Becomes Abnormal

    Conclusion

    I have described what stress can do to your body. It can give you heart attacks and strokes. Stress in some people can lead to substance abuse. It can cause diabetes, infertility and even Alzheimer’s disease. I described how thyroid hormones, insulin and brain hormones are interconnected and suffer with stress. Other factors can make the effects of stress worse or better as I discussed in detail. Treatment of stress-induced conditions requires a combination of preventative steps and medical therapies. Ignoring stress is not an option as this could lead to premature death. Managing stress, as mentioned before, and keeping it to a minimum is the answer.

    Aug
    07
    2021

    A New Disease, Long Covid

    Some of the Covid cases do not resolve; this created a new disease, long Covid. The German news magazine “Der Stern” described this in detail. I summarized this in  English here. The English literature also mentions long Covid. Certainly, physicians learnt from observing the course of many Covid-19 cases. It is important to realize that they did not all heal. Some of them seemed to resolve, but then they reoccurred. Other patients suffer from ongoing exhaustion, shortness of breath, tiredness and pains.

    When do physicians diagnose long Covid?

    If symptoms of Covid-19 do not resolve within 4 weeks after the beginning, physicians diagnose this condition as long Covid. Different subtypes exist.

    • Persistent symptomatic Covid-19: Covid-19 symptoms persist between 4 and 12 weeks from the beginning of Covid-19.
    • Post Covid-19 syndrome: After more than 12 weeks the patient still has Covid-19 symptoms.
    • Long Covid: when a patient develops new Covid-19 symptoms or still has symptoms beyond 4 weeks after Covid-19 physicians diagnose the patient with long Covid.

    Who is getting long Covid?

    A longitudinal study showed that about 1 in 10 Covid-19 cases can turn into long Covid. In some cases, this can develop out of relatively benign courses of Covid-19 cases. In other cases, a severe Covid-19 case can develop into long Covid. Notably, a research study identified risk major factors for developing long Covid. They found that increasing age, an increased body mass index and female sex were risk factors for developing long Covid. Persistent symptoms of headaches, fatigue, difficulties to breathe and a loss of smell characterize the presence of long Covid. Another criterion was whether a person had to be treated in an ICU setting during the acute phase of Covid-19. These people are at a higher risk to develop long Covid at a later time.

    Long Covid symptoms

    The most common symptoms of long Covid are tiredness, headaches, problems breathing, concentrating and circulation problems. But fast heart beats, sleeping disorders, chronic pains and hypersensitivity to light and sound are also part of the symptom complex. Researchers found that in 70% of patients with long Covid one or more organs were damaged by the virus. All the affected organs had ACE2 cell receptors. Many patients with long Covid have lung problems.

    Pre-existing lung problems

    According to one review it was mainly patients with pre-existing lung problems, older patients or patients who had other pre-existing health problems who developed lung complications. 3-5% of long Covid patients can also develop heart problems. Most patients have reduced pumping capacity, heart muscle inflammation, pericardial inflammation or scarred heart tissue. One symptom is very common: fatigue, which is a state of persistent tiredness, exhaustion and listlessness that cannot be managed with sleep. These are the symptoms of a new disease, long Covid.

    Treatment possibilities for long Covid patients

    The therapy is based on the symptoms. A guideline on post/long Covid, which was recently published jointly by several professional societies, states that there is still no scientifically reliable evidence for a specific therapy. The guideline lists diagnostic recommendations as well as therapy options for various symptoms such as fatigue, olfactory disorders, cardiological, neurological and psychiatric aspects.

    Oxygen therapy

    The researchers are currently working on a variety of different treatment approaches. Oxygen therapy is one of them. Hyperbaric oxygen tanks are used for this. Patients breathe pure oxygen in these tanks for about two hours a day for several weeks. The first patients treated with this oxygen therapy have reported positive effects according to Dr. Ullrich Siekmann in Aachen, Germany. Further studies, however, are required to confirm these preliminary investigations.

