Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

At risk for exercise damage?

A US study of more than 200 people aged 45 to 55 and of normal weight found those doing the most exercise were the most likely to suffer knee damage.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness. It is more common in women and the risk increases with age.

In the study, a typical high-activity individual would do several hours of walking, sports or other types of exercise per week, as well as gardening and other household chores.

The damage seen was associated solely with activity levels and was not age or gender specific.

Study leader Dr Christoph Stehling said: “Our data suggest that people with higher physical activity levels may be at greater risk for developing knee abnormalities and, thus, at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis. This study and previous studies by our group suggest that high impact, weight-bearing physical activity, such as running and jumping, may be worse for cartilage health. Conversely, low-impact activities, such as swimming and cycling, may protect diseased cartilage and prevent healthy cartilage from developing disease.”


November 30, 2009 Posted by | Aging, Exercise, Health | Leave a comment

US food waste rises to 39%

Food waste is difficult to establish so Hall and Chow tried a new method.

They analysed average body weight in the US from 1974 to 2003 and compared that with the average food available per consumer as reported in US government figures.

In 2003 the daily figures per person were – 3750 calories available, 2300 consumed so 1450 wasted or 39% of total.

Using the same method, Hall and Chow found that in 1974 only 30% of calories went to waste.

Experts say a rise in waste is expected, given a decline in the price of food in real terms.

A study earlier this year found 20% of waste was in production, 20% in distribution with the US consumer accounting for 60% of the waste.

November 27, 2009 Posted by | Diet | Leave a comment

Cancer vaccine implant kills tumours in mice

Cancer cells evade the immune system because the body does not see them as a threat.

Professor David Mooney and a team at Harvard University have come up with a breakthrough technique that works in mice.

They used an implant under the skin that attracts a specific immune system cell – a dendritic cell. The team put proteins inside the implant that are found only on the surface of the cancer cells to be targetted.

The dendritic cells learn to recognise these as dangerous, move to the lymph nodes and there pass on the information to another type of immune system cells – T-cells. The T-cells then destroyed the cancer cells.

Further research is needed to adapt the technology to work in humans.

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Cancer, David Mooney, Health, Medicine/Treatment | 2 Comments

Brazilian ‘mint’ tea is natural painkiller

Hyptis crenata has been prescribed by Brazilian healers for millennia to treat ailments from headaches and stomach pain to fever and flu.

A team from the University of Newcastle found that when the mint was given in a dose similar to that prescribed by traditional Brazilian healers, the medicine was as effective at relieving pain as a synthetic aspirin-style drug.

Lead researcher Graciela Rocha is Brazilian and remembers being given the tea as a cure for every childhood illness. She said “It tastes more like sage, which is another member of the mint family. Not that nice really, but then medicine isn’t supposed to be nice, is it?”

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Brazilian mint tea, Graciela Rocha, Health, Hyptis Crenata, Medicine/Treatment, Natural healing | 1 Comment

The Three Laws of Behavior Genetics.

Click here for Eric Turkheimer’s “The Three Laws of Behaviour Genetics”, as examined by Steven Pinker in “The Blank Slate”.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Brain, Eric Turkheimer, Genetics, Psychology, Steven Pinker, Success, The Blank Slate, The Three Laws of Behavior Genetics | Leave a comment

Rom Houben, 23 years in a ‘coma’

23 years trapped inside what others think is a coma while your brain is working close to normal, but you can’t get people to notice.  Big news?  It most certainly is!

Rom Houben is the person trapped in this way.  Headlines, headlines, headlines!  All about 23 years trapped.  Is this the headline?

His case was diagnosed correctly in 2006, ending the 23 year wait from a car crash in 1983.   Not November 2009 but 2006.  Why did the media flurry blow up on 23 Nov 2009 with around 500 news articles worldwide?

Houben’s case was reported in the journal BMC Neurology in July 2009, though he was not named in it.  The report investigated misdiagnosis of vegetative states.  Previous studies had found up to 43% of patients were misdiagnosed when ‘clinical consensus’ was used. 

