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Your Hair May Be Tracing Where You’ve Traveled

Researchers at the University of Utah and IsoForensics, Inc. in Salt Lake City have demonstrated that water can potentially be used as a tracer to determine the travel habits of individuals.

Because of the natural geographic variability in the hydrogen and oxygen isotope content of water, proteins within hair should contain evidence of these ratios and therefore act as signatures as to where someone has traveled. The current study has shown that the geographic source of tap water, bottled water, beer, and soda can be distinguished simply by measuring the isotope ratio of the water within these drinks.

In our opinion if the technology pans out for real-world use, IsoForensics has a bright future with dictatorship governments, security and intelligence services, armed forces, and maybe even some legitimate forensic causes such as war-crime investigations or even anthropology studies.

Abstract in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Links between Purchase Location and Stable Isotope Ratios of Bottled Water, Soda, and Beer in the United States

Image credit: David Hannah

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Update From Haiti: Despair Sets In And Women Consider Suicide

jangurleyDr. Jan Gurley just returned from a mission trip to Haiti, 5 weeks after the earthquake hit. In this audio clip, she relays a horrific first-hand account of the current realities of life in Port Au Prince. With no running water, bathrooms, or place to shelter – and packed into a field with 100,000 people – some young women are choosing to stop drinking water in an effort to commit suicide.

Dr. Gurley describes the loss of human dignity associated with the crisis in Haiti, including a near stampede when sanitary napkins were offered in a crowd of women. She explains that the place is becoming dangerous – and the screams of women being raped in the night fill the dark air. In the day time, people huddle together for safety while the stench of rotting corpses surrounds them. With the rainy season approaching, and tent cities perched precariously on land-slide prone hills, Dr. Gurley predicts a second wave of disease, violence, despair, and death in Haiti.

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Waterbirth: What’s In The Water?

By Dr. Amy Tuteur

Waterbirth has been touted as an alternative form of pain relief in childbirth. Indeed, it is often recommended as the method of choice for pain relief in “natural” childbirth. It’s hardly natural, though. In fact, it is completely unnatural. No primates give birth in water, because primates initiate breathing almost immediately after birth and the entire notion of waterbirth was made up only 200 years ago. Not surprisingly, waterbirth appears to increase the risk of neonatal death. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Nutraceuticals, False Advertising, And Misuse Of M.D. Anderson’s Name

Thumbnail image for dontmesswithtexas.jpgThe premier US cancer hospital and research center in Houston released a statement today distancing themselves from a Dallas company claiming an endorsement of their water product by The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center:

Recently, you may have heard or read about a company that sells Evolv, a “nutraceutical beverage,” which is being promoted in part based upon testing done at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, but also is being mistakenly viewed as endorsed by M. D. Anderson. M. D. Anderson conducted limited chemical analysis of the product to evaluate its anti-inflammatory activity for a fee at the request of the manufacturer. No efficacy or toxicity data were generated at M. D. Anderson nor was the product tested on humans. Moreover, M. D. Anderson does not have any involvement with the company, the product is not produced by M. D. Anderson, and M. D. Anderson does not endorse the product or recommend its use.

The current text on Evolv’s website an Evolv fan site is that:

Evolv’s nutraceutical beverage with Archaea Active is tested by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

The statement as listed is not exactly wrong; it’s just not complete. Nothing there about what the product was tested for, but the implication is that it gained some healing power by passing through the hallowed halls of M.D. Anderson. I also have no clue as to whether it was tested for archaea (formerly archaebacteria) or if it has the capacity to amplify DNA.

Of course, my blogging about this is going to give the company publicity (a very, very small amount). Evolv is not just water but it is sold by a multi-level marketing company. I already knew to put one hand on my wallet when I dialed up their website. The header has the quote from Mary Kay Ash, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” which rotates with others from her and Zig Ziglar who, no doubt, did not authorize their association with the company.

But water? The next multi-level marketing craze?

I don’t think this holds water.

Now if we could only get M.D. Anderson to address this other misuse of their name.

Note added 10 September 2009: This comment from EvolvHealth’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mr Jonathan Gilliam, brought to my attention that I had the incorrect website for the company (as corrected above). The actual website should be Currently, their product page lists the M.D. Anderson claim as follows:

Our active ingredient has been tested by the MD Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas. Evolv will be released in Fall 2009

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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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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