    Blood washing or HELP apheresis

    Doctors see another possibility of treatment in blood washing. With the so-called “HELP apheresis“, the blood is freed from harmful substances in a similar way to dialysis in kidney failure patients. Blood washing is already in use for people who have had strokes or heart attacks and where other medicines do not help. Researchers used this procedure also for long Covid patients.

    Supplements that may help

    According to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a board-certified internist, these supplements may be helpful: N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), glutathione, CuraMed (a curcumin supplement), and omega-3 supplementation. These supplements treat chronic inflammation.

    A New Disease, Long Covid

    A New Disease, Long Covid

    Conclusion

    Long Covid is a sub-category of Covid-19 in patients whose symptoms do not resolve. This is subject to intensive research, which I summarized here. These patients have characteristic symptoms. Newer treatment options seem to consist of pressurized oxygen therapy and of blood washing with the name of “HELP apheresis”. Certain supplements that are anti-inflammatory may also be of benefit. Despite these new efforts this leaves many patients with organ damage and continuing chronic symptoms.

    Jul
    10
    2021

    Extreme Heat and Heat Related Deaths

    Extreme heat and heat related deaths are closely linked. A record heat wave hit the North West of the US and British Columbia in late June/early July. Many people died from heat stroke and from cardiovascular problems. Here I like to review the medical literature regarding extreme heat and heat related deaths. Also, why is it important to cool down? Much of what I like to communicate was published in a review article by CNN. But I also reviewed many other websites and added links below.

    How does global warming contribute to the summer heat?

    There are a few explanations how global warming drives the heat in summer even higher.  Essentially, what weather experts are saying is that the jet stream can get stuck in one place during a summer heat wave and the heat keeps getting more intense. Global warming is responsible for heat waves that are higher than in the past. Conversely, in winter global warming can produce cold waves that are colder than in previous years.

    Why is extreme heat dangerous for us?

    According to the CDC between 2004 and 2018 an average of about 700 Americans died from heat-related causes. The majority of deaths occurred between May and September. There are a number of observations that explain why more people die during a heat wave.

    In 2006 there were widespread heat waves and as a result there was a peak in heat related deaths.

    • When people have pre-existing cardiovascular disease, this gets aggravated during a heat wave and the death rate from cardiovascular disease increases during a heat wave. About 25% of heat related deaths are due to an underlying cardiovascular disease.
    • Age by itself plays a big role in heat related deaths. People above the age of 65 are several times more likely to die from a heat related cardiovascular disease than the general population.

         Under reporting of heat related deaths

    • Many times, it is not clear whether a death is due to a medical condition or due to exposure to heat. A death certificate that reports a heart attack as the cause of death during a heat wave will be missed when statisticians attempt to get a number for heat related deaths after a heat wave.

    Medical causes why extreme heat and heat related deaths are linked

    Our body is used to an inside temperature range between 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 to 37.2 degrees Celsius). The body can compensate in two ways to counter a rise of the body temperature from heat exposure.

    1. When the brain senses a rise in body temperature, the sweat glands open up and sweat is produced. The evaporating sweat cools down the body temperature.
    2. The body has a second coping mechanism to cool you down. The body can dilate its blood vessels and increase the heart rate. This brings the blood more to the surface. This is when your forehead and the extremities give off heat and you lower your body temperature.
    3. But with exposure to extreme high temperatures both of these mechanisms are not enough to decrease your core temperature.

    Avoiding heat-related illness

    • The Mayo Clinic link explains that it is important to drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration. This helps with the second coping mechanism mentioned that cools you down (see above).
    • When the outside temperature rises beyond 86 degrees Fahrenheit (=30 degrees Celsius) it is wise to stay inside air-conditioned premises. This could be your house, if you have air-conditioning, an air-conditioned mall or a public building. A cool pool, bathtub, or cold cloths applied to your arms, legs and torso cool you down as well. Otherwise, intermittent cold showers or cold baths will do the same.

    Health conditions that are a higher risk for heat related deaths

    The population group at higher risk for developing heat-related illness and eventual deaths are infants and children up to age 4. In addition, anybody older than 65 years is also at risk. Pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung disease (COPD) increase the risk of dying from excessive heat exposure. Being overweight or obese is also a risk factor. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are conditions that require hospitalization.

