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Millions Watch YouTube Videos Of Teens Cutting Themselves

Millions of people watch YouTube videos depicting teens injuring and cutting themselves, according to a new study. The authors conclude that the videos may serve to legitimize the behaviors as acceptable, even normal.

selfinjury 300x163 Self Injury Videos on YouTubeTo assess the scope and accessibility of self-injury videos on the Internet, Stephen Lewis of the University of Guelph, and colleagues searched YouTube for keywords like “self-harm,” and “self-injury.”

They found that the top 100 most frequently viewed videos were watched more than 2.3 million times. Ninety-five percent of the viewers were female. Their average age was 25, although Lewis’ group suspects their actual average age was lower, since some YouTube viewers provide restricted content only to older viewers. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Drunk Fans At Sporting Events

Among fans who attend live sporting events, drinking alcohol is nearly as commonplace as root-root-rooting for the home team. And while virtually no one has a problem with a fan who pushes back a beer or two during the game, flat-out drunk fans can ruin the experience for those sitting nearby. Worse yet, these people frequently get behind the wheel of a car after the game is over.

Recently, Darin Erickson and colleagues at the University of Minnesota decided to find out just how many fans go overboard at games, and their findings are worrisome, indeed. Using standard blood alcohol testing on 362 adult volunteers who were leaving 13 professional baseball and three professional football games, the scientists found that 40 percent had measurable levels of alcohol in their blood and a stunning eight percent were legally drunk (as defined by a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater). The highest alcohol level recorded by the scientists was .22.

Erickson’s group also observed that Monday Night Football attendees were more likely than other fans to have been drinking. In addition, fans who were 35 years old or younger were eight times more likely to leave the game drunk, and those who attended tailgating parties before the game were 14 times more likely to leave the game drunk.

The latter finding is consistent with a study from the University of Toledo, in which scientists gave breathalyzer tests to tailgaters at a college football game. The scientists found that an astounding 90 percent of the participants consumed alcohol during tailgate festivities, and among them, the average blood alcohol concentration was 0.06, well on the way to being legally drunk.

Maybe these people should save the money they spent on tickets and go to a bar. Erickson’s study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Diet Soda And Your Risk For Heart Attack Or Stroke

It tastes sweet. It’s pleasurably fizzy. And free of calories. What’s more, the FDA says NutraSweet (aspartame) is safe. So what’s not to like about diet soft drinks?

A bunch. The ongoing debate about the healthiness of diet soft drinks reminds me of the old adage, “If something sounds to be true, it probably is.”

Artificially-sweetened “diet” drinks get touted as healthy alternatives to sugary drinks because they contain no calories or carbohydrates. On paper it seems plausible to think they are inert, no more dangerous than water. The Coca-Cola Company sublimely strengthens this assertion by putting a big red heart on Diet Coke cans.

But diet-cola news (Los Angeles Times) presented at the International Stroke Conference 2011 suggests otherwise. This widely-publicized observational study of 2,500 older patients (average age=69) from New York showed that drinking diet soda on a daily basis increased the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 61 percent. The abstract — not a peer-reviewed study — stated that this association persisted after controlling for other pertinent variables.

Sure, this is only a look back at 559 patients who had a vascular event. The study asserts only an association, not that diet colas cause heart attacks and strokes. That’s a big difference.

That said, however, I don’t view these results as trivial either. This trial builds on the results of prior studies of diet drinks which strongly suggest that despite their lack of calories, diet drinks don’t prevent obesity. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

About The Placebo Effect

Placebos helped ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) even when patients knew that was what they were taking, a new study reports.

Researchers randomly assigned 80 patients with IBS to receive placebo pills (openly labeled as such) or no treatment over a three-week period. Patients taking placebos had significantly higher mean scores on the IBS Global Improvement Scale at 11 and 21 days, and also reported significant improvements in symptom severity and relief. The results of the study, which was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, were published online Dec. 22 by PLoS ONE.

Anthony Lembo, M.D., a study coauthor, said in a press release that he didn’t expect the placebo to work. “I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them,” he said.

Ted Kaptchuk, O.M.D., the study’s lead author, told the LA Times that a larger study needs to be done to confirm the findings, and said that he didn’t believe such effects would be possible “without a positive doctor-patient relationship.”

ACP Internist looked at placebos’ place in clinical practice in a 2009 article. (PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, LA Times, ACP Internist)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Stem Cell Face-Lifts?

It’s been almost a month since the LA Times ran the article by Chris Woolston entitled  The Healthy Skeptic: Stem cell face-lifts on unproven ground. It’s well written and presents a fairly balanced view. While I am a fan of stem cell research, I think the “claims” are often put ahead of the science.  This is one of those times. I can’t find any decent articles to support the claims of the plastic surgeons doing “stem cell face-lifts.”

My view is echoed in the article (bold emphasis is mine):

Rubin says he’s excited about the potential of stem cells in the cosmetic field and beyond. Still, he adds, there are many unanswered questions about the cosmetic use of stem cells, and anyone who claims to have already mastered the technique is jumping the gun. As Rubin puts it, “Claims are being made that are not supported by the evidence.”

While researchers in Asia, Italy, Israel and elsewhere are reporting decent cosmetic results with injections of stem cell-enriched fat, Rubin says that nobody really knows how the stem cells themselves are behaving. He points out that fat injections alone can improve a person’s appearance, no stem cells needed.

Rubin believes it’s possible that injected stem cells could create new collagen and blood vessels — as they have been shown to do in animals studies — but such results have never been proved in humans. And, he adds, the long-term effects of the procedures are an open question.

Stem cell face-lifts could someday offer real advances, says Dr. Michael McGuire, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and a clinical associate professor of surgery at UCLA. But he believes that scientists are still at least 10 years away from reliably harnessing stem cells to create new collagen and younger-looking skin. Until then, promises of a quick stem cell face-lift are a “scam,” he says.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) issued a statement two weeks after the article first appeared. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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