The July 2009 study found that this rate of misdiagnosis had not changed in the last 15 years, and showed that a different approach, the JFK Coma Recovery Scale – Revised (CRS – R) was more accurate.

The July 2009 study was reported by a group of people including Professor Steven Laureys, a specialist in this area.  According to the New York Daily News, Laureys put Houben through a PET scan, to discover that although paralysed, Houben’s brain activity was close to normal. 

From there, Houben communicated first by pushing with his foot to indicate a simple yes or no.

The story seems to have taken off after Der Spiegel published an interview with Houben over the weekend, with the rest of the world picking on the 23 years angle.  In reality, the use of outdated diagnostics when a better method is available means the 40% error rate continues.

By pure coincidence, a BBC Horizon programme in Oct 2009, The Secret You, had a slot featuring Dr Adrian Owen of the Medical Research Council, who is working in the same area i.e. using brain scans in patients who appear to be in a vegetative state to see if their brain is still responding.

The question that intrigued us with Houben was still why?  PET scans weren’t new in 2006.  Referring again to the New York Daily News, the answer appears to be Houben’s mother, Fina Houben.

She had refused to accept that her son was comatose or vegetative, and had taken him 5 times to the US for tests.  After this she searched for another expert, found Steven Laureys, Rom Houben became part of the study, and a PET scan followed.

So Team McCallum congratulates Fina Houben for continuing to believe.

Click here for Feb 2010 update on this story.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Adrian Owen, Brain, Coma, Fina Houben, Health, Rom Houben, Steven Laureys, Success | 5 Comments

Dirt essential for children’s health

Children should be allowed to get dirty.  Being too clean can impair the skin’s ability to heal, according to a study headed by Professor Richard Gallo, reported in Nature Medicine.

Normal bacteria living on the skin trigger a pathway that helps prevent inflammation when the child gets hurt.  The bacteria dampen down an immune system response that can cause cuts and grazes to swell.

Experts said the findings help to explain the ‘hygene hypothesis’ – that exposure to germs during early childhood primes the body against allergies.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Child Health | 2 Comments

Alcohol cuts coronary heart disease in men

Larraitz Arriola et al investigated the link between alcohol consumption and coronary heart disease in the Spanish cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC).

The study looked at 15,630 men and 25,808 women.  Moderate, high and very high consumption was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease in men.  Findings for women could not be relied upon.

The report abstract conclusions are “Conclusions In men aged 29-69 years, alcohol intake was associated with a more than 30% lower CHD incidence. Our study is based on a large prospective cohort study and is free of the abstainer error.

Click here for the report abstract from the British Heart Journal

The protection appears to kick in at low levels of consumption, and other experts have pointed out that high level of alcohol consumption are associated with other health issues, such as strokes and cancer.

The benfefits are associated with all types of alcohol, not simply red wine.

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Alcohol, Diet, Health | 1 Comment

What’s your chronotype? Take the test!

This link is a short test to work out your chronotype.

This link explains why knowing your chronotype matters.

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Chronotype, Genetics, Origin of Everyday Moods, Psychology, Robert E Thayer, Success | 1 Comment

The Secret of Long Life

Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine compared a group of centenarians (from the Ashkenazi Jewish community) against a control group. 

The team at Einstein found that the centenarians and their offspring had higher levels of telomerase and significantly longer telomeres than the unrelated people in the control group and that the trait was strongly heritable.

Telomeres are short sections of DNA that sit at the end of all chromosomes.  Each time a cell divides, its telomeres shorten and the cell becomes more susceptible to dying.

Telomerase is an enzyme that can repair the telomeres, preventing them from shrinking.

The scientists had previously shown that individuals in Ashkenazi families with exceptional longevity have generally been spared major age-related diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.

The centenarians in this study had a lower average body mass index than the controls and higher levels of good (HDL) cholesterol.

Lead author Yousin Suh said “It may be possible to develop drugs that mimic the telomerase that our centenarians have been blessed with.”

November 15, 2009 Posted by | Aging, Genetics, Health | Leave a comment