    Common heat-related symptoms

    Symptoms of heat exhaustion are: profuse sweating, a pulse that is fast and weak, clammy skin, vomiting and nausea. In addition, there can be cramps in muscles, weakness, tiredness, dizziness, headaches and fainting.

    Symptoms of heat stroke are: high fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (= 40 degrees Celsius) or higher. Take the temperature with a rectal thermometer to get the core temperature. Other symptoms of heat stroke are altered mental state (confusion, agitation, delirium and seizures). Further, the skin may turn red as the temperature increases, and there may be rapid and shallow breathing. The heartbeat races and the head may throb from a severe headache. Both patients with heat exhaustion and heat stroke need hospital care. Call an ambulance.

    Extreme Heat and Heat-Related Deaths

    Extreme Heat and Heat Related Deaths

    Conclusion

    We have to take extreme heat and heat related deaths seriously. Only when we employ counter measures will the death toll from heat related deaths go down. Prevention is everything. But if a person develops heat exhaustion and heat stroke swift transportation to a hospital is a must. This can often save a life. We all need adopt an awareness what our risks are regarding heat and heat related deaths. We need to apply early countermeasures by getting into cooler areas and by drinking enough fluids to prevent dehydration. Prevention is everything regarding extreme heat and heat related deaths.

    Jun
    26
    2021

    Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

    A British study concluded that being a morning person can prevent depression. It was reviewed also in CNN. The study used sleep data from 85,000 UK participants in the Great Britain Biobank Study. They wore wrist activity monitors that provided sleep data. Researchers compared the sleep data with the self-reported mood changes. They found that if the sleep pattern is misaligned with the circadian rhythm, those who are night owls are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders. The controls were those who were morning persons. They were not affected by the misalignment effect.

    Normal sleep pattern

    Natural sleep habit or the circadian rhythm starts between 10 PM and 11 PM and continues for 7 to 8 hours. Your hormones are replenished during your sleep. This helps your body’s hormones and the immune system to restore itself overnight.

    “The health problems associated with being a night owl are likely a result of being a night owl living in a morning person’s world, which leads to disruption in their body’s circadian rhythms”. This is what sleep specialist Kristen Knutson said. She is an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

    Reclaim your natural sleep habit

    The key is to learn to live within your circadian rhythm pattern. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and will stop you from falling asleep. For this reason, it is best to avoid caffeine-containing beverages. If you cannot live without your favourite cup of java, switch to the decaffeinated version. Stop using LED lights (from TV, computers, tablets or smartphones) 2 hours prior to your bedtime. Use dark curtains and enjoy a comfortable bed. Maybe read that thriller, earlier in the day instead of making it your bedtime story. And do yourself a favour: you do not need the eleven o’clock news on TV!  They will probably stop you from falling asleep. Go to sleep between 10PM and 11PM.

    Children can have problems with sleep disturbances and depression

    Another study published March 22, 2021 in the Jama Network showed that depression had an association with sleep disturbances in youth and children.

    A meta-analysis of 16 publications looked at depression and disturbed sleep. It showed that depression was 1.5-fold higher in sleep disturbed youths/children compared to controls with a normal sleep pattern.

    Other studies re. being a morning person can prevent depression

    Another study with Dr. Knutson as the lead author appeared in 2018. The authors found that various health conditions, mood disorders and mortality were on the increase the more the sleep rhythm deviated from the circadian rhythm. Morning persons were protected from this effect. But night shift workers and night owls were at a higher risk of disease. Specifically, they found the following associations for evening types.

    • Evening types compared to morning types had a 1.94-fold risk of psychological disorders
    • The risk of diabetes was 1.30-fold for evening types
    • Neurological disorders had a 1.25-fold risk in evening types
    • Gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders occurred 1.23-fold more often in evening types
    • respiratory disorders were 1.22-fold more common in evening types
    • Evening types had a 10% increased risk of all-cause mortality

    The researchers concluded that externally imposed timing of work and social activities has potentially serious health consequences.

    Circadian misalignment responsible for disease

    Dr. Knutson also said: “Circadian misalignment could also lead to inadequate sleep duration and quality, which could also impair mood and exacerbate mood disorders.”

    In other words, circadian misalignment to circadian rhythm problems. This can cause mood disturbances, but eventually lead to the diseases listed above.

    Evidence of health risks in night shifts workers

    The medical literature is full of examples that the health of night shift workers is significantly affected by circadian misalignment. Here are a few examples.

    1.Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts workers. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.

    2.This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Researchers compared blood tests from daytime workers to blood tests from night shift workers. They also obtained inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

    Higher mortality and higher cancer risk in nighttime workers

    3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.

    4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.

    5.In a study from China 25,377 participants were part of a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work in this study showed no effect with regard to cancer development.

    Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

    It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep.

    One example of such a study comes from Milan, Italy. https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2/A480.1

    In this 2018 study researchers compared 46 nurses who had worked in night shifts with 51 nurses working day shifts. Among the night shift workers breast cancer was common, but not among day workers.

    Shortened telomeres, hypomethylation of BRC1 gene and p53 gene

    In the night shift nurses from Milan there was hypomethylation of the breast cancer gene BRC1. There was also hypomethylation of the general cancer gene p53. At the same time significant telomere shortening occurred in night shift nurses who had worked night shifts for more than 15 years. This likely all worked together in causing night nurses to develop breast cancer more frequently.

    Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10PM and 11PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Night owls delay going to sleep by 2 to 3 hours.

    Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

    Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression (click image to enlarge)

    Conclusion

    A publication in Molecular Psychiatry demonstrated that evening person (night owls) are more likely to develop depression. This is in comparison to morning persons. As discussed, other researchers showed that evening persons also can develop diabetes and neurological disorders. In addition, respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal disorders are more common in night owls as well. When it comes to mortality, evening persons have a 10% increase of mortality over morning persons. There is a large body of literature regarding diseases of night shift workers. Night Shift work is perhaps the most extreme example of a circadian misalignment. It leads to poor sleep, inflammation in the body, increased cancer risk and higher mortality compared to day shift workers.

    Prevent telomere shortening

    Even the telomeres get shortened in night owls and night shift workers. We can prevent problems like these by going to bed in time and sleeping according to our circadian rhythm. If you had a poor night’s sleep, make up for it with the help of an afternoon nap. Do not sleep all afternoon though; half an hour or one hour will be enough. Even a short, restful nap after coming home from work can restore your feeling of wellness.

    Jun
    12
    2021

    Plant-Based Diet Pill that Helps with Weight Loss

    Friday, May 28, 2021 was chosen to be the official release for a plant-based diet pill that helps with weight loss. The name is OxiTrim and the company that promotes the sale is the Applied Scientific Research Center in Colorado.

    Analysis of the claims of weight loss

    The two effective ingredients in OxiTrim are the herbs, Sphaeranthus indicus and Garcinia mangostana. The weight loss effect of OxiTrim is based on two medical studies, one in 2013 and one in 2016 (see below). It was done to prove the effectiveness of a previously released weight loss supplement with the name of Meratrim.

    Both of these herbs were previously found to be effective with regard to weight loss. Sphaeranthus indicus has many pharmacological properties. Among them was a lipid lowering effect as it decreased the serum total cholesterol, triglyceride, LDL and VLDL significantly, but not HDL cholesterol. It also had an anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effectGarcinia mangostana is another herb with medicinal properties. The main effect is an anti-inflammatory action. Various xanthones were isolated from the herb with the pharmacological properties of the plant. The researchers did not mention weight loss regarding the tests on the herb alone.

    Study regarding the effectiveness of Meratrim

    The original study to prove that Meratrim was effective, was published in May of 2013. 60 obese patients with a body mass index of between 30 and 40 entered the study. Half of the participants received 400 mg of the herbal supplements twice per day. The other half received an identical looking placebo twice per day. Both groups ate a diet with 2000 kcal per day. The placebo group and the experimental group both also walked 30 minutes per day 5 times per week.

    Here are the results of the 8-week clinical trial

    Weight loss: 3.74 kg for the experimental group vs. 1.61 for the placebo group.
    Waist circumference: There was a 5.44 cm bigger reduction of the waist circumference of the herbal group vs. the placebo group. The researchers concluded that there was a significantly greater weight and waist circumference loss in the herbal experimental group vs. the placebo group.

    Other study showing the effectiveness of Meratrim

    The second study was published on Aug 24, 2016 and consisted of 60 participants initially. 57 of them completed the study, which went on for 16 weeks. The mean BMI was 28.3 kg/m2 at the beginning of the study.

    The diet and exercise conditions were the same as in the 2013 study. Both groups ate a diet with 2000 kcal per day. The placebo group and the experimental group both also walked 30 minutes per day 5 times per week. The experimental group received 400 mg of Meratrim twice per day. The placebo group received 400 mg of an identical looking placebo pill twice per day. The results of this study were as follows.

    Body weight reduction

    5.09 kg for the experimental group vs. 1.1 kg for the placebo group.

    Reduction of BMI

    1.91 for the Meratrim group versus 0.43 for the placebo group.

    Waist reduction

    9.97 cm for the experimental group vs. 3.71 cm for the placebo group.

    Hip circumference reduction

    10.38 cm in the Meratrim group vs. 5.11 cm for the placebo group.

    Effect of Meratrim on blood values

    There were also significant reductions of the LDL cholesterol, the total cholesterol and the triglycerides as follows. Serum LDL showed a reduction of 14.79 mg/dL vs. 6.25 mg/dL for the placebo group.  The total cholesterol showed a reduction of 20.0 mg/dL vs. an increase of 0.75 mg/dL for the placebo group. Triglycerides had a reduction of 43.62 mg/dL vs. a reduction of 13.68 for the placebo group. The researchers did not find any adverse effects of the supplement during the study. The researchers concluded that Meratrim is a well-tolerated supplement. It also is an effective weight control supplement for healthy overweight people. I discussed in the past that fat metabolizes into water with weight loss.

    OxiTrim versus Meratrim

    The active ingredients of OxiTrim are the same as for Meratrim. But OxiTrim contains inactive ingredients like Ashwagandha and vitamin D3 in addition. Researchers never tested OxiTrim scientifically. On the other hand, Meratrim has undergone at least two clinical tests as described above. One included obese people and the second one overweight people.

    Plant-Based Diet Pill that Helps with Weight Loss

    Plant-Based Diet Pill that Helps with Weight Loss

    Conclusion regarding plant-based diet pill that helps with weight loss

    The Applied Scientific Research Center in Colorado is marketing a “novel” diet pill, OxiTrim for weight loss. However, the active ingredients, which are two plant products are also present in Meratrim, a well-researched dietary supplement. OxiTrim has a price tag of abut 60 USD for 1 month supply. OxiTrim is not showing any better results than Meratrim, which costs only 27 USD per month. The Applied Scientific Research Center in Colorado just added inert materials to the active ingredients, the herbs Sphaeranthus Indicus and Garcinia mangostana. The active ingredients of both supplements are the same. If you are overweight and want to shed a few pounds , you better buy Meratrim. Researchers undertook clinical trials with Meratrim and it is significantly less expensive.

    May
    15
    2021

    Research about Side Effects of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

    Research about side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine revealed some worrisome facts. An article that appeared in the German “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” explained that people should not worry about the vaccine.

    The heading of the article was:” People no longer have to be afraid of the AstraZeneca-Vaccine.” But subsequently it describes how vaccinating with the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 developed blood clots in some people. Researchers at the University of Greifswald examined 7 cases where following the vaccine blood clots developed.  Dr. Andreas Greinacher is Head of the department of Transfusion Medicine in Greifswald, Germany. He said that blood clots are extremely rare following vaccinations. The 7 people who did form clots in sinuses (big vein structures) of the brain had all antibodies against platelets. Normally platelets help with hemostasis for wounds, but when specific antibodies bind to platelets, they can cause blood clots.

    Research about side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine identified blood clots as a problem

    The Greifswald medical team said that they know how to treat this blood clot condition when it occurs. They are using blood clot dissolving medication like heparin and warfarin to dissolve the clots. But if this treatment is not instituted right away, the patient could get a stroke or pulmonary emboli, which is a life-threatening condition. Normal minor side effects of the vaccine occur on the first and second day after the vaccination. If blood clots appear in brain veins, symptoms of severe headaches develop on day 4 or 5 following the vaccination. Other patients might develop a painful leg due to a blood clot in the leg veins. If this should happen, the patient must present immediately at the emergency department of a hospital. Physicians will start anticoagulation therapy right away. The 7 patients who developed blood clots did so between day 5 and 14 following the AstraZeneca vaccination.

    European decision to reinstate the AstraZeneca vaccine

    The European Medical Agency stated that the benefits would outweigh the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine. They recommended reinstatement of vaccinations with the vaccine. However, there remain problems with the vaccine. First, the effectiveness of the vaccine was initially determined to be 79%, but retesting showed it is only 76%. Next the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut that monitors complications of medical procedures in all of Germany determined 31 cases of blood clots. 9 patients died from them.

    Interestingly, the EMA has reversed their opinion about the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 6, 2021 as can be seen from this press statement. Now they are saying that there is a clear association between the vaccine and rare blood clots in the brain.

    In the US the CDC and FDA have not approved the AstraZeneca vaccine. The CDC also said that the Johnson-Johnson’s vaccine should be put on hold until a re-examination of the blood clot issue is clarified.

    Discussion

    The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are pure RNA vaccines that are known to have very few complication rates. Researchers stated that only very few people develop clots in their brain or leg veins. They also stated that the majority of people benefit from the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is a simplification. There are other vaccines that doctors can use as alternatives that do not produce clots. It would be better to ask why there is clot formation with the AstraZeneca Vaccine!

    The AstraZeneca vaccine contains a DNA adenovirus

    The AstraZeneca vaccine contains remnants of a DNA virus, namely an adenovirus. Researchers added the gene for the coronavirus spike protein to the DNA adenovirus.

    The DNA shell from the adenovirus helps to protect the vaccine at fridge temperatures, which increases the shelf life of the vaccine. But as with other DNA vaccines there are more complications possible. This question was reviewed here already 10 years ago.

    In the end we are still faced with RNA vaccines against Coved-19 that work, versus a DNA vaccine that has possible complications with blood clots. I for one would not accept anything else but an RNA vaccine that does not have the clot formation side effect. I feel that the authorities should stop the AstraZeneca vaccine for now. The researchers should carry out further studies to see whether improvements can make the vaccine safer.

    Research about Side Effects of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

    Research about Side Effects of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

    Conclusion

    The AstraZeneca vaccine contains a deactivated DNA adenovirus. Researchers added the gene for the coronavirus spike protein to the adenovirus. This is a completely different approach from the RNA vaccines that do not have these side effects. The fact that some patients developed blood clots is likely explainable on the grounds that they received a DNA vaccine. In my opinion the authorities released the AstraZeneca vaccine prematurely. They should put a hold on this vaccine until scientists can develop improvements to the vaccine. In the meantime, people should receive the safer RNA vaccines.

    To continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca vaccine is unacceptable

    I disagree that governments allow a vaccine that has serious complication rates for which doctors offer anticoagulation therapy. It is only a matter of time that a few deaths occur, because the blood clots escaped diagnosis. The company has now renamed the vaccine as Vaxzevria. This seems to be a move of AstraZeneca to move away from the complications of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This does nothing to help solve the problem with the blood clots that don’t only occur “in a few cases”. We are dealing with a serious side effect, and you should ask yourself the question, whether it is worth the risk.

    May
    01
    2021

    The Power of a Placebo

    A publication in Nature Communications investigated the power of a placebo. Specifically, they wanted to know whether there is a difference between a hidden and a known placebo. With a hidden placebo the patient is unaware whether a pill is a placebo pill or a real medication. With a non-deceptive or known placebo, the patient knows it is a placebo. In this study the investigators wanted to know whether a non-deceptive placebo still can have an effect. As we shall see below the answer is: yes, non-deceptive placebos still have an effect. This was also summarized in this review.

    Literature review

    The authors reviewed the literature about placebo effects. They found 26 studies that reported positive effects with placebos, but they were mostly self-reporting. However, 8 studies measured objective markers. Only one study found improvement with a placebo therapy, namely by performing a task. The researchers also learnt that physical conditions do not respond to a placebo therapy. Examples of such physical conditions are wound healing, healing of fractures or appendicitis requiring surgery. In contrast, the conditions responding to either hidden placebo or non-deceptive placebo involved emotional distress. This was what the subsequent experiments concentrated on.

    The experiments

    62 men and women participated in experiment 1. Experiment 2 had a nonclinical sample from another large university in the Midwest.  Only females were accepted for experiment 2. The investigators wanted no sex differences in brain structure, brain formation and emotion processing.

    The first experiment

    For the first experiment the researchers recruited 62 healthy male and female students between the ages of 18 and 30. They were from two universities, namely the Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. Before the experiment started the hidden placebo group read an article about pain treatment. They were also given nasal placebo drops with the remark that this would help making the measurements more accurate. The known placebo group read another article that explained how placebos work. The text included a passage that explained that placebos work even in the case where the person knew they were a placebo. The same nasal drops were given with the remark that there was no active ingredient in it, but it “would help reduce their negative emotional reactions to viewing distressing images if they believed it would. “

    Results of first experiment

    The researchers asked participants to view a series of 20 images with negative and cruel content. The subjects also viewed 10 images that were neutral in content. The participants viewed each image for a few seconds, then the investigators asked how they felt on a scale of 1-9. The group who knew that the nasal spray was a placebo felt less negative after viewing the distressing images compared to the other group.

    The second experiment

    In the second experiment the researchers showed a mixed sequence of neutral and distressing images to female subjects. The purpose was to measure the brain activity as a result of invoking various feelings. The investigators employed a modified continuous electroencephalography (EEG) recording of the brain activity to measure the processing of feelings. They showed a neutral screen between the negative and neutral images and asked the participants to clear their mind. The researchers scanned the brain activity at two time points. The first point measured the patient’s immediate reaction. The second point measured the brain activity at the end of emotional processing and understanding of the image. As discussed below this experiment showed the power of the placebo.

    Results of the second experiment

    There was no difference of the known placebo group and the control group (the deceptive placebo group) with regard to the initial reaction to the images. However, the placebo group showed less activity in the second period. The researchers monitored the brain activity with a modified EEG and in comparison to the control group. According to the authors the known placebo group was able to process their emotional response to the distress better than the control group.

    The authors attempted to correct for confounding variables.  In the process they found out that those who did not believe in the power of a placebo still reacted the same way as the placebo group did. The researchers performed the second experiment only on women as the brains and processing modes are sex-specific. They did not want to introduce confounding variables unwittingly. At this point we do not know how males as a group react in similar experiments.

    "The

    Conclusion

    With a hidden placebo the patient is unaware whether a pill is a placebo pill or a real medication. With a non-deceptive or known placebo, the patient knows it is a placebo. In a study with two experiments the investigators wanted to know whether a non-deceptive placebo still can have an effect. The result of the experiments showed that non-deceptive placebos still have an effect. The proof for his was with placebo nasal drops. The subjects viewed 20 upsetting images and subsequently 10 neutral images. They scored on a scale of 1-9 how upset they felt about the distressing images. The group who knew that the nasal spray was a placebo felt less negative after viewing the distressing images in comparison to the other group.

    Placebo helps to process emotional response better than control group

    In the second experiment investigators employed a modified continuous electroencephalography (EEG) recording of the brain activity to measure the processing of feelings. The investigators showed alternating upsetting images and neutral images to a female group of students. According to the authors the non-deceptive placebo group was able to process their emotional response to the distress better than the control group. This showed the power of the placebo. The authors concluded that these results may help develop new treatment plans for depression, emotional disorders and emotional distress.